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Canon Digital IXUS Wireless / Powershot SD430 - Digital Camera Review
Review Date: 29/05/2006
Rating: Above Average

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Introduction: Announced on the 26th of October 2005, the Canon Digital IXUS Wireless / Powershot SD430 Wireless is a Canon's first compact digital camera to feature wireless support built in - they manage to do this whilst still maintaining an ultra-compact body. Better yet the camera is fully featured with a 5 megapixel sensor, a 2" screen, an optical viewfinder, and a Canon 3x optical zoom lens equivalent to 35-105mm in film terms. The Canon Digital IXUS Wireless is available from around £247, this makes it more expensive than the 6 megapixel Canon Digital IXUS 60 at around £197, but it's generally quite good value for money for a digital camera with built in wireless support. The camera is enclosed in a metal body and is available in silver. The camera records VGA videos at 30fps with sound. The camera is slightly larger than some ultra compact digital cameras, but is still very compact and measures: 99.0 x 54.4 x 21.7 mm (excluding protrusions), and weighs approx. 130g excluding batteries and media.

Canon have this to say about the camera:

"Combining stunning performance with the convenience of Wi-Fi connectivity, the Digital IXUS Wireless embodies the IXUS ethos of cutting-edge design and innovative technology."

You can find more information on Canon's website, or on the Digital IXUS Wireless website.

Wireless support on the Canon Digital IXUS Wireless / Powershot SD430 Wireless:


Wireless connection in progress - the display shows signal strength along with brief instructions on how to start transfering images.

The Canon Digital IXUS Wireless / Powershot SD430 is Canon's first compact digital camera to include built in Wi-Fi support - this allows you to transfer images wirelessly (assuming you have a wireless router) to your computer (assuming you have Windows XP SP2), a printer (Canon Pictbridge only) or another wireless digital camera (such as another Canon Digital IXUS Wireless with the latest Canon Digital IXUS Wireless / Powershot SD430 firmware update). It does not appear to support remote shooting - at least it would not work for me. You can set the camera to automatically transfer images every time it has a connection. Installation of the Canon software was fairly straightforward, however, getting the camera successfully connected involved delving into page 83 of the "Software and Wireless Guide" PDF provided on CD - unfortunately there wasn't a quick 10-step guide to getting connected provided on a seperate piece of paper. The camera supports USB2 so transferring images using a cable would be quicker, and in my opinion involves less hassle when originally connecting the camera to your computer. I tested the wireless connection using a Linksys Wireless-G Broadband Router Model WRT54G - this all seemed to work fairly well transferring 2 out of 3 photos however the camera seemed overly keen to disconnect - I mention this because the make and model of your wireless router may matter, as some of them may not work at all.

The Camera: a visual tour: (Photos of the camera taken with the Panasonic Lumix FZ3)


Front - Camera off.


Front view - Focus assist lamp, optical viewfinder, flash, lens, microphone hole.


Back - 2" screen, optical viewfinder, print / transfer button, speaker, mode switch, 4-way controller / Func / Set button in the middle, DISP, Menu button. AV Out / Digital USB connection under cover.


Top: On/Off, shutter release, zoom control.


Bottom - Metal tripod mount, battery / memory compartment, 3.7v 760mAh Lithium-ion battery.

Size Comparison: Compared to a Pentax 35mm film camera - a medium/compact sized 35mm film camera.


Size comparison.


Size comparison.


Size comparison, compared to the Samsung Digimax i6.


Size comparison, compared to the 5 megapixel Panasonic Lumix LZ3.

Specifications / Features:

  • 5.0 million pixel CCD
  • 2.0" TFT screen - 118,000 pixels
  • Canon 3x optical zoom lens - 1:2.8 - 4.9
  • Shutter speeds: 15 – 1/1,500 sec
  • SD memory card compatibility
  • ISO: Auto, 50, 100, 200, 400
  • 5cm macro mode, 1cm super macro mode
  • DIGIC II and iSAPS
  • 14 shooting modes including VGA movies at 30fps
  • PictBridge and Print/Share button
  • USB 2.0 Hi-Speed
  • Wireless enabled

Box Contents:

  • Digital Camera
  • Strap
  • Wireless print adapter
  • USB cable
  • Audio/video cable
  • Battery
  • Charger
  • Compact power adapter
  • 16mb SD Memory card
  • Software CDROM
  • Manuals on CDROM

Average box contents - There is a small memory card provided with the camera. Some kind of case would be very useful. A printed manual would be helpful, or a better quick guide on how to setup the wireless connection. The wireless print adapter is a nice addition, but again, without delving into a manual on CD, it's not obvious how to set the adapter up. The wireless printer adapter requires power from the provided compact power adapter to work.

Battery usage: Battery life seemed good, using the provided battery, I was able to take around 120 pictures before the camera displayed "battery depleted". If you are travelling then I would recommend a second baattery. Battery life is officially rated at 150 shots.

Camera Operation and OptionsThe mode switch on the back of the camera lets you switch between the main modes: Photo, Video, Playback. You access the other modes in the Function menu - the modes available are: Auto, Manual, Digital Macro, Portrait, Night Snapshot, My Colours, Kids and Pets, Indoor, Foliage, Snow, Beach, Fireworks.

Photo mode/menu:

Photo mode Photo Function Menu

Screen / LCD display in photo mode: (shown above, left) The screen resolution with 118,000 pixels is average for a 2" screen and pictures look clear on it. The screen is clear and the text and menus are easy to read. The screen can seem a bit cluttered in use, but the additional icons can be switched off - there is no histogram in photo mode, but there is one viewable in playback mode.

Funtion menu: On the left is: Mode (Auto, Manual, Digital Macro, Portrait, Night Snapshot, My Colours, Kids and Pets, Indoor, Foliage, Snow, Beach, Fireworks), Exposure compensation, White balance (including custom), Effect (Vivid, Neutral, Low sharpening, Sepia, Black and White), Exposure mode (evaluative, center weighted average, spot), Image quality (super fine, fine, normal), Image size.

Photo Menu Setup Menu

Photo menu options: AiAF, Selt-timer, AF-assist beam, Digital zoom, Review, Grid lines, Date stamp, Long shutter, Stitch assist.

Setup menu options: Mute, Volume, LCD brightness, Power saving, Time zone, Date time, Clock display, Format, File numbering, Create folder, Auto rotate, Language, Video system, Reset all.

Optical / Electronic Viewfinder:  The optical viewfinder on this compact digital camera is quite small, but not rediculously small like some, and it is usable even when wearing glasses.

Playback (Review) mode/menu:

Playback view Playback menu

Playback mode: Playback mode: Scrolling through the photos is quick. Zooming in is very quick and magnifies the image up to 10x. Zooming out shows 9  images at a time as thumbnails. Further photo information (shown above, left) is available by pressing the display button. 

Playback menu: Protect, Rotate, Sound Memo, Erase all, Slide show, Print order, Transfer order, Transition.

Wireless connection menu Wireless connecting in progress

Wireless connection menu: Connect / Disconnect, Register Target Device, Delete Registration, Auto Transfer On/Off, Set camera name.

Picture Size / Quality: The camera takes the following size pictures, and the following number of images will fit on the 16mb memory provided with the camera:

Size Number of Photos Stored / Quality
  SuperFine Fine Normal
5mp L (2592x1944) 5 9 19
3mp M1 (2048x1536) 8 15 30
2mp M2 (1600x1200) 13 24 (Postcard) 47
VGA S (640x480) 52 81 128
Video 640x480 30fps 6 seconds

As shown in the table above, higher quality images take a large amount of memory, so a high capacity memory card is definitely recommended. There is a good choice of image sizes and compression options, however there is no choice regarding aspect ratio, which is dissapointing considering it is regularly featured on other cameras.

A large memory card is relatively cheap, and highly recommended, I would recommend at a bare minimum a 256mb memory card, and preferably a 512mb memory card, especially considering the relatively low prices - the larger the memory card, the more photos you will be able to take. If you are likely to be away from a computer for a long time (such as when going on holiday) then the largest memory card you can afford would definitely be worth investing in. This camera takes only secure digital memory. Listed below are links to memory cards that will work with the Canon Digital IXUS Wireless / SD430:

Find the latest prices for SD memory cards at Amazon.co.uk: 256mb: £6.59, 512mb: £10.55, 1gb (1000mb): £23.40, 2gb (2000mb): £49.95
Need more help deciding what memory card to buy? Have a look at our guide to digital camera memory cards or our article what size memory card should I buy?

Speed: The camera is quick to switch on and take photos, being ready in roughly 1.2 seconds, it then takes roughly a further 0.6 seconds to focus and take the photo. Focusing is quite quick at around 0.5 seconds set to wide angle. Shutter response is quick at around or below 0.1 seconds - shutter response with the flash on is equally quick. Shot to shot time is fairly good at around 1.7 - 2.0 seconds (with review switched on), with flash switched on this shot to shot time is around 3 seconds. High speed continuous shooting allows you to take continuous shots at roughly 1 frame per second with the flash on, and 2 frames per second with flash off - after around 4 shots this slows down. Playback mode is quick going through photos if you hold the button, but if you go between one and another, the camera likes to fade the next photo in, and in my opinion this unnecessarily slows playback mode down - you can switch this off in the playback menu to speed things up. You can zoom upto 10x on your last shot and check for blur with the zoom control. Moving around the different menu options is rapid.

Ease of use: The camera on it's own (ignoring the wireless features) is easy to use - with most commonly used controls accessible using the buttons on the back or using the FUNC button - with Canon digital cameras the MENU button is more like a "Setup" button.  The majority of the useful functions are located in logical places and so little use of the manual was required except for advanced functions (namely getting wireless to work - for more details see the wireless section above).  The AUTO mode is obviously the most straight-forward and the other scene modes are easy to use - again using the FUNC menu button. The camera displays the shutter speed when you pre-focus which helps you know whether a shot is likely to be blurry or not - the camera with also display a red hand when the shutter speed is low for the zoom setting. If you have the flash off, but the camera thinks it should be on, it will flash the red hand and orange led at you to let you know that there could be a problem. In summary, the Canon is easy to use, however it could take some time to get used to the menus, and configuring the wireless setup may be too difficult for some, especially if they face problems.

Ergonomics and Buttons: (Feel, placement, labels, etc.) The camera feels quite solid, with a decent metal body. Unfortunately there is little in the way of a handgrip, so keeing the camera wrist strap wrapped around your wrist is recommended. None of the buttons are particularly small which is good considering the small size of the camera, although the labelling of some of the buttons on the back of the camera could be better - at the moment the text is practically the same colour as the button, meaning that in some lighting situations it's very difficult to read the text. The shutter release button feels good, and I especially like the zoom control. The layout of the buttons seems good meaning the camera can be operated using one hand. It's nice to see a dedicated ISO button on the back of the camera. The compact size of the camera means it's very easy to fit into small pockets, handbags, etc making it easy to take with you. The steps between the different modes (Photo, Video, Playback) are slightly small meaning it's sometimes difficult to get the video mode on first go.

Image Quality: Here are some real world sample photos taken in various settings, such as Inside, Outside, Macro, to demonstrate the quality of pictures taken and also show different features of the camera. Larger versions of these photos, plus more photos are available in the Canon Digital IXUS Wireless / Powershot SD430 Sample Photo Gallery!

Inside:

Heather and Flower Group photo

Inside: The camera has good colour - It took a good "Heather and Flower" photo - there is no red-eye in the photo, and there is little in other group photos. It has a decent flash, and copes well with group photos, and on AUTO ISO, the ISO setting was kept at the lowest setting in these photos. The camera did a good job at focusing most of the time even in low-light. Colour is richly saturated.

ISO Noise Test: Noise is generally a bad thing - it removes detail, and gives a grainy effect over the image. With digital cameras noise can be a real problem as digital camera noise is often made out of blue, red or green dots. As the ISO setting increases, pictures tend to have more noise. Noise is most noticeable in dark areas of photos. The camera has an Automatic mode for ISO levels, and manual ISO settings (ISO: 50, 100, 200, 400).

Below you'll find the noise test image, plus actual pixel crops from the image taken at different ISO settings, compared with the 6 megapixel, Ricoh Caplio R4.

ISO Noise Test Photos - Flash is off. Canon Digital IXUS Wireless / Powershot SD430 on the left, Ricoh Caplio R4 on the right. The colour difference is due to automatic white balance.

Canon Digital IXUS Wireless (5mp) Ricoh Caplio R4 (6mp)
ISO50 - Actual Pixels ISO64 - Actual Pixels
ISO100 - Actual Pixels ISO100 - Actual Pixels
ISO200 - Actual Pixels ISO200 - Actual Pixels
ISO400 - Actual Pixels ISO400 - Actual Pixels
 
ISO800 - Not available ISO800 - Actual Pixels

The Canon Digital IXUS Wireless has low noise at ISO50, and ISO100. At ISO200 noise is quite high, and at ISO400 noise is very high. I would recommend using ISO200 or lower. Compared to the Ricoh Caplio R4 - a 6 megapixel digital camera, noise at ISO50 and ISO64 appears similar. At ISO100 and above the Ricoh Caplio R4 appears to have more noise, and the noise appears coarser i.e. it's made out of larger dots. The Ricoh's noise seems more like film grain in that the dots aren't multi-coloured, whereas the Canon Digital IXUS Wireless' noise (especially as ISO400) is multi-coloured noise. Detail from both cameras remains good regardless of the ISO setting. As long as you stick to the lower ISO settings, good results should be achieved from both cameras, however, if the ISO setting is left on automatic then you may end up with a number of photos taken at the higher ISO settings resulting in higher noise.

Outside:

Liverpool Shops Pink Flowers

Outside: The camera has rich colour, with good saturation and contrast. There was good detail. Noise was low in ISO50 photos. The quality was set to maximum to minimise any jpeg artefacts. Images were slightly soft straight from camera.

Zoom: This camera has a 3x optical zoom lens and a built in 4x digital zoom - in the case of this camera the digital zoom basically takes a smaller area of the photo and enlarges it using software blurring the image so that it is not pixellated. Generally it's best to avoid using digital zoom as it degrades the quality of the image and, often, better results can be obtained by using a photo package such as Adobe Photoshop. I've included examples below to show what the 3x optical zoom and 4x digital zoom is capable of.

Wide-angle 3x Optical zoom Full optical and digital zoom

Exposure: The photos of the clock tower seem well exposed with detail remaining in the dark areas and light areas. There is some purple fringing around the edges of the clock tower.

Lens noise and zoom: The lens is quite quiet in operation. There are only 6 steps between wide and telephoto, which means you'll have to walk forwards or backwards if you need to change how you are going to frame your shot.

Other Image Quality issues: Purple fringing was visible in some photos, namely the clock tower photos. I noticed some slight vignetting in some photos I took in low light, however, in everyday shots this wasn't visible.

Macro:

Timex Watch Macro Actual Pixels (ISO?)

The macro mode is very good allowing you to get close to the subject. Custom white balance helps acheive better colour in artificial lighting. Detail is good and noise is low.

Video mode: The camera features a 640x480 video mode at 30fps, as well as a high speed mode of 320x240 at 60fps. The camera also has a normal 320x240 video mode at 30fps, and a compact video mode of 160x120 at 15fps. All video modes record sound on videos, and you can customise the video further with "My Colours", White Balance, and picture effects such as Vivid, Neutral, Low sharpening, Sepia and Black and White. The video mode gives you a lot of control over size, frame rate and colours, and works well in low light. You can use the optical zoom before recording and the digital zoom whilst recording. The video mode doesn't use strong compression, so unfortunately you can't record for very long.

Conclusion

Image Quality: Image quality is good, the images have very good colour, with good contrast and detail, with low noise except at higher ISO settings, luckily ISO is kept low even when the camera is left on auto and images are taken with flash. Images were slightly soft. Purple fringing was quite low, as was red-eye. The camera is able to focus in low light thanks to the focus assist lamp. Vignetting in photos was very mild and I did not notice barrel or pincushion distortion. There is a good range of image sizes and the compression options, although unfortunately there is no choice regarding aspect ratio. Auto white balance, metering, and exposure seemed to be good to very good. There are numerous scene modes built in and some more creative modes available in my colours. There a good video mode including an unusual 60fps mode although compression isn't very high meaning videos will need to be kept fairly short. (8/10)

Everything else (the camera as a whole): The camera is stylish with an ultra compact silver body and a cool blue wireless connection light. The camera has a good 2" screen with the addition of an optical viewfinder which is useful in bright sunlight. The camera feels sturdy and is comfortable to hold, although there is very little in the way of a handgrip. The camera is easy to use, the menu system is easy to use and there is a good layout of buttons and controls. The camera speed is good, with a good switch on time, rapid focusing time, good shutter response, rapid flash recharge time, quick playback mode, quick menus, and good continuous shooting. The camera has a large range of features, including scene modes, my colours and built in wireless support, however it lacks manual controls, and different aspect ratios. Battery life is average. The wireless support is a new feature found on a few digital cameras, however getting it working correctly may take more time than it saves, especially compared to how easy it is to use USB cables. (7/10)

Value for Money: If you are interested in a digital camera with wireless support then your choices are quite limited and the Canon Digital IXUS Wireless, at around £240, is quite good value for money - however if you are very rarely going to use the wireless connection (or if you can't get it to work), then the other IXUS digital cameras, and other digital cameras generally, are much better value for money, for example the Canon Digital IXUS 60 is around £197. Alternatives with wireless support worth looking at include the Nikon Coolpix S6, Nikon Coolpix P2, Kodak Easyshare One, and Kodak Easyshare One 6mp. (7/10) See more digital camera reviews sorted by megapixels here.

Summary: The Canon Digital IXUS Wireless / SD430 is a good compact digital camera, image quality is good with very good colours, the camera is very pocketable, and speed is good. However I had problems with the wireless feature, and personally found using the USB much simpler - the setup procedure also seemed slightly over complicated. I feel that the wireless setup and configuration should be much simpler otherwise there are going to be a lot of people who simply can not get it to work. If you aren't interested in the wireless support then you also get much better value for money from one of the other Canon Digital IXUS cameras. Ignoring wireless setup - the camera is easy to use and has a very good macro mode and good video modes. If you're in the market for a compact wireless digital camera then the Canon Digital IXUS Wireless is worth considering, however, I'd check to see if you can take it back to the store if you can't get the wireless connection to work.

Canon Digital IXUS Wireless (SD430) Rating: Above Average (7.3/10)
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What I like:

  • Easy to use
  • Sturdy, compact pocketable body
  • Good image quality
  • Very good colour
  • Very good macro mode
  • Wireless connection may make transfer of pictures easier... (see below)

What I don't like:

  • Wireless connection was somewhat unreliable for me and may not work at all with some wireless routers
  • Wireless connection is slower and more complicated than using a simple USB cable
  • Small memory card provided
  • Doesn't store ISO setting in EXIF data, doesn't show ISO setting when ISO is left on AUTO

Additional Test Images are viewable in the Canon Digital IXUS Wireless / Powershot SD430 Sample Photo Gallery.

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