DPInterface Canon PowerShot S5 IS Review
The PowerShot S5 IS is Canon's latest ultra-zoom for 2007. While the S5 IS is a larger an upgrade than the S2 to the S3, it still isn't a radical departure from its predecessor - more of making a good camera even better. The new features and changes include:
The Canon S3 faced some very stiff competition last year and it's no different for the S5. So how will the camera fare? Let's get started now.
Size and Weight
(266.9) 113.4 x 78.0 x 75.5 mm (410 g) - Canon PowerShot S3 IS
The Canon PowerShot S5 IS has gone up in size and weight since the S3. Overall, the S5 IS is an ultra-zoom of average size. No, it will not go into your pants pocket, no ultra-zoom camera in its class will, so you're gonna need at least a small camera bag.
Open up the Box
The Canon PowerShot S5 IS has a pretty standard bundle:
Storage and Power
The Canon PowerShot S5 IS comes with a tiny 32 MB card so I'd recommend getting at least a 2 GB high-speed card right away with your camera, more if you're planning to record lots of video. The PowerShot S5 IS takes advantage of high-speed cards with a noticeable performance increase as well as supports SDHC cards (above 2 GB). Apparently the S3 IS also supports SDHC cards but there was no word of that in its manual.
550 shots - Canon PowerShot S3 IS
I don't know what to say - the S2 and S3 scored impressive numbers in terms of battery life and over here, it has gone down. The Canon PowerShot S5 IS' battery life of 450 shots per charge (CIPA Standard) is just above average. The numbers listed above are when using rechargeable NiMH batteries but the S5 IS comes with throw-away ones, so don't expect the bundled batteries to last that long.
It would be a wise thing to get a set of 4 or 8 rechargeable AA NiMH batteries and a charger since they last longer, more environmental friendly and save you money in the long term.
As expected for an ultra-zoom, the S5 IS is compatible with many accessories which include:
The Canon S-series of ultra-zooms have been looking more and more SLR-like with every update and the Canon PowerShot S5 IS is now all 'grown-up', complete with a hotshoe and taking several design cues from the EOS Digital line (for example look at the mode dial and placement of the print button).
In hand, the S5 IS feels solid and all its buttons are placed strategically within reach of your fingers. Since your right thumb rests naturally in the 'valley' between the two rows of buttons on the back and your left hand supports the lens barrel (again, very SLR-like), there's little to no chance of you bumping something and accidentally changing any settings.
There are quite a number of controls but not what I'd consider as button clutter since they are spread out in a sensible manner. True, there are more buttons than on an average camera; something beginners may find intimidating but as you use the camera, you'll find those buttons helpful in quickly accessing important settings. Thumbs up to the S5's ergonomics.
While some competition from Sony and Olympus have moved to larger range (but slower) 15X and 18X lenses respectively, Canon chose to stick with the same lens. The Canon PowerShot S5 IS uses the exact same 12X zoom lens as the S2 and S3 before it, equivalent to 36 - 432 mm and aperture range of f2.7-3.5, complete with optical image stabilization too. The lens, driven by an Ultrasonic Motor (USM), is smooth, quiet and precise. You can add on those lens attachments mentioned earlier to the camera by pressing the button on the bottom left (near the words "8.0 megapixels") then removing the metal ring around the lens.
The Canon PowerShot S5 IS has stereo microphones placed above the lens. On the upper right, there's the AF-assist beam which helps the camera focus in low-light. The light on the opposite side (above the words "PowerShot S5 IS") acts as a self-timer, tally and redeye reduction lamp.
The camera's pop up flash unit is directly above the lens and has a range of 50 cm to 5.2 m at wide-angle and 90 cm to 4.0 m at telephoto, which is the same as before. The flash does not pop up automatically - you have to raise it manually. If you want more flash power, then you can attach an external flash onto the hotshoe of the PowerShot S5 IS - a new feature, by the way.
The Canon PowerShot S5 IS has a 2.5 inch LCD with 207,000 pixels. It's sharp and bright too; brightening in low-light and having good outdoor visibility. And what could be better than the fact the screen can flip out to the side, rotate up 180 degrees forward for self-portraits and 90 degrees downwards for high-angle shots. Take a look at some examples:
Above the LCD is the S5's electronic viewfinder which is essentially looking at a mini LCD thru the finder. The EVF is like the LCD - Sharp, good visibility. There is a dioptric adjustment knob on the right to focus the viewfinder image. It's nowhere near as a replacement for an optical viewfinder, but as far as ultra-zoom cameras go, this is what you get on all of them.
To the left of the viewfinder is the print button. In shooting mode, this button also doubles as a shortcut button as well as to activate Auto ISO Shift. What Auto ISO Shift does is when you half-press the shutter button and the camera thinks the shutter speed is too slow for a sharp photo, the print button blinks. You can choose to hit the print button which automatically boosts ISO (and thus shutter speed) to a more 'hand-holdable' speed.
On the other side of the viewfinder is the dedicated movie button where you can press it to start recording a movie; regardless of what mode you're in, and press again to stop. Next is a row of three buttons beside the LCD:
The S5 IS allows you to customize the info being shown on the LCD and EVF, each having 2 sets. Thus the DISPlay button cycles you thru LCD Set 1 and Set 2, EVF Set 1 and Set 2 then back again. You can choose to display shooting info, a 3X3 grid, a 3:2 guide for prints with that ratio (such as 4 by 6 prints) and live histogram.
The FUNCtion button bringing up a menu with important settings you'll want to change:
The custom color option allows you to change red, green, blue and skin tone values as well as sharpness, contrast and saturation. The focus bracketing option is something you don't see on cameras everyday; it takes 3 shots - one at the auto/manually focused spot, another focused closer and the other focused nearer.
Alright, next is the standard-issue 4-way controller which is used to change settings, navigate menus, etc. The 'up' button also brings up exposure compensation which can be done up to +/- 2EV in 1/3 increments. And finally, we have the SET/AF point selection and MENU buttons.
Just as you thought we were done, here comes part two! Up here, you'll find the flash mode button which allows you to switch between auto flash and flash on when the flash is popped up. Pressing this button in playback activates the PowerShot S5's sound memo function.
New to the Canon PowerShot S5 IS is an external flash hotshoe where you can attach any compatible (or one which fits rather) external flash. The S5 automatically communicates with Canon's EX-series Speedlites (the one shown above is a Canon 430EX) while you'll have to set the camera and flash settings manually with most 3rd party flashes. The S5 IS can sync up to 1/250 sec with an external flash unit.
Then we have the mode dial (which can be turned a full 360):
Nearby is the combo power/mode switch which brings you to shooting or playback mode; press the 'off' button in the center to turn off the camera. Going up and there's the drive button which toggles between single-shot, burst, AF continuous and self-timer (your choice of 2 or 10 seconds or a custom timer). That's followed by the shutter button and zoom controller wrapped around it.
The zoom controller is sensitive to pressure and zooming speed depends on that. Less pressure gives you slow and precise zooming while more pressure zooms the lens very quickly. Alright, that's the last of 'em buttons...
Wait, there are two more of them here for manual focus and macro respectively. Holding down the macro button activates the S5 IS' insane 0 cm Super Macro mode (which we'll talk about in a bit). Nothing else here other than a speaker and if you're interested, the hinge for the rotating LCD.
The other side of the Canon PowerShot S5 IS houses its ports. Under that rubber cover, you'll find the DC-IN, USB 2.0 High Speed and A/V Out ports.
At the bottom of the Canon PowerShot S5 IS is a metal tripod mount, a step-up from the S3's plastic tripod mount. And of course, the battery/memory card compartment, which is covered by a door of just average quality. Three disappointing things here: tripod mount is not in-line with the lens, you can't swap batteries/memory cards while on a tripod and the batteries have no latch or separate cover to hold them in place while changing memory cards (So they pour out if you're not careful). And thus ends our camera tour.
The Canon PowerShot S5 IS displays everything you'll need to know while shooting and it's much easier to see now (though still quite cluttered if you want to see everything) thanks to the larger screen. There's shooting info, a live histogram, full exposure info, grid lines and all. Zoom position and an indicator is also shown when zoom is used.
The Canon S5 IS also has a face detection system for autofocus and autoexposure, thanks to the new DIGIC III processor. The system tracks and locks onto up to 9 faces in a frame. If the camera can't detect any faces, it reverts to the standard 9-point AF system. The face detection system ensures that faces are in focus and are exposed properly when the picture is taken. Although it may sound like a gimmick (and it is on some other cameras), the one implemented by Canon actually works since it's a hardware solution, not software.
You can select a range of image resolutions from 8 megapixels (with a widescreen 16:9 option and 3:2 print option) to VGA plus three compression options - Superfine, Fine and Normal. The settings that I would normally use and recommend would be full resolution along with 'Fine' compression.
Like the S2 IS and S3 IS, the Canon PowerShot S5 IS has a pretty standard 10 cm macro mode as well as a 0 cm super-macro mode along with full manual controls as mentioned in the previous section. That's right, 0 cm... means you can be right up against a subject. Of course, you must have some pretty good (external) lighting as well. In the shot above, the S5 IS' lens was nearly touching the subject.
The Canon S5 IS has the Digital Teleconverter feature found on Canon's recent camera. All it does is apply a fixed digital zoom of 1.6X or 2.0X while Safety Zoom crops your photos at lower resolutions so image quality won't degrade (basically just for convenience; cropping can be done in computer software like Paint Shop Pro or Photoshop). The smaller the resolution you select, the more cropping zoom can be applied. For example, the camera can boost the zoom range to 48X when shooting at VGA (640 x 480) resolution.
There are two autofocus modes on the S5 IS: Single is your regular 'press shutter button halfway to focus' while Continuous means the S5 IS is constantly focusing, reducing lag time to take a photo but also decreasing battery life.
Both photos above were taken at 1/4 of a second, the one on the left with optical image stabilization off and the other with the image stabilizer set to 'shoot only'.
The Canon PowerShot S5 IS also has three image stabilizer modes; Shoot Only stabilizes the picture when the shot is taken (which is more effective), the Continuous option constantly stabilizes the image making framing a little easier without the shakiness and Panning stabilizes up/down movement so you can follow and pan along with a subject. Nothing is said if the optical image stabilizer is tripod sensing (found on some Canon EOS lenses) so it's best to turn the S5 IS' stabilizer off when the camera is on a tripod.
The Canon PowerShot S5 IS has a slightly improved movie mode over the S3. For one thing, the limit has been raised from 1 GB to 4 GB per movie clip (or 1 hour, whichever comes first) so you can fit about 33 minutes of footage per clip at the highest setting (versus 1 GB=8 minutes on the S3).
Other than that, the Canon PowerShot S5 IS still takes VGA (640 x 480) movies with stereo sound at 30 FPS. A new VGA Long Play option is essentially the same thing, except with more compression so you can record longer. There's also a QVGA (320 x 240) setting which allows you to record at 30 FPS too, or a much smoother 60 FPS.
The Canon S5 IS also has some advanced audio settings that you won't find on any other camera, namely selectable microphone level (level 1-5), wind filter (does just what it sounds) and sampling rate (11, 22 or 44 kHz).
You can adjust exposure and focus while recording a movie or let the camera do it for you. The optical image stabilizer is useable too - and even can be turned on and off if it's assigned to the shortcut button. Needless to say, optical zoom can be used while recording (thanks to the USM drive) with either low or medium speed. AND if you want, digital zoom is also available on top of that.
The Movie Snap feature allows you to take a full resolution 8 megapixel still photo in the midst of recording a movie. The movie pauses briefly during that time, so keep that in mind.
As you would probably have expected, movie quality from the S5 IS (audio and video) was very good. And you gotta love stereo sound!
The Canon PowerShot S5 IS starts up in around 1.4 seconds which is pretty fast. The G7 normally takes about 1/6 to 1/3 second to focus; telephoto and low-light focusing can take a little longer. At most it can take up to a second to focus at telephoto in very dim places. Shutter lag is not obvious at all except at telephoto in low-light and strangely enough, the EVF exhibited a little more lag than the LCD.
Shot-to-shot speed - 1 shot every 1.3 seconds, above average
Thanks to the Ultrasonic Motor in the S5 IS' lens, zooming is accurate, silent and has 3 variable speeds. High-speed zoom brings the lens to telephoto in under a second while low-speed takes its time to cover the entire range in around 6 seconds. 'Medium-speed' is a compromise between zooming accuracy and speed. Medium and low speed zooming are available in movie mode.
In continuous shooting, the Canon S5 IS can shoot full resolution photos indefinitely at 1.6 FPS until the memory card fills up - that is with a high-speed card. The continuous AF mode shoots indefinitely too, except at a slower 0.9 FPS since the camera constantly refocuses between shots.
The S5 IS powers down instantly in playback mode and can take up to 1.9 seconds with the lens extended to telephoto position. All-in-all, the Canon PowerShot S5 IS improves the performance of the S3 slightly and I am still impressed by the speed of the camera. It also replaces the high-speed burst (2 FPS) with a continuous AF option, whether this is good or bad depends on each individual.
It's time for image quality tests with the Canon PowerShot S5 IS:
Photos shot at ISO 80 and ISO 100 look nearly the same with low noise. At ISO 200, there is a tad increase in noise and it gets noticeable only at ISO 400. At ISO 800, there's even more noise and you may have to start using software to clean photos up and leave this for small printing/viewing only. ISO 1600 gets really noisy so I think you should avoid going up here if you want less grainy photos.
In terms of color accuracy, the S5 IS produces well exposure photos with good colors except at the blue/purple areas where colors may seem less accurate at times. As with most competition, color saturation and accuracy drops at ISO 800 and 1600 but thankfully there's no color smearing. There is some barrel distortion and a bit of vignetting with the S5 IS' lens. Pincushion distortion is not an issue.
The Canon PowerShot S5 IS exhibits chromatic aberration (color fringing) at levels a little above average as well as being prone to flare sometimes. Redeye is an issue using the built-in flash but can be avoided by attaching an external flash or using the built-in redeye removal tool which is quite effective. The best way to counteract both color fringing and redeye is by using software to reduce/remove them.
The Canon PowerShot S5 IS produces overall good image quality with low noise below ISO 400 but also one or two issues (see above). Some of those issues can be removed through post-processing, which means extra work. However, compared to competition, the S5 IS is better off than many of them. That still doesn't mean image quality cannot be improved though.
Check out the photos above in full-size plus more sample photos in Canon PowerShot S5 IS photo gallery!
In playback, the Canon PowerShot S5 IS can playback stills and movies (With sound) and has the usual playback features: Protect images, playback transition, thumbnail playback, transfer/print marking, play slideshows and image rotation. You can also magnify still photos by 10X and take a look around using the 4 arrow buttons.
There's a simple movie trimming function and sound recorder available too. The sound recorder allows recording up to 2 hours of stereo sound with the same selectable microphone level, wind filter and sampling rates as in movie mode.
Now there are also several post-processing features on the S5 IS. You can apply any of the My Colors feature to photos as well as redeye removal. Redeye removal can be done automatically by the camera or you can manually select where the people's eyes are. The My Category feature let's you sort through your photos by 4 preset or 3 custom categories. However, there's no way to give those custom categories a name. The preset categories are People, Scenery, Events and To-do.
The Canon PowerShot S5 IS displays just as much info in playback as it does in shooting mode. All photo details are here and viewable, including a brightness histogram, full exposure information and file size.
The Canon PowerShot S5 IS improves upon last year's successful S3 and S2 the year before. This time, the Canon PowerShot S5 IS features 8 megapixels, the same 12X stabilized zoom and a larger, higher resolution rotating 2.5 inch LCD display.
The S5 IS is solidly built and now has a metal tripod mount (it was plastic on the S3). Ergonomics are still quite good; though there is no latch to prevent the batteries from falling out when swapping memory cards. The S5 still lacks a quick control wheel or dial of any sort (that means a lot of button pressing) as well as any zoom or focus ring on the lens barrel.
The Canon S5 IS, like its predecessor, has full manual controls (but no RAW option), superb 0 cm super-macro mode, a custom mode and shortcut button as well as compatibility with many accessories. The S5 IS adds a hotshoe for an external flash and Face Detection AF/AE. The camera's performance, playback and movie mode have also been improved - though movie file sizes are still quite large.
Image quality is good and on par, if not slightly ahead, of competition with low noise up till ISO 400. But using the same lens as the S3 means the Canon PowerShot S5 IS 'inherits' some of the image quality issues of its predecessor - namely color fringing and flare, the latter exists only in extreme conditions at wide-angle. There's some redeye too but that can be reduced/removed with the built-in redeye correction feature, computer software or an external flash.
Other quibbles on the S5 IS include a small bundled memory card and non-rechargeable batteries included. Battery life has also gone down from the S3.
The Canon PowerShot S5 IS is a worthy successor to last year's S3 and it is arguably the flagship Canon PowerShot (though some may disagree) since it has an overall better feature set than the G7. There are some negatives about the S5 highlighted above but which camera is entirely perfect? Overall, I have no problem giving my recommendation and thumbs up to the Canon PowerShot S5 IS for those who want a very good ultra-zoom camera which has almost every feature you need, at a reasonable price too. If a capable all-in-one (good still image mode and impressive movie mode) camera is what you need, the S5 IS is absolutely it.
Camera rating upon 10 (more about this): [Category: Ultra-zoom]
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