Were you to set the Canon DC230 right next to its little brother, the DC220, you would be hard-pressed to tell them apart. Besides slightly darker accents, the DC230 looks identical to its little brother. Both DVD camcorders sport the same size, shape, and design, measuring 2.1 inches thick and weighing a relatively svelte 15.9 ounces with battery and DVD. However, the similarities run deeper than the skin. Apart from its higher-resolution 1.07-megapixel sensor and bundled remote control, the DC230 shares nearly the exact same characteristics as the DC220.
Unfortunately, that means that this camcorder shares all the same irritating design flaws as its predecessor. A flimsy-feeling joystick and three awkwardly placed menu buttons dominate the DC230's control scheme. While the joystick doesn't feel quite as bad after some practice, the three menu/function buttons remain almost impossible to access without obstructing the LCD screen. You can use the viewfinder while pressing those buttons, but that approach has its own problems since the buttons are difficult to press without shaking the camera. Also, the viewfinder is nearly flush against the camcorder's body and can't extend, so your face mashes up against the controls as you peer through it.
Very little separates the DC230 from its little brother in terms of features. Both cameras sport the same 35x, f/2.0-5.0 zoom lens, the same 2.7-inch wide-screen LCD, and the same two-channel Dolby Digital recording system. They both also sport miniSD card slots for taking still photos, but don't expect to make decent prints from the DC230's photos. Because the DC230 uses a 1.07-megapixel sensor, it can only produce 1,152x864 still photos, at best. Though there's no manual aperture control, the DC230 does have a handy shutter-priority exposure mode, and, if you use it wisely, the camcorder's pictures can turn out well enough for e-mails and Web sites. Unfortunately, you can only do so much with a 1-megapixel image. If you plan to take still pictures, you should spend the extra $150 to 200 for a dedicated budget snapshot camera instead. Even at that price, you can count on far better photos than the DC230.
Besides the higher-resolution sensor, the DC230 sports one minor upgrade over the DC220: a remote control. It's not the most surprising or revolutionary upgrade, but it helps to justify the camcorder's $50 premium over the DC220 a little bit more than if it only featured a new sensor. Considering the camcorder's slightly awkward controls, the remote control offers a welcome alternative for playback and menu navigation.