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Canon Powershot SX230 HS GPS Camera Review

We review the SX230 HS - the pocket zoom with GPS built in from Canon.

|  Canon Canon Powershot SX230 in Compact Cameras
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Canon Powershot SX230 HS

The Canon Powershot SX220 HS and SX230 HS are updates to the Canon Powershot SX210 IS and features a new 12 megapixel backlit CMOS sensor, compared to the previous version's 14 megapixel CCD sensor, with the SX230 HS featuring built in GPS. The new sensor allows high speed shooting and should lower noise in images, compared to the high noise results of the predecessor. Nb. Due to similarities in performance, some of the review is the same as the Canon Powershot SX220 HS review.

Canon Powershot SX230 HS

Canon Powershot SX230 HS Features

The Canon Powershot SX230 HS is one of the smallest digital cameras available with a 14x optical zoom lens and is well worth looking at if you want a camera with advanced features, and a lot of zoom. The camera includes full HD video recording with stereo sound and lets you use the optical zoom while recording. It's also one of the smallest pocket-zooms with GPS.

The camera features a large 3 inch screen, with a 16:9 aspect ratio, and a mode dial with full P/A/S/M manual controls. A metal body and high speed shooting rounds this camera off nicely with a full set of features and controls, as well as an abundance of scene and colour modes.

The Canon Powershot SX220 HS is the "little brother" to the SX230 HS - the SX230 HS is available in black, blue and pink and features GPS (logger and tagging, with map utility software), and other than these differences, the cameras are identical. GPS options: GPS settings ON/OFF, GPS Logger ON/OFF. Map utility software.

Canon Powershot SX230 HS

Key Features 
  • HS System 12.1 MP megapixel backlit CMOS sensor
  • 14x optical zoom lens, equivalent to 28 – 392 mm in 35mm equiv. f/3.1 - f/5.9
  • Compact metal body available in black, blue and pink
  • 28mm, 14x zoom. Optical IS
  • Full HD with optical zoom. Dynamic IS
  • 16:9 Wide-screen 3.0 inch screen with 461k pixels
  • Smart Auto (32 scenes)
  • High-speed Burst & Super Slow Motion Movie
  • Movie Digest & iFrame movie
  • Manual Control
  • ISO 100 - 3200
  • 5cm Macro mode
  • GPS built in
Canon Powershot SX230 HS

Canon Powershot SX230 HS Handling

The camera is one of the smallest cameras available with a 14x optical zoom lens, with most other cameras offering 14x zoom or more tending to be larger in the pocket. Because of this there's not a lot of grip, instead you have to use your thumb to grip onto the rear mode dial. 

The design is obviously popular at Canon, as the camera looks almost identical to the previous model. Including a pop-up flash that pops up every time the camera is switched on. This can be easily pushed down and manually raised later if needed - I found that whenever I switched the camera on my hand was on the flash and therefore it stayed down.

Canon Powershot SX230 HS

The buttons are large and easy to use. The mode dial is the right level of firmness so that you don't accidentally change mode, which is a good feature, especially as it's the most natural and perhaps only place to grip the back of the camera. The screen is a wide-screen model with a 16:9 aspect ratio meaning that the default image size of 4:3 photos will show black borders, and you get a smaller view than you would if they had used a 4:3 or 3:2 aspect ratio screen. Alternatively you can take all your photos at the 16:9 aspect ratio but then you are limited to 9Mp (4000 x 2248) images.

Menus: The Canon Powershot SX230 HS menus are good, and are colour coded so that each mode (Photo, Playback, Setup etc) is easily recognisable. Once you are used to accessing the most popular controls using the Func button and back buttons, and the more advanced controls in the menu system, the camera becomes easy to use. They respond quickly and there is a good level of control and options so that you don't feel too limited when using the camera.

Canon Powershot SX230 HS

Battery Life: The camera's battery life is rated at approx. 210 shots according to CIPA / Canon testing. The battery is rated at 1120mAh and was able to provide around 200+ shots before going flat. This is lower than much of the competition, so it could be worth considering buying a spare battery if needed. I suspect that using GPS extensively will lower the battery life further.

Speed: We tested the Canon Powershot SX230 HS, and tested the camera with the Panasonic Lumix TZ20, Sony Cybershot HX9v and Fujifilm FinePix F550EXR, taking 6 shots and using the average to ensure consistent results.

Fujifilm F550EXR Panasonic TZ20 Canon SX230 Sony HX9
Shutter Response* <0.05 <0.05
Wide - Focus / Shutter Response 0.20 0.25
Full zoom - Focus / Shutter Response 0.20 0.25
Switch on Time to Taking a Photo 3.7s
Shot to Shot (without flash) 2.4s 1.2s
Shot to Shot with Flash 2.5s 2.0s
Continuous Shooting
(full resolution)
(8 shots)
(14 shots)
2.5fps 10fps
(10 shots)
Continuous shooting (with flash) N/A N/A 1.2s N/A

The Canon Powershot SX230 has the slowest continuous shooting of the four cameras tested, and considering all cameras are using CMOS sensors then the camera should theoretically be able to shoot as quickly as the others. However, saying that, the 2.5fps is still respectable and still faster than a lot of other cameras (for example CCD based cameras). The SX230 is also the only camera to offer continuous shooting with flash at full resolution (the TZ20 has a scene mode that allows continuous shooting with flash, but at a lower resolution). Switch on time is the quickest with the SX230 perhaps due to the shortest zoom lens, and the shot to shot time is very quick.

The Fujifilm FinePix F550 has a good number of options for continuous shooting: No. of frames: 4, 8, 16, 32. 8fps full resolution (max 8 shots), 11fps at Medium (8mp), max 16 frames / or 32 frames at S (Small, 4mp). *when pre-focused.

The fast performance of the HX9v is rather impressive, with the quickest continuous shooting available, the quickest shot to shot time with or without flash, and a very quick switch on time (only beaten by the Canon Powershot SX230 HS). The camera also has the fastest focusing time, joint with the Fujifilm FinePix F550. The Panasonic Lumix TZ20 should in theory be able to match the HX9v and has the largest number of continuous shooting options, and very good shot to shot times, quick focusing, and quick switch on time.

Canon Powershot SX230 HS Performance

The Canon Powershot SX230 HS produces images that have good detail and excellent colour. Here are some sample photos you can enlarge.

Canon Powershot SX230 HS Portrait
Portrait Flowers

The portrait shot came out well, however there is very slight red-eye noticeable in this photo, and better results can be produced by using the red-eye reduction flash.

Forest Clubhouse

White Balance Performance

AWB Tungsten Light
Tungsten Preset - Tungsten Light
Auto White Balance - Incandescent lighting Incandescent preset - Incandescent lighting
AWB Fluorescent Light
Fluorescent Preset
Auto White Balance - Fluorescent lighting Fluorescent preset - Fluorescent lighting

Auto white balance under incandescent lighting produced images with a yellow cast, and using the incandescent preset produced much better results. Auto white balance under fluorescent lighting produced very good results and there is very little difference between the auto white balance and the preset.

ISO and Noise Performance

ISO speed test: Click on the thumbnails for larger images
ISO100 ISO200 ISO400
ISO800 ISO1600  ISO3200

Noise is good, thanks to the fact that levels are low right up to ISO1600, with the results looking good. At ISO3200 noise becomes very noticeable. Using ISO100 to ISO400 noise is very low, and again at ISO800 noise is low.

Some zoom
Wide-angle (28mm equiv) Mid-zoom
Full Zoom
Scuba Divers
Full 14x optical zoom (392mm equiv) Scuba Divers

The optical zoom provides an impressive zoom range from 28mm equivalent to 392mm equivalent, helping you zoom into distant subjects and view high levels of detail. The wide angle end isn't as wide as some of the other pocket-zoom cameras, however, this does give you quite long telephoto reach.

Some of the creative modes and photographic features are shown below:

Miniature Boat
Miniature effect Toycam effect
Canon Powershot SX230 HS Black and White Mode Canon Powershot SX230 HS Shot
Black and White Mode Rusty boat

The creative modes can create some artistic shots, and can make some otherwise boring shots more memorable, using the modes available: Smart Auto (32 scenes detected), Program AE, Shutter priority AE, Aperture priority AE, Manual, Easy, Movie Digest, Portrait, Landscape, Kids & Pets, Smart Shutter (Smile, Wink Self-Timer, FaceSelf-Timer), High-speed Burst (3.0MP), Best Image Selection (3.0MP), Handheld Night Scene, Low Light (3.0MP), Creative Filter (Fish-eye Effect, Miniature Effect, Toy Camera Effect, Monochrome, Super Vivid, Poster Effect, Colour Accent, Colour Swap), Beach, Underwater, Foliage, Snow, Fireworks, Stitch Assist.

Beyond this, the camera also has a "My Colours" mode, the options are: My Colours Off, Vivid, Neutral, Sepia, Black & White, Positive Film, Lighter Skin Tone, Darker Skin Tone, Vivid Blue, Vivid Green, Vivid Red, Custom Colour.

Macro Performance

Clock at St Pancreas
Macro Watch Clock at St Pancreas Station

The Canon Powershot SX220 HS allows you to be 5cm away from your subject, this produces good macro photos with high levels of detail, and good colour.

Video Mode

Canon Powershot SX230 HS Sample Video.

The video quality is very good recording Full HD videos with stereo sound, and allows the use of optical and digital zoom. The optical zoom is much slower when recording, however this means that less lens noise should be picked up on the video.

Value for Money
The Canon Powershot SX230 HS is available for £265 - which prices it very closely with the competition, the Panasonic Lumix TZ20 with 16x optical zoom at £270, the Fujifilm FinePix F550 EXR priced at £229 with RAW support, the Sony Cybershot HX9v with 16x optical zoom priced at £299, and the Casio Exilim H20G available for around £215, although it features a 10x optical zoom lens instead.

Canon Powershot SX230 HS Verdict

The Canon Powershot SX220 HS is a very good camera, the SX230 HS adds GPS and some additional body colours, however compared to other pocket zoom cameras with GPS, the SX230 has slower continuous shooting, and there is less difference between the SX220 and SX230. That's not to say that the SX230 isn't a good choice if you want GPS, it's just that if you were choosing between the SX220 and SX230 and didn't need GPS, then there would be no real reason to buy the SX230, whereas the other cameras with the addition of GPS make a much more compelling case for buying the more expensive model. If you are looking for the most compact pocket zooms with GPS, then the SX230 HS is a good choice, and the use of a 12 megapixel CMOS sensor means noise is very low.

ePHOTOzine Recommended Award
The Canon Powershot SX230 HS is one of the smallest pocket zooms with GPS, and produces low noise images.
Canon Powershot SX230 HS Pros:
GPS built in - one of the smallest
Full HD video with stereo sound and optical zoom
Compact with an excellent 14x optical zoom lens
Good image quality - excellent colour
Built in optical image stabilisation
Low noise upto ISO1600
Images look great on the high quality screen

Canon Powershot SX230 HS Cons:

Some soft corners in images
Slight vignetting at full optical zoom
Some purple fringing in extreme conditions


Canon Powershot SX230 HS Specification

Price £265
Lens 14x optical zoom (35 mm equivalent: 28 – 392 mm) f/3.1 – f/5.9
Resolution 12.1 million pixels
Sensor size 1/2.3
Sensor type Back-illuminated CMOS
Max. Image size 12mp 4000 x 3000
Aspect ratio 4:3, 16:9, 3:2, 1:1
Monitor 3.0in TFT LCD monitor, 461k pixels, 16:9 aspect ratio
Shutter speed 1 – 1/3200 sec. (factory default), 15 – 1/3200 sec. (total range – varies by shooting mode)
Focusing system Contrast detection AF TTL
Focusing modes Face Detection, 1-point AF (fixed to centre), AF Modes Single, Continuous (only available in Auto mode), Servo AF/AE¹, Tracking AF
Focus distance 5 cm (W) from front of lens in macro
File types JPEG compression, MOV [H.264 + Linear PCM (stereo)], iFrame
ISO sensitivity ISO 100 - 3200
Metering modes Evaluative (linked to Face Detection AF frame), Centre-weighted average, Spot (Centre)
Exposure compensation +/- 2 EV in 1/3 stop increments, Enhanced i-Contrast for automatic dynamic range correction
Continuous Approx. 3.2 shots/sec.¹, AF: Approx. 0.8 shots/sec.¹, LV: Approx. 1.0 shots/sec.¹, High-speed Burst (3.0MP): Approx. 8.1 shots/sec.¹, (until memory card becomes full)²
Image stabilisation Yes (lens shift-type), 4-stop. Dynamic IS (in Movie)
Movie mode Full HD 1920 x 1080, 24 fps, Class 6 cards recommended, (Full HD & HD 1280 x 720, 30 fps) Up to 4 GB or 29 min. 59 sec, (L and M) Up to 4 GB or 1 hour, Super Slow Motion Movie (L) 120fps, (M) 240fps
Media type SD, SDHC, SDXC, MMC, MMCplus, HCMMCplus
Interface Hi-Speed USB 2.0, HDMI Mini Connector (HDMI-CEC compatible) A/V output (PAL/NTSC)
Power Rechargeable Li-ion Battery NB-5L (battery and charger supplied)
Box Contents Canon Powershot SX230 HS Digital Camera, Software / Manual CD-ROM, Batter NB-5L, USB Cable, AV cable, Wrist strap, AC power cable, AC Battery charger.
Size 105.7 x 61.6 x 33.2 mm
Weight 223g (including battery and SD memory card)

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Found this review for the Canon PowerShot SX230 HS very useful. Also had a look at Trusted Reviews, some really good reviews on there for this product too. Take a look at the site.

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