Some quirks of the Canon SX230HS

I have now had my camera for several weeks and am fairly comfortable using it. In the process I have found several things I really like as well as some quirks I am not quite as happy with.

What I really like:

• Image quality – For a camera that takes up as little space as it does the image quality is outstanding.

• General controls – Easy to access and “feel” right to me.

• The super zoom – The 14x zoom is incredible, and combined with the pretty good digital zoom works wonders for landscape and wildlife shots. A few days ago while out hiking on a perfectly clear day I took a max digital zoom picture of Tokyo Bay from a mountain approx 45 miles away and you can tell there are ships in the bay. Not the cleanest of images, but not bad for no tripod after having been hiking for 5 hours at that point.

• Image stabilization – I would have never believed I could end up with a sharp image at 14x zoom in twilight conditions without a tripod.

• GPS logging – although it eats battery life and has no navigation function (not even a way to display the track it has logged), at the end of a day it is interesting to see the track, particularly when out hiking or meandering in the city. GPS reception isn’t always that great when under trees or in concrete canyons, but it’s not far off of my dedicated GPS unit when I have checked them against each other.

• Low light capability – I find myself taking lots of pictures in the woods while hiking, and this camera does an amazing job with the limited available light.

• Options – It’s very, very nice to have a camera that is small enough to go nearly anywhere and can be pulled out for a quick snapshot of a passing scene or dialed in to a specific setting in manual mode.

Quirks I am not as happy about –

• Auto exposure lock – setting the AE lock is a very awkward process of half-holding the shutter while pressing another button – but the button is not where my thumb is when I hold the camera, so more often than not I end up moving the frame while setting it and don’t get what I wanted.

• Turning on by pressing the “playback” button – On more than one occasion I have taken the camera out of its case and found it powered up and showing a slideshow of recorded images. In one case this had nearly drained the battery. It turns out that if you press the “playback” button with the camera turned off, it will turn on and start playing back the images. The trouble is that the included wrist strap has a hard plastic piece just the right length away from where it is connected to the camera that it can press the button. Unless you remember to put it in the case with the wrist strap on the lens side this is always an option, and I would prefer not to have to think about it.

• File naming – A matter of personal preference here, but I quite like the way some other companies include the date in their automatic file names.

• GPS track log format – The track log is listed as being NMEA 0183 Message Format Compliant, but I received an “unsupported file type” error when trying to load it into a different software package that uses NMEA 0183. While you can use the software included with the camera to plot it on Google Maps, when you try to export it (Google Earth compatible .kmz format is the only option) the result is a swath along the equator.

• GPS logger power – Unlike most GPS logging devices, the GPS logger on the camera does not feature any form of an inactivity timer to power off the function when no motion is detected (which is the main part of why it eats battery life). While in some cases this is useful, for example when you stop for lunch and then forget to turn it back on, in most cases it is not, for example when you stop for the night and forget to turn it off.

• Lack of in-camera battery charging – This seems to be common now, but I feel the less that I have to take things in and out of the camera the less chance there is for something to break. Although the battery compartment door seems robust enough (recalling that it was this door breaking on my old camera that led to me having to buy a new camera in the first place) the latch inside the battery compartment that holds the battery in seems a bit on the fragile side.

• A fragile-looking output connection door – With my broken door experience on the prior camera seeming to have been due to a fatigue failure of a plastic latch, I am sensitized to this kind of issue. The output connection door on this camera is latched in place by two small plastic hooks that seem to have to flex when the door is pushed in place in order to hold the door closed. Since I tend to download the pictures at the end of a day, that turns into quite a few cycles over the course of a few years and I am concerned about the longevity of this piece.

• Unprotected glass display screen – This also seems to be common now, but I prefer the glass of the display screen to be surrounded by a bit of a bezel so that if placed down on it’s back the glass isn’t directly on the surface and waiting to get scratched. As a workaround I bought a non-adhesive “trim-to-fit” screen protector from a 100 Yen shop. It reduced the screen clarity and sharpness a bit, but now I am not nearly as worried about scratching the display.

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