Canon SX230 marginal benefits for $

Jul 25, 2011
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:Bigger, heavier than SD790, due to zoom probably, but will fit in pocket

Cons:Auto exposure, dynamic range, battery life, ergonomics, screen size, touchy playback dial

The Bottom Line: There must be something better out there...maybe the Panasonic zooms?

I am not that impressed with the Canon SX230 yet, after a month or so of use (2500+ photos). The stitching help feature is not that useful as it uses an extremely small part of the screen to work with, put at least locks the exposure for all the shots.

The movie mode at 1080p seems to work fine, and you can zoom and maintain a focus.  Panning a scene must be done very slowly, as is typical.  Zoom is slow, but quiet.

The full 12Mp 4000x3000 photo resolution only uses 2/3s (49x37mm = 1813mm2) of the available 16:9 stretched 82mm (72x38mm = 2736mm2) diagonal hi-res screen real estate.  So it is far less viewing area than an older 75mm (60x46mm = 2760mm2) SD790 camera diagonal set up for a 4:3 screen.  This is a ridiculous reduction of useability, trying to force users to a screen with less vertical height. 

I usually use Program mode so that I can reduce the exposure by -1 to avoid highlights being blown out...same thing happened with my older Canon sd790, so I am unfortunately used to that.  This means the dynamic range is still limited compared to DSLs.  The low light sensitivity is probably better than earlier cameras, but still a lot of noise is in the shot, I think.  I do not see the multiple focus, composure points in P mode, and rarely in Auto mode, which I am used to seeing with the older SD790.

At full 14x zoom, I think the shake stability is not that great, so sharpness is lost...and light is less with the zoom, as is typical for zoom lenses.  However, it is better for me than a 3x zoom. Battery life is not very good, terrible compared to the SD790, and that is without using the GPS function, that I keep turned off to save battery life, as others had warned. The NB-5L battery is listed as 1120mAh.  I purchased a backup NB-5L battery for the SD790 that is listed as 1300mAh, so since the SX230 has the same battery, I can share that backup battery when needed.  However, I do not think the higher capacity battery helps much.

Playback of photos requires pressing the playback button to be able to zoom, instead of being able to quickly zoom from the shot just taken.  Playing back photos tends to jump to the next one too easily, when zoomed and wanting to move around in the photo, as the function ring can spin to the next one.  On the other hand, this can be a benefit when you want to skip to the next photo.  I think the minimum jpeg file photo compression is higher, which might be limiting the final resolution of the picture, as the file size is smaller.

Ergonomically, the camera is harder to hold due to the rounded edges on the already slim camera.  I like the squared off box of the older SD790.  The pop up flash always comes up unless you keep your finger on top of it.  So turning on the flash will require flipping it up.  I keep the camera in Program mode (with the negative exposure setting) with flash mode on, but hold the pop-up flash down on startup to prevent the flash.

So, overall, I am not happy spending $330 on SX230, but I will keep it to prove I am a masochist.  I think I will need another spare battery or two to get through a day of touring photography.  Hope they make a powershot with a much wider dynamic range someday.  Maybe that new Lytro "light field" camera coming out in 2012?  But that is just a large depth of field choice?

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