HandlingOn first contact, the Ixus 230 HS is a relatively pleasant camera to use. It has a good-quality build and finish, and the new wave effect down the right-hand edge adds a stylish touch. This wavy edge is now also home to the menu button, HDMI connector, wrist-strap connector and Auto mode on/off switch.
The Ixus 230 HS is nice to handle, and its flush-set buttons don't have to be over-pressed. The lens is fixed firmly in place and the battery and memory card compartment door doesn't feel loose when open.
The three-inch screen is a bit bigger than the LCD seen in the Ixus 220 HS. Plus, it has a boosted resolution of 460,000 dots, making onscreen images sharp, clear and easy on the eye. The screen holds its own outdoors too, as it's bright enough to let you see what's going on in most conditions ... apart from full sunlight.
Unfortunately, though, the screen isn't properly calibrated, as its over-keen contrast makes dark shades clump together in black messes and overexposes light greys to white. Similarly, the colour temperature has a blue overtone and colours aren't reproduced with any kind of fidelity. In other words, make sure you check your photos on a properly calibrated monitor before you delete them!
ResponsivenessThe electronics in the Ixus 230 HS are very similar to those seen in the 220 HS. The responsiveness tests therefore came back almost identical and, in spite of the new 8x zoom lens, the new model's start-up time is still the same.
The camera takes over two seconds to start up, which isn't great, but which is still better than the three seconds it takes the 1100 HS to get going. The autofocus is on the better side of average, focusing in under 5/10 of a second in good light conditions, although in low light it does slow down to about a second. Finally, the 2.2 second photo-to-photo turnaround is nothing out of the ordinary.
Picture QualityCompared with the 220 HS, the main new feature of this Ixus 230 HS is the 8x zoom lens. This lines the camera up in-between the 5x zoom of the 220 HS and the 12x of the new 1100 HS in Canon's Ixus range of compacts. Let's take a look at what the new lens can do.
This lack of sharpness in the lens in turn affects picture quality at increasing ISO settings. A drop in quality is visible on a 400 ISO photo viewed at full size, and speckles of noise and smoothing become visible at 800 ISO. In the Ixus 220 HS photos were accentuated to make them crisper and more striking, but there's no point even bothering with that trick if the picture isn't sharp enough in the first place. At 1600 ISO, things are much more problematic—more so than in the 220 HS.
Finally, we found the white balance quite surprising for a Canon camera, as while the firm's snappers usually give rather warm colours, the 230 HS took shots that were more neutral and a bit duller.
VideoThe Canon Ixus 230 HS films 1080p HD video at 24 frames per second. Video images are sharp but the white balance is inconsistent. Our test video features a train set with a train trundling continuously around a loop of track. We noticed that each time the train passed in front of the camera, it would readjust the white balance. Tones were therefore constantly being switch between warmer and cooler renderings.
The main problem with the video mode, however, is the sound. Voices and metallic sounds aren't recorded very accurately, and noises from the camera are picked up in the background (the zoom, for example).