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Super-Zoom Shootout: Canon SX30 IS vs. Olympus SP-590UZ,
This review is from: Canon SX30IS 14.1MP Digital Camera with 35x Wide Angle Optical Image Stabilized Zoom and 2.7 Inch Wide LCD (Camera)
This is a head-to-head comparison of the Canon SX30 IS and the Olympus SP-590UZ, which are both competitors in the super-zoom class of compact cameras. I will compare some of the features of these two cameras but mostly talk about the image quality between the two since I consider that the most important reason for choosing a camera.
When the Olympus SP-590UZ came out in 2009 it had the longest zoom range of any compact camera with its 26x zoom equivalent to 26 - 676mm at f/3.5 - 5.0. Olympus has since come out with the SP-800UZ which has an even longer 30x zoom but is inferior in my opinion because it is strictly a point-and-shoot camera with no user control over aperture and shutter speed and no viewfinder.
The Canon SX30 follows the SX20 and currently has the longest zoom range on the compact camera market, a 35x zoom equivalent to 24 - 840mm at f/2.7 - 5.8
I took photos using both cameras of the same subjects using the same lighting and exposure settings. All photos were taken in aperture priority mode (Av). I have uploaded a number of comparison shots to the customer image section so you can follow along.
At the far wide end of the range, both cameras performed about equally, that is to say, adequate but not extremely sharp. These cameras are aimed at birders and other telephoto enthusiasts, and so most of the test shots I took were at the long end of the range. Here the Canon was consistently sharper and was able to resolve finer detail, as in the photo of the evergreen tree tops, the milkweed seed strands, and the detail of the cement wall behind the light post. Both cameras quickly start to exhibit noise above ISO 100, but the Olympus was even showing some color noise at the lowest ISO setting of 64. By ISO 400 the shots are still usable but the noise in the Canon images is finer and better under control while Olympus photos are grainier. Noise reduction in Photoshop can clean up some of the noise with some possible compromise in sharpness.
The one disappointment in the Canon SX30 is the macro mode. The focusing range is "approximately 0 - 50 cm" which sounds great but you literally have to get right on top of the object to fill the frame with the image. The Olympus has a dedicated Super Macro mode which allows you to take macro shots from further away from your subject. This not only allows you not to disturb your subject but also prevents the camera from casting a shadow on it. Macro shots with the Olympus are not only much easier to take but the results are better.
Here's a direct comparison of some of the features of these two Super-Zoom cameras:
Lens: Advantage Canon with a longer zoom and sharper focus. The Canon is faster at the wide end but both lenses are pretty slow in their telephoto ranges. Neither is great for capturing sports action or birds in flight. Neither camera is good for low light conditions without a flash either. Although the Canon lens is sharper it has some chromatic aberration.
LCD screen: Canon has an articulating screen which means you can take shots from unusual angles and still see the screen. Olympus only has a fixed screen.
Picture Modes: Canon has 10 color modes and one customizable mode, Olympus only has Normal and Vivid.
Zoom markings: Canon lens has focal length markings on the lens, Olympus has none. Neither camera has a focal length readout on the screen, which would be nice.
Lens Cap: The Canon lens cap can remain on while the camera is powered up. The Olympus lens cap has to be removed before powering on the camera, or else the protruding lens will push it off.
Menus and buttons: I have no preference here, both cameras have good manual control and it's all about getting used to one or the other.
Focus: The Olympus auto-focus seems to be more accurate at close distances. I saw some back focusing with the Canon at close range. Both cameras do a terrible job with manual focus, it is very hard to use. The Canon has a focus bracketing feature, something which I wanted to have for focus stacking, but I found out it only works in manual focus mode and it's slow. Advantage Olympus.
Image Stabilization: The Canon seems to "lock in" while the Olympus seems to slowly drift. I prefer the "locking" image stabilization of the Canon even though it jumps around at times.
Image Quality: This is where it counts and the Canon is the clear winner, particularly in the telephoto range. The images may need to be sharpened up in PhotoShop but the examples I posted were straight out of the camera. The Olympus would only be a better choice if you were going to be doing a lot of macro work.
The Canon SX30 IS is the clear winner and appears to be the best super-zoom compact available at the moment. The optics may not be as good as a lens with a shorter focal range and there is some noise apparent even at low ISO values. Unfortunately camera makers insist on cramming more mega-pixels onto these tiny sensors which means more noise. For these reasons and for the disappointing implementation of macro, Canon gets deducted one star.
The image quality will never be as good as a DSLR or a Micro Four Thirds camera such as the Panasonic DMC-GH1 and I would not recommend this camera for professional or fine arts photography, but it would be a convenient and versatile choice under daylight conditions when you want to carry a minimum amount of equipment.
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Showing 1-6 of 6 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Nov 21, 2010 2:34:33 PM PST
K. Koy says:
Thank you very much for you excellent review. It helps a lot since you also made comparison between the Olympus SP-590 and this Canon SX30IS.
Posted on Nov 30, 2010 10:28:18 PM PST
VR Wolfe says:
I wonder what the Olympus Sp 800 picture quality is compared to the cannon sx 30. I realize they are two different beasts but it would be nice to see the picture quality difference between the two. Remember these cameras are for fun they are not professional cameras....... Try the Olympus ELP1 that is a great micro for thirds camera for the price. Lenses view finders these are things you need to think about when you choose a camera compact or pro will you use the camera if it is bigger or to complicated and what you are willing to sacrifice. What means more to you just because a picture is not good blow en up to the size of a car does not mean it is not a good camera its all in the mind of the composer....????
In reply to an earlier post on Dec 1, 2010 3:40:13 AM PST
David Siegfried says:
digitalcamerareview.com gave the SP-800 a pretty poor review and displayed samples showing heavy noise starting at 400 ISO. The Nikon Coolpix P100 fared a lot better rating Good image quality and good high ISO noise performance up to about 800 ISO.
Posted on Jun 8, 2011 1:28:33 PM PDT
Michele-Marie von Bergen says:
Ive own olympus there great camera but i think a better comparason whould be a canon sx30 is vs nikon coolpix p500 imho there a closer match quality wise .
In reply to an earlier post on Jun 8, 2011 1:41:55 PM PDT
David Siegfried says:
The Nikon Coolpix p500 was not out yet when I did this comparison; I don't own one but I would be more than happy to do a thorough comparison if you want to send me one. :)
Posted on Mar 17, 2012 1:25:10 PM PDT
D. Beatty says:
Hello, I currently have a Kodak Easyshare Z981 26x and I am wondering if it is worth the price of another camera to buy the Canon ( or something else) or is the performance too similar? I am mainly trying to use the camera when I go out hiking for scenery shots, bird shots, etc. The images I'm getting of birds are not as crisp as I like and the camera does not seem to do well unless light is perfect, but it is so much better than whatever I had before.
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