Canon Powershot SD430 Review
One of Canon's latest offerings in their "SD" Digital ELPH line, the SD430 combines all the features users have come to expect from a PowerShot model, like a 5-megapixel imager, Canon 3x optical zoom lens, and 2.0-inch LCD. But adds a unique flavor with built-in wireless capabilities that allows you to control the camera remotely, transfer images to your PC or print directly to any Pictbridge compliant printer. As usual, it offers the simplicity of fully automatic operation with its "Auto" mode or one of the 10 creative scene modes. And for those who like a bit more control, Manual mode has settings for ISO, Metering, White balance, Color effects, etc.
As with just about every Digital ELPH we have worked with, the SD430's ergonomics are great. The rigid metal exterior ensures it will handle your day-to-day lifestyle, whether you toss it in your handbag or cram it into your pocket. Although very compact (about the size of a deck of cards), it fits comfortably in your hands and one-handed shooting was a snap. Controls are laid out in a comfortable manner, with your fingers falling naturally over them. We especially like the zoom controls being mounted around the shutter release, which is much more natural compared to the typical rocker switch located on the back.
The 2.0-inch LCD is a high quality display that has both an anti-glare coating and brightness adjustment. I found it worked well outdoors in the bright sunlight as well as in marginal lighting, where it "gains up" to aid in framing; something you can only do with digital cameras. When wanting to conserve battery power, you can also opt to use the zoom-coupled optical viewfinder; just remember it only shows about 80-85% of the captured image.
One of the most noticeable features on this model is the wireless capability. As stated above, this will allow you to transfer images to your PC, control the camera remotely or print images from your printer without having to get out a USB cable or download to a computer. I was very surprised at how well the SD430's wireless system works. We had no problems connecting to our D-Link router to test the remote capture software as well as do some screen shots for our brief software review on page 5. Transferring your pictures is a snap and takes about 5 - 6 seconds to copy over a 5-megapixel image. When using the included Canon Wireless Print Adapter, I was extremely impressed at how fast and easy it was to connect to our Canon PIXMA IP5000 printer. It only takes about 6 - 10 seconds for the camera to make a connection, depending on how far away you are (note, you have to be in playback mode to use this feature.) Once connected, it offers various options for Paper Size (4x6, 5x7, 8.5x11, Credit card, Default), Paper Type (Photo, Fast Photo, Default), and Page Layout (Borderless, Bordered, N-up, Default.) It will even display warnings like "Low ink" or "No paper" on the cameras LCD. Overall, we had a great experience with this system and found it to be a very "cool" feature.
Shooting performance was very robust with power up until the first image captured taking only 1.6 seconds! Shutter lag, the delay between depressing the shutter button and capturing an image, was almost instantaneous (less than 1/10 of a second) when pre-focused, and only 2/10 of a second including autofocus. In single image drive mode, the shot to shot delay averaged 1.2 seconds without flash, and 2.2 seconds with flash. Using its continuous (burst) mode, I was able to capture 10 frames in only 4 seconds. When shooting in burst mode, the LCD briefly displays the last image captured making it difficult to follow moving subjects; You'll achieve better results using the optical viewfinder. Our tests were done using a Sandisk Extreme III 1GB SD card, Manual mode, Large SuperFine quality, preview off, flash off, and all other settings at default (unless otherwise noted.) Times may vary depending on lighting conditions, camera settings, media, etc.
The SD430's 5-megapixel Large Superfine images are awesome, with image quality being what we have come to expect from Canon's models. Our outdoor sample photos are sharp, show good overall exposure, and color saturation is very pleasing. There was slight softness around the edge of our images, but this amount is very minute and it's very unlikely the average users would even notice it. The Canon 3x optical zoom lens offers the a typical focal range of 35-105mm (35mm equivalent), providing a moderately wide angle field of view for interior and scenic shots, and telephoto coverage useful for portraits or to bring your subjects a little closer. I noticed moderate barrel distortion at wide angle, but relatively no pin cushioning at telephoto. Chromatic aberrations are well controlled, with only the slightest amount of purple fringing detectable in high contrast areas. Noise levels were very low, especially when the ISO was at 50 or 100, becoming more noticeable as the sensitivity increased. When viewing our ISO 400 sample, you can see all of the "fuzz" or the grainy look over the entire image. However, when printing the typical 4x6-inch photo, you'll have a hard time pointing it out. The usefulness of being able to use higher shutter speeds in lower lighting conditions, greatly outweighs this negative effect.
Indoors performance was also very pleasing. As with most compact cameras, the SD430's flash is rather small, with a maximum range of about 12 feet. However, unlike many models, this flash was able to produce good exposures through out its range. Our indoor individual portraits were sharp with very natural skin tones. There were average traces of red-eye in our people photos when using the Auto flash mode. This is easily remedied by switching to the Red-eye Reduction flash mode or spending a few seconds in any image editing software.
Movie mode offers a variety of resolutions and frame rates to meet just about every user's needs. Fast Frame Rate shoots moving images at 60 frames per second at a resolution of 320×240, limiting the clip length to one minute. Standard movie mode offers a choice of 640×480 or 320×240 and frame rates of (15 or 30fps). Standard movie clips are not limited by time, allowing you to record movies up to 1 gigabyte! At 640x480 (30 fps), the camera consumes about 2 megabytes per second, so make sure to get a large and fast SD memory card. Overall, our movie samples were good, with very little compression noise, and its AF system did an excellent job at keeping up with moving subjects. The microphone is located on the front on the camera's body, near the lens, and is prone to picking up wind noise.
Power is supplied by a proprietary, 3.7v 760 mAh rechargeable Li-ion pack that Canon claims is good for about 150 shots with full time use of the color LCD or up to 500 shots with the LCD off. We had no problems capturing our sample photos (over 120 images) and performing some of our other tests (with extensive use of the LCD) on a single charge. However, even with such good battery life, we still recommend the purchase of a second pack because the camera cannot be powered by any other type of battery. Canon includes a very compact and portable AC charger that takes about two hours to charge a fully depleted pack. The charger plugs directly into an 100-240V AC outlet and has fold-away prongs, which is very convenient.
Bottom line - We loved using the Canon PowerShot SD430. It captured great photos, was a robust performer, and how can we forget its wireless attributes. I think it is very "cool" that you can snap a pic of your kids (family member, friend, etc.) in the living room and have it print out within minutes back in the office, without having to leave the room. With all of these great features and performance, we feel it would make an excellent choice for any consumer in the market for a versatile 5-megapixel digicam. Even with a higher price tag of $499, it still offers a great value, and is sure to be a very popular model.
Firmware Update5/16/2006 Firmware Version 22.214.171.124 contains the following two changes:
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