The Canon PowerShot SX30 IS has one long lens. When extended to its full zoom, it protrudes from the camera body like a black plastic Pinocchio nose – but then, it’s a big zoom. At 35x, it’s got the biggest optical zoom range of any camera we’ve fondled, delivering the equivalent of 24mm to 800mm on a 35mm camera.
It’s undoubtedly impressive, especially the first time you zoom that full 800mm to snap a bird or similar subject absolutely miles (figuratively) away. The image stabilisation keeps wobble in check too, so as long as there’s a decent amount of light around you can shoot at full zoom handheld and not end up with a bunch of blurry snaps.
It’s touches like this that make the Canon SX30 IS a very easy camera to use. While a selection of veteran-friendly modes (full manual, program, aperture, shutter) sit on the dial, you can simply leave the camera set to auto or one of the scene presets and still get great shots. If you do want to tweak a setting like ISO or white balance, hitting the function button in the middle of the adjustment wheel brings up the standard Canon quick select menu.
The camera has a nice heft to it, and like most superzooms sits comfortably in the hand thanks to the chunky grip on the right side. If we were to nitpick, we’d say the outer shell is a bit too plasticky for the price tag, but it feels solid enough.
The screen is a neat vari-angle number that can be flipped frontwards for those MySpace profile self-portraits. While the screen itself gets the job done, it’s only 2.7-inch and 202,000 dots, making it a little dinky and not particularly sharp. You can also use the electronic viewfinder to frame shots and videos.
Picture quality is very good, even at the wide and long ends of the zoom range – although pixel peepers who zoom in to check may spot a lack of sharpness in the corners. What’s more, at the furthest zoom you can still focus fairly close to the lens (a few metres), which lets you achieve some nice out-of-focus backgrounds while keeping the subject in sharp focus.
The maximum ISO of 1600 isn’t particularly high, so you’ll need to employ the flash indoors, especially when using the zoom. Noise isn’t a huge issue until you get past ISO 400, which is handy because with no option to shoot RAW (it’s JPEG only here), your ability to tweak photos in Photoshop or a similar app is limited.
Video is similarly strong: the 720p HD clips aren’t sophisticated, but are sharp and colours look vivid. You can use the zoom while filming, and as long as you can keep the Canon SX30 IS fairly steady you can definitely shoot at the full 35x magnification.
This article originally appeared at Stuff.tv