Now keep in mind that the resolution on the new camera is actually a little less than the older one (12MP vs 14MP). When I originally wrote up the SX210, I thought 10MP would be on the high end (the Canon PowerShot G series has both a bigger sensor, and 10MP, and it gets really nice pictures, squeezing more pixels onto a smaller sensor seemed like a chore and likely to increase noise).
The 230 uses the standard Canon Digic sensor, where the 210 was a break away for Canon and used a CCD (actually I was not aware of that initally). Canon really spec'd out the 230 to be better in low light than the 210 (and needed the processing of the Digic sensor to do that). All these pictures were taken with similar settings (and either mostly auto, or for the last one, I specified ISO 800). Click the pictures to get a bigger view.
Lets start off by looking at a full zoom. This picture is 14x across the store (over the TV section). Not terribly dark, but dark enough to make photo's challenging.
Now since I used auto, both took different approaches. The SX210 used ISO 800 and a 1/13 exposure. The SX230 went to ISO 1600 and had a 1/20 exposure. Funny thing is, based on the ISO, I would have thought the SX230 would have more noise (it had the higher ISO), but as you can plainly see, it is cleaner. So far, the SX230 is meeting its claim as the less noisy picture.
Lets keep with text for a minute, but remove the zoom. Honestly the zoom performance should be the same as it is the same lense (really the sensor is the only quality difference, there is GPS, but I am not reviewing that as I do not see the need, I always name my pictures based on where they were taken).
This was taken off a sign right in front of me in the camera department. Again, on auto settings, the SX230 had the tendency to double the ISO. In this case the SX210 used an ISO-500 and 1/50 exposure (F/4 for apeture, in the zoom shot above, the apetures were identical at f/5.4). The SX230 bumped the ISO to ISO-1000 and the exposure to 1/80 (apeture was f/3.5 not much different, there are not alot of choices on these cameras).
There was a bit of noise in both of these, but the SX230 definitely outdoes the SX210 even with the ISO setting doubled. This is looking pretty good for the SX230 (and I am trying to justify an upgrade).
However, text is sort of easy, lets do a portrait. This will be a zoomed in section (just above the left eye). Keeps my model happy (as she does not make the blog, she was not ready for her picture) and allows us to again look for the noise.
Now things start to get interesting. First, there is a little difference in size. Part of it might have been not being zoomed exactly (or leaning etc), but part is also the number of MP (14 vs 12). However, trust me, either would print out more than spectacular even at 8X10, and both could even go larger (I have done 6MP on 13x17 and it looks good). However, that is not the issue.
The SX230 is begining to look softer. Now this is not totally fair as the mode was portrait, and softness is often desired in a portrait, but the SX210 is definitely sharper (the fear is the SX230 is softer due to noise reduction being done post processing). Note the SX210 was ISO 200 1/60 f/3.1 and the SX230 was ISO-320 1/60 and f3/1. The fact that everything but the ISO is the same does mean that the processors interpreted this differently (might be light around her, zoom etc).
So the portrait brings up a possible problem (but it could be a one off picture issue as well). Finally need to look at something to verify that. In order to remove the ISO issue the last two pictures were taken at ISO 800 (so we are comparing apples to apples, not just marveling that the SX230 has less noise with a higher ISO). Note the exposure was identical as well in the following pictures.
The first image is a highlyt zoomed in image of a camera and its sign on an end cap (the end cap had the point of focus, so it should be fairly sharp).
Both pictures are noisy (it is not bright in the store, even if it looks it to the eye). However, the SX230 both looks less noisy and a little sharper. However, here the difference does not seem as pronounced as it did in the text above (though still more than obvious). Lets grab one more section from this photo. We had a small gamer playing an xbox, who was nice enough to stay in the frame for both shots. Note that these snips are not taken from the focus point, so they are expected to be a little out of focus.
Ok, so no face, but we have his pants, and that verizon guy asking if you can hear him. The SX230 is definitely sharper and less noisy at the same ISO as the SX210. So Canon did hear the complaints and made the improvements. I have not decided if it is enough better that I want to spend the $300+ to upgrade (they are not cheap cameras), but you can make your own decision.
It would be interesting to take many portraits and compare to see if it was just a single picture, or if there is some noise reduction algorithm involved (I would not be surprised if it were the later as that is listed as one of the improvements in the new camera). However, changing modes seems to change the noise reduction (as it should), so you should have plenty of control to get the picture the way you want (and with less noise than on the SX210).
One thing to note. I keep my SX210 in auto mode, but have the P program mode set for ISO 200 and flash on (I can turn off the flash by pushing it down). I probably use both of these modes as often (the ISO 200 allowed me to keep the noise to a reasonable level). I think the same would have to be done on the SX230. It seemed to want to increase the ISO. Though there is less noise than with the SX210, still a lower ISO could make even a cleaner picture. It would take some playing with to figure out.
After this, I am back to comparing the SX210 to my HTC Inspire (I wanted to take a break after the below comparison to see how the SX210 stacked against its newest update - as the HTC Inspire performed fairly well so far against the SX210). So come back (I might even be able to compare some infrared pictures from both).