The Imaging Resource
Canon PowerShot SD30 Digital ELPH Camera
|Canon PowerShot SD30 Digital ELPH Camera
Digital Camera Design
|Excellent, 5.0-megapixel CCD
|Excellent, sharp 8x10 inches
Suggested Retail Price
Like its most recent predecessors, the Canon PowerShot SD30 Digital ELPH stands tall, replacing the SD20's fixed lens with a 2.4x zoom. Smaller if not thinner than many subcompacts, it uses a dock for USB transfers, to charge its Li-ion battery and for A/V output. Available in black, red, gold, or violet body colors, the 5.0-megapixel SD30 relies on a 1.8-inch LCD instead of an optical viewfinder for composing shots. Recording modes include the extremely unusual (and frankly, rather cool) "My Color" modes that allow you to selectively replace any color in your photo with a different one, or to make the image black and white with the exception of a single color. Overall, the PowerShot SD30 is one of the more appealing subcompact digicams we've seen. Read on for all the details!
The new Canon PowerShot SD30 features the great looks and sharp design that are a signature of Canon's ELPH cameras. The "Perpetual Curve Design" of the SD30 has few flat surfaces or right-angled corners on the camera body -- consequently giving it a very smooth, comfortable feel in your hands. Very compact and quick on the draw (thanks to a smoothly operating retractable lens design), the Canon SD30 is a convenient point-and-shoot digital camera with a handful of extra exposure features for added flexibility, including a few features that you might not use every day, but that add some "wow" factor. With the lens retracted, the Canon SD30's front panel is smooth and pocket friendly, and its all-metal body is rugged and durable (although it will show scratches, so buy a soft case if this concerns you). Equipped with a 5.0-megapixel CCD, the Canon SD30 captures high quality images, suitable for making sharp prints as large as 8x10 inches with some cropping. Smaller image sizes are also available for email transmission or Web applications, and a movie mode captures video clips with sound.
The Canon SD30 features a 2.4x, 6.3-14.9mm zoom lens, equivalent to a 38-90mm zoom on a 35mm camera. Aperture is automatically controlled, but the maximum setting ranges from f/3.2 at full wide angle to f/5.4 at full telephoto. A maximum 4x digital zoom option increases the SD30's zoom capability to 10x, but keep in mind that digital zoom decreases the overall image quality, because it simply crops out and enlarges the center pixels of the CCD's image. Image details are thus likely to be softer when using digital zoom. Focus ranges from 1.0 feet (30 centimeters) to infinity in normal AF mode, and from 3.9 inches to 1.6 feet (10 to 50 centimeters) in Macro mode. The Canon SD30 employs a sophisticated, nine-point AiAF (Artificial Intelligence Autofocus) system to determine focus, which uses a broad active area in the center of the image to calculate the focal distance (a feature I've been impressed with on many ELPH models and have been happy to see continued). Through the Record menu, you can turn AiAF off, which defaults the autofocus area to the center of the frame. Also built-in to the PowerShot SD30 is an AF assist light -- a very bright orange LED -- which aids the focus mechanism in low light when it's enabled via a menu option. For composing images, the SD30 uses its 1.8-inch color LCD monitor. The LCD reports a fair amount of camera information, but excludes exposure information such as aperture and shutter speed.
Because the ELPH line is designed for ease of use, exposure control is automatic, increasing the line's appeal to point-and-shoot users. The Canon PowerShot SD30 follows this trend, including a series of unique Scene modes, but does provide a few exposure adjustments in its Manual mode. Main camera modes are controlled by a mode switch at the top of the camera's rear panel. Choices include Playback, Movie and Record. Still Recording mode includes Auto, Manual (similar to Program Auto), Macro, Portrait, Landscape, Night Snapshot, My Colors, and Scene (with choices being Kids & Pets, Indoor, Foliage, Snow, Beach, Fireworks, and Underwater). Shutter speeds range from 1/1,600 to 15 seconds (with the Long Shutter option on). With image review enabled, a small histogram is displayed along with the image to help evaluate exposure. Slow shutter speeds of 1.3 seconds or slower automatically invoke a Noise Reduction system to eliminate excess image noise in longer exposures. In straight Auto mode, the camera controls everything about the exposure except for file size, flash, etc. Manual mode on the PowerShot SD30 provides more hands-on control, with White Balance, Exposure Compensation, ISO, and some creative effects, but it isn't true manual control because the user is not allowed to set -- or even to know -- the aperture or shutter speed settings. Camera operation is straightforward, as you typically just point and shoot most of the time. Pressing the Shutter button halfway sets focus and exposure, and a focus confirmation target and beep let you know when the camera is ready to take the picture.
The special automatic and additional Scene modes on the PowerShot SD30 provide creative options and tweak exposure variables to accommodate common photographic situations. In Portrait mode, the camera opts for a large aperture to blur the background, making the subject stand out. Landscape optimizes camera settings for wide, expansive scenes. Night Snapshot mode uses the camera's flash and higher sensitivity if necessary to try to obtain an exposure with your subject and a dark background correctly exposed. My Colors provides nine creative options, including Positive Film, Lighter Skin Tone, Darker Skin Tone, Vivid Blue, Vivid Green, Vivid Red, Color Accent, Color Swap, and Custom Color. The Scene submenu includes even more options. Kids & Pets mode opts for a faster shutter speed to freeze quick motion. Indoor mode biases the white balance system toward tungsten or fluorescent lighting, attempts to reduce camera shake with wider apertures and higher sensitivity, and avoids using flash where possible. In Foliage mode, the Canon SD30's saturation is boosted to offer bold colors in foliage. Snow and Beach modes both bias exposure so that the camera is not fooled into underexposing images because of a bright background; Snow mode also adjusts white balance appropriately. Fireworks mode uses a long exposure to capture the trails of fireworks. Finally, Underwater mode -- designed for use with an optional underwater housing -- uses a white balance setting appropriate for correcting the cold tones of an underwater photo, and also tries to avoid using the camera's flash.
The nine options in the PowerShot SD30's "My Colors" mode, available for both still image and movie shooting, are worth a closer look. The Positive Film setting attempts to replicate the bold colors of positive film in the Red, Green, and Blue channels. The Lighter Skin Tone and Darker Skin Tone settings attempt to alter skin tones appropriately, without affecting the rest of the photo. The Vivid Blue, Vivid Green and Vivid Red options emphasize saturation in one channel only. Most unusual are the Color Accent and Color Swap features, however. In Color Accent mode, you place a small square in the center of the camera's LCD over a color you want to accent, and press the left arrow on the Four-way navigation controller. A narrow band of colors surrounding the color you selected will remain untouched in the final image; the rest of the photo will be in black and white. In Color Swap mode, you similarly select two colors with the square at the center of the LCD (one by pressing the left arrow; the other with the right arrow). The Canon SD30 will then replace one color with the other in your final image -- for example allowing you to make a green car appear blue. Both effects allow a little fine control over the color you selected using the left arrow key; you use the up and down arrows to slightly adjust the color you want to accent or swap. You can't, however, fine-tune the color you want to replace the swapped color with for Color Swap mode. Both the Color Accent and Color Swap modes are rather fun, and they're definitely very unusual, but the effects can be rather unpredictable. You generally end up with a slight fringe of the old color surrounding your replaced color in Color Swap mode, and it can be difficult to control the exact color you want to affect in both modes. For this reason, it is rather nice that Canon has provided the ability to set the SD30 through the Record menu to capture a duplicate copy of images captured in My Colors mode, without any color changes made. If you end up throwing away your color-altered image, you'll still have your original source image to change with an image editor, or just enjoy as a photograph. Finally, the Custom Color mode allows you to manually fine-tune the saturation of colors in the Red, Green, and Blue channels (plus the saturation of skin tones), with five steps of control over each.
The Canon PowerShot SD30 uses an Evaluative metering system by default, which means that the camera divides the image area into zones and evaluates both contrast and brightness among all the zones to determine the best overall exposure. A Spot metering option ties the exposure to the very center of the frame, and is useful for off-center or high contrast subjects, letting you pinpoint the exact area of the frame to base the exposure on. There's also a Center-Weighted metering option on the PowerShot SD30, which bases the exposure on a large area in the center of the frame. Exposure Compensation increases or decreases the overall exposure from -2 to +2 exposure equivalents (EV) in one-third step increments. A White Balance option offers Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Tungsten, Fluorescent, Fluorescent H, and Custom (manual) settings. The Canon SD30 also offers a creative Photo Effects menu, which adjusts sharpening, color, and saturation. Sensitivity equivalents include 50, 100, 200, and 400 ISO settings, as well as an Auto setting. The SD30's built-in flash operates in Auto, Red-Eye Reduction, Forced On, Forced On with Red-Eye Reduction, Suppressed, and Slow-Synchro modes.
A two- or 10-second self-timer option counts down by flashing a small LED on the front of the Canon SD30 before firing the shutter, giving you time to duck around the camera and get into your own shots. In addition, a Custom timer function allows you to set the camera for a delay of 0-10, 15, 20, or 30 seconds, and a number of photos to be captured once the delay has been elapsed (from one to 10). After the timer expires, the camera will capture the number of photos requested with an interval of approximately one second between photos, and the flash does recharge quickly enough to capture 10 photos in a row with flash. This could be rather nice for people trying to take photos of a large family gathering. Thirty seconds gives you plenty of time to get into your photo, and with the ability to capture 10 images with one press of the shutter, there's a better chance you'll get a shot where nobody blinked or made a funny face. This is an innovative feature that brings the fun of the old photo booth into the digital era and makes it portable. As such, it should be renamed "Photo Booth Mode" to make it better understood by those most likely to use it. The tech-heads likely to find this mode are less likely to use it.
Stitch-Assist mode is the Canon SD30's panoramic shooting mode, which lets you shoot as many as 26 consecutive images. As each image is captured, a portion of it appears alongside a live preview of the current scene, helping you to line the next image up with a proper overlap. The series of images can then be "stitched" together into a single panoramic frame with the accompanying software. A Continuous Shooting mode captures a series of consecutive images (much like a motor drive on a traditional camera), at approximately one frame per second, for as long as the Shutter button is held down. The actual frame rate varies slightly with the resolution setting, and the maximum number of images will also depend on the amount of memory card space and file size.
The Canon SD30 also has three Movie Record modes, which record moving images with sound. Focus and optical zoom are fixed at the first frame, but you can use digital zoom while recording. Standard captures 640 x 480 images at 10 frames per second up to 1-GB. Compact captures 160 x 120 at 15 fps for emailing up to three minutes. My Colors captures 320 x 240 at 20 fps up to 1-GB. The PowerShot SD30's Playback mode allows editing movies longer than one second. You can save the new movie over the old one, or as a new file. During playback, you can also step through images frame by frame.
The My Camera settings menu lets you customize camera settings to a specific theme. Everything from the startup image to operating sounds can be assigned to a theme, either one of the pre-programmed themes or one downloaded from the camera software or stored on the memory card. The PowerShot SD30 also lets you record short sound clips in WAV format to accompany captured images, via the Sound Memo option, great for lively captions to vacation photos or party shots.
The Canon PowerShot SD30 stores images on SD memory cards (hence, the "SD" in its name). A 16MB card accompanies the camera, but I highly recommend picking up a larger capacity card, so you don't miss any shots. These days, a 128MB or 256MB card is a good tradeoff between cost and capacity. The camera utilizes a rechargeable lithium-ion battery pack for power, which accompanies the camera, along with the necessary battery charger. Because the Canon SD30 does not accommodate AA-type or any other off-the-shelf battery format, I strongly advise picking up an additional battery pack and keeping it freshly charged. The included dock functions as an AC adapter, charging the battery and powering the camera when downloading images. It's also where you connect the included USB cable or A/V cable connects the SD30 to a television set, for reviewing and composing images.
Also included with the Canon SD30 is a small wireless controller to control the camera when it is placed in the dock. Powered by a 3-volt lithium coin battery, the controller can manage playback on a television set when using the A/V cable, erase images, print when connected to a printer and download when connected to a computer via the USB cable.
A software CD accompanies the PowerShot SD30, providing any necessary drivers and editing software for both Windows and Macintosh platforms. The CD holds Canon's Digital Camera Solution Disk version 25.0 and also features ArcSoft's PhotoStudio. The Canon SD30 is Digital Print Order Format (DPOF) and PictBridge compatible, with detailed print settings in the Playback menu. Canon offers a selection of direct-connect printers as well, which simplifies printing even more. And Exif Print optimizes print settings when images are captured.
- 5.0-megapixel CCD
- 1.8-inch color TFT LCD monitor
- 2.4x, 6.3-14.9mm lens, equivalent to a 38-90mm lens on a 35mm camera
- Maximum 4x digital zoom (combined ~10x)
- Automatic exposure control, with Long Shutter mode for longer exposures
- Shutter speeds from 1/1,600 to 15 seconds
- Maximum aperture of f/3.2 to f/5.4, depending on lens zoom position
- Built-in flash with six modes
- SD memory card storage, 16MB card included
- Power supplied by a rechargeable lithium-ion battery pack (charger included) or included dock
- Canon Digital Camera Solution Software v25.0 with ArcSoft PhotoStudio, and USB drivers included for both Windows and Mac platforms
- Print/Share button
- Wireless controller
- Three Movie modes with sound (up to 640x480 pixels at 10 frames per second or 320x240 at 20 fps)
- Continuous Shooting mode
- Stitch-Assist panorama mode
- Macro focus mode
- Customizable "My Camera" settings
- Two- or 10-second Self-Timer for delayed shutter release, plus custom timer with multi-shot feature
- Sound Memo option for recording captions
- Spot, Center-Weighted, and Evaluative exposure metering
- White balance (color) adjustment with seven modes, including a Custom setting
- Photo Effect and My Colors menus for color adjustment
- Unusual Color Accent and Color Swap features for special effects in still images or movies
- Adjustable ISO setting
- DPOF (Digital Print Order Format) and PictBridge compatibility
- Exif Print
- USB cable for connection to a computer (driver software included)
- A/V cable for connection to a television set
The Canon ELPH series of digicams continues to be a popular option for many consumers, given its tiny size and reputation for great build and image quality. Although exposure control is mainly automatic, the availability of exposure times as long as 15 seconds and adjustable ISO on the PowerShot SD30 increases the camera's exposure versatility a great deal. The uncomplicated user interface and smooth styling helps novices and more advanced amateurs alike feel at home, with enough control over the exposure to make both happy. The Canon SD30 makes a great "all around" camera for anyone, and would make a good "second camera" for enthusiasts for those times when they don't want to lug along their full-size all-the-bells-and-whistles camera. All considered, the PowerShot SD30 is one of the better subcompact digital cameras currently on the market.
With gently flowing curves over most of the camera's body, the Canon PowerShot SD30's compact size is perfect for quickly stashing in a pocket or purse without worrying about damaging the rugged, all-metal body (though if you want to maintain that gorgeous finish, put it in a protective case first because it can get scratched). The retracting lens is a smart design that keeps the camera front completely flat when the camera is off, underscoring the camera's pocket-friendly design, while an automatic lens cover means you don't have to worry about smudging the lens or losing a lens cap. Measuring 3.78 x 1.78 x 0.94 inches (96.1 x 45.1 x 23.9 millimeters), the Canon SD30 should fit easily into the average shirt pocket. It weighs just 3.7 ounces (105 grams) without battery and memory card.
Several distinctive features on the front of the Canon SD30 identify it as an ELPH, with the lens off-center slightly toward the right, and the flash just above and to the right of it. A light emitter, directly above the lens, serves multiple purposes, including autofocus assist, red-eye reduction, and the self-timer countdown. The camera's telescoping lens moves into place quickly, projecting a little over half an inch from the front of the camera when powered on, and retracts fully within the camera when switched off to maintain a flat profile. (Startup time is a very fast 1.0 second.) The very small hole to the left of the PowerShot SD30's lens is the microphone. No real finger-grip is provided, so be sure to attach the accompanying wrist strap.
The Power button, Shutter button and speaker are located at the right of the PowerShot SD30's top and do not protrude noticeably.
On the right side of the PowerShot SD30 (as viewed from the rear) is the battery compartment door protecting both the battery and the memory card slot. The door is a painted metallic plastic, and fits very snugly back into place with a gentle press -- unlike many such doors on digicams that seem impossible to ever get properly closed after they've first been opened. Inside the SD30's battery / memory card compartment, the battery and SD memory card slots line up side by side. A small spring-loaded latch ensures the battery won't accidentally fall out when you open the compartment cover. Adjacent to the door is the wrist strap attachment eyelet.
The opposite side of the PowerShot SD30 is basically bare, with only a couple of screws visible, but it lets the camera stand vertically on its end (although we wouldn't advise trying this on anything other than a perfectly level, smooth surface -- and even then not near an edge the camera could fall off). The text on the front of the camera and lens is actually oriented to be right-reading when the camera is stood on end.
The remaining camera controls are on the SD30's rear panel, along with the LCD viewfinder. The 1.8-inch LCD monitor occupies the left side of the back panel with all the controls on the right. A three-position Mode switch at the very top of the camera's rear selects between Playback, Movie and Still mode. Below this is the Print / Share button, which features a blue LED in the center that lights when the camera is ready to print or transfer images, and blinks when either is in process. A Four-Way Arrow pad incorporates most of the quick settings, with the outside buttons handling navigation, Macro and Flash modes, and Zoom. The Function button is below and to the left of the Four-way Arrow pad, also serving as the Set button for making menu selections. Lower right of the PowerShot SD30's Four-Way Arrow pad is the Menu button.
The Canon SD30 features a nice, flat bottom panel, which holds the metal tripod mount and the battery / memory card compartment. The tripod socket is off center to the camera body and the lens, not a great choice for panorama shooters since the mount is not below the center of the lens. But you can remove either the battery or memory card on a tripod-mounted SD30. Also on the bottom is the Camera Station Connector for the dock. The Connector provides AC power, USB connections and battery charging.
The Canon PowerShot SD30's user interface is straightforward and relatively uncomplicated, with a similar menu setup and basic control philosophy as the rest of the current ELPH series. Frequently used camera's functions are controlled by buttons on the rear panel, with other settings controlled through the LCD-based Record menu. The Function/Set button provides access to the LCD menu's basic settings like image size, quality, and exposure compensation, which don't require you to sift through menu screens. The LCD menu system itself is quite efficient, as you view menu items organized in tabs instead of through a series of pages. Additionally, the Setup and My Camera menus are always available via the Menu button, regardless of the camera mode. With the instruction manual in-hand, it shouldn't take more than a half-an-hour to an hour to get comfortable with the camera.
Record Mode Display: In any record mode, the PowerShot SD30's LCD display shows either the image area with a limited information display (On), or selected information (Off). The Info Display option in the Tools menu toggles the display on or off. When the information display is active, it reports resolution and image quality settings, the number of available images, Record mode, orientation, and a handful of exposure settings (although not aperture or shutter speed). But even when off, it displays some settings like the low battery warning.
Playback Mode Display: The PowerShot SD30's Playback mode offers three options, including the image only (Off), the image with information (Standard), and the image with expanded information and a histogram (Detailed).
Shutter Button: Located on the top panel, this button sets focus and exposure when halfway pressed and fires the shutter when fully pressed. If the Self-Timer is activated, a full press of the Shutter button triggers the countdown.
Power Button: To the left of the PowerShot SD30's Shutter button on the camera's top panel, this button turns the camera on or off.
Mode Switch: At the top center of the rear panel, this switch controls the camera's operating mode, offering the following selections:
- Playback Mode: Replays captured images and movies, with options for image management and printing.
- Movie Mode: Captures moving images with sound in three different modes.
- Still Mode: Sets the camera for still image capture with the various still modes available via the Function/Set button.
Four-Way Arrow Pad: This four-way rocker button is located to the right of the PowerShot SD30's LCD monitor and serves multiple functions. In any Settings menu, the arrow keys navigate through menu selections. In Record mode, the Left arrow selects between Single, Continuous and Self-Timer modes. The Right arrow selects the Flash mode, cycling through Automatic, Red-Eye Reduction, Forced On, Forced On with Red-Eye Reduction, Forced Off, and Slow-Sync settings. The Up arrow zooms in and the Bottom arrow zooms out.
In Playback mode, the Up arrow magnifies the image (pressing the Function/Set button subsequently enables scrolling around the enlarged image), and the Down arrow calls the Delete menu, while the right and left arrow keys scroll through captured images and movie files. When you zoom in on an image, all four arrows pan the view.
Function/Set Button: To the lower left of the four-way arrow pad, this control displays available options in any Record mode, and confirms selections once any menu has been invoked. In Playback mode, it activates Index Playback, in which up to nine images are displayed at once on the LCD. When used in Still Recording mode, the following options are available on the PowerShot SD30 (not all options being available in all modes):
- Shooting Mode: Selects among the available shooting modes: Auto, Manual, Macro, Portrait, Landscape, Night Snapshot, My Colors, and the Scene modes. In Movie Mode the options are Standard, Compact, and My Colors.
- Exposure Compensation: Increases or decreases the exposure from -2 to +2 exposure equivalents (EV) in one-third-step increments.
- ISO: Selects between Auto, 50, 100, 200 and 400 ISO equivalents.
- White Balance: Controls the color balance of images. Options are Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Tungsten, Fluorescent, Fluorescent H, and Custom (manual setting).
- Photo Effect: Enables Vivid Color (high color saturation), Neutral Color (low color saturation), Low Sharpening, Sepia, or Black-and-White picture effects, or disables the effects altogether.
- Metering: Sets the camera's metering mode to Evaluative, Center-Weighted, or Spot.
- Resolution: Specifies the image resolution. Still image resolutions are 2,592 x 1,944; 2,048 x 1,536; 1,600 x 1,200; and 640 x 480 pixels; a Postcard mode also takes the resolution to 1600 x 1200 and locks the resolution to Fine; a date stamp can be printed on the image in this mode, and the top and bottom of the screen are greyed out when you half-press the shutter button, showing the portions of the image that won't fit on a 4x6 postcard. Pressing the Menu button allows you to select Compression settings of Superfine, Fine, or Normal. Movie resolutions are 640 x 480, and 320 x 240 pixels.
Menu Button: Lower right of the Four-way nav controls, this button accesses either the LCD menu system in both Record and Playback modes or options in the various Recording modes.
Print/Share Button: Located to the upper left of the SD30's Four-way nav, the Print/Share button is used for activating uploads to Windows computers or connections to a variety of compatible printers, including those complying to the PictBridge standard. The button glows blue when ready to print or transfer images, and flashes blue when printing or transferring images.
Camera Modes and Menus
Playback Mode: This mode allows you to scroll through captured images and movies, write-protect images, view a nine-image index display, zoom into a captured image, delete unwanted images, rotate images, set up images for printing on DPOF compatible devices, as well as play and edit movies on the Canon SD30.
Movie Mode: Records movie clips with sound in one of three modes. Focus and optical zoom are fixed at the first frame but digital zoom is available. Movie modes include Standard capture at 640 x 480 images at 10 frames per second up to 1-GB, Compact capture at 160 x 120 at 15 fps for emailing up to three minutes, and My Colors capture at 320 x 240 at 20 fps up to 1-GB.
Record Mode: Sets the PowerShot SD30 for still image capture. Pressing the Function/Set button lets you choose among Auto, Manual (similar to Program Auto), Macro, Portrait, Landscape, Night Snapshot, My Colors, and Scene (with choices being Kids & Pets, Indoor, Foliage, Snow, Beach, Fireworks, and Underwater).
- AiAF: Turns on the AiAF focus system. If switched off, the camera bases autofocus on the center of the frame.
- Self-Timer: Sets the Self-Timer countdown to two or 10 seconds, or lets you specify a custom timer. The custom timer can have a delay of 0-10, 15, 20, or 30 seconds, and allows multiple shots (from one to ten in total) to be captured. If the camera is set to capture multiple shots, these are captured with an interval of about one second between shots, enough time for the flash to recharge if required. Focus and exposure are locked from the first shot. (A very handy feature for getting good shots of groups, as someone invariably blinks right as the shutter goes off.)
- AF Assist Beam: Turns the AF assist light on or off. If on, the bright orange LED on the camera's front automatically illuminates in low lighting.
- Digital Zoom: Enables the SD30's 4x digital zoom function, which is engaged by zooming past the optical zoom range. Also disables digital zoom.
- Review: Turns the instant review function on or off, sets the amount of time that the captured image is displayed on the screen from two to 10 seconds, or allows a "Hold" mode where the image remains on the screen until the shutter button is half-pressed. The instant review function applies to still images only.
- Save Original: Toggles whether the camera records an original unaltered image with any My Colors image.
- Grid Lines: Enables or disables display of grid lines to help align shots or compose using the rule of thirds.
- Date Stamp: Activates the Date Stamp feature, which imprints the date (and optionally, the time) on the lower right of images captured in "Postcard" mode only.
- Long Shutter: Enables or disables longer shutter times. When enabled, the EV compensation option available when you press Function/Set button, will shift into Long Shutter mode when you press the Menu button. You can then select shutter speeds among 1.0, 1.3, 1.6, 2.0, 2.5, 3.2, 4.0, 5.0, 6.0 8.0, 10.0, 13.0, and 15.0 seconds.
- Vertical Shutter: Allows the Function/Set button to release the shutter when the camera is held vertically.
- Stitch Assist: Sets the shooting direction from left to right or right to left and starts the sequence, aligning shots until you press the Menu button to escape Stitch Assist mode.
- Mute: Turns the camera's beep sounds on and off, although warnings will still sound.
- Volume: Individually sets Startup, Operation, Self Timer, Shutter, and Playback volumes. Five steps are available for each item, or the sound for each item can be disabled individually.
- Info Display: Toggles displays modes on or off for Shooting Info and Review Info. For Replay Info, it selects between Detailed, Standard, or Off.
- LCD Brightness: Adjust the brightness of the LCD backlight, with 15 steps of control available.
- Power Saving: Toggles the camera's automatic shutoff function, which turns off the camera after a period of inactivity. Also sets display shutdown time to 10, 20, or 30 seconds, or to 1, 2, or 3 minutes.
- Time Zone: Sets both a Home and World (away) time zone, so you can simply select one or the other to record date and time settings for that location. Setting a time zone displays a world map with scrollable time zones and major city names for each zone, making it easy to select a location.
- Date/Time: Sets the camera's internal calendar and clock, as well as the format for dates (mm/dd/yy, dd/mm/yy, or yy/mm/dd).
- Clock Display: Controls the PowerShot SD30's clock display option, which shows the current time (but not the date) for a period of 0-10, 20 or 30 seconds or for 1, 2 or 3 minutes when the Function key is pressed and held for two seconds. (Handy if you forgot your wristwatch, I guess.) If set to zero, the clock is displayed only while the Function button is held in.
- Format: Formats the Secure Digital card, erasing all files (even those marked for write-protection). An optional is available to low-level format the card.
- File Numbering: Resets file numbering with each new Secure Digital card when set to Auto Reset. If set to Continuous, the camera continues numbering in sequence, regardless of memory card.
- Create Folder: Immediately creates a new folder on the memory card to store images or creates the folder at the day and time you specify.
- Auto Rotate: Toggles Auto Rotate feature on and off. The camera can detect when the camera is held approximately level, or when it is rotated left or right beyond approximately 45 degrees. If you aim the PowerShot SD30 vertically up or down, it will remember the orientation before you did so -- hence letting you control which orientation an image is tagged with even for shots where the camera is tilted enough vertically to prevent the sensor working.
- Language: Sets the camera's menu language to one of a whopping 22 choices. English is the default setting.
- Video System: Sets the camera's video-out signal to conform to NTSC or PAL timing.
- Reset All: Resets all non-custom camera settings to their default values.
My Camera Menu
- Theme: Selects a common theme for each My Camera menu settings item. Four options are available, the first one being Off. When a theme is selected, all of the following settings automatically adjust to that theme. Users can also select and upload their own sounds to the camera.
- Start-Up Image: Sets the startup image when you turn on the PowerShot SD30 to: Black screen, Canon logo, Canon logo with sunset, and nature scene. You can also apply your own image using the Canon software.
- Start-Up Sound: Sets the startup sound when you turn on the camera to: No sound, Musical tone (1), Musical tone (2), or Birds chirping.
- Operation Sound: Sets the sound when any control or switch is used (except the Shutter button). Options include no sound, Beep, Musical tone, and Chirp.
- Self-Timer Sound: Sets the sound that signals you when the shutter release is two seconds away. Options include no sound, Fast beeps, Telephone ring, and Howling.
- Shutter Sound: Sets the shutter sound that you hear when you depress the Shutter button (there is no shutter sound in Movie mode). Options include no sound, Shutter sound, Musical Tone, and Bark.
Playback Menu System: Accessed by pressing the Menu button in Playback mode, the Playback menu also has subject tabs for the Setup and My Camera menus. Since these were described above, I won't repeat them here.
- Protect: Marks the current image for write-protection, or removes write-protection. Protected images cannot be deleted or manipulated, except through card formatting, which erases all files.
- Rotate: Rotates the current image. The first press gives a 90 degree clockwise rotation; the second press rotates the image 90 degrees counterclockwise from the original position. On the third press, the image returns to its original orientation. The image data is not actually rotated; the PowerShot SD30 actually sets a tag in the EXIF header, hence your software must recognize this tag to be able to recognize the orientation set in-camera.
- Sound Memo: Records a short sound clip to accompany a captured image.
- Erase All: Erases all files on the memory card, except protected ones.
- Slide Show: Automatically plays all captured images in a slide show.
- Print Order: Determines how many copies of the current image will be printed, with options for creating an index print, imprinting the date and time, and imprinting the file number.
- Transfer Order: Select images for downloading to your computer.
- Transition: Select a fade or wipe transition between images as they are displayed or disable the effect.
Print Connection: When you connect the Canon SD30 to a PictBridge, Canon Direct Print, or Bubble Jet Direct-compatible printer, a new menu is enabled, allowing easy print to a number of basic paper sizes, all without a computer. A special icon appears in the upper left hand corner, with the word SET right next to it, telling you that to adjust settings, you should press the Set button. You can select not only the size and type of paper, but you can also crop the pictures right in the camera. If you only print one size, full frame, you need only press the Print/Share button and printing of the current image begins immediately at whatever default settings were used last.
In the Box
Packaged with the PowerShot SD30 are the following items:
- Wrist strap
- 16MB MMC memory card
- Camera Station dock with connector cover
- AC adapter for dock
- Video cable
- USB cable
- Wireless remote
- CR 2025 coin battery for remote
- NB-4L lithium-ion battery pack with cover
- Canon Digital Camera Solution Disk v25.0 software CD
- Operating manuals and registration card
- Large capacity SD/MMC memory card (These days, a 128MB or 256MB card is a good tradeoff between cost and capacity.)
- Additional NB-4L lithium-ion battery pack
- Small camera case
Recommended Software: Rescue your Photos!
Just as important as an extra memory card is a tool to rescue your images when one of your cards fails at some point in the future. We get a lot of email from readers who've lost photos due to a corrupted memory card. Memory card corruption can happen with any card type and any camera manufacturer, nobody's immune. A lot of "lost" images can be recovered with an inexpensive, easy to use piece of software though. Given the amount of email I've gotten on the topic, I now include this paragraph in all my digital camera reviews. The program you need is called PhotoRescue, by DataRescue SA. Read our review of it if you'd like, but download the program now, so you'll have it. It doesn't cost a penny until you need it, and even then it's only $29, with a money back guarantee. So download PhotoRescue for Windows or PhotoRescue for Mac while you're thinking of it. (While you're at it, download the PDF manual and quickstart guide as well.) Stash the file in a safe place and it'll be there when you need it. Trust me, needing this is not a matter of if, but when... PhotoRescue is about the best and easiest tool for recovering digital photos I've seen. (Disclosure: IR gets a small commission from sales of the product, but I'd highly recommend the program even if we didn't.) OK, now back to our regularly scheduled review...
See camera specifications here.
Cycle times, shutter lag, battery life, etc. can be found here.
We ran the PowerShot SD30 through our usual battery of tests, and have summarized our findings here. To see the full set of our test images, with explanations of what to look for in them, see the PowerShot SD30 Sample Pictures page. For a complete listing of all our test and "gallery" shots, go to the Thumbnails page.
A collection of more random, pictorial images can be found in the Canon PowerShot SD30 Photo Gallery.
Not sure which camera to buy? Let your eyes be the ultimate judge! Visit our Comparometer(tm) to compare images from the PowerShot SD30 with those from other cameras you may be considering. The proof is in the pictures, so let your own eyes decide which you like best!
A typical 3x optical zoom range, with good performance.
4x Digital Zoom
The PowerShot SD30 zooms over the equivalent of a 38-90mm range, a bit less than the 3x range typical of this class. The 4x digital zoom takes it out to 10x total, albeit with the loss of quality that digital zoom creates.
A small macro area with good detail and high resolution. Flash throttles down unusually well at this range.
|Macro with Flash
The PowerShot SD30's macro setting does uncommonly well, capturing a small minimum area of 1.6 x 1.2 inches (41 x 31 millimeters). Detail is strong and resolution high, with only a moderate amount of softening in the corners from the lens. (Most cameras have some softening in the corners in macro mode.) The flash was a particularly pleasant surprise on this shot, it flash throttled down well and evenly illuminated the field. Overall, an excellent choice for macro shooting.
Average to low barrel distortion.
This is the tendency for the lens to bend straight lines outward (like a barrel--usually at wide angle) or inward (like a pincushion--usually at telephoto). The SD30's 1.0% barrel distortion at wide angle is a bit higher than average among the cameras I've tested. At the telephoto end though, the SD30's zero distortion is excellent.
|Barrel distortion at 38mm is 1.0%
|Distortion at 90mm is 0.0%
Noticeable at both wide angle and telephoto.
|Wide: fairly bright, top left @ 200%
|Tele: flare, but no C.A. @ 200%
Chromatic aberration is a little high at wide angle, showing several pixels of moderately bright coloration on either side of the target lines. At telephoto, there's quite a bit of flare, but almost no chromatic aberration. (This distortion is visible as a very slight colored fringe around the objects at the edges of the field of view on the resolution target.)
Good performance in the lab, but some some softening in the lower corners of the frame in some outdoor shots.
|Lab: Telephoto, top left
|Lab: Telephoto, top right
|Outside: Soft in the lower left corner.
|Outside: Soft in the lower right corner.
The PowerShot SD30 was a little perplexing when it came to sharpness in the corners of the frame. In the lab shots, at telephoto, it sometimes did relatively well, as seen at top left, but other times what looked like flare produced significant blurring. At wide angle, it always seemed to do very well. Outside, we saw some decidedly soft corners in a few shots, as seen at bottom. Softness in the corners of the frame is unfortunately typical of very compact digital cameras, the amount seen in the SD30 is fairly characteristic of this class of camera.
Exposure and White Balance
Indoors, incandescent lighting
Slightly warm cast with both Auto and Incandescent white balance settings. Less exposure compensation required than usual.
|Auto White Balance +1.0EV
|Incandescent WB +1.0EV
|Manual WB +1.0EV
Color balance indoors under Auto was just a bit warm but pleasing. Incandescent was excellent, as was Manual. (You can take your pick here, from nicely warm, conveying the warmth of the original lighting without being overpowering, to relatively neutral.) The PowerShot SD30 required a +1.0 EV exposure compensation boost to get a good exposure, fairly typical for this shot. Overall color is unusually well-balanced and hue accurate. Our test lighting for this shot is a mixture of 60 and 100 watt household incandescent bulb, a pretty yellow light source, but a very common one in typical home settings here in the US.
Good color balance, very bright colors, if a bit on the cool side. Better than average exposure accuracy.
|Auto White Balance
|Auto White Balance
Outdoor shots generally showed accurate exposure with slightly blown out highlights. Shadow detail also tended to fall apart, but nothing that would raise an alarm for a consumer digicam. Exposure accuracy overall was better than average, the camera requiring less exposure compensation than we're accustomed to seeing with consumer digicams.
(See our PowerShot SD30 Photo Gallery for more shots taken with the camera.)
High resolution, 1,200 - 1,250 lines of strong detail.
Our laboratory resolution chart revealed sharp, distinct line patterns down to about 1,200 lines per picture height (perhaps 1,250 lines in the horizontal direction), with extinction at around 1,600. Use these numbers to compare with other cameras of similar resolution, or use them to see just what higher resolution can mean in terms of potential detail. Beware that while you might be able to make out what looks like distinct lines at numbers higher than those we've mentioned here, the camera is just doing its best to continue interpreting the lines. If you zoom in and follow them from the wider portions, you'll see the lines converge and reappear several times, so the lines you see at 1,500 and higher are really only artifacts generated by the camera's imaging system.
|Strong detail to 1,250 lines horizontal
|Strong detail to 1,200 lines vertical
Sharpness & Detail
|Good definition of high-contrast elements.
|Subtle detail: Foliage
The Canon PowerShot SD30's images are slightly soft overall, but the camera resolves a fair bit of detail with strongly contrasting subject matter. In areas of more subtle contrast though, much of the finer detail is lost to the camera's anti-noise processing. (Note that we aren't referring to noise suppression that's used only with very long shutter times: The shutter speed on the image shown above was 1/400 second.)
ISO & Noise Performance
Increasing noise at the higher ISO settings.
At ISO 50, the PowerShot SD30's images are relatively noise-free, although as noted above, there is some evidence of noise suppression there. And at ISO 100, it was pretty clean, too. Image noise became apparent at ISO 200, and was pretty significant at ISO 400. The SD30's noise pattern is pretty even and fine-grained though, so it isn't as visually prominent as that of many other cameras. The real test of noise performance is in prints, and here the SD30 did better than one might expect, based on what you see on-screen. ISO 400 prints at 8x10 inches did indeed show quite noticeable noise, but viewed at arm's length (as they would be on a wall or table), it wasn't all that obvious. At 5x7 inches, ISO 400 shots would probably be acceptable to most people for viewing at relatively close range, and at 4x6 inches, the noise was to all intents and purposes invisible. ISO 200 results were better, noise being detectable in 8x10 inch prints, but at a level that would almost certainly be acceptable to most viewers.
Extremes: Sunlit and low light tests
High resolution with good overall detail, though high contrast and limited shadow detail. Pretty good low-light performance, capable of capturing bright images under average city street lighting and slightly darker conditions.
Because digital cameras are more like slide film than negative film (in that they tend to have a more limited tonal range), we test them in the harshest situations to see how they handle scenes with bright highlights and dark shadows, as well as what kind of sensitivity they have in low light. The shot above is designed to mimic the very harsh, contrasty effect of direct noonday sunlight, a very tough challenge for most digital cameras. (You can read details of this test here.)
The PowerShot SD30 had a little trouble with the deliberately harsh lighting in the test above, producing very high contrast with washed-out highlights and deep shadows. Noise suppression is visible in both shadows and highlights as well, making the loss of detail more severe in these areas. This is a deliberately harsh test of a camera's dynamic range, but the SD30 (In "real life" though, be sure to use fill flash in situations like the one shown above; it's better to shoot in the shade when possible.)
Our low light testing revealed some limitations in the lens and sensor's ability to gather and process light, but the Canon SD30's performance in this area will be more than adequate for most consumers, provided they know to enable the Long Exposure mode for after-dark photography. In Long Exposure mode, an option is added to the +/- exposure compensation adjustment on the Function menu: Pressing the Menu button switches from the normal +/- display to one in which you can set the exposure time directly, over a range from 1 to 15 seconds. Unless you boost the ISO to 200 or 400, you'll need to use the Long Exposure mode even for average city night scenes, thanks to the normal 1-second exposure time limit. Using the Long Exposure mode though, the SD30 can shoot at extremely low light levels. The SD30's autofocus system isn't terribly sensitive, only able to focus successfully at a light level of about 1 foot-candle, roughly the light available under typical city street lighting. With its autofocus-assist light enabled, the SD30 can focus in complete darkness, but only on nearby subjects. Note, too, that the SD30's flash range is rather limited. Overall, we'd rate the SD30's low light performance "adequate" for most users. (It would get a better rating if it could focus to darker levels without having to rely upon its AF-assist light.)
Saturation & Hue Accuracy
Slightly oversaturated color (especially reds and blues), very typical of consumer digital cameras. Generally good hue accuracy.
|In the diagram above, the squares show the original color, and the circles show the color that the camera captured. More saturated colors are located towards the periphery of the graph. Hue changes as you travel around the center. Thus, hue-accurate, highly saturated colors appear as lines radiating from the center.
The other important part of color rendition is hue accuracy. Hue is "what color" the color is. Here, the PowerShot SD30 did quite well. Like most digicams, it shifts cyan colors toward blue a little bit, to produce better-looking sky colors, but the rest of the hues were very accurate.
Our random "Gallery" shots showed very pleasing color across a wide variety of subjects. (See our PowerShot SD30 Photo Gallery for more shots taken with the camera.)
No optical viewfinder. Very good accuracy from the LCD monitor.
|38mm eq., LCD monitor
|90mm eq., LCD monitor
The SD30's LCD monitor showed 104% at wide angle and 100% at telephoto. ("104%" means that we saw slightly more of the target in the LCD monitor than actually ended up in the final image. This is likely within the margin of error for a wide angle shot with this camera, as the barrel distortion leaves quite a bit up to your judgement as to what to call "properly framed" when looking at the viewfinder display.)
Coverage and Range
The SD30's small flash has a rather limited range. Our standard shots required more exposure compensation than average.
|Normal Flash, +1.0 EV
|Slow-Sync Flash, +1.0 EV
Flash coverage was rather uneven at wide angle but very even at telephoto. In the Indoor test, the flash on the SD30 underexposed our subject at its default setting, requiring a +1.0 EV exposure compensation adjustment to get reasonably bright results. (This is a very typical response among the cameras we test, a 1 EV exposure boost is about average.) The camera's Slow Sync flash mode produced brighter results, though with a stronger yellow-orange cast from the room lighting.
Even at eight feet, our closest test range, the flash did not illuminate the DaveBox target adequately. This agrees with Canon's own spec of 6.6 feet (wide) to 4.3 feet (tele) for flash range, very short even for a compact camera.
Good print quality, great color, very usable 11x14 inch prints. ISO 400 images are a bit noisy but probably usable at 8x10, acceptable at 5x7. Noise is entirely a non-issue in 4x6 prints.
Testing hundreds of digital cameras, we've found that you can only tell just so much about a camera's image quality by viewing its images on-screen. Ultimately, there's no substitute for printing a lot of images and examining them closely. For this reason, we now routinely print sample images from the cameras we test on our Canon i9900 studio printer, and on the Canon iP5000 here in the office. (See the Canon i9900 review for details on that model.)
With the Canon PowerShot SD30, we found that it had enough resolution to make crisp 8x10 inch prints. At 11x14, its prints were a bit softer looking, but more than adequate for wall or table display. At high ISO, image noise increases significantly, but the noise pattern is relatively fine-grained, so isn't as apparent in prints as it would be otherwise. ISO 200 photos look OK printed at 8x10 inches, ISO 400 shots that size show quite visible noise. Still, the fine grain of the noise pattern makes even ISO 400 8x10s usable for wall or table viewing. Dropping the print size to 5x7 inches should make ISO 400 shots quite acceptable to most users. Color-wise, the PowerShot SD30's images looked just excellent when printed on the i9900, with bright, vibrant color.
Timing and Performance
PowerShot SD30 Timing
Above average speed for a very compact consumer camera.
|Power On to first shot
|Shutter response (Lag Time):
Full Autofocus Wide
Full Autofocus Tele
|Cycle time (shot to shot)
|Normal large/fine JPEG
(1 large/fine frame)
|Windows Computer, USB 2.0
The SD30's performance is above average across the board. Start up speed is excellent. Shutter response is the same whether at wide angle or telephoto and both are above average. If you "prefocus" the camera by half-pressing and holding down the shutter button before the final exposure, it's blazingly fast, with a shutter delay of only 0.07 second, among the fastest on the market. Shot-to-shot cycle times are also above average, at about 1.28 seconds for large/fine JPEGs. Continuous-mode speed is about average, but the camera can continue shooting indefinitely, until the memory card is full (my require a faster-than-average SD card to do this though). The flash takes about seven seconds to recharge after a full-power shot, about average for this class of camera. Connected to a computer, download speeds are very fast, certainly enough so that you probably won't feel a need for a separate card reader. Bottom line, the SD30 is responsive enough (particular at wide angle lens settings) to handle most family photo opportunities.
Battery and Storage Capacity
Rather short battery life.
The Canon PowerShot SD30 uses a custom rechargeable 760mAh Lithium Ion battery for power, and has a custom power connector (part of the dock interface), so we couldn't perform our usual direct measurements of power consumption. We therefore must instead rely upon Canon's battery life rating of 160 shots, using the CIPA standard. That may sound like a lot of shots, but when you factor in typical time spent with the camera powered up while you're waiting to take the next shot, it's really rather short. Our standard recommendation that you purchase a spare battery at the same time as your camera applies doubly to the SD30.
A 16-MB SD memory card is included with the PowerShot SD30.
16-MB SD memory card
|2,592 x 1,944
|2,048 x 1,536
|1,600 x 1,200
I strongly recommend buying at least a 128MB SD memory card, preferably a 256MB one, to give yourself extra space for extended outings.
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