It may be small, but the Canon PowerShot SD630 is fierce. This little 6-megapixel point-and-shoot manages to pack zippy performance and snappy photos into a package you can fit in your pants pocket. If you have large hands, you'll probably find its control layout a little uncomfortable, and it doesn't have an optical viewfinder, but the SD630 is still a great compact camera.
Almost identical to its little brother, the , the SD630 incorporates the same sensor, lens, and internal components; its only advantage over the less expensive SD600 is its 3-inch LCD screen.
The camera's body measures a scant 3.5 inches by 2.2 inches and less than an inch thick with its lens tucked in. At 5.8 ounces with an SD card and battery installed, the SD630 certainly isn't the lightest or smallest ultracompact camera we've ever seen, but it's still slim enough to squeeze into a pocket. The right side of the SD630's rectangular body is slightly curved, letting it rest comfortably in your right hand. A slightly textured square of plastic sits on the back of the camera, just above the controls, giving photographers a thumb rest.
The big 3-inch LCD screen on the SD630 provides plenty of room to frame your shot but not so much room to operate the camera. The buttons on the back include a standard four-way-plus-OK control pad, menu, display, and a button for printing when the camera is hooked up to a PictBridge-compatible printer. The pad allows easy navigation around the SD630's menu system, and you can directly set options such as the self-timer, continuous shooting, macro, flash, and ISO sensitivity with the pad's direction arrows. The top edge of the camera holds the shutter release, the zoom rocker, the power button, and a slider for switching between photo, movie, and playback modes. The zoom rocker is a nubbly ring around the shutter release, facing the front edge of the camera; it's uncomfortable for large fingers and extremely awkward to operate with one hand, especially when zooming out.
The Canon PowerShot SD630 has a pleasant handful of features that give its tiny form a nice amount of flexibility. Canon couples a 6-megapixel CCD with a 35mm-to-105mm (35mm equivalent) zoom lens. The lens has a pretty narrow maximum aperture of f/2.8 to f/4.9, with a shutter-speed range of 1/1,500 second to 15 seconds, average numbers for models in this space. The camera has automatic, program, and manual exposure modes with a range of plus or minus 2EV in 1/3EV steps, which is also on a par with the competition. Its sensitivity range goes as high as ISO 800; that's not quite as much as Fujifilm's and Sony's latest offerings, but it will still give you more low-light flexibility than most cameras of its size.
In addition to standard automatic and manual exposure modes, the SD630 offers a handful of scene modes. Besides the standard nighttime and portrait presets, you'll find options for photographing beaches, plants, snowy days, and fireworks. It even has an underwater mode to use in conjunction with the optional underwater housing. Color Accent and Color Swap modes can filter and change colors in the camera, producing some neat artistic effects. Combine the camera's 30fps VGA movie capture with the Color Accent modes, shoot a red balloon against an otherwise monochrome scene, add some voice-overs in French, and you'll be on your way to Cannes in no time.
In most cases, the Canon PowerShot SD630's performance feels quite peppy. After taking about 1.4 seconds from power-on to first shot, the camera takes a respectable 1.9 seconds between shots, which increases marginally with flash. Its modest 0.6-second shutter lag holds for both bright scenes and dim ones. Its burst shooting zips along at 2.1fps with no buffer constraint on the number of shots.
The SD630's photos were quite pleasing, especially in the low-ISO ranges. At ISO 80, shots look crisp and clear with very little fringing and solid color reproduction. Images predictably become noisy at ISO 400 and ISO 800, but it isn't so apparent as to render the photo unusable.
The Canon PowerShot SD630 is an extremely solid ultracompact, with performance and photo quality that more than make up for its few design flaws. It's a surprisingly good shooter, and its feature set makes it quite flexible for a camera of its size. That said, it's basically a more expensive version of the PowerShot SD600 with a larger screen and no optical viewfinder. If you're willing to give up the big LCD, the SD600 would be a more economical choice.
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
|Typical shot-to-shot time||Time to first shot||Shutter lag (typical)|
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
|Typical continuous-shooting speed|