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Canon PowerShot SX230 HS First Impressions Review$349.99
Manual controls is the area where the SX230 strives. It has more adjustment options than most cameras of its size, and Canon does a decent job at making these controls accessible to beginners and experts alike. The camera offers manual adjustment of focus, ISO, aperture, shutter speed, white balance, and exposure. Additionally, there are a ton of color controls, picture effects, movie modes, and photo size options on the camera. The presence of these modes and features make the SX230 a good camera to branch out and learn with.
The autofocus on the SX230 worked quickly and efficiently, but certain shooting situations may call for manual focus adjustment. We aren't crazy about the way you adjust focus manually with the camera, as it requires you to use the directional buttons on the back of the camera (rather than a lens ring or dial), but the option is there if you need it. We suggest sticking with autofocus if you can.
ISO can be set manually on the SX230, but the range of controls isn't very large. You can set the ISO to 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600, 3200, or auto.
Aperture & Shutter Speed
The maximum aperture on the camera is f/3.1 with the lens zoomed out to its widest angle. Zooming in to the full 14x optical the aperture becomes f/5.9. You can adjust the aperture manually in the camera's full manual mode (M) or the aperture priority setting (Av). The smallest aperture available is f/8.
The same rule applies to shutter speed, which can be set manually in the full manual mode or shutter-priority setting (Tv). Manually, the shutter speed can be set from 15 seconds to 1/3200 of a second. The camera does not appear to have a bulb option.
White balance presets on the camera include: Day Light, Cloudy, Tungsten, Fluorescent, Fluorescent H, and Underwater. There's also an auto white balance mode and a custom white balance setting that allows you to manually set the white balance.
Exposure & Metering
Basic exposure compensation can be set on the SX230 HS in a range from -2 to +2 in 1/3 EV increments. You can also turn on features like i-Contrast, Program Shift, Safety Shift, and the auto exposure lock if you want to control exposure in other ways. The metering modes on the camera include evaluative, center-weighted average, and center-spot.
The SX230 has built-in optical image stabilization as well as a dynamic IS mode for further image stabilization options.
Picture Quality & Size Options
The camera has plenty of size options to choose from, with the largest being the 4000 x 3000 (12 megapixel setting). The smallest photo size option is a 480 x 480 mode and there are about ten other size options in between. Aspect ratios available on the SX230 include 16:9, 3:2, 4:3, and 1:1. There's also two quality options—Normal and Fine—and all still images are taken in the JPEG format.
Many cameras include cheesy picture effects, and the SX230 certainly has its share. Some of them are fun to play around with, though, but the majority are effects that can be recreated in post production with a basic editing program. Effects include: Fish-eye, Miniature Effect, Toy Camera Effect, Monochrome, Super Vivid, Poster Effect, Color Accent, and Color Swap.
The camera also has a bunch of photo effects that allow you to adjust color depth, skin tones, contrast, and sharpness. These things can be useful for adjusting on the fly, but, again, they can all be manipulated using editing software after the photo is taken as well.
One of the SX230's big new features is its built-in GPS tracker (it's Canon's first PowerShot camera to be equipped with this feature). GPS tracking for digital photos can be fun, particularly if you're traveling in a city and you want to be able to organize your photos by location, but it is also a feature that many users are likely to neglect or care little about. We're not saying the GPS isn't useful, it's just something that may only appeal to select individuals.
The camera comes with a mapping utility that you can install on your computer in order to better utilize the GPS feature. Photos are displayed by location on the map, and you can even create a little route to track where you went during your trip (based on where you snapped photos).