Canon PowerShot SX30 field test gives 35x superzoom busman's holiday

We went on a bus trip with Canon to test out its new superzoom, the SX30, which rocks a mahoosive 35x optical zoom, and a bushel of neat features.

Luke Westaway
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A few weeks ago we were treated to a quick hands-on session with the new Canon PowerShot SX30 -- a monster digital camera that rocks a 35x optical zoom. In our short time we barely scratched the surface of this superzoom's many features, so when Canon asked us to take the SX30 on a field test, we were excited to give it a shot (har).

Canon loaded us and a few other lucky tech journalists on to an open-top bus, and took us on a tour of London's more scenic areas, snapping as we went. It's worth noting that as photographic environments go, you'd struggle to find one less conducive to quality photography than a shaky moving bus, so consider some of these shots a true test of the SX30's image stabilisation abilities.

We were particularly impressed by that ginormous zoom -- it really did let us get up close and photographic with objects far beyond our puny human eyesight, as the pictures show. We were impressed with the clarity and focus of these zoomed-in shots, though we were testing this camera on an exceptionally bright day -- it'll be interesting to see how the SX30 handles in low-light conditions.

This camera is also packed full of neat effects. Now, pro photographers will tell you these are the kinds of visual tricks that should be applied using an image editor once you've transferred the shots across to your computer. But we're busy, so we're doing a spot of on-camera processing. Check out our colour accent and colour-swapping trickery and fish-eye lens tomfoolery.

There are a tonne of other features, but one of the more interesting ones was 'miniature' mode. This is what's usually called tilt-shift -- a technique that blurs out the top and bottom of the frame to give the impression that what you're looking at is a tiny, adorable model.

What we particularly liked was the SX30's ability to use this effect when shooting movies, and speed up the resulting capture to create a smooth, model-village effect. Check out our efforts in the video below.

Our overall impressions of the camera were cautious optimism -- there were a few things that made us a little nervous, for instance we sometimes found the whopping zoom wasn't particularly responsive, and we didn't find ourselves using the electronic viewfinder much, opting instead for the 2.7-inch flip-out screen for lining up shots.

Still, we'll hold fire on a final judgement until we give the SX30 the full review. Expect such treatment shortly!

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Naturally the first thing we did was to test the 35x optical zoom at its full extension. We're aiming for those little chimneys in the background over there...
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Blimey. At max optical zoom, those tiny chimneys get the close-up treatment.
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A second test -- we're going to see how much detail we can get out of that clock face...
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Bearing in mind we're taking these shots from a moving bus, we think this is impressive.
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There's a vivid colour mode on board -- essentially it ups the saturation of the picture.
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Here's a tree without vivid colour...
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And here it is with the vivid colour effect applied.
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Colour accent mode lets the user pick a particular shade in shot, then dynamically turns everything else greyscale.
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Another colour accent shot. We were impressed by the SX30's ability to figure out exactly which colours we were trying to capture.
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Working on the same principle, colour swap lets you switch one colour in frame for another. Here we've swapped blue for red, for a zombie-apocalypse sky.
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Playing with fish-eye mode.
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Canon calls this effect 'miniature' mode, but it's not fooling us -- this is tilt-shift.
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Using the SX30's 2.7-inch flip-out screen, we were able to keep aerial shots like this neatly framed.
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Canon took us out of our natural concrete environment, to pretty Primrose Hill. We believe these are called 'trees'.
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The SX30 has a focal distance of 0cm -- this macro shot was taken with the tree bark actually pressing against the lens.
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Finally, one more superzoom shot. See the people in the London Eye? No?
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How about now?

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