The Canon PowerShot SX 230HS -Review.

Canon PowerShot SX 230HS front powered down

Canon PowerShot SX 230HS front powered down – taken with my iphone camera

The mail van arrived just after Easter and delivered my new Canon PowerShot SX 230HS via Amazon.

Amazon is not my preferred method for the purchase of camera gear, nor do I usually buy anything without trying it out first – but the story is one I’d like to share as part of this review.

These days I own a Canon Digital SLR – sadly it is too bulky and heavy for me to carry around on a daily basis.

Early in March then, I hit the net and began to research a camera that met my requirements for a second camera to take with me everywhere:

1. A small, light, digital camera with manual override
2. A camera easy to find in the depths of my handbag
3. A decent zoom range with a reasonable lens
4. As many megapixels as could be squeezed out of a little camera
5. Great performance in low light conditions
6. GPS

With unerringly impeccable judgement I read about the Canon PowerShot SX 230HS that, I only realised later, had just come off the drawing board. After harassing every camera store in Melbourne and checking out camera forums and websites – I reluctantly accepted that it would be a month or more at least before it would be available for sale in Australia.

The camera was going to be available in black (boring), pink (also boring) and blue (not as boring as the former colours – but seriously, what’s wrong with purple or green or plaid, oh well, maybe not plaid). According to the Canon website – Australia was only to get the pink and black versions and, of course, I wanted the blue.

So, I found a blue SX 230HS for pre-order on Amazon and after agonising about it for a few days – I finally ordered and paid for one – together with priority delivery from the States. Then I sat back to wait. Cue one monster earthquake with Tsunami chaser for the following day.

Inevitably, Canon was one of the many companies hard hit by the Japanese earthquake. Canon tragically lost staff and plant in the devastation. I resigned myself to an indefinite but probably lengthy delay.

I was mistaken – Canon rallied and Amazon notified me that they were expecting stock in the second week of May – yah! I was doubly delighted when on the Thursday before Easter, DHL landed in Melbourne carrying my precious little package and Australia Post finally delivered it into my waiting arms on the Wednesday after Easter.

So is worth it? You bet. Suffice to say – it fulfils my requirements and delivers many features that I didn’t expect in such a small package.

Canon PowerShot SX 230HS lens fully extended

Canon PowerShot SX 230HS lens fully extended – taken with my iphone camera

1. Dimensions (W 105.7 x D 61.6 x H 33.2 mm) not including the lens when extended, the depth with the fully extended lens is 80mm.
Weight 223g (including battery and memory card). It is fully auto and fully manual and everything in between as well as an abundance of preset shooting modes. According to the Canon Australia website the RRP is A$499.00.

2. It’s tiny so I bought it a brightly coloured sturdy padded zippered case which serves both to protect the screen and iris covering the lens and makes it immanently visible to both hand and eyes when it’s hiding in the cavern of my handbag.

3. The Canon has an impressive 14x Optical Zoom plus an additional 4X digital zoom making for an incredible film equivalent range of 28mm through to around 390mm from one small but mighty lens.

4. It is only capable of 12 megapixels (4000 X 3000 pixels) depending on which aspect ratio you choose), it’s true — but that’s still better than most compacts as well as letting me print out a A2 poster size if needed.

5. With a standard ISO sensitivity of up to 3200, it never ceases to amaze me how well it works in low light conditions. Having said that, tonight our little valley was engulfed in fog and I went out a couple of times. The pictures here were taken as the the fog was lifting. Since then I have located several other features for taking night shots – so these are taken on Auto with no further processing.

Street light after fog has lifted

Street light after fog has started to lift

Looking towards the far side of the valley after fog has started to lift - unprocessed

Looking towards the far side of the valley after fog has started to lift – unprocessed

6. GPS – why? You may well ask. In 1996, Thatch and I travelled overseas for the first time and while travelling and photographing (I had a beautiful Olympus 35mm film camera then and Thatch a Sony Mavica) – we lamented about not having access to GPS location data for our photographs. We were journaling daily and uploading these entries together with pictures and videos to our website. These days it’s called blogging or twitting or facebooking and everybody, their relatives and livestock do it – but back then it was unusual. The luxury of GPS would have allowed us to accurately name some of the landscape features that we visited and photographed.

15 years later and the rest of the world has finally caught up with one of the many items on our wish list. The SX 230HS GPS data is in a separate log file rather than in the EXIF file as I expected, nor does the GPS work indoors, but despite these limitations it’s possible to log my photographic journeys on Google Earth.

Screen capture of mapping function - exports to Google Earth.

Screen capture of mapping function – exports to Google Earth.

Add to all that the fact that my camera is blue – need I say more? Maybe a bit more:

Pluses – light, compact, powerful. SD memory chip plugs directly into my MacBook Air or in the case of my PC, the camera attaches through a USB 2 interface cable. It records HDMI video clips of up to 30 minutes in duration. It has all manner of special effects, some useful – such as the hi speed burst mode (8.1 shots per second) and super slow motion video (120fps) and some are totally inexplicable – such as the toy camera, the miniature and the fisheye effects.

Minuses – I have noticed some lens distortion – although I’ll allow that could have been user error. The camera does not come with a printed manual. It’s a bit of a tap dance to access some of the functions – such as Macro focussing for example – you have to access the menu to set it to ensure that it works reliably otherwise if you are in Auto mode – it may or may not select it for you. Finally, and I’m certain this is the case with all point and shoot cameras, the shutter cannot be locked open for extended exposures.

Essentially it’s a camera of compromises for me – but on balance I am very happy with it. Being able to carry it in the basket of my treddlie as I explore the river valley bike paths near my home, is something I would never consider doing with my DSLR. Not surprising considering how often I’ve dropped my bike or fallen off or gotten tangled in it.

Canon PowerShot SX 230HS -back of camera detail

Canon PowerShot SX 230HS -back of camera detail – taken with my iphone camera

The camera controls are all on the right side of the large LCD screen (not so good if you are a lefty – and I‘m not – but great for single handed operation) and given my previous experience with digital cameras – logically laid out and reasonably easy to use (providing I have the manual on hand for anything more than the standard shooting modes as my memory is not what it once was). I particularly like the location of the soft touch on/off button, in fact it beats the poor location and dreadfully fiddly design of the on/off switch on my Canon DSLR (not practical for anybody with fingernails). Same company completely different way of doing things – just saying.

In sum, it’s the most fun I have had with a point and shoot since Thatch bought a Sony Mavica in the 90’s. I remember that some people were rather scathing about the Mavica then, but neither Thatch nor myself could understand the criticism. Certainly a few more than 2.1 mega pixels would have been useful – but it was an excellent and versatile camera nevertheless – truly the Polaroid of it’s time.

Meanwhile back to the Canon SX 230HS – the image colour balance is pretty accurate; once you set the correct white balance and the stability adjustment is just wonderful making even my increasingly wobbly picture taking acceptable.

I confess I use it often in automatic mode because the software usually does a more than adequate job and I seldom have cause to use the flash. In part that’s because it is rarely on – cupping the camera in my hand effectively holds the flash down at start up. It saves media in JPG and MOV formats. It has auto and manual focus.

Just a few words about the esthetics of Canon PowerShot SX 230HS. THE 3.0 inch screen takes up most of the back of the camera. The shell of the camera is made from matte anodised aluminium I’m guessing. The finish of which has a very satisfying and sensual appeal to it. The edges are smoothly bevelled and the function buttons are unobtrusively set into the contours. It fits beautifully into a small hand and despite having little heft to it – it is easy to manipulate and keep steady unlike other digital compacts that I have owned or used.

So now for some more pictures:

Flower growing in my front yard

Flower growing in my front yard


Maribyrnong river reflects the bank veretation

Maribyrnong river reflects the bank vegetation


quarry face through foliage

Quarry face through foliage


Glass vases in afternoon light

Glass vases in afternoon light

Last year I broke a cardinal rule of my photographic lifetime and instead of buying a new film SLR camera, I chose a digital instead. It doesn’t really matter why – oh well, so many reasons really, but mainly seduction by pixel meant that I had largely abandoned the slide film that was the mainstay of my photography.

My favourite all time digital camera was the Sony Mavica that my husband Thatch had bought quite a few years back. It was the Poloroid of it’s generation but a bloody good camera as well – but while Sony released many upgrades – they never built a Mavica that could rival an SLR. So I dabbled with digital but always returned to my first love until the print quality began to approximate film. I had also discovered that you could do so much more in the digital darkroom than I ever could in my real one.

Since taking photos without a flash has always been the golden ring for me. The canon EOS 50D came with many megapixels (suffice for a decent print size) and a sensor that could take a photo in an unlit closet. Yep, many megapixels meant that I needed a new faster bigger stronger computer to handle the processing of these megapixels. No no! Stop twisting my arm!

The canon I purchased is a brute of a thing – heavy; made more so by virtue of the dual battery pack I’ve installed. All this weight exposed a limitation. Taking a sharp picture was proving difficult except in the best of lighting conditions. What to do? I needed stability so that I could focus effectively – that much was obvious. A tripod takes up much more real estate than is sometimes practical and takes up too much time setting up when you are on the move. I have a gorilla pod (small flexible tripod) for those times when it is useful – but I scoured the net for an overall solution.

Joolsus the grey

Joolsus the grey

In the end I bought a slik monopod; but it is heavy too and I often feel like Gandalf the Grey when I walk about with the chunky leg extended staff-like, topped by the mystic eye of my camera and telephoto lens. But it does work and together with the pistol grip ball head that pivots smoothly and locks securely – I have a solution that is largely successful and marvellously adaptable.

It is not the final solution though. There has to be something out there that is small, light and compact but strong and stable, perhaps like a waist mounted, shoulder supported steadycam like unit for my camera with a pistol grip and ball head that also lets me move around easily and that folds out of the way when not in use and is repositioned in milliseconds.

So that’s my wish list – anybody have any ideas?

P.S The accompanying photograph was taken with the Sony Mavica.

Here is my latest work. It started life as a sketch of my husband Thatch while he was reading. I then painted it in Illustrator, using a Wacom tablet. I completed the painting over two days. I am very pleased with it – although I still have a lot more to learn about this amazing program.

Thatch drawn then coloured in Photoshop illustrator

Thatch drawn then coloured in Photoshop illustrator

Illustrator has always intimidated me – but it can do so much more than I ever imagined. Thanks to all the people out there on the net whose tutorials I devoured and in turn learned many of the techniques that I used and some that I made up in the course of experimentation.

It has been too long since my last post so I thought it was time to pick up my tools and begin again with a brand new theme.

Lots of things have happened in the last 12 months, the best thing is that I am now freelancing as a designer for both web and print. This is week two and I feel as though I’m on holiday. I expect that will change as I get used to the new routine.

I’m still reorganising, sorting and weeding – clearly I have a ways to go but my expectation is that my pontifications will be regular again – or perhaps that should read – at last.

Finally this afternoon, I have selected a pastel that I did of a blue vase. The vase itself was not as wonky as mine turned out.

Blue vase - pastel

Blue vase – pastel

Let me know what you think of the new theme.

With the deadline for my end of semester looming, I’ve been working on a poster that I’m trying to illustrate. I hadn’t intended it but this drawing of my former cat Molly will be a part of the final work.

Molly in pencil

Molly in pencil

You were probably expecting the interview with Doreen Backway and I do apologise that I haven’t posted it yet, but I will. Meanwhile indulge me because I happen to like the picture. It is based on a photograph that I took of her a couple of years ago.

If anyone is interested, it is being done with mechanical pencil on cartridge.

Logging off, Jools