on March 10, 2014
I've had this camera about a week and have been able to run it through its paces. I'm and experienced shooter - both film and digital. I currently have 10 or so digital cameras including DSLRs, "bridge." `enthusiast" compacts, and point and shoots - and have owned many more. The Canon 330 HS is the newest, smallest, and least expensive of them all.
Added: Camera rating and comments still 4 stars, but at current price ($179) there are better choices out there. I bought at $119, and that was a very good value.
Overall, the camera gets 4 stars for its quality pictures, low light performance, fast focusing and short shutter lag (except in the crippling mode that takes 4 seconds of video before taking the still picture), and decent flash performance in Program mode. Canon's WIFI is not as sophisticated as it will become, and was perhaps rushed in early as a marketing device. Also,it seems Canon has simply added a bunch of its existing technology - most of which is good - but without updating nor much consideration as to appropriateness for this camera (stitch assist, inability to turn flash off in full auto mode, flash in hand held night shot, an irritating ECO mode, etc). They further omitted some technology that would have improved the camera - no HDR mode, no auto exposure bracketing mode, no high dynamic mode, no function button, etc), but included a deliberate shutter lag function with 4 second delay, which, if used, completely cripples the camera, and eliminates its use as a serious picture-taking machine. Fortunately, you can turn that function off. (If you want to use Full Auto without the 4 second video, you can push the 4 sec button to the down position and set Full Auto - or Program or a scene mode - in the menu.)
Nevertheless, the Canon 330 HS has been a fairly pleasant surprise. It takes excellent pictures in good light and is an exceptional performer in low light. It is small, lightweight, and plastic, but still does very well with pictures and packs a lot of useful (and a few not so useful) features in a tiny, inexpensive package. There are also a few "missing features," but in my opinion, the 330 HS is an exceptional value for the money.
First, the useful features - It takes good pictures. Skin tones were good. Not much lens distortion nor purple fringing, Pretty good sharpness edge to edge, with a bit of fall of when the lens is fully extended, i.e. - sharpest at shorter zoom ranges, but still not bad at the longer ones. Focus speed has been increased and shutter lag decreased in Program mode compared to previous Canon point and shoot cameras. However, the camera is still not as speedy as some of the competition, but vastly "improved." Lots of fun scene modes, like "My Colors," "Super Vivid," and some others. Macro mode is exceptionally useful on this camera. Surprisingly, there is a separate focus lock feature, which would be useful when photographing a bike or car race to pre-focus on a particular point until the desired subject reaches it. Program mode is very useful, and is the shooting mode I would use for nearly all of my shooting. Flash, in "fill" mode and "slow sync mode" performed well and automatically adjusted power based upon focus distance. The center magnification mode is very useful to check focus, and the ability to adjust the size of the focus area is a plus. IS performed very well, and its effect can be seen on the LCD in continuous IS mode. Most creative modes can be applied either before or after shooting, and some can be combined. You can mute the beeps - my preferred style, and the camera automatically shows the "blinkies" in play back mode - a very useful feature in addition to the histogram for showing burnt out or blacked out parts of your picture. You can "adjust" the exposure using exposure compensation or by simply pointing the camera to a different part of the picture, locking the new exposure by pushing the shutter button half way down, then re-framing and shooting again. There is also a useful grid that cam be turned on to assist with composition.
Second, the "missing" features - There is no provision for automatic exposure bracketing. There is no in-camera HDR mode, and no high dynamic mode to even out shadows. There is no in-camera panorama stitching. Canon has chosen to stick with the relatively antiquated "Stitch Assist" mode, meaning you have to use included software to stitch up panoramas. Of course, there are no "manual" controls.
Finally, the decidedly not so useful features - Though not unique to this camera, full automatic mode where the camera decides everything for you including when to use flash, where to focus, etc. For a photographer those restrictions and surprises are not useful. High speed burst shooting works only with initial focus setting and at reduced pixels. Flash in "Hand Held Night shot" is not helpful. It acts more like what other manufactures call "Night Portrait" mode, and destroys any ambiance of a low light night shot. Other cameras use hand held night shot to take several pictures quickly, then combine them in-camera to limit noise - no flash. However, the most incredibly "not useful" feature is the "feature" that takes a 4 second movie before taking the still picture. Photographers strive to take pictures at the "defining moment" - the "perfect" expression, the "height" of the action, etc. The defining moment is practically impossible to catch with the equivalent of a deliberately introduced 4 second shutter lag. Camera makers engineering departments have striven for years to include faster focus and minimal shutter lag in their cameras, and have largely succeeded. I can only conclude that perhaps the Canon marketing department included this feature in an attempt to appeal to pre-teenagers yukking it up at slumber parties. Using this ridiculous "feature" takes this camera back into the dark ages of digital cameras. I see no useful purpose for this mode at all.
There are also some features that swing both ways. To save battery power you should turn off all those features that consume power - continuous focus, tracking focus, burst shooting, continuous IS, flash, lowering the power on the LCD screen (makes it darker), and a few more. All are "good" ideas. However, the ECO mode dims out the LCD screen after a few seconds and turns off the camera after one minute. In my opinion, the aggravation that that causes is not worth the battery power it saves. Turn it off. Same with "shoot only" IS, meaning IS only activates when you push the shutter. Yes, it saves power, but then you see all the bouncing, jiggles, and vibration on the LDC until the instant of shooting. It is a significant distraction. I suggest leave continuous IS on. I also suggest leaving the LCD screen set to its brightest setting. It is hard enough to see in bright light sunlight. One minor complaint is that the buttons and other controls are very small. They are also recessed to make no protrusions, and for a sleek "style," but they are very hard to find and to adjust individually when in a hurry. The problem will be significant if you have big - or even normal sized hands.
As far as potential for low light shooting, I did an admittedly unscientific test for noise at high ISOs, comparing the 330 HS, a popular, long zoom travel camera, and a 2 year old "enthusiast" "fast lens" compact camera. I shot with each on a tripod, in the same lighting, and the same ISOs, then compared pictures at 100% on my computer, All were excellent up to 400 ISO. At 800 and 1600 ISOs the travel zoom was dead last, with the other two cameras about evenly matched, Then, at ISO 3200 and ISO 6400, even though noise levels went up, and some detail was lost, the Canon 330 HS was by far the best at minimizing the effects of digital noise at those high ISOs. That is a superb showing for the tiny point and shoot. On behalf of the enthusiast camera, it has about a 2-4 f/ stop advantage throughout the zoom range (i.e. a faster lens) than the 330 HS, so higher ISOs need to be used less frequently.
ISO performance was so good that I recommend just setting auto ISO, and letting it go at that. White balance performance was pretty good in auto white balance mode, but noticeably better when using an appropriate preset. I seldom use flash, but flash in "fill" mode or "slow sync" mode performed very well, even for arms-length "selfies," automatically adjusting the power according to the focus distance. Closer than arms-length will cause over exposure. Use "fill" flash outdoors to lighten up shadowed areas, and slow sync indoors to give better flash shots. Forget about auto flash. It is nearly always an unpleasant surprise, and has ruined far more shots than it has saved.
Batteries have been cited by others as an issue. I have had no problems with them, however I recommend buying some inexpensive Halcyon brand batteries (made in Japan) here on Amazon. They are inexpensive, and are rated at 1400mah, or nearly twice the 760mah of the Canon battery that came with the camera. They work fine and last nearly twice as long on a charge.
Finally, WIFI, hype, and reading the manual. First, WIFI has absolutely nothing to do with making good pictures. It is an add-on to sell cameras to the "fully connected." What Canon puts in fine print is that WIFI only works with some newer computers, some newer printers, and some newer phones. Camera makers have a "proprietary mindset," so they tend to think that their stuff should only work with others of their stuff. Hence, lenses and RAW files are not compatible from make to make. Cell phone makers are just the opposite. For them sharing is everything. Also, WIFI is new in cameras, so it's not yet as refined as it will eventually become. Anyway, WIFI works well if you have Windows 8, or some versions of Windows 7, and the listed WIFI versions used in cell phones, and if you follow the directions exactly. - (Hint - Read the manual.)
I did not try shooting the moon because of bad weather, but I'm hopeful. Older Canon cameras could not shoot the moon effectively because the Canon spot metering area was so large it included parts of the dark sky in the exposure computation which then caused the bright moon to over expose and go white. I'm hoping for better with this camera
Canon marketing hype - read the description on the product page - It somewhat cripples the camera by raising expectations to a perhaps unrealistically high level. Everything is "new," "easy," "simple.", "the camera does everything for you," etc. Even though the camera is fairly simple, you still need to know enough to make appropriate adjustments to the features that actually have some effect on making pictures, depending upon what you are shooting and the conditions. Photography is NOT a one button operation.
Reading the one and two star reviews for this camera, it is obvious that many, many people did not read the instruction manual that is only found on the software disk. I know reading is getting to be almost a lost art, but you really need to read the full manual (not just the quick start manual), to learn how this camera works. Sure it's a pain being on a computer disk, but try it just this once, and I guarantee you will be a happier, and probably a better, photographer. And, then spend some quality time with the camera pushing buttons and trying out all the features available to understand how to apply what you learned from the manual. If you do those two things I think you will be surprised and impressed with what this little camera can do.
Overall, this is a very nice little camera. It has a few niggles, but it also takes very nice pictures if you take time to understand how it works. It is exceptional in low light without a flash, and even with a flash. Yes, it is plastic and inexpensive. No, it is not a DSLR, but it is a very good camera and excellent value for the money. It is highly recommended. Best Wishes for great shooting.
PS - For those false dead battery indications, it sounds like the contacts are either dirty or not making contact. Try putting a single piece of duct tape on the rear of the battery. Trim the tape with an razor knife or scissors and reinsert the battery for better contact. Or maybe use 2 layers. To modify harsh flash put a couple of layers of tissue over the flash or tape a small cut out from a plastic milk container over it. Keep your fingers out of the way, and don't cover up the sensor under the flash. It adjusts the flash power. if the volume of your movies isn't loud enough, make sure your fingers are not covering either the microphones or the speaker. If the camera suddenly turns off, check to see that ECO mode is not activated. It turns the camera off after about 1 minute to save battery power - somewhat irritating, but easily fixable. Try to capture the defining moment in your photographs by never using the deliberate 4 second shutter lag "feature." First time I have ever heard of long shutter lag being a desirable feature on any camera. Canon - What were you thinking?! That button would be much better used as an Fn button giving immediate access to most used settings and modes. Anyway, Peace and Best Wishes for creating many, many spectacular photographs.