In use, the SX230 performs very well in all respects. From being switched off the camera starts up and becomes ready to use in less than a couple of seconds. Autofocus performance is pretty quick in good light, although it can take longer for the camera’s contrast-detect system to find focus in poor light. The SX230 has a built-in AF assist that can be called upon if required, just so long as the subject falls within its reach.
Using the zoom also proves pretty speedy. Using a stopwatch we consistently timed its full extension from 28mm to 392mm (and back from 392mm to 28mm) at a fraction over two seconds. If you’re more concerned with accurate framing than speedy zoom extension then the spring-loaded zoom control can also be used to make fairly minute and thereby precise alterations to the focal overall length.
With such a generous focal range it’s good to know that the SX230 contains built-in image stabilisation technology that offers four extra stops. We found it to work very well, both when using slower shutter speeds in low-light, and when using the camera at the furthest reaches of its telephoto capabilities. We even managed to get sharp images at as low as 1/10sec with the zoom at its full 328mm extension.
If you really need to go beyond the 14x capabilities of the optical zoom, the SX230 also offers a digital zoom that can magnify things up to 56x. It’s worth noting, however, that because the digital zoom is essentially just a crop and magnification of the optical zoom, images recorded using it come out at a lower resolution and look far inferior to those produced by the optical zoom. As a last-resort though, it does have the potential to occasionally come in handy.
With the camera’s drive mode set to single-shot, processing between each shot takes just under two seconds. Thankfully, there’s also a continuous drive mode option, which we timed at a fraction over three frames per second. Using continuous drive, we were able to record more than 50 consecutive images without filling the camera’s buffer. It’s also possible to set the camera to employ AF tracking alongside continuous drive, for uninterrupted shooting of moving subjects. Within the Scene mode sub-menu there’s also a High-Speed Burst option that shoots 8fps at 3-megapixels.
As with the vast majority of GPS-enabled cameras it’s not possible to get a lock-on while indoors, and can initially take some time to lock-on when used outdoors too. There is the option to leave the GPS in an ‘always on’ state, although this does of course have a negative impact on battery life. The GPS data itself is accurate to within a few feet and Canon bundles in some software that allows you to trace your journey on a map.