As with the rest of Canon's recently-launched compacts boasting their latest back-illuminated sensors, image quality from the SX230 HS doesn't disappoint. We've previously been impressed by the HS sensor's ability to handle noise in high ISO photos and the story remains the same here: shots stay remarkably clean right up to ISO 800, with usable results still being produced at the top of the camera's sensitivity range - albeit with a fair degree of softening and some loss of contrast.
Generally, images are sharp (save for those shot at the telephoto end of the camera's colossal focal range, where softness increases) and faithfully coloured, with a good level of contrast. There is some notable distortion at either end of the lens' focal range, but nothing that you wouldn't expect from a camera of this ilk.
The creative filters option on the mode dial that we mentioned earlier comprises a bank of special effects, each of which adds a different look to your images in-camera: a fun feature to explore, particularly if you're Photoshop-shy. The effects include Fish-eye, Miniature, Toy Camera, Monochrome, Super Vivid, Poster Effect, Color Accent and Color Swap - all of which produce decent results.
The SX230 HS' Full HD video mode is fairly crisp and detailed when shooting in good light, with relatively smooth panning, but where it really shines is its stereo sound capture. It does fall down a little when it comes to shooting video in low-light however, where results aren't as impressive as this camera's high-ISO stills.
Battery life is the SX230 HS' biggest bug-bear, with the quoted figure of around 210 shots - which isn't great to start with - falling even further if you want to use the GPS feature you've no doubt purchased the camera for. Speaking of which, in order to make full use of this feature you really need to be shooting outdoors on open ground - move under cover or indoors and you'll inevitably lose the GPS lock. When it works however, results are fairly accurate - use the bundled software to upload your shots to Google Maps and you can instantly keep track of wherever in the world you took your photos.