Canon PowerShot SX230 HS Digital Camera Review$349.99
The Canon SX230 HS is quite small for the amount of physical hardware and control it provides. It's an easy camera to pick up and manipulate with a single hand, with its physical mode dial providing the thumbrest. The front of the camera is just a smooth brushed metal material, with Canon's logo raised up from the body itself. We really feel that, self branding aside, the camera could've benefited from having some sort of rubberized material on the front section. When shooting barehanded it's not much of an issue, but as soon as you try to hold the camera with gloves on the lack of friction really becomes an issue.
The Canon SX230 otherwise handles pretty well. All of its buttons and dials provide excellent haptic response, making a clearly audible clicking sound when activated. The buttons all have unique slopes that just slightly provide identification without having to look right at the button. The movie button, for instance, is sloped upwards slightly, with its red dot a seperate inlay on the button, giving it a slightly different feel. These little touches add to the shooting experience and just make the SX230 HS easier to use overall.
Buttons & Dials
Nearly every inch of the back of the Canon SX230 HS that isn't taken up by the camera's 3-inch rear LCD is occupied by the camera's various dials and buttons. Canon's really wasted very little space, using large buttons with clear labels that are sloped just slightly differently from the buttons beside them. It's a subtle design choice, but it aids usability by improving ergonomics, making it easier to find the key you're looking for.
The SX230 HS features two dials on the back of the camera, one unlabeled for scrolling through the menu and controlling various settings and the physical mode dial itself. The mode dial on the back of the camera is a bit of a rarity (it's usually on top), but by putting it on the back it's able to be much larger than normal, housing a full 13 different individual settings with symbols that are just large enough to be readable. The mode dial requires a little bit of extra effort to move, but that's good because it also doubles as the camera's thumbrest, so resistance is anything but futile, preventing errant shooting mode changes.
The rear control dial is also quite nice, with only a little bit of resistance allowing you to quickly make rather sweeping changes to whatever setting is activated at the time. It also functions as a four-way directional pad, letting you make finer changes when navigating a menu. The one part that we dislike about the rear control dial is that it has functions assigned to it by default (such as flash settings, self-timer, etc.), but it's completely unlabeled. The result is you'll sometimes bring up a menu that lets you choose macro focusing and have no idea how you got there.
The Canon SX230 HS does not come with a viewfinder of any kind, instead relying on its rear 3-inch (diagonally measured) LCD, with a resolution of approximately 460k dots. As with some other newer Canon models, the LCD has an aspect ratio closer to 16:9 than the camera's native 4:3, resulting in black bars along the sides of your live view image by default. This keeps the various shooting setting readouts off the image, which helps in composing, but does end up with less screen real estate devoted to your image than with cameras that have a 4:3 3-inch LCD.
At the maximum zoom ratio, blurriness is quite severe. The SX230's optical stabilizer will create a relative improvement to sharpness, but in the grand scheme of things, even the stabilized image won't be very appealing. Our test is based on percent-improvement though, and this stabilizer does technically increase detail by 52% on average.