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DCRP Review: Canon PowerShot SD430 Digital ELPH Wireless
by Jeff Keller, DCRP Founder/Editor
Originally posted: February 26, 2006
Last Updated: January 3, 2012

The Canon PowerShot SD430 Digital ELPH Wireless ($499) has the longest name of any camera I've reviewed. It also happens to be Canon's first PowerShot with built-in Wi-Fi technology, which allows you to send photos to your PC without touching a USB cable. You can transfer photos as they are taken, or later while reviewing them in playback mode. In the future you'll also be able to send photos from one SD430 to another. Canon also throws in a wireless printer adapter, which allows you to print wirelessly from the SD430 to any PictBridge-enabled photo printer.

Aside from the Wi-Fi, the SD430 is a lot like the PowerShot SD400, with a 5 Megapixel CCD, 2" LCD display, point-and-shoot operation, VGA movie mode, and a compact metal body.

How does this one-of-a-kind Digital ELPH perform? Find out now in our review!

The SD430 is known as the Digital IXUS Wireless in some countries.

What's in the Box?

The PowerShot SD430 has a good bundle. Inside the box, you'll find:

Canon includes a 16MB Secure Digital (SD) memory card along with the SD430, which holds just five photos at the highest quality setting. That means that you'll need to buy a memory card, which drives up the real purchase price of the camera. Like the other cameras in the SD series, the SD430 uses Secure Digital memory cards, and I'd suggest a 512MB card as a good starter size. The camera takes advantage of high speed memory cards, so it's worth spending the extra bucks for one of those.

The SD430 uses the same NB-4L lithium-ion rechargeable battery as the SD400 and SD450. Here's how the camera compares against other ultra-compact cameras:

Camera Battery life, LCD on
(CIPA standard)
Canon PowerShot SD430** 150 shots
Canon PowerShot SD450 160 shots
Casio Exilim EX-S600 300 shots
Fuji FinePix F30 500 shots
Fuji FinePix Z1 170 shots
Kodak EasyShare One** 150 shots
Konica Minolta DiMAGE X1 150 shots
Nikon Coolpix S6** 200 shots
Olympus Stylus 600 330 shots
Olympus Stylus 800 300 shots
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX01 320 shots
Pentax Optio S6 130 shots
Pentax Optio T10 130 shots
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T9 240 shots
** Supports Wi-Fi

As you can see, the battery life on the SD430 is not great, and I bet the CIPA test doesn't even test the camera with the Wi-Fi turned on, which undoubtedly reduces battery life even more.

There were a few other cameras that I wanted to add to this list, but their respective manufacturer do not make battery life numbers available.

My usual complaints about proprietary batteries like the one used by the SD430 apply here. They're expensive ($47 a pop), and you can't put in a set of alkalines to get you through the rest of the day like you could with an AA-based camera. Then again, you'd be hard pressed to find an ultra-thin camera that uses AAs.

When it's time to recharge, just drop the battery into the included charger. This is my favorite style of charger -- it plugs right into the wall. It takes about 95 minutes to fully charge the battery.

As is the case with all ultra-compact cameras, there's a built-in lens cover on the SD430, so there's no clunky lens cap to worry about.

One nice thing that Canon includes is a Wireless Print Adapter, which is optional on Nikon's Wi-Fi cameras and not available at all on Kodak's. Just plug the adapter into any PictBridge-enabled printer and you can make prints right from the camera, without wires. The camera knows what kind of printer you're hooked into, so I could choose any of the supported paper sizes on my i9900 (even 13 x 19). You can also select a "fast photo" mode for faster printing, and whether you want borders around your photo.

There aren't too many accessories available for the SD430. First, there's the HF-DC1 external slave flash, which attaches to the camera via the tripod mount. If you want more flash range and redeye, it may be worth picking up. Being a slave flash, the DC1 only fires when the camera's onboard flash does. Other accessories include an AC adapter ($50) and soft case.


ImageBrowser (Mac OS X)


ZoomBrowser (Windows XP)

Canon includes version 27 of their very good Digital Camera Solutions software with the PowerShot SD430. Included in this package are ZoomBrowser (for Windows)/ImageBrowser (for Mac), PhotoStitch (for making panoramic photos), plus TWAIN and WIA drivers for Windows. Zoom/ImageBrowser can be used for downloading images from your camera, basic editing of your photos, and photo printing.


Wireless Setup Wizard (Windows XP)

This software is also what you'll use to adjust the wireless settings on the camera. Just plug it in via USB and run the simple WIreless Setup Wizard. The camera supports 64 and 128-bit WEP as well as WPA-PSK encryption. Once you're connected you can start beaming those photos to your PC!


RemoteCapture (Windows XP)

Something else you can do wirelessly is control the camera by using the RemoteCapture program on your PC. This software works just like it does on other Canon cameras -- you pick the settings you want, take the picture, and the image is saved directly to your computer. RemoteCapture only works wirelessly on the SD430 -- you cannot use the USB cable.

Mac users (like yours truly) don't get to enjoy any of this, though. As of right now, those of us with Macs cannot use any of the wireless features on the SD430. That is expected to change in May 2006, when Canon releases a firmware update for the camera.


ArcSoft PhotoStudio 4.3 for Mac OS X

Also included is ArcSoft PhotoStudio (v 4.3 for Mac, v5.5 for Windows), which is kind of like a "light" version of Adobe Photoshop. It's not bad, though I miss all the bells and whistles of the newer PhotoImpression software that's available these days.

Last year Canon reworked their camera manuals a bit. There's a basic manual which will get you up and shooting quickly. For more details you can open up the advanced manual, which should answer any question you might have. There are also separate manuals for the software and wireless features, as well as for direct printing (PictBridge). While the manuals are complete, they could be a little more user friendly.

Look and Feel

The PowerShot SD430 Digital ELPH Wireless isn't quite as stylish as the other ELPHs (namely the SD550 and SD600), as its wireless antenna breaks the continuity of the design. Even so, it's still nice to look at, and your friends will probably be green with envy when they find out that it's wireless. The camera is made of a mixture of metal and plastic, and it feels pretty solid. The camera is easy to hold and operate with one hand, though the mode switch is right near where your thumb rests, so it can be easy to accidentally bump it.

Now, here's a look at how the SD430 compares with some of the competition in terms of size and weight:

Camera Dimensions (W x H x D, excluding protrusions) Volume (bulk) Mass (empty)
Canon PowerShot SD430** 3.9 x 2.1 x 0.9 in. 7.4 cu in. 130 g
Canon PowerShot SD450 3.4 x 2.1 x 0.9 in. 6.4 cu in. 140 g
Canon PowerShot SD550 3.5 x 2.2 x 1.1 in. 8.5 cu in. 170 g
Casio Exilim EX-S600 3.5 x 2.3 x 0.6 in. 4.8 cu in. 116 g
Fuji FinePix F30 3.6 x 2.2 x 1.1 in. 8.7 cu in. 155 g
Fuji FinePix Z1 3.5 x 2.2 x 0.7 in. 5.4 cu in. 130 g
HP Photosmart R725 3.7 x 2.4 x 0.9 in. 8.0 cu in. 136 g
Kodak EasyShare One** 4.1 x 2.5 x 1.0 in. 10.3 cu in. 225 g
Konica Minolta DiMAGE X1 3.7 x 2.7 x 0.8 in. 8.0 cu in. 135 g
Nikon Coolpix S6** 3.7 x 2.4 x 0.8 in. 7.1 cu in. 140 g
Olympus Stylus 710 3.7 x 2.2 x 0.8 in. 6.5 cu in. 103 g
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX01 3.7 x 2.0 x 1.0 in. 7.4 cu in. 132 g
Pentax Optio S6 3.4 x 2.1 x 0.7 in. 5.0 cu in. 100 g
Pentax Optio T10 3.7 x 2.3 x 0.8 in. 6.8 cu in. 135 g
Samsung Digimax i6 3.8 x 2.4 x 0.7 in. 6.4 cu in. 130 g
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T9 3.7 x 2.4 x 0.8 in. 7.1 cu in. 113 g
** Supports Wi-Fi

As you can see, the SD430 falls in the middle of the pack in terms of size and weight.

Enough of that, let's start our tour of the camera now!

The PowerShot SD430 has the same F2.8-4.9, 3X optical zoom lens as the SD400 and SD450. The focal length is 5.8 - 17.4 mm, which is equivalent to 35 - 105 mm. Like the other SD series cameras, the SD430 doesn't support conversion lenses.

To the upper-right of the lens is the camera's built-in flash, which is the same as on the SD400/SD450. The working range of the flash (at Auto ISO) is 0.5 - 3.5 m at wide-angle and 0.5 - 2.0 m at telephoto, which is typical for an ultra-compact camera like this. If you want more flash power and less redeye, consider picking up the optional slave flash which I mentioned earlier.

To the left of the flash is the optical viewfinder. The item to the left of that is the AF-assist lamp, which doubles as the self-timer lamp. The AF-assist lamp is used by the camera as a focusing aid in low light situations.

The only other item to mention on the front of the camera is the microphone, located just to the left of the lens.

One thing that's not "big" on the SD430 is its LCD display. While the other SD-series cameras have LCDs that are 2.5" or larger, the SD430's is stuck at 2 inches. The resolution of the screen is decent, with 118,000 pixels, and everything is nice and sharp. Outdoor visibility was average, while low light visibility was much better than average (since the screen brightens automatically).

Just above the LCD is an optical viewfinder. Thankfully Canon hasn't gotten rid of this yet, like some other manufacturers. The viewfinder is average-sized, though it lacks a diopter correction knob.

At the upper-right corner of the photo is the mode switch. The options on the mode dial include record, movie, and playback. Crossing over to the left, we find the speaker, with the Print/Share button to the left of that.

The Print/Share button works a little differently than it does on Canon's other cameras. When connected to a PictBridge-enabled photo printer, you can make prints right from the camera (this hasn't changed). When you're connected to a Mac or PC, pressing this will automatically transfer all of your photos to the computer. If you want to go one-by-one you'll need to press the Function button instead.

To the lower-right we find the four-way controller, which is used for menu navigation and also:

The PowerShot SD430 has the same unlimited burst mode as the other cameras in the SD series. With a high speed memory card you can keep taking pictures at 2.1 frames/second (per my testing) until the memory card is full. The LCD keeps up fairly well, though it does black out very briefly between shots.


Function menu

By pressing the center button on the four-way controller, you'll open up the Function menu. This menu has the following options:

That manual mode isn't really that manual. All it does is open up the full list of menu options. The only real manual controls on the SD430 are for white balance and shutter speed. The custom white balance option lets you use a white or gray card as a reference, for perfect color in any lighting. The long shutter speed feature lets you manually choose a speed range from 1 - 15 seconds -- great for long exposures.

The photo effect lets you change the color or sharpness of your image instantly, and you can use it for stills or movies.


Using the My Colors "Color Swap" feature

If you've read any of my recent Canon reviews then you know about the My Colors feature. Since the feature hasn't changed since then, I'm going to use my examples from those reviews.

There are two things to note before I tell you about these features. First, you can choose to save the original, unaltered image if you desire (probably a good idea). Second, using the flash or changing the white balance or metering is going to prevent this feature from working properly.

Normal shot Color accent using the green color on The Body Shop sign
(Examples from the SD500)

The color accent feature will turn your image to black and white, except for the color which you've selected (see above). To select the color you point the camera at the color you want to sample and then press the four-way controller. You can fine tune the selected color by pressing up/down on the four-way controller, but it didn't make a huge different in my testing. For this option as well as the next two, the camera gives you a preview of what it's about to do before you take the photo.


You can see what I did here using the Color Swap feature (example from the SD400)

The color swap feature does just as it sounds: you can exchange one color for another. Want to see how your car looks in red? Well, select your car's color first and then find something red, and the rest is history.

The custom color feature lets you adjust the color balance for red, green, blue, and skin tones from -2 to +2 in 1-step increments.

The final buttons on the back of the camera are Display (turns the LCD on and off and toggles what is shown on the screen) and Menu (which does just as it sounds).

On the top of the PowerShot SD430 you'll find the power and shutter release buttons plus the zoom controller. The zoom controller, which wraps around the shutter release, moves the lens from wide-angle to telephoto in about 1.4 seconds. I counted seven steps throughout the 3X zoom range.

Not much to see here, though I should point out that you're looking directly at the Wi-Fi antenna.

On the other side of the camera you'll find the I/O ports, which are kept under a plastic cover of average quality. The ports here include A/V out and USB. The SD430 supports the USB 2.0 High Speed standard.

On the bottom of the camera you'll find a metal tripod mount and the battery/memory card compartment. The battery and memory card slots are protected by a plastic door that's also of decent quality. As you can see from the photo, you won't be able to swap memory cards while the camera is on a tripod.

The SD430 uses the NB-4L lithium-ion battery and SD and MMC memory cards.

Using the Canon PowerShot SD430 Digital ELPH

Record Mode

It takes about 1.2 seconds for the SD430 to extend its lens and "warm up" before you can start taking pictures.


No live histogram to be found

Focus speeds on the SD430 are very good, though not spectacular. The camera generally takes between 0.3 - 0.5 seconds to lock focus, and longer if it needs to hunt a bit. Low light focusing was above average, thanks to that handy AF-assist lamp.

I did not find shutter lag to be a problem, even at the slower shutter speeds at which it can occur.

Shot-to-shot speed is excellent on the SD430, with a delay of about a second before you can take another picture, assuming you've turned the post-shot review feature off.

You can delete a picture as it's been saved to the memory card by pressing the delete photo button (the "down" key on the four-way controller).

Now, here's a look at the image size and quality choices available on the camera:

Resolution Quality Approx. file size # images on 16MB card
(included)
# images on 512MB card (optional)
Large
2592 x 1944
Superfine 2.4 MB 5 190
Fine 1.4 MB 9 339
Normal 695 KB 19 671
Middle 1
2048 x 1536
Superfine 1.6 MB 8 295
Fine 893 KB 15 529
Normal 445 KB 30 1041
Middle 2
1600 x 1200
Superfine 1002 KB 13 471
Fine 558 KB 24 839
Normal 278 KB 46 1590
Small
640 x 480
Superfine 249 KB 52 1777
Fine 150 KB 80 2747
Normal 84 KB 127 4317

As you can see, a larger memory card is a wise investment if you buy the SD430. I should also mention that there is a special "postcard" resolution (1600 x 1200) which is what you'll need to use if you want to print the date on your photos. You cannot do it at any other resolution.

Not surprisingly, there's no RAW or TIFF support on this camera.

Images are named IMG_xxxx.JPG, where x = 0001 - 9999. The file numbering is maintained even if you replace and/or format memory cards.

Now, onto the menus!

The SD430 has the same new style menu system as the other cameras in the SD series. Note that some menu options are not available while in the automatic shooting mode. With that in mind, here's what's in the record menu:

The custom self-timer option is new. Instead of just 2 or 10 seconds, now you can have the camera take up to 10 shots automatically, with a delay ranging from 1 to 30 seconds before the photo is taken.

The wireless menu is, naturally, only found on the SD430. The options here are quite simple:

The setup tab in the menu has the following items:

An additional "My Camera'" menu allows you to customize the startup screen, beeps, and phony shutter sounds that your camera makes. The software included with the camera lets you use your own photos and sounds as well, if you desire. If these bother you, you can also turn them off.

Well enough about menus, let's do photo tests now.

The PowerShot SD430 did a decent job with our usual macro test subject. The colors of the figurine are accurate, though I notice a bit of a pink tint to the white background behind it. The subject is nice and sharp, though the nose is blurry, and there's nothing you can do about that (since there's no way to control depth-of-field on the camera).

There are two macro modes on the camera, though only one of them is "real". In regular macro mode you can get as close to your subject as 3 cm at wide-angle and 30 cm at telephoto. A digital macro feature locks the zoom at wide-angle and lets you use the digital zoom to get closer, though this will reduce the quality of the image -- the 3 cm minimum distance remains unchanged.

The night test shot turned out quite nicely. The camera took in plenty of light (thanks to that long shutter mode), and everything is nice and sharp. While purple fringing was not a problem, noise levels were a bit above average.

Speaking of noise, let's use that same scene and see how increasing the ISO sensitivity affects noise levels:


ISO 50

ISO 100

ISO 200


ISO 400

While ISO 100 is just a bit worse than ISO 50, things start to go downhill rapidly at ISO 200. There, details are noticeably gone, and I think they're beyond repair at ISO 400. Ultra-compacts just don't seem to do very well at high sensitivities.

There's mild barrel distortion at the wide end of the SD430's 3X zoom lens. I also spot a bit of vignetting (dark corners) as well as some corner blurriness, and you may encounter either in your real world photos.

Compact cameras usually come with big-time redeye, and the SD430 is no exception. While your results may vary, more than likely you'll have to deal with this annoyance to some degree.

Overall the image quality on the SD430 is just like on its brother, the SD400: very good. Colors were accurate, as was exposure, and purple fringing was not a problem. Sharpness levels were just right in my opinion. While noise levels could be a bit lower, they're normal for a camera in this class.

Don't just take my word for all this, though. Have a look at our photo gallery, and print the photos as if they were your own. Then you can decide if the photo quality meets your expectations.

Movie Mode

The SD430 has the same very nice movie mode as its predecessor. You can record VGA video (with sound) at 30 frames/second until either the memory card fills up, or the movie file size reaches 1GB (which takes just eight minutes). A high speed memory card is required for the high quality movie mode.

For longer movies you can either lower the resolution or the frame rate. Two other resolution choices are available: 320 x 240 and 160 x 120. For the 640 x 480 and 320 x 240 sizes you can choose from 30 or 15 frames/second, while the 160 x 120 size is fixed at 15 fps (with a 3 minute recording limit as well).

There's also a unique "Fast Frame Rate" mode, which lets you record up to 1 minute of 320 x 240 video at a whopping 60 frames/second. This is great for videos of fast moving subjects.

The My Colors and Photo Effects features mentioned earlier can be used in movie mode as well. A movie editing feature lets you trim unwanted footage off the beginning or end of a clip.

You cannot use the zoom lens during filming (it will be locked when you start filming).

Movies are saved in AVI format, using the M-JPEG codec. I wish Canon would switch to MPEG-4 so we could take movies longer than 8 minutes!

Here's the sample movie for the SD430:


Click to play movie (16.1 MB, 640 x 480, 30 fps, AVI format)
Can't view it? Download QuickTime
.

Playback Mode

The playback mode is very good, and just like the one found on the other SD-series models. You've got slideshows, image protection, image rotation, voice captions, thumbnail view, and zoom and scroll. This last feature lets you enlarge the picture up to 10X, and then scroll around in the zoomed-in area. It's nice and fast thanks to the camera's DIGIC II processor.

The camera also has the cool but not terribly useful "rotate the camera and the image on the LCD rotates too" that I first spotted on the SD550. I do like the enhanced thumbnail view that is also borrowed from the SD550.

The camera is PictBridge-enabled, and you can print with our without wires.

By default, the SD430 doesn't give you much info about your photos. But press the display button and you'll get plenty of details, including a histogram.

If you're connected to a wireless network, pressing the Function button in the middle of the four-way controller will open up a menu which allows you to:

The camera rockets through photos in playback mode. It moves from one to the next instantly, now with your choice of transitions!

How Does it Compare?

The Canon PowerShot SD430 Digital ELPH Wireless is an ultra-compact camera with all the features you'd expect from an ultra-compact, plus one more: wireless functionality. In fact, the Wi-Fi feature is the only thing that sets it apart from the other cameras in Canon's SD-series, and it commands a $100-200 price premium over the other Digital ELPHs. Is it worth it? Well, that depends on your needs.

The SD430 looks like a typical Digital ELPH camera, though the antenna on one side of the body breaks the continuity of the design. Like the other SD-series cameras, it's compact, made mostly of metal, and quite solid. It fits well in the hand, and the important controls are easy to reach. The camera has a standard 3X zoom lens (covering 35 - 105 mm) and a 2.0" LCD display that is easy to see in low light conditions.

Most of the features on the camera are standard issue for a compact point-and-shoot camera. You've got scene modes, a fancy movie mode, and a simple-to-navigate menu system. Canon throws in a few extra toys, like the My Colors feature, a more usable thumbnail view, and fancy transitions while playing back photos. The camera has two manual controls, and those are for white balance and shutter speed, though the latter is limited to slow shutter speeds only.

The biggest selling point on the SD430 is its built-in 802.11b wireless transmitter. Once you get that set up (which is pretty easy), you can transmit photos without wires to your Windows PC, either as they are shot, or later in playback mode. You can also use Canon's RemoteCapture software to control the camera right from your PC. In addition, the bundled Wireless Printer Adapter hooks into any PictBridge-enabled photo printer, so you won't need a USB cable for that either. The downside here is that none of the wireless features are Mac compatible, though that will change in May of this year when a firmware upgrade is released.

Like Canon's other cameras which utilize their DIGIC II processor, camera performance on the SD430 is excellent in almost all areas. The camera starts up quickly and shutter lag and shot-to-shot times are minimal. Autofocus speeds, while good, aren't as fast as on some other cameras in this class. The one disappointing area in terms of performance on the SD430 is battery life, and it's even worse than the estimates if you use the Wi-Fi a lot.

Photo quality was very good. The SD430 took well-exposed photos with accurate color, good sharpness, and low purple fringing. Noise levels could've been lower at low ISOs, and they're not terribly useful at ISO 200 and above. Unfortunately, that's fairly normal for cameras in this class. Also normal is redeye -- and there was quite a bit of that on this camera.

When it gets down to recommending the PowerShot SD430 things get a bit more difficult. If you're after a camera with Wi-Fi capabilities, and you use a Windows PC, then I'd recommend the camera without hesitation. If you think "well, that's cool, but I don't really need it", then you could save a bundle of money by looking at other models. If you like the SD-series cameras then you should take a look at the SD450 and the new SD600, which sell for $100 and $200 less than the SD430, respectively. They offer the same feature-set (except for Wi-Fi, of course), and they have a larger LCD to boot. If you're set on Wi-Fi, the only other cameras out there are the mediocre Kodak EasyShare One and the various Nikons that I have not yet tested (stay tuned for those).

What I liked:

What I didn't care for:

There are only a handful of other compact cameras that support Wi-Fi, and they are the Kodak EasyShare One and the Nikon Coolpix P3, P4, and S6.

Other ultra-compacts without Wi-Fi worth considering include the Canon PowerShot SD450 and SD600, Casio Exilim EX-S600, Fuji FinePix Z1, HP Photosmart R725, Kodak EasyShare V570 and V603, Nikon Coolpix S5, Olympus Stylus 710, Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX01, Pentax Optio S6 and T10, Samsung Digimax i6, and the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T9. Yes, that's quite a list, but you really need to do your homework before you buy a camera in this class, as the competition is tough!

As always, I recommend a trip down to your local reseller to try out the PowerShot SD430 and its competitors before you buy!

Photo Gallery

See how the photos turned out in our gallery!

Want another opinion?

Read more reviews at Steve's Digicams and CNET.

Feedback & Discussion

If you have a question about this review, please send them to Jeff. Due to my limited resources, please do not e-mail me asking for a personal recommendation.

To discuss this review with other DCRP readers, please visit our forums.

 

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