Canon SX230HS - Review and Shooters Report
- An average package of cables, battery charger, software, etc. are included. I'll note that Canon included the small fold in style battery charger I prefer for my battery charging purposes.
- Not quite a bar of soap in the hand, but definitely not a one handed shot grabber for odd angle shooting, just fine in the "normal" shooting position. Rear menu dial is brilliant- serves an ergonomic purpose for your thumb, easy to see your setting, easy to adjust.
- Refined appearance, and build quality is higher than expected
- LCD screen is large, and 16:9 wide, cramps the back a bit there
- The thought of having GPS is exciting- something new for me personally
- The concaved outer edges helps to keep a better grip on the camera, and looks nice too.
- Definitely pants pocketable- passes that test
- Flash pops up all the time- whoa, someone was smoking something at Canon (firmware update disable option, please.)
- Menu system is very nice, almost makes up for lack of external control- like the G12 has for example
- Digital zoom options are well implemented
- AF assist beam included- perfect, good job Canon
- No written manual included- I know we're cost cutting guys but seriously, stop it
- Grid lines- a must in my book, glad to have them here
- Overall pleased with the amount of manual and custom controls for a point and shoot- my expectations aren't all that high but I do require the basics which the Canon has
- Might install chdk for raw advantage, but I want to see how good the Jpegs are first
- No live histogram setting is a bummer, big one. Barely redeems itself though by having a limited one on image review.
- ISO 100 daytime shots (with my sharpening settings) look fantastic for such a small sensor- Canon did a good job on allowing such a low sharpening setting so the photographer can do some minor post processing themselves
- Lens is excitingly sharp on wide angle with very low barrel distortion- huge
- Excellent range of zoom, sharp on the long end of the range too
- f4.5 is the sweet spot of the aperture range, would be sharper at max telephoto if this were the max aperture
- Macro ability is just slightly above average in its execution and ease of use, much better than average in smallest area captured- at its sweet spot and max min focus captured area, this lens is absolutely remarkable for its detail capturing ability. Mixed with my Jpeg settings, you can see the results in the macro sample I provided for yourself. Astonishing if you ask me.
- AF can be fussy in Macro mode if you are shooting distant objects, won't lock (yellow border warning)
- I set sharpening to the lowest level on every camera if I intend to use Jpegs- in this case I do, so I did. Sharpening is quite low at the -2 level and allows me to do it my way after in post processsing- so I'm pleased here. First ISO 1600 shot of myself and daughter was surprisingly low on noise and high on detail. Very impressive for a compact with such a small sensor.
- I like the various volume settings I can customize for startup, shutter, etc- common on Canon's not so much on other cameras
- Nice soft bokeh for a compact at max optical telephoto option- a nice surprise (see bokeh sample)
- Handling wise, something, anything, besides the textured Canon logo should have been included for a grip on the front of the camera. Even some flush inlaid rubber on the front would help matters tenfold.
The first batch of images really tell me about 99% of what I want to know about a camera, in every single case. I've done this for a while now so I have it down pat.
After reviewing my first images, first low ISO capability needs to be mentioned. This is the max image quality I'm able to extract from this camera with as few in-camera processing intrusions as possible (i.e. sharpening artifacts, blown color channels, over saturation, etc). I set the SX230HS at the "Custom Color" setting, reduced Contrast -1, Sharpness -2, saturation -1, and keep the RGB settings centered. This setting configuration allows for the following:
- The lowest amount of sharpening so I can decide how to do it myself
- Color saturation levels to be decided post process if needed
- Highlights and shadows retained as much as possible on a Jpeg
- Lowered appearance of noise at higher sensitivity levels
Results- Not many cameras produce good Jpegs nowadays. By good I mean not heavy handed in the processing in camera- more natural, less sharpening artifacts (jaggies etc), accurate color, etc. The SX230 tends to be much better than the competition here, especially with the settings I'm using.
I compared it to the Panasonic FZ35 which is regarded highly for its image quality- same sensor size, same resolution too. But the Canon beats the pants off the Jpegs- Raw image quality on the Pana is a different story but it isn't all that much better- if it is at all. Optically too, the Canon wins out over Panasonic's Leica lens. Great performance here especially at low ISO settings.
Canon's HS system works notably better than many of the recent IS systems I've used, including the G12's which I own and adore. HS is not all hype folks, it works darn good. I'm able to hand hold 392mm equivalent telephoto shots at 1/30th of a second without blur- that's better than my DSLR systems that I can recall. Your results may vary of course.
This is a massive zoom range for a pocketable compact. Luckily the IS (HS) system works effectively so that when you are holding the SX230 at arms length, telephoto images come out sharp. Here I've made samples of the zoom range at 28 mm and 392mm effectively. Talk about a good camera to bring to the Zoo, a sporting event, or a concert. It's also not a bad camera for bird watchers or hikers watching pack weight either.
As I noted in the first part of the review, the macro function isn't the easiest to use because the best magnification is on the wide end of the lens and you have to be nearly touching your subject. I prefer instead to zoom out a bit, and give myself about a 10cm focusing distance. This way I don't scare off subjects and I'm still able to get really nice close ups. Here is a sample at the wider end of the macro range. In my opinion, this is a pretty stellar performance, look at the fine hairs on this Grasshopper. For an idea of the scale of this image, the Grasshopper is about 1" long total.
- No live histogram "what the..."
- Flash pops up no matter what when you turn the camera on (really Canon?) "what the.."
- No icons for EV compensation, Focus, or Timer Options
- Slippery to hold most of the time
- No written manual- some people actually do read them Canon "what the..."
- No optical viewfinder
- Couple of missed focus images in the bunch (not a user error)
- Better than your average compact image quality by far (Top point and shoot? Maybe!)
- Sharp lens, incredible zoom range
- Just enough manual options and features to keep most enthusiasts happy
- Pocketable, though not the smallest compact I've used
- AF illumination lamp for total darkness focusing
- Fast autofocusing
- Big bright self amplifying LCD screen (good in bright sun)
- Fun and useful scene and special shooting modes like Low Light, Toy Camera, and Miniature modes
- Full HD video with excellent stereo sound, zooming during video, etc. Slow Motion option too (at 240fps x 320 wide resolution)
- Two speed zooming for precise zooming control, or get it quick before its gone shots
- GPS (didn't get to dive into this much, but im sure its a welcome feature
- Good prints to 13x19" at base ISO, 5x7's look surprisingly good at ISO 3200
- Pretty darn good battery life for such a small battery
Bottom Line Conclusion
Features wise, this is a point and shoot but it's got more in the menu system than I'm accustomed to seeing. Item's are including that can help a learning photographer grow and learn fundamentals. For serious enthusiasts who want a pocketable camera, the choice might not be that easy, but the Canon SX230HS makes a great case for this role. Take a look at it.
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