The SX230 HS is built around a 1/2.3in backside-illuminated CMOS sensor and Canon’s DIGIC 4 processor. Combined, these two core components account for the HS (High Sensitivity) element within the product name. As the name suggests, the SX230 isn’t just built for near or far photography, but for low-light photography too. Accordingly, standard sensitivity stretches from ISO 100 to 3200, with an additional ‘Low Light’ option tucked away in the Scene mode sub-menu that’s capable of extending sensitivity up to ISO 6400 albeit at a reduced resolution of 3-megapixels.
Interestingly, the 12.1-megapixel resolution of the SX230 represents a small reduction in effective resolution over the 14-megapixel offered by its predecessor – the SX210. This isn’t the first time Canon has reduced effective resolution in order to improve low-light performance. Canon’s flagship G-series has also seen a reduction in megapixels along with a corresponding boost in low-light performance.
Given that 12.1MP should be more than ample for all but the most demanding users, it’s good to see Canon rejecting the renewed trend for ever-larger resolutions in compact cameras. We’ve seen quite a flurry of compact cameras touting 16MP sensors recently, many of which have fallen a bit short in terms of image quality. The primary reason for this is that despite being an attention-grabbing spec, it’s actually quite hard to cram this many pixels on a smaller, compact-sized sensor without negatively impacting on its low-light performance.
Turning to the shooting modes that are on offer, photographers who prefer to work in fully manual mode will be pleased to note that the SX230 offers this option alongside the regular Program, Aperture-priority and Shutter-priority modes that, taken together, make up the creative PASM quartet that will be instantly familiar to regular DSLR users.
Fully automatic shooting options extend to a Smart Auto mode that analyses the scene and automatically selects an appropriate scene mode, plus an Easy mode that delivers hassle-free point-and-shoot photography with the camera automatically selecting absolutely everything. In addition there’s also a Scene mode access point from where you can choose one of the 12 individual scene modes, along with direct-access stops for Landscape, Portrait and Kids & Pets.
In keeping with the recent trend for digital filter effects, the SX230 offers a selection of Creative Filters, with a single stop on the shooting mode dial acting as the access point to a sub-menu of eight individual effects: Fish-eye, Miniature, Toy Camera, Monochrome, Super Vivid, Poster Effect, Colour Accent and Colour Swap.
While we didn’t find any cause to use the Colour Accent and Swap modes, we did find the Miniature, Toy Camera and Super Vivid effects can offer pleasing results when used in the right circumstances. The fish-eye effect is less convincing though, while the posterizing effect of Poster mode and black and white effects of Monochrome are much what you might expect.