Canon knows a thing or two about exposure systems and the PowerShot SX30 IS's evaluative metering system doesn't disappoint. The main subject is correctly exposed in the majority of my images, although in some instances this is at the expense of the highlights. Fortunately, exposure compensation is available to +/-2EV in 1/3EV steps and is easily accessed using the 'up' navigation control and the control on the back of the camera.
It's worth keeping an eye on the histogram view (accessed via the Display button), as I found that the on-screen image sometimes differs a little from the captured version.
Overexposed areas of blue sky tend to look rather cyan, but this can often be rectified post-capture to make the results look more natural. Colours direct from the SX30 are generally quite vibrant and I would steer clear of the vibrant mode. Canon has one of the best, if not the best, white balance systems around and on the whole my images captured in auto white balance mode retain the atmosphere of the scene.
Chromatic aberration is an issue along some high-contrast edges, especially towards the corners of the frame. In several instances I was able to reduce this coloured fringing by adjusting the image using Adobe Camera Raw. Distortion is controlled well.
Still images may only be saved as JPEGs on the SX30, which is a little disappointing, but not entirely surprising. At high sensitivity settings there's little sign of chroma noise, but when examined at 100% on screen, even toned areas of images captured at ISO 200 have a slight granular texture caused by luminance noise.
Out-of-focus areas with very fine detail also look slightly smudged under high magnification, especially in high-sensitivity images. When the images are sized to make A3 prints they look good and the smudging is not apparent, but images captured at the highest sensitivity setting (ISO 1600 at full resolution) look a little softer than those taken at the lowest settings.
While not spectacular, 1280x720-pixel video quality from the SX30 is good, though some edges look at little oversharpened. Recording at 30fps ensures that movement is fairly smooth.