The search for the perfect go-anywhere-catch-any-scene-fits-in-your pocket-doesn’t cost a fortune camera is a lot like the search for the perfect woman: neither one exists. The good news is that some women get close, and I’ve found a camera that gets close as well – just as hard as most of you know well enough.
The SX230HS has earned good reviews from most sources, and just now it came tops in DPReview’s latest travel zoom group tests. Together with the Nikon S9100. http://www.dpreview.com/reviews/q311travelzoomgrouptest/ . I decided to review the Canon because the Nikon is a fully automatic Point & Shoot, while the SX230 has full manual controls.
The compact market is getting mighty crowded
It’s the crowded space where big digicams and small Electronic Viewfinder Interchangeable Lens cameras have been converging. The EVIL makers have been working hard to make their bodies even smaller, and have now reached the natural limits of their designs. The size comparison below is enlightening:
Panasonic GF-3 108 x 67 x 33
NEX C3 110 x 60 x 33
Olympus PEN MINI E-PM1 110 x 64 x 34
Canon PS SX230HS 105 x60 x 33
The bodies are all within millimetres of each other, and not much bigger than the Canon which is big for a digicam but not for a superzoom. Just as with women, the body is less than half the story. In the case of EVIL cameras, the lenses let the bodies down, and that is the penalty the designs carry for using decent sized sensors. Here’s what I mean:
I won’t continue the analogy with women in case it causes offence. Let’s just say that there’s a huge imbalance here between the ultra-slim body and the enormous lens here, and this is a modest 18-55 lens. Here it is side-on:
And here’s the Canon’s retractable lens, all the way out to 400mm in 35mm speak, and please note that all of the black rings disappear right into the body until we see this:
The bottom line is: the Canon SX230 fits into a normal pocket, something even the smallest EVIL bodies with the smallest pancake lenses cannot do. This Canon’s lens goes from 5 to 70mm, which translates to 28-390mm in the old 35mm format, or 18-260mm in APS-C/Nikon DX speak.
Whichever way you look at these numbers, that’s a colossal range in a pocket camera. Look at the photo above of the NEX-C3 with the 18-55 lens, and the problem is clear: a bigger sensor is a nice idea, but the lenses designed for these sensors will be big as well.
That’s the usual stumbling block with the tiny sensors of digicams. The Canon has a (by today’s standards) modest 12mp sensor, CMOS type, backlit. It’s better than I expected. As always, click on the images to see larger files.
I'm really impressed so far. Part 2 will have to wait until next week, though.