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Canon PowerShot S30

A new shape, sleek design, direct support for a Canon inkjet printer, and three megapixels of resolution!

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Page 12:Test Results & Conclusion

Review First Posted: 10/1/2001

Test Results
In keeping with our standard policy, our comments here are rather condensed, summarizing our key findings. For a full commentary on each of the test images, see the S30's "pictures" page.

As with all Imaging Resource camera tests, we encourage you to let your own eyes be the judge of how well the devices performed. Explore the images on the pictures page, to see how well the S30 performed, and how its images compare to other cameras you may be considering buying.

The S30 produced great color and image quality throughout our testing. The camera's White Balance system handled most of our test lighting well, though we often noticed slight warm casts with the Auto setting. We found that the Manual white balance setting produced the best-looking results in most cases, but auto worked very well under daylight-balanced lighting. The camera had a little difficulty with the incandescent lighting of our Indoor Portrait (without flash). Though the Incandescent and Manual settings produced nearly accurate results, the Incandescent setting produced a warm cast while the Manual setting resulted in a slightly greenish appearance. The Incandescent setting produced the most natural overall color, and both settings did very well indeed compared to the ugly color casts we're used to seeing on this shot from many of the digicams we test. Color rendition looked very nice on our Davebox target, with the S30 distinguishing tough tonal variations and reproducing the large color blocks very well. Skin tones in our Outdoor and Indoor portraits came out a little pink looking, with a bit of a magenta cast, but they were well within the acceptable range. (We've found some people prefer slightly pinker-looking Caucasian skin tones, so it's possible you may actually prefer the S30's results to more technically accurate ones.)

The S30 performed well on our "laboratory" resolution test chart. It started showing artifacts in the test patterns at resolutions as low as 600 lines per picture height, in both horizontal and vertical directions. We found "strong detail" out to at least 900-1,000 lines, although there were very strong artifacts in the horizontal direction starting at 600 lines. "Extinction" of the target patterns occurred at about 1,300 lines. Overall resolution performance was pretty well in line with a sharp, 3 megapixel camera, but the camera does have a bit more of a tendency to produce jaggies or aliasing in fine detail than some we've seen. This really appears to be more of a "laboratory" phenomena though, as we really didn't see any visible jaggies or stair-stepping on any of our "real world" test images.

Optical distortion on the S30 was lower than average at the wide-angle setting, where we measured an 0.48 percent barrel distortion. The telephoto end fared much better, as we only found about half a pixel of pincushion distortion. Chromatic aberration was moderate, showing about five or six pixels of coloration on either side of the target lines. The most prominent optical problem we saw was a bit of softness in the extreme corners of the frame, but it was pretty well confined to just the far corners.

The S30 offers full manual exposure control, with exposures long enough to shoot in very dim lighting, even several EV steps below typical city street lighting at night. During our low-light testing, the camera captured bright, clear images at light levels as low as 1/16 foot-candle (0.67 lux), even at a sensitivity setting of ISO 50. Color remained very accurate throughout the series, with great accuracy at the 1/16 foot-candle light level. We were also impressed with the S30's noise performance, as noise was practically nonexistent at the ISO 50 sensitivity setting, even at the lowest light level. Noise increased to only moderately low at the ISO 800 setting, which is exceptional.

The S30's optical viewfinder was fairly tight, showing approximately 81 percent frame accuracy at wide angle, and about 83 percent at telephoto. The LCD monitor fared much better, showing approximately 98 percent of the image area at wide angle, and about 99 percent at telephoto. Given that we generally prefer LCD monitors to be as close to 100 percent accuracy as possible, the S30's LCD monitor performed well here.

The S30 captured a slightly larger average-sized macro area of 4.6 x 3.45 inches (116.96 x 87.72 millimeters), and there's a fair bit of barrel distortion when you shoot really close. Resolution was high, however, with good detail throughout the frame (though the corners are very soft). Overall color balance was very warm from the Auto white balance setting. The S30's flash had a difficult time throttling down for the macro area, and overexposed the frame.

Though we'd like to see improved macro performance and a (slightly) more accurate Auto white balance setting, the S30 did a great job throughout our testing. Low-light shooting was outstanding, and overall image quality and sharpness was very good. Color performance was also great, leading us to recommend the S30 as a great option for almost any shooting application. (Even for the "enthusiast" photographer, about all it lacks is an external flash connector.) A nice job overall.

We liked the form factor and user interface of the prototype S30 we tested quite a bit, and are pleased to be able to report that its picture-taking is very much up to par as well. Bottom line, we think Canon has another winner here. Like its higher-resolution sibling the S40, the S30 fairly exudes quality, with a very pleasant heft and all-metal body panels. The feature set is first rate, stopping just short of some of the high-end "enthusiast" capabilities of the PowerShot G2. (The most prominently missing "enthusiast' feature is an external flash connector.) We would like to see somewhat longer battery life, but we've become somewhat resigned to shorter battery life in compact digicam models. Macro performance is only average also, but the net is a pretty short list of objections and a lot of positives. The excellent responsiveness of the S30 was a particularly welcome surprise, as we view sluggish response to be one of the biggest remaining disappointments the general public still experiences in making the transition from film to digital. All in all, the S30 looks like an excellent general-use digicam, producing very sharp three megapixel images with excellent color. It provides about all the manual exposure controls you might like, but is eminently approachable for the novice with its full-auto mode and extensive collection of scene presets. Overall, just a really well-executed 3 megapixel camera design, at a good price point. Highly recommended.

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