Canon Digital IXUS 30 review
The tiny Ixus 30 is the successor to the 3.2 megapixel Ixus IIs and has an impressive array of features as well as a completely new body design.
Gone is the rather restricting 2x optical zoom, and in its place is a new, high-resolution, 3x optical zoom adopting the latest ultra-high diffraction and aspherical (UA) lens technology. Unexpectedly, though, the Ixus 30 sports the same 3.2 million pixel resolution as the outgoing model. It's not the same chip though, as Canon has upped the CCD sensor from the minute 1/2.7in type to a still small 1/2.5in version. With reduced pixel density, however, the Ixus 30 should suffer less from the effects of noise.
The camera's appearance will certainly be tempting enough for less-savvy buyers and, resolution aside, it has been substantially upgraded. First, it has the same large, detailed (118K pixel) 2in screen as the one found on the Canon PowerShot G6. It's not a rotating, vari-angle type, but it is larger than most of its rivals and even surpasses that of Canon's new EOS 20D digital SLR. There's a super slim, silver-pearl finished, aluminium-magnesium alloy body that's just 21.1mm deep, made possible, says Canon, by the aforementioned UA lens.
Also noteworthy is a full complement of exposure modes, including six scene-orientated presets, three metering options (evaluative, spot and centre weighted), custom white balance and individual ISO settings (50-400 ISO). Thanks to the faster DIGIC II processor, the most surprising new feature is the TV-friendly, 30fps, 640 x 480 pixel AVI video mode, with a theoretical 1GB file capture. You'll need a larger memory card than the supplied 16MB SD to get the best from this last feature, though.
In use, the body is both sturdy and comfortable, and, thankfully, any concerns about start-up, shutter-lag, as well as back-to-back shooting have been tackled. Its ergonomics are vastly improved by a satisfying four-way control pad that is raised from the rear panel and easy to use. Most users will ignore the small viewfinder in favour of the generous screen, not only for viewing the logical menus and settings, but for amply displaying the overlaid autofocus frames.
The nine-point AiAF system is available for most exposure modes, but not all. For example, the scene-based Kids & Pets mode uses a single central autofocus point and, as a result of less processing, focusing is marginally faster. It's still one of the best autofocus systems, but is let down by its handling of low-contrast subjects. Wisely, Canon has chosen to include a built-in autofocus assist lamp. A new digital macro mode is a different slant on the digital zoom feature, but still crops the central portion of an already impressive, 3cm close-up capability.
Canon's Ixus 30 has got a lot to like: it's elegantly and sturdily built, has a slim, pocket-hugging design, fast handling and plenty of stills and video options. However, while image quality was very good, matching most other 4-megapixel cameras, we were a little surprised by the noise level at 400 ISO. It's usable, but more noticeable than expected. Colour rendition was generally superb, although white balance could occassionally be affected by strong single blocks of colour. Colour accuracy wasn't quite as impressive in video-capture, but for those few times the custom white-balance is invaluable. There's a little colour fringing and some vignetting with flash, but no worse than others. Exposure accuracy, image detail and definition were all good. Given that most users are only likely to want postcard-size prints, the tiny Ixus 30 is unlikely to disappoint.