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Canon PowerShot S50

A sleek design, a hot custom processing chip, new-look user interface, direct support for a Canon inkjet printer, and *five* megapixels of resolution!

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S50 Sample Images

Review First Posted: 02/27/2003

Digital Cameras - Canon PowerShot S50 Test Images

 

I've begun including links in our reviews to a Thumber-generated index page for the test shots. The Thumber data includes a host of information on the images, including shutter speed, ISO setting, compression setting, etc. Rather than clutter the page below with *all* that detail, we're posting the Thumber index so only those interested in the information need wade through it!

 

 

Outdoor Portrait:

Very nice job all around, with great resolution, detail, and color. Dynamic range is also good.

The extreme tonal range of this image makes it a tough shot for many digicams, which is precisely why I set it up this way, and why I shoot it with no fill flash or reflector to open the shadows. The object is to hold both highlight and shadow detail without producing a "flat" picture with muddy colors, and the S50 handled the challenge well.

The shot at right was taken with no exposure compensation adjustment, surprising because most cameras' exposure systems tend to underexpose it. (Actually, I could probably have gone with just a little negative exposure compensation, but didn't think to bracket into negative adjustments because cameras almost invariable underexpose here.) The result was a shot with reasonably bright midtones but only moderate loss of detail in the highlights. I chose the Daylight white balance as the most accurate overall, though the Auto setting produced similar results (just a hint warmer). The Manual setting resulted in a warmer image with a strong yellow cast.

Skin tones look good, although perhaps just slightly pale, but the blue flowers in the bouquet are pretty much spot on. (This is a very difficult blue for many digicams to get right. For reference, the flowers are a pretty pure light navy blue.) The strong reds in the bouquet gave the S50 just a little trouble here, as the camera produced very bright highlights, with the appearance of a soft glow around the edges of the petals. All in all though, a very good performance.

Resolution is excellent, with a lot of fine detail visible throughout the frame, even in the shadows. Details are also sharp, and image noise in the shadows is moderate.

To view the entire exposure series from zero to +1.0 EV, see files S50OUTDP0.HTM through S50OUTDP3.HTM on the thumbnail index page. Following are contrast and saturation series.

The S50 offers three settings to adjust the camera's contrast. The shots below are all slightly overexposed, but give some idea of the range of the adjustment. (I'd actually like to see a bit greater range of adjustment, or perhaps two more settings beyond those shown below.) 

Contrast Series
Low Normal High

 

In like fashion to the contrast adjustment, you can also tweak the S50's color saturation. Here, the range of adjustment strikes me as just about right, although I'd perhaps like to see more, smaller steps.
Saturation Series
Low Normal High



 

Closer Portrait:

Outstanding performance, with great detail.

Overall results are similar to the wider shot above, and the S50's 3x zoom lens helps prevent distortion of Marti's features. Detail is excellent, with an incredible level of fine detail visible in her face and hair. (This is almost an embarrassing amount of detail, I won't show this to Marti 1:1 on-screen.) Even the subtle texture in the weave of the shirt fabric is visible in the shirt collar. The shot at right was taken with a minus 0.3 EV exposure compensation setting, which resulted in a good overall exposure, but slightly high contrast. Shadow detail again looks good, with only moderate noise.

To view the entire exposure series from -0.3 to +0.3 EV, see files S50FACM1.HTM through S50FACP1.HTM on the thumbnail index page.


 

Indoor Portrait, Flash:
Normal Flash
+0.7 EV

Slightly low intensity with the built-in flash at the default setting, pretty good color though.

The S50's built-in flash is slightly dim at its default setting. The background incandescent lighting results in a strong orange cast on the back wall, a fair bit of which spills onto Marti's features. Increasing the exposure compensation to +0.7 EV brightens the image just enough, without blowing highlight details. The orange cast remains, but is lighter, and the flash produces a better color balance in Marti's face. (Increasing the exposure compensation to +1.0 EV begins to wash out color and results in too strong of a white value on Marti's shirt.)

To view the entire exposure series from zero to +1.0 EV, see files S50INFP0.HTM through S50INFP4.HTM on the thumbnail index page.

 



 

Indoor Portrait, No Flash:
Auto White Balance
Incandescent White Balance
Manual White Balance

 

Great color with Incandescent and Manual white balance, though exposure requires a significant adjustment.

This shot is always a very tough test of a camera's white balance capability, given the strong, yellowish color cast of the household incandescent bulbs used for the lighting. The S50's Incandescent white balance produced excellent color here, though the Manual option produced an acceptable picture as well (with just a slight green cast). The Auto setting really had trouble, producing a strong orange cast. Marti's skin tone looks just about right, and the blue flowers also look pretty good. (These blues are often difficult in this shot, due to the light source, and frequently have a purplish tint. The S50 does reproduce them just a hint dark, but they still look very good.)

The main image was taken with a +1.3 EV exposure compensation adjustment, which produced a nicely balanced exposure. (Click here to see the default exposure, which is quite dim.)

ISO Series:
The S50 generally shows moderate noise in the shadows, but noise is very low at the ISO 50 setting. At ISO 400, noise is much higher, though the grain pattern is fairly tight, making it less objectionable than that of some cameras.

ISO Series
ISO 50
ISO 100
ISO 200
ISO 400


 

House Shot:

 
Auto White Balance
Daylight White Balance
Manual White Balance

Great resolution and detail, and nearly accurate color.

All three of the S50's white balance settings produced good results here, though each had just a slight color cast. I finally chose the Auto setting as the most accurate, despite a very slight reddish cast. The Manual setting resulted in a slight greenish cast, and the Daylight setting appeared slightly cool. Detail is great in the tree limbs and shrubbery, as well as in the house details. (In fact, the S50 is just stretching the limits of this poster as a test target. Even though the poster was made from a 500MB scan of a 4x5 negative shot with a tack-sharp lens, the S50 comes pretty close to extracting all the detail that's to be found here.) Details are fairly sharp in the central portion of the frame, but the corners of the frame get a little soft, most visible on the left side.


 

Far-Field Test

Excellent resolution and detail, with good dynamic range, although some detail is lost in the highlights.

This image is shot at infinity to test far-field lens performance. NOTE that this image cannot be directly compared to the other "house" shot, which is a poster, shot in the studio. The rendering of detail in the poster will be very different than in this shot, and color values (and even the presence or absence of leaves on the trees!) will vary in this subject as the seasons progress. In general though, you can evaluate detail in the bricks, shingles and window detail, and in the tree branches against the sky. Compression artifacts are most likely to show in the trim along the edge of the roof, in the bricks, or in the relatively "flat" areas in the windows.

This is my ultimate "resolution shot," given the infinite range of detail in a natural scene like this, and the S50 does an excellent job. The tree limbs over the roof and fine foliage in front of the house show outstanding detail, especially in the tree bark patterns above the roof. Leaf details in the shrubbery in front of the house are also clear and distinct. In-camera sharpening does a good job here, with sharp details throughout most of the frame. There's again a little softness in the corners, but it doesn't seem as pronounced as in the House poster shot above. The camera does lose highlight detail in the bright white paint surrounding the bay window, a trouble spot for many digicams. Detail is strong in the shadow area above the front door, indicating that the S50 has a pretty good dynamic range, and that the shot is actually a bit overexposed. (If the shot were exposed about -0.3EV darker, I'd be willing to bet that the highlight detail would reappear, while shadow detail would be largely unaffected.) The color looks like a very faithful representation of the original scene. The table below shows a standard resolution and quality series, followed by ISO, contrast, saturation, and sharpness series.

Resolution Series:
To save somewhat on disk space and reduce the tedium of shooting these sequences, I've taken to only showing the range of compression options at the largest image size. The smaller sizes also have three image-quality options on the S50, but I only shot examples of the best quality for each.

Wide Angle Superfine
JPEG
Fine
JPEG
Normal
JPEG
2,592 x 1,944
S50FAR2592F
S50FAR2592N
S50FAR2592E
1,600 x 1,200
S50FAR1600F
   
1,024 x 768
S50FAR1024F
   
640 x 480
S50FAR640F
   



ISO Series:

ISO Series
ISO 50
ISO 100
ISO 200
ISO 400


Contrast Series:

Contrast Series
Low
Normal
High


Saturation Series:

Saturation Series
Low
Normal
High


Sharpness Series:
Besides the controls for contrast and saturation, the S50 also lets you adjust the in-camera image sharpening. The range of adjustment is appropriate and useful, not overdoing it in either direction.

Sharpness Series
Soft
Normal
Hard


 

Lens Zoom Range

A typical 3x zoom range.

I routinely shoot this series of images to show the field of view for each camera, with the lens at full wide angle, at maximum telephoto (3x, in this case), and at full telephoto with the digital zoom enabled. The S50's lens is equivalent to a 35-105mm zoom on a 35mm camera. That corresponds to a standard wide angle to a moderate telephoto. Following are the results at each zoom setting.

Wide Angle
3x Telephoto
4.1x Digital Telephoto


 

Musicians Poster
Auto White Balance
Daylight White Balance
Daylight White Balance

Pretty good color with the Manual white balance, great detail and resolution.

This shot is often a tough test for digicams, as the abundance of blue in the composition frequently tricks white balance systems into producing a warm color balance. The S50's Manual white balance setting sidesteps the challenge nicely, producing good skin tones and overall color. The Auto white balance setting resulted in a slightly warm image, while the Daylight setting was just barely too warm. The blue robe is just a little dark, with purplish tints in the shadow areas, but the overall color rendering is very good. (This is a difficult blue for many digicams.) Resolution is very high, with excellent detail in the embroidery of the blue robe. (The original data file for this poster was only 20MB, so cameras like the S50 are definitely capable of showing more detail than the poster has in it.)


 

Macro Shot
Standard Macro Shot
Macro with Flash

About average macro performance, flash has trouble throttling down for the macro area.

The S50 performed about average in the macro category, capturing a minimum area of 3.71 x 2.78 inches (94 x 71 millimeters). Resolution is very high, with excellent detail in the coins and brooch, and good detail in the dollar bill. There's a lot more softness in the corners in this shot, extending down the entire left side of the frame. - This is a common problem when digicam lenses focus in for close macro shots. The S50's flash had trouble throttling down for the macro area, overexposing the upper right portion of the frame. (Plan on using external illumination for close macro shots with the S50.)


 

"Davebox" Test Target
Auto White Balance
Daylight White Balance
Manual White Balance

Slight underexposure, but good color and saturation. (Slightly "hot" additive primaries though, particularly the bright red and blue.)

I chose the S50's Auto white balance setting as the most accurate here, with the best white value on the mini-resolution target and large white color blocks. The camera's Manual white balance also produced good results, though slightly warm, and the Daylight setting resulted in a stronger warm cast. (The Auto setting has a very slight warm cast as well, but still has the best overall color and white values.) Exposure is pretty much spot-on, with excellent detail in both highlights and shadows. The large color blocks are very hue-accurate, but I felt that the additive primary colors (red, green, and blue) a little oversaturated. The shadow area of the charcoal briquettes shows good detail, with moderately low noise, and the last steps of both gray scales are faintly visible (further evidence of the S50's excellent dynamic range).

 




 

Low-Light Tests

Really excellent low-light performance with good color and brightness, lower than average noise at low ISOs, higher than average at high ISO.

With a maximum exposure time of 15 seconds and ISO adjustable to 400, the S50 does an excellent job in the low-light category. - It can focus well in very dark conditions too, thanks to its autofocus illuminator lamp. In my tests, the S50 produced clear, bright, usable images all the way down to the 1/16 foot-candle (0.67 lux) limit of my test, with good color at ISOs 100, 200, and 400. At ISO 50, exposures were bright down to 1/8 foot-candle (1.34 lux), though the exposure was only a little dim at 1/16 foot-candle. Noise remains low even at ISO 200, increasing to higher levels at ISO 400, with a reasonably tight grain pattern. The S50 automatically employs a Noise Reduction system at exposures longer than 1/3 second, which does a great job of controlling "hot pixel" image noise. (The noise is overall a bit of a mixed bag - Better than most competing cameras at the lowest ISO setting, but worse than many at the highest. Even at ISO 400 though, the noise has very little "chroma" or color component. A good performance overall. The table below shows the best exposure I was able to obtain for each of a range of illumination levels. Images in this table (like all of our sample photos) are untouched, exactly as they came from the camera.

 

  1fc
11lux
1/2fc
5.5lux
1/4fc
2.7lux
1/8fc
1.3lux
1/16fc
0.67lx
ISO
50
Click to see S50LL0503.JPG

3.2 secs.
F2.8
Click to see S50LL0504.JPG
8 secs.
F2.8
Click to see S50LL0505.JPG
13 secs.
F2.8
Click to see S50LL0506.JPG
15 secs.
F2.8
Click to see S50LL0507.JPG
15 secs.
F2.8
ISO
100
Click to see S50LL1003.JPG

1.6 secs.
F2.8
Click to see S50LL1004.JPG
4 secs.
F2.8
Click to see S50LL1005.JPG
6 secs.
F2.8
Click to see S50LL1006.JPG
13 secs.
F2.8
Click to see S50LL1007.JPG
15 secs.
F2.8
ISO
200
Click to see S50LL2003.JPG

1/ 1 secs.
F2.8
Click to see S50LL2004.JPG
2 secs.
F2.8
Click to see S50LL2005.JPG
4 secs.
F2.8
Click to see S50LL2006.JPG
6 secs.
F2.8
Click to see S50LL2007.JPG
15 secs.
F2.8
ISO
400
Click to see S50LL4003.JPG

1/ 3 secs.
F2.8
Click to see S50LL4004.JPG
1 secs.
F2.8
Click to see S50LL4005.JPG
1.6 secs.
F2.8
Click to see S50LL4006.JPG
3.2 secs.
F2.8
Click to see S50LL4007.JPG
8 secs.
F2.8



 

Flash Range Test

A slightly weak flash. Intensity is good at eight feet, but decreases significantly at 14 feet. Canon's rating of 9.8 feet range at telephoto zoom setting is perhaps slightly generous.

Canon rates the S50's flash as effective from 1.1 to 15.7 feet (0.35 to 4.8 meters) at wide angle, and from 1.15 to 9.8 feet (0.35 to 3.0 meters) at telephoto. In my testing, the flash illuminated the test target all the way out to 14 feet, but lost intensity with each additional foot of distance beyond eight feet. Given this, I'd probably rate its flash range at telephoto closer to 9 feet than 10, acceptable but not impressive. Below is the flash range series, with distances from eight to 14 feet from the target.

8 ft 9 ft 10 ft 11 ft 12 ft 13 ft 14 ft
Click to see S50FL08.JPG
1/60 secs.
F4.9
Click to see S50FL09.JPG
1/60 secs.
F4.9
Click to see S50FL10.JPG
1/60 secs.
F4.9
Click to see S50FL11.JPG
1/60 secs.
F4.9
Click to see S50FL12.JPG
1/60 secs.
F4.9
Click to see S50FL13.JPG
1/60 secs.
F4.9
Click to see S50FL14.JPG
1/60 secs.
F4.9


 

ISO-12233 (WG-18) Resolution Test

Very high resolution, 1,200+ lines of "strong detail." Average barrel distortion, but very low pincushion.

The S50 performed very well on the "laboratory" resolution test chart. It started showing artifacts in the test patterns at resolutions as low as 700 lines per picture height, in both horizontal and vertical directions. I found "strong detail" out to more than 1,100 lines vertically, and about 1,200 lines horizontally. (The exact resolution is a little hard to call because aliasing became pretty prominent in the range of 1,100-1,200 lines, making it difficult to say exactly where the "real" resolution lay.) "Extinction" of the target patterns didn't occur until about 1,500 lines.

Optical distortion on the S50 is a bit better than average at the wide-angle end, where I measured approximately 0.6 percent barrel distortion. (Most cameras I've tested come in around 0.8 percent barrel distortion, but I'd really like to see less geometric distortion in digicam images than even the 0.6 percent the S50 manages.) The telephoto end fared much better, as I measured only a single pixel of pincushion distortion. (About 0.05%) Chromatic aberration is moderate, but there's a fair bit of "coma" blurring the target lines in the very corners of the frame. - There's as much as eight or nine pixels of coloration on either side of the target lines, but the color that's there is fairly weak and unobtrusive. (This distortion is visible as a very slight colored fringe around the objects at the edges of the field of view on the resolution target.) Good marks for low chromatic aberration, but a down tick for too much coma.

Resolution Series, Wide Angle
Wide Angle Superfine
JPEG
Fine
JPEG
Normal
JPEG
2,592 x 1,944
S50RESWLF
S50RESWLN
S50RESWLE
1,600 x 1,200
S50RESWMF
   
1,024 x 768
S50RESWSF
   
640 x 480
S50RESWTF
   

 

Resolution Test, Telephoto
2,592 x 1,944
(Fine, Tele)
S50RESTLF



 

Viewfinder Accuracy/Flash Uniformity

A tight optical viewfinder, and slightly "loose" LCD monitor.

The S50's optical viewfinder is a little tight, showing approximately 80 percent frame accuracy at wide angle, and approximately 82 percent at telephoto. (Average is about 85 percent, so the S50 does slightly worse than that.) The LCD monitor actually proved to be just a little loose, in that it showed more of the image area than what actually appeared in the final frame, at least with the lens at its wide angle setting. Though it's close to 100 percent accuracy, you'll want to allow just a little extra around the outside edges of your composition when precise framing is important and you're shooting at wide angle. Given that I like LCD monitors to be as close to 100 percent accuracy as possible, the S50's LCD monitor does pretty well, but could be improved slightly. Flash distribution is uneven at wide angle, with strong falloff at the corners and edges of the frame. At telephoto, flash distribution is even more uniform, and just a hint dim.


Wide Angle, Optical

Telephoto, Optical

Wide Angle, LCD

Telephoto, LCD


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