Review: Canon PowerShot S230 Digital ELPH
Keller, DCRP Founder/Editor
Originally posted: Tuesday, October 29, 2002
Wednesday, October 30, 2002
PowerShot S230 Digital ELPH ($399) is the first 3 Megapixel
in Canon's popular line of ultra-small cameras. The model numbers
in this line are confusing, with an S200, S230, and S330. To clear
2 Megapixel, 2X optical zoom
3 Megapixel, 2X optical zoom
2 Megapixel, 3X optical zoom
S230 isn't just a higher resolution ELPH -- it also incorporates
the new DIGIC image processor and iSAPS technology, also found in
the more expensive PowerShot G3.
DIGIC processor improves performance and photo quality. iSAPS stands
for Intelligent Scene Analysis based on Photographic Space. The
system is a database of photographic data, which has been accumulated
by Canon over the last 60 years. When you press the shutter release
button halfway, the camera compares the current scene to the scenes
in the database, and choose the best settings for that situation.
the first ELPHs appeared a few years ago, a lot of competition has
cropped up. How well does this latest ELPH hold up against the crowd?
Find out now!
S230 is known as the Digital Ixus V3 in some countries.
in the Box?
PowerShot S230 has a very good bundle. Inside the box, you'll find:
3.2 (effective) Mpixel Canon PowerShot S230 camera
rechargeable Li-ion battery
featuring Canon Digital Camera Solutions and ArcSoft Camera Suite
page camera manual + add'l software manual (both printed)
includes a 16MB CompactFlash card with the S230, which should be
enough to get you started. But you'll probably want to buy a larger
card soon after you get the camera. The S230 supports all Type I
CompactFlash cards, which means you can get a pretty large card
S230 uses the same battery as the current Digital ELPHs, which is
the NB-1LH. This lithium-ion battery has 3.1 Watt/hours of power.
Canon estimates that you'll be able to take about 295 shots with
50% LCD usage, or spend 130 minutes in playback mode. That's not
bad at all for a little camera. Long time readers of this site know
that I'm not a big fan of proprietary batteries, but it's unavoidable
with these ultra-small cameras.
Battery charger + battery
thing I love about these little PowerShots is the battery charger.
It plugs right into the wall, with no cables to worry about. It
takes 130 minutes to charge the battery.
S230 has a built-in lens cover, so there is no lens cap to worry
are some interesting accessories available for the camera. One of
my favorites is the WP-DC600 waterproof case ($240), which lets
you take the S230 up to 100 feet underwater. Another interesting
item is the CBC-NB1 car battery charger, which is $70. The S230
can also print directly to many of Canon's printers, including the
CP-10 and CP-100 photo printers reviewed on this site. For those
looking for lens or flash accessories, you're out of luck.
includes their excellent Digital Camera Solutions software, as well
as ArcSoft's Camera Suite, with the S230. The main programs in the
DCS software package are ImageBrowser/ZoomBrowser (Mac/PC names),
PhotoStitch (a great panorama creation product), and RemoteCapture
(which lets your Mac or PC control the camera over the USB connection).
Canon's software continues to be head and shoulders over the competition.
Best of all (for us Mac users, at least), all the software is Mac
OS X native.
A hastily prepared panoramic image, made with
camera manuals have always been better than average, and that is
the case with the S230's as well.
look and feel of the S230 isn't any different from previous Digital
ELPHs. It's still a very small, all metal camera. The metal body
means it's very durable, but at the same time, it scratches easily.
Also, it's heavier than a plastic camera would be, but most people
won't be bothered by that.
S230 is very easy to use with one hand or two. It slides into your
pocket with ease. The official dimensions of the camera are 3.4
x 2.2 x 1.1 inches (W x H x D), and it weights just 180 grams.
begin our 360 degree tour of the S230 now!
S230 uses the same Canon 2X optical zoom lens as the S200. The focal
range of this F2.8 lens is 5.4 - 10.8 mm, which is equivalent to
35 - 70 mm. Not surprisingly, the lens isn't threaded, so don't
expect any lens attachments. A 6.4X digital zoom can be used for
additional zoom power, but using it will lower the quality of your
little hole just to the northeast of the lens is the microphone.
above that is the built-in flash. The working range of the flash
is 0.47 - 3.0 m at wide-angle, and 0.46 - 2.0 m at telephoto.
item to the left of the flash is an autofocus-assist lamp. This
bright light is used to light up a subject, to assist the camera's
AF system in focusing when lighting is dim. I wish all cameras had
S230 has a bright and sharp 1.5" LCD display. Unlike some other
cameras I've reviewed recently, the LCD here is high resolution,
with 120,000 pixel resolution. Images move smoothly on the LCD as
you point the camera around in different directions.
above the LCD is a large (relatively speaking) optical viewfinder.
It does lack diopter correction, so if your vision isn't perfect,
you won't be able to see clearly.
are four buttons below the LCD, including one which does a whole
lot of things. From left to right:
- the "ok" button for the menus plus changes between
auto, manual, and Stitch Assist modes.
- turns LCD on and off, plus info shown on it
compensation (+2EV to -2EV in 1/3EV increments)
balance (Auto, daylight, cloudy, tungsten, fluorescent, fluorescent
effect (Off, vivid, neutral, low sharpening, sepia, black
photo - in playback mode or right after a shot is taken
of the menus accessible via the multi-function button
S230 has some nice manual features, as you can see. This includes
manual white balance, and a photo effect feature which lets you
change the color between regular, vivid,and neutral. Pressing the
"set" button moves you between auto, manual, and Stitch
Assist modes. In auto mode, most of the settings are locked up --
manual mode gives you access to everything. Stitch Assist is a helpful
tool used to create panoramic shots. Using Stitch Assist along with
the PhotoStitch software on your PC can produce some impressive
the right of those buttons is the four-way switch, which is used
for menu navigation and more. That includes:
- Metering (Evaluative, spot)
- Flash (Auto, auto w/redeye reduction, flash on, flash off, slow-synchro)
- Drive (Continuous shooting, self-timer) - continuous shooting
is at 2 frames/second
- Focus (Macro, infinity)
switch at the far right opens the CompactFlash slot door. Just above
that is another switch, which moves between playback, movie, and
isn't a whole lot on the top of the camera. The on/off switch is
nice, because you have to hold it down for a second before the camera
turns on. I like this since it's easy to accidentally turn on some
cameras I've looked at.
to the right of that is the shutter release button, with the zoom
control wrapped around it. The controller moves the lens (somewhat
noisily) from wide-angle to telephoto in about a second.
this side of the camera, you'll find the digital/AV output, under
a rubber cover. Here's where you'll plug in the cable for USB, A/V,
or direct printing.
on the other side, behind a fairly sturdy plastic door, is the CompactFlash
slot. This is a Type I slot, so no Microdrives!
can also see the 16MB CF card that is included with the camera.
here's the bottom of the S230. Here you can see the metal tripod
mount and the battery compartment.
the Canon PowerShot S230
PowerShot S230 starts up very quickly -- it takes just over 2 seconds
to extend the lens and prepare for shooting. Press the shutter release
button halfway, and the camera locks focus in about one second.
Pressing the button fully results in a picture with minimal delay.
speed is excellent as well: just over two seconds pass before you
can take another shot. If you have the review feature turned on,
half-pressing the shutter release will ready the camera for another
a look at the image size and quality choices available on the S230:
shots on 16MB card
(included with camera)
2048 x 1536
1600 x 1200
1024 x 768
640 x 480
no TIFF or RAW mode available on this camera. The camera names files
as IMG_yyyy.JPG, where y = 0001 - 9900. The camera maintains the
numbering even if you erase the card.
S230 has the same, easy to use menus as the other Canon cameras.
Items in bold are only available in manual mode.
Here's a look:
(Large, medium 1, medium 2, small)
(Superfine, fine, normal)
speed (Auto, 50, 100, 200, 400)
(on/off) - turns multi-point autofocus on and off
(2, 10 sec)
(Off, 2-10 sec) - for showing image on LCD after it is taken
number reset (on/off) - if turned on, camera will reset file numbering
with each new card inserted
rotate (on/off) - automatically rotates portrait shots on LCD
long shutter feature lets you use long exposure times, a must for
low-light shooting. Just don't forget your tripod. The shutter speed
range is 1 - 15 sec, with many points in between. This is unmatched
by any other ultra-small camera.
is also a setup menu, with basic items like date/time, card formatting,
power saver settings, and more. You can also switch the USB mode
between Normal and PTP.
enough about menus, let's do photo tests now.
S230 did a nice job with the macro test. Colors are nicely reproduced,
and not over-saturated like the two Kodak cameras I reviewed previously.
The only real complaint I have is that Mickey's nose isn't in-focus
like the rest of the figure. The focal range in macro mode is 10
- 47 cm at wide-angle, and 27 - 47 cm at telephoto.
S230's night shot turned our decently. The camera took in plenty
of light, and the buildings and bridge are pretty sharp. There is
a bit of noise found mostly in the middle of the picture. The noise
seems to be most prevalent over the bright areas of the image. The
S230 does have a noise reduction feature which is activated at shutter
speeds slower than 1.3". The image above was shot at 1".
have one word to describe the redeye test results: yikes. This is
some pretty serious redeye, even with redeye reduction turned on.
At the same time, I'm not terribly surprised, as the flash and lens
are very close together. Note that I enlarged this crop a bit so
you could see the details. By the way, redeye can usually be corrected
fairly well in photo retouching software.
from redeye shot, the image quality that the S230 produced was very
good. There was a bit of noise in the sky, but nothing major. Purple
fringing, AKA chromatic aberrations, were not a problem either.
After reviewing two cameras which really over-processed their images,
it was nice to see sharp, high resolution images that don't look
like they went through the "Impressionist" filter in Photoshop.
Don't just take my word for it -- check out the photo
gallery and judge the photo quality for yourself.
S230's movie mode is much improved over the previous Digital ELPHs.
You can't record until a memory card is full, but you can record
for a pretty long time.
S230 can record at three resolutions: 160 x 120, 320 x 240, and
even 640 x 480. On previous PowerShots, you were limited to like
4 seconds at the highest resolution. On the S230, you can record
for up to 30 seconds at 640 x 480! At the lower resolutions, it's
3 minutes. I should add that the included 16MB CF card can't actually
hold that much video.
is recorded with the movies. That also means that you cannot use
the optical zoom during filming.
have two sample movies for you. One at 320 x 240, the other at 640
x 480. Be warned, the 640 x 480 movie is big!
to play movie (2.4MB, 320 x 240, AVI format)
Can't view it? Download QuickTime.
to play movie (10.6MB, 640 x 480, AVI format)
Can't view it? Download QuickTime.
kind of panned around too quickly on that bottom one, sorry about
that. Hopefully it still gave you a good idea of what to expect
in movie mode.
S230 has the same, excellent playback mode of other Canon cameras.
The thing that sticks out the most about the playback mode is the
speed: everything is very responsive.
S230 has all the basic playback features that you'd expect. That
includes slide shows, DPOF print marking, image protection, thumbnail
mode, and zoom and scroll.
zoom and scroll feature (my term) lets you blow up the picture up
to 10X, and then scroll around in the zoomed-in area. It's very
nice feature is the ability to rotate photos. You can also mark
photos for transfer to your e-mail program, assuming that you use
S230 provides a lot of info about your photos, including a histogram.
It moves through images fairly quickly as well -- just over one
second elapses between photos.
Does it Compare?
the whole, I'm pleased with how this latest Digital ELPH performed.
The PowerShot S230 is a very responsive camera in terms of startup,
shutter lag, and shot-to-shot speed. It offers quite a few manual
controls too, including white balance and shutter speed. Did I mention
the small metal body? On the downside, I was disappointed with how
the redeye test turned out. I also wish the S230 had a 3X zoom rather
than just 2X. Perhaps Canon will come up with such a camera in the
future. But at the present time, the S230 is a 3 Megapixel camera
that you should definitely consider.
good photo quality in most situations
elegant metal body
movie, playback modes
an AF illuminator lamp
average battery life for a small camera
I didn't care for:
it had a 3X zoom lens
other low cost 3 Megapixel cameras to consider include the Canon
PowerShot S30, Casio
QV-R3, Fuji FinePix 3800
Kyocera Finecam S3x
EasyShare DX4330, Minolta
DiMAGE Xi, Nikon
Coolpix 3500, Olympus
D-550Z, Pentax Optio 330GS
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-P7
and the Toshiba
PDR-3320. It's a lengthy list but it shows that you have a lot
of choices -- and that you need to do your homework before you buy!
always, I recommend a trip down to your local reseller to try out
the PowerShot S230 and it's competitors before you buy!
how the photo quality stacks up in our
a review of the S230 at Steve's
welcomes your comments or questions. Send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Due to my limited resources, please do not send me requests
for personal camera recommendations.