The Canon model, which supports both WEP and WPA for security, will perform some additional wireless tricks eventually. With new firmware scheduled for release in May 2006, you’ll be able to make peer-to-peer wireless connections with other SD430s – or, presumably, future Canon Wi-Fi cameras – and transfer pictures from one to the other. I’m not exactly sure in what circumstances you’d want to do this, but the option will be there. The other new wireless trick is a dandy. The SD430 lets you control the camera remotely over the wireless network. I’ve been waiting for somebody to do this. You could set it on a tripod pointing at a bird feeder, for example, and sit in the house at your computer waiting for timid birds to come in range. Use it in a similar way at a party to capture candids.
Using the Remote Capture screen, part of the software supplied with the camera, you can see what the camera sees and remotely zoom in and out (though not in real time) and click the shutter button. You can also change settings for image quality and size, focusing point (AiAF on or off), Macro focus, auto focus lock and flash.
One perennial problem with digital cameras is shutter lag, the time it takes for the camera to actually take the picture after you press the shutter button. It’s often so long that you miss shots that depend on split-second timing. I wondered if the wireless connection would introduce more shutter lag. The answer is that, of course, it does — but not a lot. I tested this by photographing a digital clock that showed seconds ticking away. In the resulting image, the time was only one second advanced from when I pressed the remote shutter button.
The Canon wireless technology also seems to have better range. With the Coolpix S6, there were places in my very small house where the wireless connection was poor to nonexistent. The SD430 worked well everywhere. Download times also seemed faster than with the Nikon camera, although I wasn’t able to confirm this in side-by-side testing.
Wireless printing worked well in tests using the included adapter and a portable Canon Selphy CP600 dye-sub printer. The printer started grinding away within about a second of my pressing the print button on the camera.
Installing the camera to work wirelessly with my computer was trouble-free, but I did have to install a lot of software. The wireless functionality can only be set up if you also install Canon’s standard ZoomBrowser PC/Mac software, which includes multiple components – only some of which you need, and none of which you really need if you already have a program like Adobe Photoshop Elements. The software takes up several hundred megabytes of hard disk space.
If you’re looking for a simple camera for taking snapshots to print no larger than 5×7 inches, this one will meet minimum requirements — and it gives you the convenience of wireless uploading and printing of images, as well as the fun of remote control photography.