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We're partial to Vivacious Violet, but you can choose from three more colors.
The words cute and compact aptly describe Canon's PowerShot SD30 digital camera. It's nice for those times when fun takes priority over studious photography - and since it comes in four different colors, you might even consider it a fashion accessory.
The SD30 houses a five-megapixel CCD imager and 2.4x optical-zoom lens within its tidy 3.78-by-1.78-by-0.94-inch frame - it's small enough to carry around in your coat pocket or purse. The camera has a 1.8-inch LCD; ISO settings of 50, 100, 200, and 400; and a shutter-speed range from 1/1,600 of a second to 15 seconds. The camera comes in four colors - Glamour Gold, Rockstar Red, Tuxedo Black, and Vivacious Violet - and you even get a leather carrying case that matches your chosen color.
Like many recent point-and-shoot digital cameras, the SD30 doesn't have an optical viewfinder (leaving out the viewfinder helps maintain the small size), so you have to rely on the camera's LCD to frame images. While the absence of a viewfinder doesn't affect your digital image, using the LCD in bright sunlight can be problematic. To offset the missing viewfinder, the SD30 has an interesting feature that we recommend you use - you can activate a grid pattern on the LCD that helps you align your subject vertically and horizonally, making it easier to get exactly the shot you want.
The camera comes bundled with a 16MB MultiMediaCard (MMC), but that won't get you very far - ditch the included card and pick up one with more capacity (the SD30 can also use SD cards). Since the SD30 doesn't use any file format other than JPEG (there are several compression levels to choose from), you'll be able to capture a lot of images on even a 256MB card.
The SD30 has several shooting modes, starting with the obligatory Auto and Manual. Beyond these you also get Landscape, Night Snapshot, and Special Scene, the "special scenes" being presets for shooting in snow, on the beach, with kids and pets, or underwater (though the SD30 isn't waterproof; you need the optional $169 Canon AW-DC40 waterproof housing).
The SD30 has a built-in flash; when using it, we recommend leaving the ISO on Auto. We tried snapping photos using the ISO 50 and ISO 100 settings and found the images to be just a little underexposed; leaving the ISO on Auto lets the camera determine the best ISO setting for each individual situation. The drawback to using Auto ISO: Several of our test images were grainy, indicating that the camera had chosen a faster ISO than we would have in the situation. Other images had poorly focused objects in the background or the foreground, telling us that the camera had selected a wide aperture.
You can download the SD30's images to your Mac by using the included camera dock, which connects to your Mac via USB 2.0. Docking the camera also recharges its battery - which, by the way, took us about three hours, not the 90 minutes stated in the manual. The dock also has an A/V port for connecting to a TV (a cable is included) to see your camera's images on a big screen. We also attached the SD30 to a few Canon PictBridge-compatible printers and had prints in our hand within a few minutes.
The bottom line. The SD30 started a lot of conversations when we hit the party circuit - its small size and attractive colors generate a lot of interest. However, beyond the cosmetics lies the brutal truth: For its price, the SD30 doesn't quite reach the same high level of image quality and performance we've seen in other Canon point-and-shoot cameras.
CONTACT: 800-652-2666 or 516-328-5000, www.canon.com
REQUIREMENTS: Mac OS 10.2.4 or later
Compact size. Fashionable camera-body colors
Image quality isn't bad - but it isn't great, either. No optical viewfinder.