The PowerShot SX230 HS builds on the core strengths of the excellent Canon PowerShot SX210 IS pocket megazoom camera, while adding a few notable features.

Big changes in the Canon PowerShot SX230 HS include the camera's 12-megapixel "HS System" CMOS sensor, which replaces the SX210 IS's 14-megapixel CCD sensor and adds high-speed shooting, enhanced low-light sensitivity, and 1080p video capture to the feature set. Following the lead of pocket megazooms such as the Casio Exilim EX-H20G, Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS10, and Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX5V, the PowerShot SX230 HS also has an internal GPS antenna that geotags photos as you take them.

The sum of all those parts is the Canon PowerShot SX230 HS: a solid all-around pocket megazoom performer that offers manual controls, a selection of creative settings, and very good image quality.

Digital photography advice

Canon PowerShot SX230 HS: Hardware and Design

The 12-megapixel Canon PowerShot SX230 HS kicks things off with a 14X-optical-zoom lens (28mm to 392mm; F3.1 to F5.9) that has excellent optical image stabilization. Handheld shots at full telephoto turn out tack sharp, but macro performance is less than outstanding: You can get a crisp shot of an object if it's about 2 inches away from the lens in good light, but focus struggles at closer distances and in darker environments.

Traditional manual controls, such as aperture-priority mode, shutter-priority mode, and independent manual control of each, are included. The PowerShot SX230 HS also offers manual focus controls, which you operate via the camera's back-mounted scrollwheel.

The manual, aperture-priority, and shutter-priority selections are among 13 presented on the PowerShot SX230 HS's back-mounted mode dial. The dial itself is a bit cluttered with icons, but it does lock into place nicely with each selection, and it provides quick access to a number of frequently used shooting modes. Auto mode, Portrait mode, Landscape mode, and a fast-shutter/high-ISO Kids & Pets mode are all directly accessible via selections on the mode dial.

Other entries on the mode dial include a stripped-down "Easy mode," access to the camera's full menu of scene modes, an effects menu that includes a handful of creative filters, and a Program mode that lets you manually adjust ISO, white balance, and other settings. You get two movie selections on the mode dial, as well: a dial selection for video mode, as well as a Movie Digest Mode that captures short video clips every time you take a shot and then stitches them together. The camera also has a dedicated video-record button for accessing movie mode more quickly.

All in all, the mode dial is one of the best we've seen in the pocket-megazoom class for easily accessing a wide array of settings, and sometimes you get multiple options for accessing individual settings. The in-camera menus will be familiar to anyone who has used a Canon point-and-shoot--they're clear, intuitive, and easy to navigate using the camera's combination scrollwheel and directional pad.

Like last year's PowerShot SX210 IS, this camera has no raised handgrip. Instead, the peripheral edge of the PowerShot SX230 HS is grooved; you're meant to grip it around the frame with your index finger resting in the groove. The design is unconventional but comfortable, though you'll want to test it out if you're a frequent one-hand shooter. One nice touch is that the mode dial acts as a sort of thumb rest when you're shooting one-handed, making the camera feel more secure in the hand.

The 3-inch LCD on the back is your only viewfinder, but it's a good one. Visibility is good even in direct sunlight, and on-screen images and text look sharp and colourful. The camera's pop-up flash is made of plastic and feels adequately sturdy; you can activate it via in-camera menus or simply flip it up and down with your finger.

At 1.31 inches deep, 4.16 inches wide, and 2.42 inches tall, the PowerShot SX230 HS is a fairly tight fit for most pants pockets. Slightly smaller than most competing pocket megazooms, it's an easy fit for a jacket pocket or purse.

Group test: what's the best digital camera?

NEXT: shooting modes and performance >>