Canon PowerShot SX230 HS Review

Canon PowerShot SX230 HS Review


As DSLRs do not seem to be shrinking in size there still seems to be room in the kit bag — or pocket! — for a highly featured compact that can handle much of the shooting you need. And besides, could you really afford a 14x zoom for a DSLR?

Canon PowerShot SX230 HS 2.jpg

Canon’s PowerShot SX230 HS is a trim little model, packed with features that set it above many of its peers.

Canon PowerShot SX230 Features

The lens travels through a zoom range equivalent (in 35 SLR terms) of 28-392mm.

Its 12.1 megapixel CMOS sensor can capture a maximum 4000×3000 pixels, enabling a final 34x25cm print.

Canon PowerShot SX230 HS 1.jpg

Canon PowerShot SX230 HS 3.jpg

Shoot Motion JPEG movies and you can capture at 1920×1080 pixel resolution and 24fps. You can also shoot slow motion video, from 120 to 240fps at smaller resolutions (640×480 or 320×240 respectively).

You record movies by pushing the now-familiar little red button on the back of the camera. Auto focus and exposure is continuous but you can’t shoot stills while recording video. Tough!

Continuous shooting? A range of speeds, from 0.8 to 3.2 shots/second, varying with the focus options chosen. For example, you can bang away at 3.2 shots/second if you are happy with the focus point chosen when you depress the shutter button.

Autumn trees sun 1.JPG

In exposure options, you can enjoy auto, Program AE, shutter or aperture priority and manual. These are useful choices if you know how to use them to catch interesting pictures. For instance: in shutter priority you can capture dreamy, blurred motions shots of subjects such as waves breaking over rocks.


For the less techy, there are 32 scene modes that ease the choices of shooting monochrome, panoramas, etc.

There’s also built in GPS tagging, which is always on, even when the power is switched off. The GPS feature identifies and logs location information in the image’s data that you can read, using the supplied Map Utility application.

The PowerShot SX230 HS is available in black and red.

Canon PowerShot SX230 HS ISO 100.JPG

Canon PowerShot SX230 HS ISO 400.JPG

Canon PowerShot SX230 HS ISO 800.JPG

Canon PowerShot SX230 HS ISO 1600.JPG

Canon PowerShot SX230 HS ISO 3200.JPG

Canon PowerShot SX230 ISO Tests

The shots appeared to be clean of noise and colour artefacts right up to ISO 1600; only when we reached ISO 3200 did any problems arise, and even then they were not major problems. A very good performance.


At the wide end of the zoom there was some evidence of barrel distortion but at the tele end no sign of any problems.

Startup Time

The camera was quick to start up, taking only two seconds before you could fire the first shot. Follow-on shots came in at a slower speed, a little more than a second apart.

Tree trunk.JPG

Verdict on the Canon PowerShot SX230

I liked the camera because of its small size and easy operational scheme. I liked the longish zoom and Full HD movie capability … I am a great fan of these compacts that can shoot high quality home movies and stills. Bring them on!

I did however, find the rear control dial a little confusing in its operating manner. Maybe I needed more time with it!

Quality: for its size, this has to be one of then best performers around.

Why you would buy it: small, decent length of zoom.

Why you wouldn’t: you will need time to suss out the controls.

Unlike all too many compacts, the mode dial on this camera is not subject to accidental shifts: roll it to a setting and it stays there! Got me!

But I hated the tiny black power button. Hard to find in a hurry!

Canon PowerShot SX230 Specifications

Image Sensor: 12.1 million effective pixels.
Metering: Evaluative, centre-weighted, spot.
Sensor Size: 11mm CMOS.
Lens: f3.1-5.9/5.0-70mm.
Exposure Modes: Auto, Program AE, manual.
Shutter Speed: 15 to 1/3200 second.
Burst Speed: 0.8, 1.0, 3.2 fps.
Memory: SD/SDHC/SDXC, MMC, MMCplus, HC MMCplus cards.
Image Sizes (pixels): 4000×3000 to 480×480. Movies: 1920×1080, 1280×720, 640×480, 320×240 at 30fps.
Viewfinder: 7.5cm LCD screen (461,000 pixels).
File Formats: JPEG, QuickTime Motion JPEG.
Colour Space: sRGB.
ISO Sensitivity: Auto, 100 to 3200.
Interface: USB 2.0, AV, HDMI mini, DC input.
Power: Rechargeable lithium ion battery, AC adaptor.
Dimensions: 105.7×61.6×33.2 WHDmm.
Weight: Approx. 223g (inc battery and card).
Price: Get a price on the Canon PowerShot SX230HS at Amazon.

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Canon PowerShot SX230 HS
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Barrie Smith is an experienced writer/photographer currently published in Australian Macworld, Auscam and other magazines in Australia and overseas.

Some Older Comments

  • Mulesknner September 12, 2011 02:04 am

    I have been a long time out of photography... stopped when I lost access to a darkroom. I started to get the itch a year or so ago...

    First off... this is not a DSLR and that's OK with me as I'm not able to afford one... nor would I stick one in my back pack when MTN biking. I tried some of the "tough" cameras, but their trade off "tough" vs image quality was too much for me.

    I wanted something that would let me shoot easily when I was at family functions, but allow me control when I was out on my hikes or bike rides (so it had to be small). I have been fortunate enough to try about 5 different cameras(without cost to me) before I found this one. It's not a DSLR but I don't have the $$ for a good one. Low light photos are fantastic (when I start posting check out "Skyline over my House") the image was shot @ 1/8 of a second with my hands over my head...

    The auto focus for quick spontaneous shots is spot on 90% of the time... if you pick the correct photo mode it never misses.

    The macro shots have been just as much fun!! As the manual provides lots of insight on different ways to get most out of the camera for macro shooting.

    The manual controls were a bit tricky to understand, but once I understood how the interface worked it has been easy to use... I like the manual focus... all too often the processor really doesn't know what I'm looking for... but does a great job with the fine tuning focus once I'm where I want to be...

    I'm no professional... I just enjoy leisure shooting; as long as my image is controllable and consistent... this camera did it all for me...

    All in all I'm very pleased!!

  • Sunil August 22, 2011 10:19 pm

    To Barrie Smith,
    Thank you Barrie. The live histogram would have been great to an already superb camera. I hope there is some firmware upgrade from the guys at cannon labs on this one.
    Thanks again!!!

  • Barrie Smith August 22, 2011 11:13 am

    To Sunil

    I cannot recall — but the manual says that the histogram appears in playback. Probably playback only.

  • Sunil August 22, 2011 01:33 am

    Does the Power shot SX230HS have a Live histogram as in almost all the Sony cameras? If there is one please let me know how do i activate that setting.I see the histogram only AFTER i have taken the shot.

  • v June 30, 2011 04:35 am

    @ carol it doesn't compare to the g10 or the g12. i have both. the g12 is better than the g10!

  • marc June 24, 2011 09:28 pm

    there`s an review here:

    notice the unusual high amount of CAs (chromatic aberration) produced by the lens...well, zoom lenses
    are always a compromise.

  • marc June 24, 2011 09:22 pm

    for lowlight & avialable light photography, which is also a term within live concerts (often dark, etc.) this
    camera lens is simply too slow (F/3.1 at the wide angle is really nothing) compared to a typical DSLR
    prime lens with F/1.4 or F/1.8, but without zoom the other hand, F/3.1 is not much slower then
    usually zoom lenses starting at F/2.8....i`d go for a Olympus XZ-1 or Panasonic LX5...both have much
    better lenses (in terms of being faster & quality concers) and also these compacts have the ability to
    shoot in raw...i always shoot raw...except the rare moments when i travel with my "retro" sony dsc v1 cam....

  • Geert June 24, 2011 04:43 pm

    Been looking for a aditional "pocket" camera to take with me to concerts and things like that. Places where I just can easily bring my DSLR. I'm thinking about this one, but can't really find any information as to how the camera holds up indoors at concerts (Read, less light, etc.).

  • mari June 22, 2011 06:21 am

    Looks like a great little camera, but I think I'm with you on the Canon G series. I have the G9, which I got in early 2008 and though I originally thought I'd keep it until it died on me, I'm kind of intrigued with the G12. Do you have any reviews of the G12? cheers, mari

  • marc June 20, 2011 10:24 pm

    well, for those who want a larger zoom area into a small, decent package...this SX230 would be enough & nice,
    even for some HD videos. i still love to use my "old-fashioned" digicams which are Sony DSC-V1 & Olympus C-5050 Zoom, both "only" have 5 MP, and a 3x, or 4x Zoom Range, but with decent SLR-like Controls &
    in Case of the Olympus, a way fast F/1.8 Lens at the Wideangle. I use both as a Backup for my Nikon D40
    SLR, so that i don`t need to change the Lens from the ordinary 18-55 VR Kit Lens to the 35mm F/1.8G Lens,
    when i need something for avialable light, or bokeh effect.

    of course, old digicams like the mentioned sony & olympus can`t compete with todays offerings, but i like
    the fact that they both share a (compared) bigger 1 1/8" sensor size, with "only" 5 megapixel, the now a days
    small 1/2.33" to 1/2.7" mini-size sensors in digital compacts really have smearing image quality sometimes
    already visible at only ISO 100 and up...of course, today*s picture processors are much better than 7-8 years
    ago in terms of producing more noise-free images, and thus allowing higher iso choices.

    i would never buy a compact or mini digicam with 14-16 MP and just a small as mentioned sensor today,
    resolution is not everything, for instance the difference between 5 to 6 MP is very small, and you need at
    least 4 times more MP for a really double wide resolution.

    well, i am just a amateur photographer. :-)

  • Paul June 14, 2011 09:58 pm

    To MM From Vancouver -

    I'm in the same situation as you. I had an S3 and most recently an S5. The S5 died during a canoe mishap so I'm looking for a replacement.

    I love the little 300 HS but I've got an old SD1000 that is small and competent enough. So I really just need another camera with zoom for now.

    The SX230 seems like a perfect option as a go anywhere camera since it is so small compared to the S5 and yet has almost the same zoom range.

    I believe that the 300 HS and SX230 HS have the same CMOS 12.1MP sensor. So the performance should be similar.

  • John D. Roach June 11, 2011 12:00 am

    I do not think you should be promoting cameras that do have a viewfinder! Sorry, but that is essential to the true photographic experience. Furthermore, the LCD is frequently so hard to see on cameras that to use only an LCD. To frame an image and determine what is being composed is a bit of a joke. Please re-evaluate these notions if DPS is truly a school promoting excellence in photography and not just the latest consumer fad. Thanks for listening.

  • carol June 10, 2011 11:00 pm

    Awesome - thanx. That makes my decision easy!

  • Barrie Smith June 10, 2011 12:30 pm

    To Carol

    IMHO Canon's any late model in G series would be superior to the SX30 HS. For one thing, the G12's sensor is larger.

  • GradyPhilpott June 10, 2011 12:01 pm

    Honestly, I'm just not interested in a camera without a viewfinder. I have nothing against an LCD screen, but they are useless in bright sunlight. I'd rather lug around a dSLR any day than to try to shoot blind. I guess on compact cameras the viewfinder has gone the way of the running board.

  • Tony Payne June 10, 2011 04:01 am

    I do like the Canon Powershot series. I have had an A630 for the last 4 years, and it's taken some great photos.

    I would like to upgrade to a DSLR, but there is one feature that I really would miss if I replaced my A630, the ability to rotate the screen. This makes taking shots high up, low down or of yourself really easy. It's saved my back numerous times with low shots, and removed the need for shooting through fences or between people's heads too.

  • MM from Vancouver, Canada June 10, 2011 02:13 am

    I own a number of cameras which I bought progressively as they came along, each with better performance and technology from the previous ones. I used to be a serious amateur, having been in photography since the 60's and over that period have owned the complete series of Canon SLRs. Now I am 60 years old, close to retirement and travel a lot. Carrying heavy bricks like the Canon and Nikon DSLRs are no longer for me. I want a small compact that has a good zoom capability with a minimum of 28 mm at the wide end plus good low light and high ISO performance. Your test seems to address something I need. Right now, I have a Canon S3-IS, Canon S5-IS with 12X zoom, and a Casio with a small 3X zoom. My daughter bought a Panasonic Lumix compact with a 12X optical zoom and my youngest son came home recently with an almost perfect compact - a Canon Powershot 300 HS with a 5X lens. This latter camera has a wonderful full HD video capability with stereo sound. I have tested this unit during a recent NHL hockey game and did low light, high ISO shots and they all turn up more than acceptable compared to my previous units. Actually, I was more than impressed and ecstatic when I saw the results. I went to Costco and had a couple of pictures blown up to 24 x 30 (I think that was the size) and they would compete with the ones I have blown up from pictures I took with my DSLR. I do not expect to have pictures printed to a size any bigger than that. Unfortunately, the zoom ratio (5x) is not sufficient for my needs. Would this unit (230 model you just tested) compare in performance to the 300? I am also looking at the Fujifilm F550 EXR which is slightly bigger, but with a 15X zoom, EXR processor, excellent low light and high ISO capability. I would appreciate your comment. Thanks.

  • Jennifer June 10, 2011 01:28 am

    How did you find the shutter delay? That is one of the things I now hate about a point n shoot. When I press the shutter I want the picture to happen, not press-pause-pause-pause-click.

  • carol June 10, 2011 01:19 am

    I have a Canon G10. Do you know how the SX230 compares to the G10 or G12? I'm looking for a upgrade.