Canon PowerShot SX230 HS: Canon Finds Its Way!

Canon PowerShot SX230 HS

Canon PowerShot SX230 HS

The company’s first GPS-enabled camera seems to be a winner on paper, but then, how much are you willing to pay for a technology like this? Raj Lalwani tests the Canon PowerShot SX230 HS.

The standing joke amongst all my friends is that I have a phone that is almost always low on battery. That, of course, is because I am always using various applications on my cell phone, a number of which reduce the battery life drastically. The Global Positioning System is one technology that I am always using, to find my way through new places, whether I am travelling outside the city or merely making pictures in the narrow alleys of Mumbai.
However, does this technology work as efficiently on cameras? I asked myself this question as I picked up the Canon PowerShot SX230 HS, wondering whether the GPS technology would give me the same battery life problems that my phone suffers from.

The SX230 HS is Canon’s first compact camera that is GPS enabled. In cameras, this technology uses a dedicated receiver to record the latitude, longitude and altitude information for every photograph that is shot. The SX230 also has a Logger feature. This allows you to log your entire trip, and then charts out an outline on a map once you upload your pictures. The camera has a concept that sounds fascinating on paper, and made me keen to take the camera through its paces.
The SX230 HS shoots high quality Full HD video and also has a Super Slow Motion Movie mode. I particularly enjoyed the Movie Digest mode, which captures a short 4-second video before capturing a still, and then goes on to compile all videos together into one large clip. It almost gives you the highlights of whatever you did through the day, the places you visited and the people you photographed.

In the past year, we have seen a number of pocketable compact cameras that pack in a 10x zoom lens into a really tiny body, but this camera has a 14x zoom, which is great for such a small form factor. It is exciting to see camera design moving ahead at such a rapid pace.
The moment you switch on the camera, the flash pops up. This can be irritating, especially when you are shooting in conditions that do not need the use of flash. One has to physically push down the flash and then resume shooting.
I do not enjoy Canon’s updated user interface, which they have started using in their latest compact cameras like the IXUS 1000 HS and this one. While it looks a lot more attractive, it is not as user-friendly as their previous interface. For instance, to delete a single picture, I need to press a button as many as five times!

The SX230’s autofocus system is very fast. The camera’s shot-to-shot time is excellent, and it is a joy to use on field. The image quality, too, is quite good. At lower ISO settings, the camera produces tack sharp photographs with minimal artifacts. Noise is well controlled up to ISO 800, and even images shot at ISO 1600 are usable, in an
emergency situation.
The GPS functionality may be the highlight of this camera, but it is also its greatest weakness. It saps the battery way too much, and it does not give you more than an hour of shooting. Moreover, if you leave the Logger feature on, the battery of the camera is used up even while the camera is switched off! I charged the battery completely, switched off the camera and went to sleep. When I woke up, the camera showed me a ‘Battery Low’ icon!

The SX230 HS is a very good camera for those who want a mix of stills and video performance. However, I do not think that camera manufacturers are utilising GPS technology that well yet. Of what use is the logging of a picture’s location if the camera’s battery is going to drain out in barely an hour? Moreover, unlike GPS in phones, one cannot use it to navigate from place to place or find places using maps.
A price of Rs 20,995 is quite competitive, considering the zoom, form factor, superb video features and image quality that this camera gives. Though its utility is questionable, technology geeks will enjoy the GPS functionality too.

Final Ratings
Useful zoom range, Full HD video, GPS, Manual mode

Good image quality, extremely fast AF, poorbattery life, especially while using GPS

Build Quality
Sturdy body in a tiny form factor

Inefficient user interface, poor pop-up flash design

Warranty & Support
2 years warranty, 75 service centres

Value For Money: 3/5 stars

Tags: Raj Lalwani, august 2011, Compact camera review, Canon PowerShot SX230 HS, GPS enabled COmpact camera, Slow Motion Movie Mode