Comparing the new SX230 HS with the compact it usurps, there's very little difference in terms of control layout and dimensions.
Offering the same combination of metal front and back plates, combined with a plastic silver strip that encompasses the top plate and sides of the camera, the SX230 HS feels solid in the hand. Its chunky body, with all of its protrusions to accommodate various features, has a reassuring weight to it that adds to the impression of robustness, however it is a little too slippery and unbalanced to facilitate easy one-handed shooting.
As a result, you're likely to find yourself wanting to steady the camera with your left hand, which would be fine, save for the fact that the camera's built-in pop-up flash is a little too eager to please, automatically popping up every time you power on the camera. It's positioned precisely where you naturally want to grip the camera with your left hand, so there's an inevitable battle between photographer and pop-up flash every time you forget about this little quirk. Happily however, if you decide flash isn't required for your shots, you can simply push the little unit back down, where it clicks into place and sits flush with the top panel once again.
The top panel is where we see the most notable change to the interface, with the power button being relocated to the sloping section of the back panel to make way for the integral GPS module that occupies a raised hump beside the zoom-lever-encircled shutter release (note the SX210 IS' fiddly old zoom lever is no more).
Around the back, the control layout is exactly the same as that of the earlier model, with the SX230 HS' large, bright 3-inch LCD dominating much of the real estate. While its dimensions may be the same as its predecessor's, Canon has upgraded the resolution from 230,000 to a far more impressive 461,000-dots. While shooting stills however, only the central portion of the screen is used, with various icons and shooting information filling the black bars that flank the Live View display on either side. Fire up the SX230's Full HD movie mode however, and the whole of the 16:9 format screen is employed.
The LCD offers a detailed view - in the absence of any additional viewfinder - with a wide viewing angle and effective anti-reflective coating that makes it a joy to use.
The SX230's remaining controls comprise a rotating four-way d-pad that provides your means of navigation through menus and on-screen options. Touching it lightly calls up an on-screen graphic that tells you which functions the directional keys provide softkey access to, namely exposure compensation, flash, self-timer and focus mode. Otherwise there's self-explanatory dedicated movie, playback, menu and Disp. (display) buttons, each of which is well-proportioned and easy to locate with your thumb.
The well-stocked mode dial offers the same array of manual and automatic modes as the SX210 IS, with the exception of the addition of Canon's new creative filters, which we'll look at in the next section.
As well as an Auto mode that cleverly decides what it is you're photographing and selects the best scene mode for the job, there's an additional Easy mode for those times when all you want is a basic point-and-shoot. There's plenty of presets and scene modes to delve into too, along with the full complement of Program, Aperture and Shutter Priority as well as Manual exposure modes. With a good balance of modes geared towards both beginners and more advanced photographers, the SX230 HS has something to offer just about anyone.