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DCRP Review: Canon PowerShot SD630 Digital ELPH  
   

by Jeff Keller, DCRP Founder/Editor
Originally posted: May 14, 2006
Last Updated: January 3, 2012

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The PowerShot SD630 ($399) is another member of Canon's popular line of ultra-compact digital cameras. The SD630 shares much in common with the SD600, with the major difference being its large 3-inch LCD display. Both cameras have 3X zoom lenses, a 6MP CCD, point-and-shoot operation, and a VGA movie mode.

If you're a bit confused by all the SD-series cameras these days, you're not alone. With that in mind, this chart compares the various 2006 models:

Feature PowerShot SD430 PowerShot SD550 PowerShot SD600 PowerShot SD630 PowerShot SD700 IS
Street price
(at time of posting)
$461 $356 $320 $370 $492
Resolution 5.0 MP 7.1 MP 6.0 MP 6.0 MP 6.0 MP
Optical zoom 3X 3X 3X 3X 4X
Lens 35mm equivalent 35 - 105 mm 37 - 111 mm 35 - 105 mm 35 - 105 mm 35 - 140 mm
Image stabilization No No No No Yes
LCD size 2.0" 2.5" 2.5" 3.0" 2.5"
LCD resolution 118,000 pixels 115,000 pixels 173,000 pixels 173,000 pixels 173,000 pixels
Optical viewfinder Yes Yes Yes No Yes
ISO range 50 - 400 50 - 400 80 - 800 80 - 800 80 - 800
Wi-Fi support Yes No No No No
Battery used NB-4L NB-3L NB-4L NB-4L NB-5L
Battery life
(CIPA standard)
150 shots 150 shots 160 shots 160 shots 240 shots
Dimensions
(W x H x D)
3.9 x 2.1 x 0.9 in. 3.5 x 2.2 x 1.1 in. 3.4 x 2.1 x 0.9 in. 3.6 x 2.2 x 0.8 in. 3.6 x 2.2 x 1.0 in.
Weight 130 g 170 g 140 g 145 g 165 g

I hope that helps! If you're ready to learn more about this small camera with a big LCD then keep reading!

The PowerShot SD630 is known as the Digital IXUS 65 in some countries.

What's in the Box?

The PowerShot SD630 has an above average bundle. Inside the box, you'll find:

  • The 6.0 effective Megapixel Canon PowerShot SD630 Digital ELPH camera
  • 16MB Secure Digital card
  • NB-4L lithium-ion battery
  • Battery charger
  • Wrist strap
  • USB cable
  • A/V cable
  • CD-ROM featuring Canon Digital Camera Solutions, ArcSoft PhotoStudio, and drivers
  • 24 page basic manual + 137 page advanced manual (both printed)

Canon includes a 16MB memory card along with the SD630, which is pretty small for a 6MP camera (holding just four photos at the highest quality setting). That means that you'll need to buy a memory card, which drives up the initial purchase price of the camera a bit. Like the other cameras in the SD series, the SD630 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 SD630 uses the same NB-4L lithium-ion rechargeable battery as numerous other PowerShot cameras, including the SD450 and SD600. Here's how the camera compares against other ultra-compact cameras:

Camera Battery life, LCD on
(CIPA standard)
Canon PowerShot SD600 160 shots
Canon PowerShot SD630 160 shots
Canon PowerShot SD700 IS 240 shots
Casio Exilim EX-Z600 550 shots
Fuji FinePix V10 170 shots
HP Photosmart R927 165 shots
Kodak EasyShare V603 150 shots
Nikon Coolpix S6 200 shots
Olympus SP-700 180 shots
Olympus Stylus 710 180 shots
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX01 320 shots
Pentax Optio T10 130 shots
Samsung Digimax i6 210 shots*
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-N1 300 shots
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T30 420 shots
Battery life numbers are provided by the camera manufacturers
* Not calculated using the CIPA standard

In this was last year then the SD630's battery life numbers would be average. Unfortunately, the competition has made big gains in this area in 2006, and the SD630 with its battery-eating LCD turned in lower-than-average numbers.

My usual complaints about proprietary batteries like the one used by the SD630 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 90 minutes to fully charge the battery.

As is the case with all ultra-compact cameras, there's a built-in lens cover on the SD630, so there's no clunky lens cap to worry about.

There are just a few accessories available for this camera. The most interesting is the WP-DC3 waterproof case, which lets you take the SD630 up to 40 meters underwater. If you want more flash power and significantly less redeye then you'll want to consider the HF-DC1 external slave flash. This flash attaches via the tripod mount and fires when the on-board flash does. The last accessory of note is an AC adapter, which lets you power the camera without draining your battery.


ImageBrowser (Mac OS X)

Canon includes version 28 of their Digital Camera Solution software with the PowerShot SD630. The main program is the ImageBrowser/ZoomBrowser applications that come with all PowerShot models. ImageBrowser is for the Mac, while ZoomBrowser is for Windows PCs.

The "Browser twins" can be used for downloading images from a camera, and then viewing, editing, and printing them. Editing functions include trimming, redeye removal, and the ability to adjust levels, color, brightness, sharpness, and the tone curve. There's also an auto adjustment feature available.

The SD630 does not support the RemoteCapture feature.


PhotoStitch (Mac OS X)

A separate program known as PhotoStitch is used to put the photos you took in the Stitch Assist mode into one giant panorama. The interface is simple, and the results are impressive, even in automatic mode. If you need to tweak things manually, you can do that too.


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.

Canon reworked their manuals a bit last year. 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 package as well as for direct printing (PictBridge). While the manuals are complete (every detail is covered), they could be a little more user friendly.

Look and Feel

The PowerShot SD630 is an ultra-compact camera made of a mix of metal and plastic. The camera is well put together for the most part, save for the plastic door over the memory card / battery compartment (as usual). The camera is easy to hold, with a minimal amount of buttons. Canon's designers remembered to leave for your fingers, so you won't get fingerprints all over that huge 3" LCD.

Now, here's a look at how the SD630 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 SD600 3.4 x 2.1 x 0.9 in. 6.4 cu in. 140 g
Canon PowerShot SD630 3.6 x 2.2 x 0.8 in. 6.3 cu in. 145 g
Canon PowerShot SD700 IS 3.6 x 2.2 x 1.0 in. 7.9 cu in. 165 g
Casio Exilim EX-Z600 3.5 x 2.2 x 0.8 in. 6.2 cu in. 112 g
Fuji FinePix V10 3.3 x 2.5 x 0.9 in. 7.4 cu in. 156 g
HP Photosmart R927 3.8 x 2.4 x 1.0 in. 9.1 cu in. 170 g
Kodak EasyShare V603 3.6 x 2.0 x 0.9 in. 6.5 cu in. 120 g
Nikon Coolpix S6 3.7 x 2.4 x 0.8 in. 7.1 cu in. 140 g
Olympus SP-700 3.8 x 2.2 x 1.0 in. 8.4 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 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-N1 3.8 x 2.4 x 0.9 in. 8.2 cu in. 151 g
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T30 3.8 x 2.3 x 0.9 in. 7.9 cu in. 134 g

The SD630 is the smallest (but not quite the lightest) camera with a 3-inch LCD. As Digital ELPHs go it's right in the middle of the pack between the SD600 and the monstrous (relatively speaking) SD700 IS.

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

The PowerShot SD630 appears to use the same F2.8-4.9, 3X optical zoom lens as the SD400 and SD600 series cameras. The focal length is 5.8 - 17.4 mm, which is equivalent to 35 - 105 mm. Like the other SD-series cameras, the SD630 doesn't support conversion lenses.

To the upper-right of the lens is the camera's built-in flash. 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 isn't great (and is the same as the SD600). If you want more flash power and less redeye, consider picking up the optional slave flash which I mentioned earlier.

Directly to the left of the flash is the AF-assist lamp, which also serves as the visual countdown for the self-timer lamp. Below that is the camera's microphone.

The main event on the back of the SD630 is undoubtedly its 3-inch LCD display. This is as big a screen as you'll find on an ultra-compact camera, and it makes sharing photos with others a real pleasure. Canon didn't skimp on the resolution of the screen, putting 173,000 pixels onboard. The screen is nice and sharp, as you'd expect. Outdoor visibility was just okay (which is why I like optical viewfinders), but low light viewing was easy, as the screen brightens automatically in those situations.

As you can probably tell, there's no optical viewfinder on the SD630. Whether that's a problem depends on your needs. Some folks, like yours truly, really like them, while others could care less. You're not going to find an ultra-compact camera with a screen this big that also has an optical viewfinder. If you like the SD630 but really want an optical viewfinder, you can always step down to the SD600 (which has a 2.5" LCD).

The first button to see to the right of the LCD is the one for the Print/Share feature. When connected to a PictBridge-enabled photo printer, you can make prints right from the camera. If you're connected to your Mac or PC, you'll be able to transfer photos and even select your computer's desktop picture, all right from the camera.


Touch icons

Below the Print/Share button is the SD630's rather unique four-way controller. While it works just like your standard four-way controller, when you "lean" in a certain direction a "virtual" four-way controller is shown on the LCD display. Canon says that this is helpful when shooting in low light conditions, when you can't see the buttons. In playback mode the controller can also be "rotated" like on an iPod, but more on that later. Anyhow, this controller is used for menu navigation, and also:

  • Up - ISO (Auto, Hi Auto, 80, 100, 200, 400, 800) + Jump (Quickly moves 10/100 photos at a time in playback mode)
  • Down - Drive (Single shot, continuous, self-timer) + Delete photo
  • Left - Focus (AF, macro, infinity)
  • Right - Flash setting (Auto, auto w/redeye reduction, flash on w/redeye reduction, flash on, flash off, slow synchro)
  • Center - Function Menu (see below) + Set

Canon's 2006 models have a new ISO range: 80 to 800, instead of 50 to 400. There's also a new Hi Auto mode, which will boost the sensitivity higher than in the regular Auto ISO mode. This allows for sharper pictures in low light, though noise levels will be higher. I'll have much more on this subject later.

The SD630 has the same excellent continuous shooting mode as Canon's other DIGIC II-equipped cameras. With a high speed SD card you can keep shooting at about 2 frames/second until you run out of memory. The LCD does a good job keeping up with the action, so you shouldn't have any trouble following a moving subject.


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:

  • Shooting mode (Auto, manual, Stitch Assist, digital macro, portrait, night snapshot, scenes [kids & pets, indoor, foliage, snow, beach, fireworks, underwater, Color Accent, Color Swap]) - see below
  • Exposure compensation (-2EV to +2EV in 1/3EV increments)
  • Long shutter mode (Off, 1 - 15 sec)
  • White balance (Auto, daylight, cloudy, tungsten, fluorescent, fluorescent H, custom)
  • My Colors (Off, vivid, neutral, sepia, black & white, positive film, lighter skin tone, darker skin tone, vivid blue, vivid green, vivid red, custom color) - see below
  • Metering (Evaluative, center-weighted, spot)
  • Compression (see chart later in review)
  • Resolution (see chart later in review)

As you can see, there are quite a few shooting modes on the SD630. The manual mode opens up all the menu options -- and not manual exposure controls. The only manual controls you'll find on this point-and-shoot camera are for white balance and (slow) shutter speeds.

Canon moved around some of the My Colors features on their 2006 cameras. Most of the options should be self-explanatory, but I do want to mention the Custom Color feature. This lets you adjust the contrast, sharpness, saturation, reds, greens, blues, and skin tones in your photos. Each of those options can be adjusted from -2 to +2 in 1-step increments.

Color Accent Color Swap (red for green, taken with the PowerShot S3)

In the scene submenu you'll find the other two My Colors features: Color Accent and Color Swap. The Color Accent feature lets you select a color to highlight, and then all the other colors are turned to black and white. Color Swap does just as it sounds -- it swaps one color for another.

Getting back to the tour now: the last two buttons on the back of the PowerShot SD630 are Menu and Display. The former does just as it sounds, while the latter toggles the information shown on the LCD.

On the top of the camera you'll find the mode switch, power and shutter release buttons, speaker, and the zoom controller. The mode switch lets you select from playback, movie, or still shooting modes. The zoom controller moves the lens from wide-angle to telephoto in 1.4 seconds. I counted just seven steps throughout the 3X zoom range.

Nothing to see here.

I hate taking pictures of cameras with mirrored panels!

Anyhow, on this side of the SD630 you'll find the I/O ports, which are kept under a plastic cover. The ports include USB and A/V out. The SD630 supports the USB 2.0 High Speed standard for fast data transfer to your Mac or PC.

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 pretty flimsy. As you can see from the photo, you won't be able to swap memory cards while the camera is on a tripod.

The included NB-4L battery is shown at right.

Using the Canon PowerShot SD630 Digital ELPH

Record Mode

The PowerShot SD630 starts up very quickly, taking just 1.1 seconds to extend its lens and "warm up" before you can start shooting.


No live histogram to be found

The SD630 focuses very quickly, though it's a tad bit slower than the fastest cameras in this class (made by Panasonic). Typical focus times are between 0.2 and 0.4 seconds, with longer waits at the telephoto end of the lens. Low light focusing was above average thanks to the camera's 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 SD630, with a delay of about a second before you can take another picture, assuming you've turned the post-shot review feature off.


Focus point review

The SD630 has a unique "focus point review" feature that can be activated after a photo is taken. To use this feature you must press the Display button during the post-shot review. That brings up the screen you see above, which lets you move from focus point to focus point (assuming that AiAF is being used) so you can verify that your subject is in focus. You can also press the "set" button to move around freely in the frame.

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
2816 x 2112
Superfine 2.7 MB 4 176
Fine 1.6 MB 8 292
Normal 780 KB 17 603
Wide (16:9)
2816 x 1584
Superfine 2.0 MB 6 235
Fine 1.2 MB 11 392
Normal 585 KB 23 794
Medium 1
2272 x 1704
Superfine 2.0 MB 6 237
Fine 1.1 MB 12 425
Normal 556 KB 24 839
Medium 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 very wise investment if you buy the SD630. 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 that 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 SD630 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 modes. With that in mind, here's what's in the record menu:

  • AiAF (on/off) - turns the 9-point autofocus system on and off; if turned off, camera focuses on whatever is in the center of the frame (which is faster)
  • Self-timer (2, 10 secs, custom timer) - see below
  • AF-assist beam (on/off)
  • Digital zoom (on/off) - it's best to keep this turned off
  • Review (Off, 2 - 10 secs, hold) - post-shot review; the hold feature will keep the image on the LCD until you press a button
  • Save original (on/off) - whether an unaltered image is also saved while using the My Colors feature
  • Grid lines (on/off) - puts a 3 x 3 grid on the LCD to help you compose your photos
  • Date stamp (Off, date, date & time) - print the date and/or time on your photos; only works with the image size set to postcard (1600 x 1200)
  • Long shutter (on/off) - I described this feature earlier
  • Stitch Assist (left-to-right, right-to-left) - helps you line up photos to create panoramas

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 setup tab in the menu has the following items:

  • Mute (on/off) - turn off those annoying beep sounds!
  • Volume
    • Startup volume (Off, 1-5)
    • Operation volume (Off, 1-5)
    • Self-timer volume (Off, 1-5)
    • Shutter volume (Off, 1-5)
    • Playback volume (Off, 1-5)
  • Touch icons (on/off) - for the four-way controller feature that I described earlier
  • LCD brightness (-7 to +7 in 1 step increments)
  • Power saving
    • Auto power down (on/off)
    • Display off (10, 20, 30 sec, 1-3 min)
  • Time Zone (Home, world)
  • Date/time (set)
  • Clock display (0-10 sec, 20 sec, 30 sec, 1-3 mins) - yes, the camera doubles as a clock
  • Card format
  • File number reset (on/off) - maintain file numbering
  • Create folder
    • Create new folder - on the memory card
    • Auto create (Off, daily, weekly, monthly) - this new features will automatically create new folders on the memory card at set intervals
  • Auto rotate (on/off) - camera will automatically rotate portrait photos on the LCD
  • Lens retract (1 min, 0 secs) - how quickly the lens retracts when you switch to playback mode
  • Language (way too many to list)
  • Video system (NTSC, PAL)
  • Print Method (Auto, PictBridge)
  • Reset all - back to defaults

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 SD630 did a fine job with our usual macro test subject. The subject is tack sharp, yet it still has the trademark "smooth" look of a Canon camera. Colors look very good as well.

There are two macro modes on the SD630, though one of them doesn't really count in my opinion. In the regular macro mode you can be as close to your subject as 3 cm at wide-angle and 30 cm at telephoto. A "digital macro" feature (in the shooting mode menu) lets you take close-ups at the wide end of the lens using the digital zoom -- you're probably better just cropping the image in Photoshop, though.

The SD630 did a very good job with our night shot as well. The camera took in plenty of light, thanks to its manual slow shutter speed option, and the buildings are nice and sharp. Noise is a bit higher than I'd like, but then again, this is a 6 Megapixel camera. Purple fringing levels were low.

I have two ISO tests in this review: one in low light and another in normal light. The first one uses the night scene you see above. Since I can't control the shutter speed once it goes above 1 second, I can't show you how ISO 800 looks here (as the exposure won't be consistent with the other shots).


ISO 80

ISO 100

ISO 200


ISO 400

There is a very slight difference between the ISO 80 and 100 images. At ISO 200 noise levels go up noticeable, and details start to disappear. Still, you can squeeze a 4 x 6 inch print out of that photo. At ISO 400 details are really gone, so I don't think you'll be able to do much with that setting in low light situations.

There's very mild barrel distortion at the wide end of the SD630's 3X zoom lens. I saw both vignetting (dark corners) and blurry corners in the test chart, and I saw a little bit of both in my real world photos as well. Unfortunately that's often a side effect of the compact lenses in cameras like this.

As you'd expect, the ultra-compact PowerShot SD630 is a redeye machine. While your results may vary, I'd expect that most people will have a problem with this annoyance. And since it's a common question, yes, I do use the redeye reduction feature for this test.

Here's the other ISO test, this one taken in my studio under a pair of 600W quartz studio lamps. Since there's more light than in the night test shots, noise levels will be lower. I've cropped out an area of the test scene for easy comparison, but you should look at the full-size images if you want to really see the differences.


ISO 80

ISO 100

ISO 200


ISO 400


ISO 800

The results in this test are very similar to the other 6 Megapixel Canon cameras I've reviewed this year, and there's a reason for that: they all use the same sensor. The ISO 80 and 100 shots are nearly identical, and the ISO 200 shot is still extraordinarily clean. At ISO 400 your print sizes will have to come down to 4 x 6 or 5 x 7, though you may be able to squeeze out an 8 x 10 with a little cleanup in something like NeatImage. The ISO 800 shot is pretty noisy, though I suppose a 4 x 6 could be created after some noise reduction.

Aside from the issues that I've already raised, overall I'd rate the PowerShot SD630's image quality as very good. The camera took well-exposed photos with accurate colors and low noise levels along with the smoothness that is a trademark of Canon's cameras. Purple fringing was well controlled.

As always, I ask that you look at our photo gallery to judge the SD630's photo quality with your own eyes, instead of just taking my words as gospel. And, if possible, print the photos as if they were your own.

Movie Mode

The SD630 has the same very nice movie mode as the other SD-series cameras. 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 "Fast Frame Rate" mode available, 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.

You can use all of the My Colors features in movie mode. An 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). You can, however, use the digital zoom.

Movies are saved in AVI format, using the M-JPEG codec.

Here's our usual train sample movie:


Click to play movie (14 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. A separate print menu lets you tag photos for printing to a PictBridge-enabled photo printer.

Most of the My Colors features can be used in playback mode, save for Color Accent, Color Swap, and Custom Color.

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. There's also the nice enhanced thumbnail view that came from the SD450/SD550, which enlarges the currently selected image for you.

There are two ways to move between images on the SD630. You can do the good old left/right on the four-way controller thing, which moves from one image to the next instantly, complete with your choice of transitions.

The other option is an SD630 exclusive, though I wasn't floored by it. By "turning" the four-way controller with your finger (just like on an iPod) you can quickly move through your photos. Unfortunately, the four-way controller is so small that it makes "turning" more difficult than it should be.

Once an image is selected you'll find minimal information about it. But press the Display button and you'll get a bit more info, plus a histogram. It would've been nice had Canon includes the shutter speed and aperture used for the photo, though.

How Does it Compare?

While not perfect, the Canon PowerShot SD630 Digital ELPH is a good choice for those who want the largest LCD possible on an ultra-compact camera. It offers a nice combination of features and performance in a stylish package that you can take anywhere.

The SD630 is an ultra-compact camera made of metal and plastic. It's well built for the most part, save for the flimsy plastic door over the memory card and battery compartment. Canon kept "button clutter" to a minimum on the camera, and they've equipped it with a unique four-way controller that also doubles as a scroll wheel in playback mode. Unfortunately, the controller/wheel is too small for my fingers, making scrolling rather difficult. The main event on the SD630 is undoubtedly its 3-inch LCD display, and the one here is pretty impressive, with high resolution and excellent low light visibility. There's no optical viewfinder, though, which can be frustrated when you're shooting in bright outdoor light.

Like the other cameras in the SD-series, the SD630 is mostly a point-and-shoot camera. The only manual controls are for white balance and slow shutter speeds, though both are welcome. The camera has several scene modes, including an underwater mode for the optional waterproof case. If you like taking pictures of moving subjects then you'll love the SD630's continuous shooting mode, which can keep taking pictures at 2 frames/second until the memory card is full (using a high speed card). The movie mode is also very nice, though the 1GB file size limit arrives in about eight minutes.

Camera performance was above average in most areas. The SD630 starts up very quickly, focuses without much of a wait, and shutter lag was not an issue. Low light focusing was good thanks to the built-in AF-assist lamp. The one area in which the SD630 disappoints in the performance department is in terms of battery life: it's below average.

Photo quality was very good for the most part, though I did encounter some issues that are common on ultra-compact cameras like the SD630. First, the good news: the camera took well-exposed, colorful photos with Canon's trademark smooth look. Noise levels were low through ISO 200, and even photos taken at the ISO 400 setting (in good light) should turn into decent smaller-sized prints. Purple fringing was well controlled. The bad news is that there was some vignetting (dark corners) and blurry corners in my real world photos, and redeye was a big problem as well. All three of those issues are fairly common on ultra-compact cameras.

I've mentioned most of the negatives about the SD630 in the previous paragraphs. The only other things that I want to mention are that 1) you can't swap memory cards while the camera is on a tripod and 2) the included 16MB memory card is pretty skimpy for a camera with this resolution.

Long-time readers of this site know that I've been a big fan of Canon's SD-series cameras for a while now. I'm not quite as excited about the SD630, though, mainly because there are more compelling options available. Don't get me wrong: the SD630 is a nice camera, and one that I'd recommend. At the same time, it's worth mentioning that there are other cameras offering similar-sized LCDs plus things like image stabilization (very useful on small cameras like this) for around the same money. The SD630 is definitely worth your consideration, but take a close look at the competition too.

What I liked:

  • Very good photo quality (though see issues below)
  • Huge 3-inch LCD; screen is easily viewable in low light
  • Compact and stylish metal body
  • Very good performance
  • AF-assist lamp
  • Four-way controller doubles as scroll wheel in playback mode (though it's too small in my opinion)
  • Very good movie and continuous shooting modes (though see issue below)
  • Unique My Colors, focus point review features
  • USB 2.0 High Speed support

What I didn't care for:

  • Some corner softness and vignetting; redeye is a problem
  • Below average battery life
  • No optical viewfinder
  • Can only record about 8 minutes of VGA video due to 1GB file size limit
  • More manual controls would be nice
  • Can't swap memory cards while camera is on a tripod
  • Flimsy cover over memory card/battery compartment
  • Tiny memory card included

Other ultra-compacts with large LCDs worth considering include the Canon PowerShot SD600 and SD700 IS, Casio Exilim EX-Z600, Fuji FinePix V10, HP Photosmart R927, Kodak EasyShare V603, Nikon Coolpix S6, Olympus SP-700 and Stylus 710, Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX01, Pentax Optio T10, Samsung Digimax i6, and the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-N1 and DSC-T30.

As always, I recommend a trip down to your local reseller to try out the PowerShot SD630 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.

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