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Customer Review

343 of 384 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing, March 31, 2013
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This review is from: Canon PowerShot ELPH 330 12.1MP Digital Camera with 10x Optical Image Stabilized Zoom with 3-Inch LCD (Black) (Electronics)
I bought the ELPH 330 to replace a Canon PowerShot ELPH 310 that was 'appropriated' by a family member. I quite liked the 310, and the other ELPH models that we've owned previously (SD100, SD200, SD400). To give this review some context, I also have a Canon PowerShot S5, a GoPro Hero, and various film cameras dating back to an Olympus OM-1 and a Rollei 35. While Canons may not always be the 'best' cameras on the market, I've become used to the Canon menu system, and my collection of accessories are compatible with my previous ELPHs. So I assumed the ELPH 330 would be a satisfying addition to my photographic arsenal.

Alas, I was sadly disappointed. What's wrong with it? In a word, the user interface. It has regressed significantly compared to the 310. The biggest shortcoming is the all-important '5-way' controller (the up, down, left, right, and the central FUNC/SET buttons). On the 310, the 5-way was slightly raised above the body of the camera, making it possible to position one's thumb on the desired portion of the controller by touch alone. On the 330, the buttons are completely flush with the body. This may sound like a small detail, but I've found this design change makes it much harder to operate the 330. I've found it tricky to register my thumb over the 5-way without looking, and I don't have terribly big hands. The tiny FUNC/SET button in the center of the cluster is actually recessed just a bit, which is terrible from an ergonomic perspective. One needs a tiny thumb to reliably click on the FUNC/SET button. In the short time I've had the 330, I've accidentally activated the wrong button numerous times.

The second failing of the 330's UI is the bizarre slide switch. Canon has taken what was a great step forward on the 310 UI and totally trashed it on the 330. On the 310, the slide switch selected between AUTO or MANUAL modes of operation. The former was great for taking quick'n easy point-and-shoot tourist snapshots. When the photographer wanted more 'creative control', a simple flip of the switch put the camera into manual mode. User could then choose from a large variety (too many) of special shooting modes (portrait, nighttime, backlit, sports...), adjust ISO, override shutter speed, etc. This arrangement was extremely versatile and I've come to love it.

On the ELPH 330, the slide switch now activates a glitzy new Canon feature: photos plus a Movie Digest. When you slide the switch to the 'up' position, the camera takes a still photo in Auto mode AND a 3-second movie clip captured immediately before every still photo is taken. It then composes a daily sequence of these clips, all concatenated together. So if you were to shoot 60 pictures on a given day, you'll end up with 60 still photos, plus a 3-minute long movie containing the 'live action' as you composed each shot. With the switch 'down', the Movie Digest feature is turned off and the camera operates in whatever mode is chosen from the Record Mode menu (not necessarily Auto mode).

The side effects of this fancy Digest feature are non-trivial. First, the camera goes dormant for a few seconds after the shutter is pushed, while the captured movie clip is compressed and concatenated onto the daily movie file. During this interval, the green 'camera busy' light is flashing. This means you can't take another photo until the movie processing is completed. No rapid-fire picture taking when in Digest mode. Perhaps more important is the potential impact on battery life. When the 330 is in this mode, it's capturing video continuously. It doesn't know when you're going to trip the shutter, so it constantly records video into an internal 3-second buffer memory, which is then saved to the SD card after each click of the shutter. I haven't yet measured the impact on battery life but continuous video capture and storage will surely shorten run time.

Fortunately, the ELPH 330 still has both Automatic and Manual picture modes, but you now have to make a trip down into the menu system to select one or the other. The slide switch, which occupies a fair bit of the limited real estate on the back of the camera, is totally wasted (unless one becomes enamoured with the Movie Digest mode). I'm astounded that Canon would deem this feature so important that it qualified for 'top billing' with a dedicated mode switch. Perhaps there is a big demand for this feature in Japan, but I can do without it.

I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the improvements in the 330. The longer telephoto (10x, vs 8x in the 310) is a small but welcome enhancement. Likewise, the wide angle is a little wider (24 vs 28mm). I haven't yet mastered the WiFi features. Canon's user manual describing them meets their usual standard for convoluted & confusing documentation.

Occasionally, the orientation sensor (sensing landscape vs portrait) messes up and misclassifies the orientation of a picture. This may be a defect with the sensor in my unit, or could be a design issue that affects all ELPH 330 units.

Frankly, I'm undecided whether to keep the ELPH 330 or not. I'm tempted to carefully place a tiny dollop of hot-melt glue on the FUNC/SET button. That might partly alleviate the ergonomic shortcomings of the 5-way controller. But there's no way to make the stupid Movie Digest slide switch useful and achieve the versatile functionality found in the ELPH 310.
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Showing 1-10 of 22 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Apr 3, 2013 10:23:16 AM PDT
HSing Gal says:
There's not a way to turn that "Movie Digest" feature off?

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 3, 2013 11:22:14 AM PDT
Peter Parker says:
@HSing Gal,
Unfortunately, there is no way to turn it off except with the slide switch. Sorry I wasn't clearer. On the ELPH 330, the Movie Digest feature is now bundled together with Automatic mode, both of which are activated using the slide switch. So if the slide switch is in the 'up' position, you get Auto picture mode plus Movie Digest. If the slide switch is in the 'down' position, there's no Digest created, and photos are taken using whatever mode has been chosen with the "Recording Mode" menu (Auto, Program, Portrait, Sports, Babies, Nighttime, etc etc).

Compared to the 330, the UI on my older ELPH 310 was much more versatile. When the slide switch was 'up', the camera was in full-auto mode. Great for taking plain-vanilla point-n-shoot shots. When the switch was 'down', the camera operated in whatever mode the user had selected via the Rec Mode menu. One could instantly switch from auto mode to something more 'creative', without having to muck around with the menu system. For example, when on vacation in a new city somewhere, I would often pre-select the Low Light mode from the Rec Mode menu. When wandering around the cityscape, I'd have the slide switch in Auto position for taking typical tourist snapshots. When I entered a museum, church, or other dimly-lit building, I'd flip the slide switch out of Auto mode, and the 310 would instantly be in Low Light mode for taking interior shots. That ease of use has vanished from the 330 due to Canon's redesign of the slide switch functionality.

Posted on May 8, 2013 1:43:25 PM PDT
Wish I had purchased a 310 when I could have! They are now about twice the price of the 330. (Maybe they always were and I misremembered).

Any road, great review. Well organized and well sid.


Posted on May 9, 2013 1:03:09 PM PDT
Duchess425 says:
Thank you for taking the time to post this review (and for paying attention in your grammar and vocab classes :) !!!

Posted on May 26, 2013 4:35:42 AM PDT
Great review, it takes great pictures but I to was so sadly disappointed in what they did to this camera....
You hit the nail on the head with this review.

Posted on Jun 15, 2013 11:41:59 AM PDT
Sand Lizard says:
Thanks for saving me buying and returning this camera. That movie and picture together is about lame! I just left Canon as my go to mini compact camera.

Posted on Jun 30, 2013 12:07:10 PM PDT
I just bought a 330. Pictures are great.
Question: Do you hear zoom motor sound when taking video and zooming in and out? I can take it back to COSTCO, but I don't know if I should swap or take the money and run. I like the Sony WX150, but the colors are not true.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 30, 2013 12:57:56 PM PDT
Peter Parker says:
Yes, I can hear the motor noise captured on a video. The microphone has to be fairly sensitive to pick up sounds from far-away (i.e. the subjects in the video), which means it will also respond to the motor noise. Canon might have chosen a quieter motor, but they are driven by price point, and really didn't optimize the design for videography.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 30, 2013 8:24:22 PM PDT
thanks for your fast reply. Bummer about the noise

Posted on Aug 3, 2013 1:17:11 PM PDT
A. Ward says:
Great review- that would drive me NUTS! Which Canon do you then recommend? The 310 is out of my price range. I had the SD 960IS but I dropped it 14 too many times. Bought a Nikon from Costco and it was useless- couldn't take a picture of people standing still except on sports mode- macro didn't work either. Anyhow- I love switching between auto and program- but the 3 second video thing would drive me nuts! I'd love to know what you ended up with.
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