The Canon SX230 has plenty going for it in the performance category. It boasts better sensitivity with its HS system that supposedly works great in low-light, and has the formidable and proven DIGIC 4 image processor. The GPS feature is an added bonus to this feature set, and worthy of noting that it performed perfectly without a misstep.
On top of these features, the SX230 offers full 1080p video, filter effects, scene modes and a nice zoom range. Although it's not the smallest pocket cam in the planet, I didn't feel awkward using it shooting in the field from the Santa Monica Pier to the boardwalk of Venice.
The performance of the camera was different for each criterion. The SX210 was actually a tinge faster, clocking in at 0.01, while the SX230 HS clocks in at 0.02 seconds. Where it was really impressive, in the lab and in the field, was achieving AF. It locked focus in s 0.38 seconds, slightly slower than the SX210 though still the fastest in its class among the cameras to which we compared it. The continuous shooting speed was modest and came right in at second place at 2.3 fps without frame restriction, except the obvious buffer memory being too full or the battery dying first.
Shutter Lag (press-to-capture, pre-focused)
|Fujifilm FinePix S200EXR||0.01|
|Nikon Coolpix P100||0.01|
|Canon PowerShot SX230||0.02|
AF Acquisition (press-to-capture, no pre-focus)
|Canon PowerShot SX230||0.38|
|Nikon Coolpix P100||0.44|
|Fujifilm FinePix S200EXR||0.55|
|Nikon Coolpix P100||6||11.3 fps
|Canon PowerShot SX230||∞||2.3 fps
|Fujifilm FinePix S200EXR||6||1.8 fps
|Olympus SP800-UZ||10||1.2 fps
*Note: Continuous shooting framerates are based on the camera's fastest full-resolution JPEG continuous shooting mode, using the fastest media type available (300x CF, SDHC, etc.). "Frames" notes the number of captures recorded per burst before the camera stops/slows to clear the buffer.
The Flash off the camera is fully controllable, and has a recycle time of around 2.5-3 seconds by my calculation (although the manual says up to 10 seconds). The flash distance ranges from 2.5 to 11.5 feet at wide angle, 3.3 to 6.6 feet at telephoto. The flash, even considering the softer slow synchro option, is a little harsh on subjects especially in the shadows. It's not exactly studio quality, but the SX230 HS isn't a professional camera, so it is what it is.
The battery life is quite good and lasted me an entire day of shooting. However, if you use the GPS logger this thing drains too fast. Unless you have a specific use for it, do yourself a favor and make sure you have it off or you'll wonder why your camera never holds a charge. Canon claims that one fully charged battery will last for 210 shots if you don't use any of the filters or scene modes. I found this number to be accurate.
Overall lens performance was pretty good. The camera was able to take clear shots even at full telephoto. However, I did notice that at full telephoto, the ISO is bumped up considerably to quicken the shutter speed to combat image blur. I took a shot at dusk wide, and it shot at 100 ISO, which is not fair to judge it, since the image was a little dark. So I tested it again, in a well-lit room and it did the same exact thing. The wide image came in at ISO 500, and my telephoto image was 1600.
The bottom line is, if you're shooting full telephoto and don't have a tripod, or have the SX230 HS set on a timer in a stable place, you'll likely see a huge bump in ISO.
So what about distortions and other nasty little things? Well, like its predecessor, there was little to no barrel distortion at a wide angle and there is no real pin-cushioning going on with the SX230's lens.
In terms of chromatic aberrations, they were found, but were very minor. Mostly, I found purple fringing when I zoomed in 200% on my images. In areas of high contrast, some purple fringing is obvious, but it was controlled nicely by the SX230 - maybe a little better than the results of the SX210. Also, no vignetting on my test images, but I did catch some lens flare in some of my sunset shots. Even when I tried to shoot away from the sun, some rays still snuck in.
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