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Canon PowerShot SX230 HS
Tuesday, July 12, 2011  

The PowerShot SX230 HS is Canon's first ever GPS-enabled camera. The "HS" designation indicates that Canon has equipped this model with one of their High Sensitivity CMOS sensors, designed to improve performance under low-light conditions. The camera replaces the SX210 IS and now comes with 1080p HD video, an expanded pixel count on the LCD, additional photo effects and a $50 price jump.


Canon PowerShot SX230 HSCanon has made some improvements in design over the SX210. However, we still find the SX230 HS clumsy to operate, especially if you are ham-handed like me. The mode dial is the best design feature on the back of the camera and is straightforward and easy to understand. The shutter release button has a good feel and in a good location. However, if you are shooting one-handed, your thumb will be forced to rest on the mode dial lest you risk accidentally hitting the playback or instant video buttons. The zoom toggle wraps around the shutter release and also has a good feel. In addition to calling my masculinity into question, the shocking pink model we were provided also made the red dot on the video button difficult to see. The Func/Set button is surrounded by a round dial and serves a multitude of functions, some of which require a bit of learning.

It is easy to find shooting modes on the PowerShot SX230 HS's Mode Dial. There are 12 stops on the dial and each flip of the dial is also reflected with an icon on the LCD indicating the selected mode. The camera's 461,000-dot picture is bright and very clear, even outdoors in bright sunlight conditions. A GPS "hump" is located right next to the shutter release button. The jury is still out on the automatic pop-up flash unit. It did not bother me, but Rickee likes to hold the camera in her left hand right where the flash pops-up.

The camera is a manageable weight and very portable. It will slip easily into most pockets and hangs from a lanyard with no complaints. The SX230 HS supports SD/SDHC/SDXC memory cards, and adds Eye-Fi Card support for wirelessly transferring pictures.

Shooting Features

The PowerShot SX230 HS is a portable, compact camera packed with features that true enthusiasts will appreciate, but might confuse beginners. The camera attempts to prevent novices from making any major mistakes. For example, when you have the Low Light Scene Mode selected, the ISO cannot be set as high as 6400, while 3200 is the normal shooting limit. And, if you shoot at any shutter speed slower than 1 second the camera will not go past 100 ISO. Apparently, Canon did not want to give shooters the ability to have too much noise in the photos when shooting long exposure shots. That is a good thing for novices, the "pros" may find it limiting.

Canon PowerShot SX230 HS

The Image Effects menu has a new Toy Camera and Monochrome effects. When shooting video, you have the option of Super Slow Motion mode at 240 fps, albeit limited to 320 X 240. The GPS system does not work indoors and acquiring a satellite can take some patience. As with most GPS systems, it will tax your battery and reduce shooting time between charges, so be advised. When the GPS is working you can use a Maps program to track every photo on a Google map. I have not yet been able to access the GPS coordinate information in iPhoto on my MacBook, but I am still working on it. While talking about the battery, without the GPS turned on, we had no problems with battery life whatsoever. The GPS on the Canon does not display any location information on screen, only a tiny icon indicating that a satellite has been acquired.

The Auto Focus (AF) is very fast and reliable, especially in Auto mode. The AF Zoom feature comes in handy when you want to check the focus of your subject in a magnified square in the center of the LCD. The high-res LCD actually makes it possible to take advantage of the camera's manual focus mode (MF). The 28mm wide-angle lens delivers a smooth 14X optical zoom.

One annoyance I could not get past is the inability to Review the last photo in any mode other than Auto. I struggled with the menu system trying to figure out why the feature was grayed out. I never did figure that one out.


Photo Quality

Don't get hung up on megapixel count. Canon reduced the count from 14.1 megapixel on the SX210 down to 12.1 on the SX230. The reason? With slightly larger pixels the sensor is able to draw in more light allowing the camera to perform better in low-light situations. As you would expect, when there is plenty of light available, the SC230 HS produces excellent quality images. What impressed us, however, was how well the camera performed in less than desirable situations. The camera does a good job of sucking up as much available light as there is to create an image with acceptable noise levels. If you have access to a tripod you can take some pretty clean indoor shots without resorting to the pop-up flash.

Video Quality

Overall, I am impressed with the 1080p/24fps HD video quality. The ability to engage the optical zoom while shooting was a big plus. The Continuous Image Stabilization worked flawlessly, even when fully zoomed at 14X. Zoom motor noise was minimal to non-existent. Auto Focus was hit-or-miss, however. There were times when the SX230 HS seemed to hunt excessively. This seems to be more of an issue when shooting under low light. In fact, the video capabilities of the SX230 HS seem to be more affected by low light than the photo capabilities do. Decent lighting is required to get good quality video. But, for a pocket camera it does a nice job. Analysis

We spent 11 days with the Canon PowerShot SX230 HS during a Canada/New England cruise with Crystal. We shot hundreds of photos and more than an hour of video. Unfairly or not, we tend to compare every pocket digital with our in-house Panasonic DMC-ZS7. I prefer the 24mm lens on the ZS7 over the 28mm on the SX230 HS and the GPS is much more robust on the Panasonic, even though I rarely use it. I prefer the compactness of the SX230 over the ZS7, but the ergonomics took some getting used to. The 460k pixel screen is also very nice. And, the SX230 HS offers full HD video, something our ZS7 will not do.

Is the Canon SX230 HS worth the price? Absolutely. The full HD 1080p video alone is worth it for us. If you are looking for an excellent pocket digital to take on your next vacation, this one is loaded with features and comes with Canon's excellent reputation for quality and reliability. Our only suggestion, as with any pocket digital, is to purchase a 2nd battery so you always have one charged and ready to go!

What We Like:

  • Compact and lightweight
  • Great LCD screen
  • Good low-light photo quality
  • 14X optical zoom
  • Good video quality
  • Excellent image stabilization
  • Mode dial
  • Battery life

What We Don't Like:

  • Clumsy ergonomics
  • Daunting menu system
  • Tiny video button

Sample Photos

Click on the thumbnails below to see the larger photos shot with this camera.

Wide Angle (28mm) 14X Zoom

Video Review

Watch some sample video clips we shot with the Canon PowerShot SX230 HS during our tests:

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