Design and features
Canon has finally entered the travel zoom camera category in earnest with its first GPS-equipped camera. Stylistically, it looks near-identical to the earlier SX210, with a slightly comical exterior appearance with rounded corners and a two-tone finish.
The GPS hump is fairly obvious, and provides a comfortable notch to stop your finger from sliding down the smooth top of the camera next to the shutter button, while the flash ceremoniously pops up when the camera is switched on. Like earlier iterations, and the Fujifilm F550EXR, it's an annoyance — but one that can be banished quickly with a gentle push downwards. The power button is rather awkwardly recessed underneath the shutter button and next to the mode dial on a sloping side leading down to the screen, which makes it hard to access quickly.
Shooting options are plentiful, from full automatic and easy modes to dedicated scene modes, movie digest and, of course, PASM exposure options. Behind the 14x optical zoom lens, the SX230 shares the same 12.1-megapixel CMOS HS (or "High Sensitivity") sensor as the other IXUS and PowerShot cameras denoted with the HS tag. The lens is 28mm at its widest end, and has a maximum aperture range of f/3.1-f/5.9.
A 3-inch widescreen (16:9 aspect ratio) LCD is the other noteworthy feature on the exterior, giving away the camera's ability to shoot in either 4:3, 3:2, 1:1 or 16:9. Full HD video recording is on-board at 1080p, 24fps. There's also a mini-HDMI and mini-USB port to the side.
The SX220 HS, announced at the same time as this camera, is near-identical to the SX230, except for the GPS unit.
Finding the option to activate the GPS logger is rather difficult, as Canon has put it way down the bottom of the list in the camera settings (accessible via the Menu button). Once found, the GPS options are very limited; turning the GPS on or off, as well as activating logging, which continues to search for a signal and track locations even when the camera is turned off. This option will drastically reduce battery life, and cuts down on an already thrifty juice pack.
Data collected by the GPS is limited to latitude, longitude, elevation and the camera clock — not any location names. Compared to the implementation on similar cameras, Canon's version definitely needs work for the next iteration.
|Sony HX9V||Panasonic TZ20||Canon SX230||Fujifilm F550EXR|
|16.2-megapixel Exmor CMOS||14.1-megapixel MOS||12.1-megapixel CMOS||16-megapixel CMOS|
|3-inch LCD (921,000-dot)||3-inch touchscreen (460,000-dot)||3-inch LCD (460,000-dot)||3-inch LCD (460,000-dot)|
|16x optical zoom||16x optical zoom||14x optical zoom||15x optical zoom|
|24mm wide-angle||24mm wide-angle||28mm wide-angle||24mm wide-angle|
|GPS tagging||GPS tagging||GPS tagging||GPS tagging|
|HD video (1080p)||HD video (1080i)||HD video (1080p)||HD video (1080p)|
General shooting metrics (in seconds)
- Time to first shot
- JPEG shot-to-shot time
- Shutter lag
- Canon PowerShot SX230 HS184.108.40.206
- Fujifilm FinePix F550EXR220.127.116.11
- Panasonic Lumix TZ18.104.22.168
- Sony Cyber-shot HX9V22.214.171.124
Continuous shooting speed (longer bars indicate better performance)
- Canon PowerShot SX230 HS1
- Fujifilm FinePix F550EXR4
- Panasonic Lumix TZ2010
- Sony Cyber-shot HX9V10
The SX230 HS can take one full-resolution frame per second in continuous mode, though this speed can be increased by using the high-speed burst mode (available through the scene mode selection on the dial). This mode reduces the resolution to 3-megapixels.
Canon rates the battery for the SX230 at 210 shots.
Overall, colours are a little less vibrant than is normally expected from a Canon compact. In automatic mode, the SX230 HS chooses good exposures, with a tendency to blow out highlights. The lens is able to resolve detail very well, and is generally throughout the telephoto range. ISO performance is very good for a camera of this class; there's only really noticeable noise at ISO 800 and above, with ISO 1600 and ISO 3200 resulting in some colour shifts. However, it is possible to produce a usable shot at reduced resolution, or with noise reduction applied.
A 100 per cent crop (inset) of a shot taken at ISO 1600.
Chromatic aberration (or fringing) is quite noticeable on a lot of shots, particularly when the lens is at its widest. White balance is a little too blue in automatic when shooting indoors with artificial and natural light.
Video quality is very good, with decent image sharpness, and the sound is well-separated thanks to the stereo microphones on the front. There's a slight degree of juddering visible, though, making videos with moving subjects (or panning the camera too quickly) slightly uncomfortable to watch. You can use the optical zoom while filming, plus there are options for high-speed (120fps or 240fps) capture and iFrame, which means that video does not need to be converted to be edited in Apple editing programs.
Exposure: 1/100, f/4, ISO 320
Exposure: 1/320, f/5, ISO 100
Exposure: 1/1000, f/5, ISO 200
Exposure: 1/400, f/4.5, ISO 100
Provided you don't need a bucket-load of features and can live with its odd ergonomics, the SX230 HS will tick most of the boxes for a travel zoom camera. For a camera that can quickly and accurately plot GPS data, as well as display information onscreen, we suggest checking out one of the other travel zoom offerings such as the Panasonic TZ20 or the Fujifilm F550EXR.