Canon PowerShot SX30 IS Review

by Jeff Keller, DCRP Founder/Editor

Originally Posted: November 21, 2010

Last Updated: December 12, 2011

The Canon PowerShot SX30 IS ($429) is currently the "big gun" in the super zoom camera world. Packing a whopping 35X optical zoom lens (covering a focal range of 24 - 840 mm), the SX30 can be used in virtually any shooting situation that may arise. Other features include optical image stabilization (naturally), a rotating 2.7" LCD, a hot shoe, manual and automatic controls, and a 720p movie recording with stereo sound and use of the optical zoom.

The SX30 replaces the popular PowerShot SX20, and I put together this chart to help differentiate the two:


PowerShot SX20 IS

PowerShot SX30 IS
Resolution 12.1 MP 14.1 MP
Optical zoom 20X 35X
Lens max. aperture F2.8 - F5.7 F2.7 - F5.8
Focal length (35 mm equiv.) 28 - 560 mm 24 - 840 mm
Dynamic IS (movie mode only) No Yes
LCD size / resolution 2.5" / 230,000 px 2.7" / 230,000 px
EVF size / resolution 0.44" / 235,000 px 0.44" (?) / 202,000 px
Flash range (Auto ISO) 0.5 - 6.8 m (W)
1.0 - 3.7 m (T)
0.5 - 5.8 m (W)
1.4 - 2.8 m (T)
Continuous shooting rate 1.0 fps 1.3 fps
Zoom Framing Assist No Yes
Memory cards supported SD/SDHC/MMC/MMCplus/HC MMCplus SD/SDHC/SDXC/MMC/MMCplus/HC MMCplus
Battery used AA (4) NB-7L
Battery life (CIPA standard) 600 shots * 370 shots
Dimensions (W x H x D) 4.9 x 3.5 x 3.4 in. 4.8 x 3.6 x 4.2 in.
Weight 560 g 552 g
* Using 2500 mAh NiMH AA batteries

So, in addition to getting a huge bump in zoom power, the SX30 also got more Megapixels (not surprising), a larger LCD, and slightly faster continuous shooting. Something that I'm not a huge fan of is the switch from AA to a proprietary li-ion battery. Not only are li-ion batteries more expensive than AAs (including rechargeables) -- the battery life is a lot worse, too.

Is the PowerShot SX30 a top choice for folks who just can't get enough zoom? Find out now in our review!

What's in the Box?

The PowerShot SX30 has an average bundle. Inside the box, you'll find:

  • The 14.1 effective Megapixel PowerShot SX30 digital camera
  • NB-7L lithium-ion battery
  • Battery charger
  • Lens cap w/retaining strap
  • Neck strap
  • Case for hot shoe cover
  • USB cable
  • A/V cable
  • CD-ROM featuring Canon Digital Camera Solution
  • 35 page basic manual (printed) + full manual on CD-ROM

The PowerShot SX30 IS does not come with a memory card, nor does it have any built-in memory. That means that you'll need to buy a memory card right away, unless you happen to have one sitting around already. The SX30 supports a long list of flash memory formats, including SD, SDHC, SDXC, MMC, MMCplus, and HC MMCplus media, though I'd stick with the first three if I were you. If you're sticking with still photos, then a 2GB or 4GB card is probably adequate. If you'll be taking a lot of movies, I'd probably go for 4GB or 8GB. It's worth spending a bit more for a high speed card (Class 6 or faster), especially for movie recording.

One of the big changes on the SX30 is the switch from four AA to a single lithium-ion battery. I can't say I'm a big fan of this, for reasons you'll see below. The SX30 uses the sane NB-7L battery as recent PowerShot G-series models, and it packs a healthy 7.8 Wh of energy. Here's how that translates into battery life:

Camera Battery life
(CIPA standard, using LCD)
Battery used
Canon PowerShot SX30 * 370 shots NB-7L
Fuji FinePix HS10 * 400 shots 4 x NiMH AA
Kodak EasyShare Z981 * 475 shots 4 x NiMH AA
Leica V-LUX 2 * 410 shots BP-DC 9
Nikon Coolpix P100 * 250 shots EN-EL5
Olympus SP-800UZ * 200 shots LI-50B
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ40 * 580 shots DMW-BMB9
Pentax X90 * 255 shots D-LI106
Samsung HZ50W * 240 shots SLB-11A
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX1 390 shots NP-FH50

* 24X or greater zoom

Battery life numbers are provided by the camera manufacturer

If the PowerShot SX30 still relied on AA batteries, it would've been the top camera in the above table. The switch to rechargeable lithium-ion has dropped the SX30 down to just average in this group of super zooms.

The other things to note about lithium-ion batteries is that they cost a lot more than their AA equivalents (even rechargeables), with a spare NB-7L setting you back at least $40. In addition, should your rechargeable run out of juice, you can't pick up something off-the-shelf as you could with an AA-based camera. If you want an ultra or super zoom camera that uses AA's, there are really only two models out there: the Fuji and Kodak listed above.

When it's time to charge the NB-7L, just pop it into the included charger. The charger plugs directly into the wall, and takes approximately 140 minutes to fully charge the battery.

Canon PowerShot G11 in the hand

The SX30 includes a lens cap with retaining strap to protect that giant 35X lens.

The PowerShot SX30 has a pretty standard set of accessories for a super zoom camera. That means no conversion lenses, sorry! Here's the full list:

Accessory Model # Price * Description
Filter adapter FA-DC67A $25 Allows you to attach 67 mm filters (of any make) to the SX30
Lens hood LH-DC60 $25 Reduce lens flare and ghosting when shooting outdoors
External flash 270EX
430EX II
580EX II

From $139
From $257
From $415

Boost the flash range, reduce redeye, and get high speed flash sync. The 430EX and 580EX can both be used wirelessly, with the latter capable of being a wireless transmitter.
Speedlite transmitter ST-E2 From $220 This transmitter allows you to wirelessly fire a Canon flash (430EX and 580EX only).
Speedlite bracket SB-E2 $210 Attaches to the tripod mount and puts the flash off to the side of the camera. Includes the necessary camera shoe cable.
AC adapter ACK-DC50 From $48 Power the camera without draining your battery.
HDMI cable HTC-100 From $46 A three-meter-long cable for connecting to an HDTV. Do yourself a favor and buy a generic one for less.
* Prices were accurate when review was published

So there you have the accessories -- let's move onto software now, shall we?

Camera Window in Mac OS X

Canon includes version 70 of their Digital Camera Solution Disk with the PowerShot SX30. The first part of the software suite that you'll probably encounter is Camera Window (pictured above), which you'll use to transfer images to your computer, organize photos on the camera (meaning delete or protect), upload videos to YouTube, and adjust a few camera settings (startup screen, sounds, theme).

ImageBrowser in Mac OS X

After you've transferred photos to your computer, you'll find yourself in either ImageBrowser or ZoomBrowser, which are for Mac and Windows respectively. The Browser software lets you view, organize, e-mail, and print your photos. If you categorized any photos on the camera (more on this later), then this information is transferred into the Browser software.

Editing in ImageBrowser

Double-click on a thumbnail and you'll bring up the edit window. Editing functions include trimming, redeye removal, plus the ability to adjust levels, color, brightness, sharpness, and the tone curve. There's also an auto adjustment option for those who want a quick fix.

PhotoStitch in Mac OS X

The last part of the Canon software suite that I want to mention is PhotoStitch. As you can see, this allows you to combine multiple photos into a single panoramic image. It's super easy to use, and the results can be impressive. While using the SX30's Stitch Assist feature isn't required to make panoramas, it does help you line things up correctly, so there are no "seams" in the final product.

Things have gone downhill in the documentation department. While the PowerShot G11 had a thick, printed manual in the box, all you'll find with the SX30 is a 35 page "getting started" guide. The full manual is now in PDF format on an included CD-ROM. While I don't like digital manuals for any camera, it's especially disappointing when the product costs $500. The manual itself is quite detailed, though it's not what I'd consider user-friendly. Documentation for the software bundle is installed onto your Mac or PC.