The Canon PowerShot SD630 is the first camera in Canon’s expanding Digital Elph line to offer a three-inch LCD. This makes composing your shots a breeze, and it’s great for showing off your snaps to friends. However, it has the same 173,000-pixel resolution as some of its siblings’ smaller LCDs, so it’s really no sharper than smaller screens.
You have to forgo the luxury of an optical viewfinder on the SD630 , but this camera still has enough room to the right of the screen for most of the control buttons. The Power button and a simplified mode selector are located at the top of the camera, and you’ll find 10 scene modes buried within the Function menu. A four-way selector control on the back has a touch-sensitive ring; as you run your thumb across it, the screen displays the camera’s available functions. You push more firmly to select the one you want.
As you take each shot, an instant review displays on the screen. You get a chance to delete the image immediately if it doesn’t come out right. To browse all your photos, you must flip the mode switch to Playback. The camera’s sensor automatically rotates the images, depending on how you’re holding the camera, and orients them properly when you upload them to your computer—a really neat feature.
The SD630’s solid metal-and-plastic body makes it feel heavier than you’d expect from such a small camera. It weighs nearly 6 ounces but fits comfortably into a shirt pocket or purse. It starts up quickly and takes pictures as fast as you can press the shutter release. Like other Digital Elph models, the Manual mode doesn’t let you adjust the aperture or shutter speed, but it does give you access to a variety of advanced settings, including white balance, metering mode, and exposure compensation.
The SD630 doesn’t provide any form of optical image stabilization for improving low-light shots. It does, however, offer ISO speeds up to 800. In Automatic mode, you can choose between ISO Auto and ISO Hi. Both set the optimal sensitivity according to the lighting conditions, but only the latter will set it as high as ISO 800; this setting may generate increased noise in the image. In Manual mode, you can set the ISO speed to specific values in steps between 80 and 800.
The camera’s six-megapixel sensor is modest compared to the resolutions of many of the SD630’s rivals, but it should be plenty for most casual photographers. Image quality stood up remarkably well in the PC World Test Center’s sharpness and distortion tests when compared to cameras with more pixels. Its color fidelity also impressed us, but it scored below par in our exposure accuracy tests.
During battery testing, the SD630 took a moderate 245 shots on a single charge of its lithium ion cell. As with many Canon models, the battery gauge only tells you when you’re almost out of juice—that’s of little help when you’re far away from an electrical outlet. Thankfully, Canon still furnishes a great little travel charger that’s the same size as the camera, with prongs that fold up for easy packing.
The SD630 includes a resolution setting that crops photos to a 4.4-megapixel image with a 16:9 aspect ratio suitable for displaying on a wide-screen HDTV or monitor. The camera’s A/V output only displays at standard 4:3 TV resolution, so you’ll need some other way to display your images in high-definition on an HDTV, such as a TV with an SD Card slot or a set-top media player.
Scale = Superior, Very Good, Good, Fair, Poor
|Zoom/Focal Length (35mm equivalent)||3X/35-105mm|
|Battery Type||Rechargeable lithium ion|
|Media Slots||SD /MMC (1)|
|Size (wxhxd)||3.6 x 2.2 x .8|
Macworld’s buying advice
The six-megapixel Canon PowerShot SD630 is a fine camera for most casual shooters. It has a luxurious LCD display, a fair number of scene modes, advanced settings, and automatic image rotation. However, it is expensive for a camera whose battery life is moderate, has no optical image stabilization, and lacks a viewfinder.
[ Paul Jasper is a technology consultant and freelance writer in San Francisco. ]Canon PowerShot SD630