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Canon PowerShot SD630 Digital Elph

At a Glance
  • Generic Company Place Holder Canon PowerShot SD630 Compact Camera

    TechHive Rating

    Compact body sports a big (3-inch) LCD. Offers a widescreen mode and exposure compensation, but lacks image stabilization.

Canon PowerShot SD630 Digital Elph
Photograph: Chris Manners

The $400 (as of 6/15/06) PowerShot SD630 is the first camera in Canon's expanding Digital Elph line to offer a 3-inch LCD. Two other recent additions have the same 6-megapixel sensor and fast processor, but a smaller 2.5-inch LCD: The SD600 retains a similar 3X zoom and costs $50 less, while the SD700 IS has a longer 4X lens with built-in image stabilization for $100 more than the SD630.

The SD630's big LCD makes composing shots a breeze, and it's great for showing off snaps to friends. However, it has the same 173,000-pixel resolution as its siblings' smaller LCDs, so it's really no sharper. You have to forgo the luxury of an optical viewfinder on the SD630, but this model still has enough room to the right of the screen for most of the control buttons. The power button and a simplified mode selector have moved to the top of the camera, and you'll find ten scene modes buried within the function menu. The four-way selector control has also gained a touch-sensitive ring; as you run your thumb across it, the screen displays the available functions. To select the one you want, you push more firmly.

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." Using an "intelligent orientation sensor," the camera automatically rotates the images, depending on how you're holding the camera, and orients them properly when you upload them to your PC.

The SD630's solid metal-and-plastic body feels 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.

Unlike the SD700 IS, the SD630 doesn't provide any form of optical 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 is susceptible to increased noise in the image. In manual mode, you can also set the ISO speed to specific values in steps between 80 and 800.

The 6-megapixel sensor is modest compared to the sensors of many of the SD630's rivals, but it should be plenty powerful for most casual photographers. Image quality stood up remarkably well in the PC World Test Center 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 respectable 245 shots on a single charge of its lithium ion cell. As with many Canon models, the battery gauge tells you only when you're about 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 easily 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 displays only at standard 4:3 TV resolution, so you'll need some other way to display your images in high-definition mode on an HDTV, such as a TV with an SD Card slot, a set-top media player, or a media center PC.

Paul Jasper

This story, "Canon PowerShot SD630 Digital Elph" was originally published by PCWorld.

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At a Glance
  • TechHive Rating

    Compact body sports a big (3-inch) LCD. Offers a widescreen mode and exposure compensation, but lacks image stabilization.

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