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Canon Powershot S70

With the same wide angle lens as its predecessor, the S70 boosts resolution with its 7.1 megapixel sensor, but holds the line on image noise.

Review First Posted: 9/30/2004




MSRP $599 US

 

*
7.1-Megapixel CCD delivers 3,072 x 2,304 pixel images
*
4x optical zoom lens covers 28-100mm equivalent range
*
Nice mix of high-end features, easy usability
*
Beautiful, rugged, compact design

 

NOTE: The Canon PowerShot S70 is virtually identical in form and function to the PowerShot S60. If you've already read the S60's review, you can skip most of this review of the Canon S70, and just skip over to the Test Results section.

 

Introduction

The Canon PowerShot S70 is a minor update of this year's previous wide angle powerhouse, the S60. At the top of Canon's "mid-sized compact" line, the sleek S70 leverages its wide-angle zoom lens (reaching down to 28mm equivalent focal length at its widest zoom setting) by adding a 7.1 megapixel imager to an already superbly crafted camera. Hidden within the PowerShot S70's trim case is a new level of optical sophistication, thanks to Canon's advanced molding process that permits aspheric lens elements to be (reliably) crafted from high-index optical glass for the first time. The result is a zoom lens that's capable of very wide angle operation, in a very compact form factor, yet with lower levels of distortion than was formerly possible.

In addition to the new lens technology it uses, the 7.1-megapixel PowerShot S70 also includes a new set of updates to both the user interface and controls. The Canon S70 is an advanced point-and-shoot style digital camera that incorporates many features from the high-end Canon PowerShot G6 model, but in a more compact, portable format. With the exception of the rotating LCD monitor and external hot shoe, the PowerShot S70 has almost all of the advanced features of the G6, including an impressive range of automatic and manual exposure controls, JPEG and RAW file formats, and in-camera adjustment of image contrast, sharpness, and color saturation, as well as a user-controlled AF point that can be moved around the screen in the manual exposure modes. Just shy of the range of the G6's 4x lens, the S70's 3.6x optical zoom lens reaches a 35mm-equivalent focal length of 28mm at its widest. In addition to these features, relative to last year's very popular S45 and S50, the S70 also offers an updated user interface (a slight redesign), and the new Print/Share button that is appearing on all new PowerShot cameras, designed to make the PictBridge direct-to-inkjet printer connection that much easier. With an estimated selling price at introduction of $599, the PowerShot S70 comes in at $100 more than the S60, but does offer a few more pixels for that price. It is sure to be a popular choice among business users, prosumer photographers, realtors, advanced amateurs, and even beginning photographers who want a high-quality digital camera that delivers large, sharp, colorful photos.

 

High Points


Executive Overview

Like Canon's other mid-size PowerShots, the S70 immediately convinces you that you're handling a well-built, high-quality digital camera. The size and style are reminiscent of a point-and-shoot model, even though it offers seven megapixels of resolution and a wide range of shooting options -- from fully manual operation to programmed, automatic, and several preset exposures. The telescoping 3.6x zoom lens is made with Canon's new technology UA optical glass, which stands for Ultra-high refractive index Aspherical Lens; what it means in shorthand is a physically shorter lens with a wider angle of view than previous cameras in this line. The lens is protected by a clamshell sliding lens cover that blends well into the camera's front panel. As with the majority of Canon's high-end digicams, primary functions are accessed via external controls, providing quick and easy adjustments to flash, exposure compensation, white balance settings, manual focus, and light metering modes. This combination of compact design, sturdy construction, and flexible exposure options makes this camera a real pleasure to work with, and a good value for the $599 "expected selling" price, occupying as it does the higher end of the category.

The S70's streamlined user interface includes an expanded Function menu with direct access to all base-level camera settings (such as resolution, exposure compensation, white balance, etc.). The S70 has a 7.1-megapixel CCD, which delivers high resolution images for making sharp prints, as well as lower resolutions more suited for email and other electronic uses.

The S70's sleek, black body is made of high-impact polycarbonate, entirely surrounded with brushed and anodized aluminum body panels. Measuring only 4.49 x 2.22 x 1.5 inches (114 x 56.5 x 38.8 millimeters) with the lens retracted, and weighing just 10.1 ounces (286 grams) with the battery and memory card installed, the S70 actually isn't all that much longer and heavier than the "ultra-compact" Digital Elph models. Compared to last year's PowerShot S50, it's a little longer, but a little slimmer and shorter, and almost three ounces lighter. Sliding open the protective lens cover powers on the camera, automatically extending the lens and placing the camera in Shooting mode. When slid closed, the cover stops just short of the lens barrel, giving it time to retract and shut down before you can close the cover completely (preventing the much-to-be-avoided "bumped lens" syndrome). Rather than incorporating the Playback mode on the camera's main Mode dial, the S70 has a Playback button that doubles as a Quick-Review button. At any time you can switch to Playback mode and scroll through captured images, and then quickly return to the Shooting mode without having to change the Mode dial, either by pressing the Playback button again or by pressing on the shutter. (You can also use this switch to access the Playback mode without opening the lens cover.) While the S70 has too many external controls to cluster them all on the right side of the camera, you'll find it suitable for one-handed operation in most situations. The S70 is small enough to fit into a coat pocket or purse, and comes with a braided nylon wrist strap for added convenience.

The camera features an eye-level "real image" optical viewfinder that zooms along with the 3.6x lens and features a central autofocus / exposure target for composing images. Two LEDs on the left side of the viewfinder report the camera's status. When the camera is powered on in most Shooting modes, the 1.8-inch LCD monitor automatically illuminates. Pressing the Display button cycles through three display modes: screen on with image only, screen on with image and settings readout, and screen off. Depending on the Shooting mode, the LCD settings readout reports the flash setting, drive mode, metering mode, image size and quality, and the number of frames remaining. Additional functions are shown as they are enabled and battery status is only displayed when the remaining power is low.

The 5.8-20.7mm zoom lens (equivalent to 28-100mm on a 35mm camera) offers both manual and automatic focus control. Manual focus mode is accessed by holding down the MF button on the left side of the monitor and toggling the up and down arrows on the new Omniselector pad to the right of the LCD on the camera's back panel. A vertical scale on the LCD monitor shows the focus distance when manual focus is active. In Image Zone modes (Full Auto and modes like Portrait and Landscape), the S70 will select from among nine different AF frames automatically, depending on the location of the subject closest to the camera. In Creative zone modes, like Program or Shutter Priority, you can use the new Omniselector to manually position the AF frame wherever you like, within an area covering approximately the central 60 percent of the image area. Focus ranges from 1.4 feet (44 centimeters) to infinity in normal mode, and from an impressive 1.6 inches to 1.4 feet (4 to 44 centimeters) in Macro mode. The 4.1x Digital Zoom can be turned on in the Record menu, then activated by zooming past the maximum optical telephoto range with the camera's Zoom lever. (Remember that because digital zoom only enlarges the center portion of the CCD image, it compromises the image quality by reducing resolution.)

The S70 provides as much or as little exposure control as you want. All exposure modes are accessed by rotating the Mode dial on top of the camera. Canon divided the dial into three exposure types: Auto, Creative Zone, and Image Zone. Shooting in Auto mode puts the camera in charge of everything except the Flash and Macro modes. Exposure modes in the Creative Zone include: Program AE (P), Shutter Speed-Priority AE (Tv), Aperture-Priority AE (Av), Manual Exposure (M), and Custom (C). Program AE lets the camera choose the aperture and shutter speed settings, but gives you control over all other exposure options. Aperture and Shutter Speed Priority modes let you set one exposure variable (aperture or shutter speed) while the camera chooses the best value of the other variable (shutter speed or aperture). Manual mode gives you full control over all exposure parameters. (The camera's aperture can be set from f/2.8-f/5.3 (wide to tele) to f/8.0, and the shutter speed ranges from 1/2,000 to 15 seconds.) Finally, Custom mode lets you save a variety of specific exposure and function settings in one of the other modes, which can then be recalled instantly, simply by rotating the mode dial to the "C" position.

Exposure modes in the Image Zone include: Portrait, Landscape, Night Scene, Fast Shutter Speed, Slow Shutter Speed, Stitch Assist, and Movie. Portrait, Night Scene, and Landscape all make automatic camera adjustments to optimize settings for specific shooting conditions. The Portrait mode uses a large aperture setting to produce shallow "depth of field," focusing on the subject while maintaining an out-of-focus background. Conversely, Landscape mode slows the shutter speed and maximizes depth of field with a small aperture setting. Night Scene mode illuminates your subject with flash, while using a slow shutter speed to increase exposure on background objects. The Stitch-Assist mode is Canon's panorama shooting solution, in which multiple, overlapping images can be captured horizontally, vertically, or in four quadrants, in clockwise sequence. Images can then be "stitched" together on a computer, using Canon's bundled PhotoStitch software. Movie mode lets you capture 30 seconds to three minutes of moving images with sound at resolutions of 640 x 480, 320 x 240, or 160 x 120 and either 10 or 15 frames per second. (30 seconds and 10 frames/second for 640 x 480, 3 minutes and 15 frames/second for the smaller sizes.)

The S70 has extensive exposure controls, most of which are accessed through the camera's external control buttons using sub-menus and indicators displayed on the LCD screen. They include a White Balance setting with nine options: Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Tungsten, Fluorescent, Fluorescent H (daylight), Flash, the new Underwater mode, and two Custom options; adjustable ISO sensitivities including Auto and manually selected values of 50, 100, 200, and 400; Exposure Compensation from -2 to +2 EV, in one-third-step increments; Auto Exposure Bracketing (AEB), with a series of three exposures spanning a range of +/- 2 EV; Auto Focus Bracketing; a choice of Evaluative Light Metering, Center-Weighted Averaging, and Spot (AE Point) metering modes; and a handful of color and tone options, including custom adjustments for sharpening, color saturation, and contrast. The S70's built-in flash offers five operating modes (Auto; Red-Eye Reduction, Auto; Red-Eye Reduction, Normal; Flash On; or Flash Off) and Flash Exposure Compensation from -2 to +2 EV in one-third-step increments. The Flash Exposure (FE) Lock function lets you lock the flash exposure setting for one specific subject in the frame. You can also manually control the flash output, and activate a Slow Synchro mode for longer exposures.

There are two Continuous Shooting modes. Standard Continuous Shooting captures multiple, successive still images, at about 1.5 frames per second, providing enough time to display each image briefly after it is captured. High Speed Continuous Shooting captures images at 2.0 frames per second, as long as you hold down the shutter release. At highest resolution, the camera was able to capture 8 frames before having to clear the buffer, and the flash fired all eight times (this was at close range, so the flash didn't have a lot of work to do). The number of images and actual shot-to-shot speed depend on several factors, most obviously including the amount of memory remaining on the flash card. An Interval shooting mode mimics time-lapse photography, capturing as many as 100 total images at set intervals from one to 60 minutes between frames.

In Replay mode, the LCD monitor provides a full-frame display of captured images, which you can view individually or as an index of nine thumbnail images simultaneously. The optical Zoom lever doubles as a Digital Enlargement button, which lets you enlarge previously-captured images as much as 10x for closer inspection, with the arrow keys providing navigation control for you to move around the enlarged images to pinpoint important details. Also in Replay mode, you can record up to 60 seconds of sound with individual images by pressing the Light Metering / Audio button.

Depressing the Display button one time in Replay mode brings up information about the captured image, including the file name, date and time it was recorded, compression, resolution, and what number it is in the sequence of captured images. Another press of the Display button brings up a thumbnail view of the image with detailed information such as the shooting mode, aperture, f/stop, exposure compensation, and metering mode. In this mode, the screen shows a histogram next to the image to show the distribution of tonal values. Any overexposed values will flash in the thumbnail image display.

Images are stored on CompactFlash Type I or II memory cards, with possible image resolutions of 3,072 x 2,304; 2,592 x 1,944; 2,048 x 1,536; 1,600 x 1,200; and 640 x 480 pixels. Three JPEG compression levels are available, as well as a RAW data file format, which uses lossless image compression to preserve all the original data from the CCD in a relatively compact format. (Canon software or any one of several third-party applications is required to process RAW images.) A USB cable is provided for speedy connection to PC or Macintosh computers, and two software CDs offer an impressive selection of utilities. Canon's own Digital Camera software package includes ZoomBrowser EX (Win) and ImageBrowser (Mac) for downloading and organizing images, and processing RAW files; PhotoRecord (Win) and ImageBrowser for printing images; PhotoStitch for merging panoramic images captured in Stitch-Assist mode, and the unique "RemoteCapture" application that lets you operate the camera remotely through your computer. ArcSoft PhotoStudio and VideoImpression software packages for both Mac and Windows operating systems complete the bundle.

An A/V cable connects the camera to a television, with NTSC and PAL timing options available via the Setup menu. Power is supplied by a new rechargeable NB-2LH lithium battery with a rated capacity 26% greater than that of the previous version of the battery. A charger ships with the camera as well. An optional AC power adapter is available as a separate accessory.

Overall, I liked the PowerShot S70 a lot, with well thought-out updates to the external controls and a wider-angle zoom lens that make it a worthy upgrade. It offers the extensive exposure control I'm accustomed to seeing in much larger digicams, packed into a reasonably slim, portable camera body. Its varying levels of exposure control are great for novices who want to learn camera functions incrementally, while also providing the level of precise control needed to satisfy advanced photographers. The nice wide angle lens is particularly welcome, allowing one to capture a room with greater ease. The updated interface, expanded custom features, and overall increased flexibility of the camera combine to make this a really exceptional camera in every respect.

 

Design

Similar in shape and style to a high-quality point-and-shoot 35mm film camera, the PowerShot S70 measures 4.49 x 2.22 x 1.53 inches (114 x 56.5 x 38.8 millimeters) and weighs approximately 10.1 ounces (286 grams) with the battery and storage card installed. It has a sturdy, dark grey polycarbonate inner body, covered by strong brushed and anodized aluminum body panels. The overall result is a very solid-feeling camera that exudes an air of quality and refinement. The sliding clamshell cover adds an attractive accent to a very sleek, streamlined design. While the S70 is a bit too long and heavy for the typical shirt pocket, it should fit easily into a large coat pocket or purse, and the quarter-inch wrist strap makes toting it around very convenient. Its streamlined shape means it won't easily snag on anything no matter where you put it.

The front of the camera includes a telescoping 3.6x zoom lens, optical viewfinder window, and a bright light emitter that serves multiple purposes, including autofocus assist, red-eye reduction, and the self-timer countdown. All of these items are covered by the sliding lens cover when it's closed. The built-in flash is positioned in the upper right corner of the front panel (as viewed from the front), and the lens cover doubles as finger grip when opened, its slight ridge providing a grip for your fingers. Beneath the flash are the Microphone and Remote sensor.

On the right side of the camera (as viewed from the back) is a heavy duty metal eyelet for attaching the nylon wrist strap. A small indentation at the very bottom of the camera on this side marks a sliding hatch that provides access for the AC power adapter cable.

The opposite side of the camera has a soft rubber terminal cover that opens to reveal the A/V Out and Digital jacks; the bottom pulls out further so the cover can swing out of the way to make connections easier.

The S70's top panel features a Mode dial on the right, with 13 Shooting positions divided into three basic categories: Auto Exposure, Image Zone, and Creative Zone. The Shutter button is located to the right of the Mode dial. On the left side of the top panel is a speaker that plays back sound recorded by the mic on the front.

The majority of the exposure controls are located on the camera's back panel, along with the optical viewfinder and LCD monitor. The optical viewfinder features two LED lamps that report camera status. To the left of the viewfinder are the Macro / Jump and Flash / Index buttons. To the far right is the new zoom rocker, placed where the navigator used to be on the S50; I think this placement is an improvement. A whole new control cluster appears to the right of the LCD, at the center of which is the new 5-way navigator (Omni Selector in Canon-speak). The Set button is placed in the middle of the four way nav selector. Upper left of this is the Playback button that can be used to review captured images at any time, whether the camera is powered off with its lens cover closed, or when it's turned on in one of the 13 Shooting modes. Right of that is the new Print/Share button appearing on all new PowerShot cameras. It glows blue when the camera is connected and ready to print to a PictBridge printer or transfer images to a computer. The Display and Menu buttons are below these.

Other camera controls on the back panel include the FUNC, Manual Focus / Delete, and Light Metering / Audio buttons located on the left of the LCD monitor. The FUNC control calls up a menu display with Exposure Compensation, White Balance, Drive, ISO, Effect, Bracket, Flash Exposure Compensation, and Image Resolution and Quality settings. The Light Metering / Audio button lets you choose between Evaluative Light Metering, Center-Weighted Averaging, and Spot (AE) Point metering modes. Pressing the Light Metering/ Audio button in replay mode lets you record up to 60 seconds of sound with individual images.

The S70's bottom panel is reasonably flat, with a sliding door to access the combined CompactFlash and battery compartment, and a threaded metal tripod mount on its left. The tripod mount is positioned way off-center, making it easier to make quick battery changes while working with a small tripod, something I'm probably more sensitive to than most users, given the amount of on-tripod shooting I do. Canon's AC adapter uses a "dummy battery" design, with the cord exiting from a small opening on the camera's right hand side, providing a convenient way to get power to the camera while on a tripod.

 

 

Viewfinder

The S70 features both an eye-level optical viewfinder and a 1.8-inch LCD monitor on the back panel for image composition. The real-image optical viewfinder zooms along with the lens (except in Digital Telephoto mode, which requires the LCD monitor), and displays incomplete crosshairs (they don't actually cross) in the center of its screen. While there's no dioptric adjustment to adapt the viewfinder optics to your vision, the eyepiece does have an unusually high "eyepoint," making it well-suited to eyeglass wearers. Two LED lights next to the viewfinder report the camera's status during certain operations. For example, when you depress the Shutter button halfway, a steady orange light (on top) indicates that the camera is ready to record; a flashing green light indicates that an image is either being written to, read from, or erased from the CompactFlash card; a steady orange light (on top) indicates that the camera is ready to record; and a flashing orange light indicates a camera-shake warning (i.e. the shutter speed is too slow to handhold), or the battery is charging. The lower LED light glows yellow when the camera is set in Macro or Manual focus modes, and flashes yellow when focus cannot be achieved.

Measuring 1.8 inches diagonally, Canon's low-temperature, polycrystalline silicon, TFT, color LCD monitor automatically displays camera settings when the camera is powered on. LCD brightness can be adjusted to either of two levels via the setup menu, and the screen seemed to have better than average visibility in sunlight. The Display button controls the image and information display. One press shows the image without settings, and two presses show the image with settings. Depending on the Shooting mode, the LCD reports the flash setting, drive mode, metering mode, image size and quality, and the number of frames remaining. Additional functions are shown as they are enabled and battery status is only displayed when power is low. A third press of the Display button cancels both displays.


In Replay mode, the LCD monitor provides a full-frame display of captured images, which you can view individually by scrolling left or right with the arrow buttons on the Multicontroller. Depressing the Flash / Index button brings up a thumbnail index display of nine images at a time, which you can also scroll through with the arrow buttons. The Zoom rocker doubles as a Digital Enlargement button (marked by magnifying glasses), which allows you to enlarge an image up to 10x its normal size on the screen. Playback magnification begins at 2x, and proceeds in fairly smooth steps to the maximum of approximately 10x. This degree of enlargement is very handy, as it's sufficient to check focus accuracy and depth of field, something that's difficult to do on cameras with lower playback magnification. The arrow keys permit you to move around the enlarged image and check fine details.


By default, the LCD screen displays basic information about the captured images, including the file name, date, and time it was recorded, compression, resolution, and what number it is in the sequence of images stored on the memory card. Depressing the Display button once brings up a thumbnail view of the image with more detailed information such as the shooting mode, aperture, f/stop, exposure compensation, and metering mode. In addition, the screen shows a histogram next to the image to indicate the distribution of tonal values. Besides the histogram display (and actually much more useful), any blown-out highlights in the image will blink from white to black and back again, letting you see exactly where detail has been lost. (I particularly like this form of display, applaud Canon for including it, and hope to see even more manufacturers adopt it in the future.)


As is often the case in digicams with both optical and LCD viewfinders, the S70's viewfinder is rather tight, showing only 82 percent of the final image area, at all lens zoom settings. Thankfully though, the S70's LCD viewfinder is essentially perfect, showing exactly what the camera will ultimately capture.

 

Optics

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The S70 features an advanced built-in, 3.6x, 5.8-20.7mm telescoping zoom lens (equivalent to a 28-100mm lens on a 35mm camera). When the lens cover is opened, the camera powers on and the lens telescopes out from the camera body into its operating position, projecting about 31mm (1.22 inches) from the camera body. It retracts again when the camera is shut off. Focus can be automatically or manually controlled, with a range of 1.4 feet (44 centimeters) to infinity in normal mode. Macro mode features a focus range of 1.6 inches to 1.4 feet (4 to 44 centimeters) in wide-angle mode and 1.0 inches to 1.4 feet (30 to 44 centimeters) in telephoto mode. The greatest magnification in macro mode occurs with the lens at the wide angle end of its range, delivering an impressive minimum area of only 2.28 x 1.71 inches (58 x 43 millimeters). The lens aperture adjusts automatically or manually, with an f/2.8 to f/8.0 range, depending on the zoom setting. (The f/2.8 aperture is only available when the lens is at its wide angle setting. In telephoto mode, the maximum aperture is f/5.3.)

The S70 features some very advanced optics at its core, technology that allows this camera to achieve not only a wider angle of view, but a thinner profile as well. Canon calls it UA, which is shorthand for Ultra-high refractive index Aspherical lens. Canon says they have perfected a way to use highly refractive glass in aspherical lenses. This apparently has been difficult or impossible to do in the past, because highly-refractive glass warps considerably as it cools, introducing errors in the ultra-critical shape of the lens surface. Canon's technical reps say that they estimate that Canon is a year or more ahead of other lens manufacturers in the technology necessary to produce these optics in mass quantities. Because its advanced optics, the S70 has a wider angle of view and a thinner profile than its predecessors, whereas previous lens technology would actually have required a thicker camera to achieve such a wide angle.

In the manual exposure modes (that is, all modes but Auto), the S70 offers a manual focus option. Manual focus is activated by depressing the Manual Focus (MF) button on the left side of the rear panel. A distance indicator appears on the LCD monitor, providing a reference scale for focusing. While the MF button is held down, the up and down arrows of the Omni Selector can be used to adjust the focus (the top of the scale represents infinity). Whatever focus was selected remains in effect when the MF button is released. Autofocus operation can be restored by pressing the MF button a second time. The LCD scale displayed during manual focusing is marked numerically, and a Setup menu option changes the units to meters or feet. This numeric feedback is very handy for times when there's not enough light to see the image on the LCD screen, forcing you to guesstimate the distance. For those times when there is enough light, a small window appears in the center of the viewfinder, showing a 2x-enlarged view of the center of the frame. This helps greatly in determining when you've reached optimum focus, but it would be nice to have an option for even greater magnification, perhaps set via the setup menu.

The S70 offers nine active autofocus (AF) areas in Image Zone modes, arrayed around the center of the frame. In Auto mode, the camera chooses which of the nine to use for focusing, based on which has a subject closest to the camera that it can get a good focus lock on. In Creative Zone modes, the camera pays attention to a single point at the center of the screen by default. With the frame highlighted by pressing the Set button, pressing the right or left arrow buttons on the Multicontroller scrolls it more or less continuously around roughly the central 60 percent of the image area, letting you place it wherever you'd like. Pressing the Set button again locks-in the chosen AF area position and restores the frame to its normal white color. When the camera is focusing, a green highlight around the edge of the frame indicates that the image is focused, while a yellow highlight indicates that the camera is having trouble focusing. If dim subject lighting requires it, a very bright amber LED autofocus assist light on the front of the camera automatically illuminates whenever autofocus is active. (The AF-assist light can be turned off via a menu option.)

The S70's autofocus bracketing option captures three successive images with focus set for the current position, behind, and in front of the subject. The Focus Bracketing function is accessed via the Drive option of the Function menu, and requires that Manual focus be enabled and set. You can adjust the amount of the bracketing via the user interface, but the variation is in arbitrary units. (That is, you can change the relative amount, but there's no indication of just how much the focus is actually being varied. Probably reasonable, given that the variation in focus distance will vary quite a bit as a function of the manually-selected focusing point.)

The S70's 4.1x Digital Zoom must be enabled through the Record menu, as it is disabled by default. Once enabled, it is activated whenever you zoom past the maximum optical telephoto range with the Zoom rocker. Once the Digital Zoom function is activated, press the Zoom rocker to the right and hold it until it stops at maximum telephoto, then release the lever and press it toward the right again. I always warn readers that digital zoom only enlarges the center portion of the CCD image, and compromises the image quality by reducing resolution and enlarging noise patterns. Note that Digital Zoom is not available in the RAW file format.

 

Exposure

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The PowerShot S70 offers excellent exposure control, with Automatic, Program AE (P), Shutter Speed Priority AE (TV), Aperture Priority AE (Av), Manual (M) exposure modes, and a handful of special settings for specific shooting situations. Under the Automatic exposure mode, the camera controls both shutter speed and aperture settings, but lets the user control the Flash, Macro, Digital Zoom, Drive Mode, Compression, and Resolution settings. The Program AE mode also controls shutter speed and aperture settings, but also provides access to other exposure controls not offered in Auto mode, including Exposure Compensation, Flash Exposure Compensation, Spot Metering, ISO adjustment, AE lock, Auto Exposure Bracketing, White Balance, Contrast, Sharpness, and Color Saturation.

Shutter Priority mode puts you in control of the shutter speed setting (from 1/2,000 to 15 seconds ), while the camera chooses a corresponding lens aperture. At apertures wider than f/4, it's important to note that the camera is only capable of 1/1,250 as its maximum shutter speed. As with the Program AE mode, you maintain control over all other exposure options. Aperture Priority works along similar lines, except that you control the aperture (f/2.8 to f/8.0) and the camera chooses the best corresponding shutter speed. Both the shutter speed and aperture values are displayed on the LCD monitor. If the camera can't find an aperture or shutter speed to produce the correct exposure with the shutter speed or aperture you've selected, the LCD indicators will turn red, letting you know that you need to change the setting you selected. A Custom (C) mode lets you save a (wide) variety of exposure settings previously saved in any of the P, Tv, Av, or M exposure modes, including menu settings, zoom position, and manual focus. Once saved, the exposure settings automatically come up when you enter Custom mode.

As just mentioned, in all exposure modes, shutter times faster than 1/1,250 are only available at apertures of f/4.0 and smaller. For the record, it's fairly common to see top shutter speeds limited to smaller lens openings, as the shutter speed limit becomes a function of how long it takes for the shutter aperture to transit the light cone of the lens, which is itself governed by the size of the lens' aperture.

A number of preset "scene" exposure modes are also available for shooting under special conditions. These modes preset a variety of camera options, letting complete novices capture decent pictures in challenging situations without having to know all the ins and outs of the camera. Portrait mode uses a large aperture setting to reduce depth of field, resulting in blurred backgrounds and strong focal emphasis on the primary subject. Landscape mode uses a small aperture to keep both the foreground and background in sharp focus. A slow shutter speed is also common in Landscape mode, so it's recommended that you use a tripod.

Night Scene mode uses a slow shutter speed to capture the color and detail of evening settings, along with a flash exposure to illuminate the primary subject in the foreground. By using slow shutter speed and the flash together, the overall scene is more evenly exposed. This mode can also be combined with the redeye reduction flash for portraits, or the flash can be turned off. Portrait subjects should be warned though, to stay still after the flash, until the shutter is closed.

Fast Shutter is provided for fast-moving subjects such as sporting events, while Slow Shutter is available for creating a sense of motion in fast-moving subjects. Fast shutter speeds stop action to maintain sharp focus on moving subjects, while slow shutter speeds tend to blur the subject because the shutter stays open longer to record the image. This last effect is particularly striking when used with swiftly moving water such as that found in water falls or streams.

The S70's Effects options have been moved from the Mode dial position to an option under the Function menu (displayed by pressing the FUNC button). The Effects setting provides a choice of six color and image options, including Vivid color, Neutral color, Low Sharpening, Sepia tone, Black-and-White, and Custom. The Custom option accesses Contrast, Sharpness, and Saturation adjustments. Effects are shown on the monitor so you can view the image before taking the exposure.

A quick-review mode lets you quickly confirm the most recently recorded image. To access the Review mode, you simply push the Playback button next to the upper right corner of the LCD to switch to image playback. If you like, you can immediately erase the displayed image by pressing the Manual Focus / Delete button, which calls up a small erase menu on the bottom of the monitor. To return to Shooting mode, press the Replay button to the right a second time, or simply touch the Shutter button. Like most Canon cameras though, you effectively have an "instant" review mode available at any time, simply by holding down the shutter button after you've snapped the picture: The just-captured image will remain on the LCD until you release the shutter button.

Exposure compensation can be adjusted from –2 to +2 exposure values (EV), in one-third-step increments. The camera's metering system offers three operating modes, which include Evaluative Light Metering, Center-Weighted Averaging, and Spot AE Point. Metering mode is selected by pressing the Metering / Microphone button on the left side of the LCD monitor. Evaluative metering divides the image into several zones and determines the exposure based on the position of the subject, image brightness, ambient light, direct light, and backlighting. Center-weighted averaging is based on an averaged light reading of the overall scene, but places more emphasis on the center of the viewfinder or LCD monitor. Spot metering reads only a specific point in the viewfinder. Through the Record menu, you can choose to base the spot reading on the center of the frame or the adjustable autofocus frame, which you can position anywhere within the central ~60 percent of the image area.

Another high-end feature brought over from Canon's G-series digicams is independent exposure lock. With most digicams, you can lock both focus and exposure by half-pressing and holding the Shutter button prior to the shot itself. This can be very handy for off-center subjects. Sometimes though, you want to lock the focus on one part of the subject, but set the exposure based on a different part. On the S70, this is accomplished by half-pressing the Shutter button (which will set both focus and exposure), and then subsequently pressing the Metering/Audio button at bottom left, to reset the exposure. Of particular note, this option works for flash exposures as well, whenever the flash is enabled. Very slick.

The S70 offers nine White Balance modes, including Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Tungsten, Fluorescent, Fluorescent H (daylight), Flash, Underwater (for use with the optional underwater case) and Custom. The Custom mode allows you to manually set the white balance by holding a white card in front of the camera and pressing the Metering / Audio button to set the value. You can now save two separate Custom white balances, so that you can quickly switch back and forth without having to reshoot a white card. This is extremely useful for a party situation, where you may be moving in and out of different light sources.

ISO film speed equivalents on the S70 are set in the Function menu, with choices of Auto, 50, 100, 200, and 400. The higher the ISO setting, the more you can extend the camera's exposure range in low-light situations. Just keep in mind that higher ISO values have progressively lower quality levels, with increased image noise.

 

Flash

The S70's built-in flash operates in one of five modes: Auto, Red-Eye Reduction (Auto), Red-Eye Reduction (Flash On), Flash On, and Flash Off. The Auto mode tells the camera to determine when flash is necessary, based on existing exposure conditions. Flash On means that the flash fires with every exposure, regardless of lighting conditions, and Flash Off completely disables the flash. The two redeye reduction modes fire a small pre-flash before the full flash, to reduce the redeye effect in portraits. The difference between the two redeye modes is that the auto mode lets the camera decide when to use the flash, while the Flash On mode fires the flash with every exposure. All flash modes are accessed by pressing the Flash / Index button located to the left of the optical viewfinder. A Slow-Synchro mode is available through the Record menu, which combines the flash with a slower shutter speed. The slower shutter speed lets more of the ambient light fall on the camera's sensor, brightening background objects. You can also decide to synchronize the flash with the first or second curtain of the shutter, to control whether motion-blur trails precede or follow moving subjects. (Most of the time, you'll want to use second-curtain sync, so any motion blur will follow behind the subjects, for a more natural look.)

The flash exposure can be adjusted from -2 to +2 EV in one-third-step increments through the Function menu, and flash and ambient light exposure can be controlled separately in slow-sync flash mode. Additionally, you can adjust the flash output to 1/3, 2/3, or Full, through the same Function menu option (in Manual mode or when the Flash Adjust option of the Record menu is set to Manual). This manual flash power control is useful for balancing the light of the internal flash with that from external "slave" strobe units. As mentioned earlier, you can also lock the Flash Exposure (FE) setting for a specific area of your subject, just as you would with a normal exposure. Begin by framing your subject as you would normally, and half-press the Shutter button to lock focus on your main subject. Then, reframe the scene to place the portion of the subject you want to expose for in the middle of the frame. While still holding the Shutter button down, press the Metering / Audio button to lock the flash exposure (an asterisk will appear at the bottom of the screen). The flash will fire a pre-flash to lock the exposure reading, after which you can recompose your image and press the Shutter button all the way down to make the exposure with the FE lock in place. (Note: Pressing any other button after the Metering / Audio button will cancel the flash exposure lock.) Playing with it a bit in the office, I found that the flash exposure lock gave me a tremendous amount of control over flash exposures. This is definitely a feature that will be worth playing with a little if you end up owning an S70.

Canon rates the S70's flash as effective from 1.8 to 14 feet (35 centimeters to 4.8 meters) at maximum wide-angle and 1.8 to 6.6 feet (35 centimeters to 3 meters) at maximum telephoto. In my own tests, it illuminated the test target adequately out to the maximum 14 foot range of my test, but it's clear from looking at its images that it "cheats" a little to get there. As is the case with so many cameras these days though (particularly compact models), the S70 apparently "cheats" a little bit by boosting its ISO setting without informing the user. - Canon's File Viewer Utility software still reports the ISO as 50, but it seems clear from the noise levels my test images shot at 10-14 feet that some sort of boost was applied to the ISO to achieve the longer flash range.

Auto Exposure Bracketing
The Auto Exposure Bracketing (AEB) mode is accessed through the Drive option of the Function menu. It automatically captures a series of three images, each at a different exposure setting. You can manually set the exposure variables in one-third-step increments, from -2 to +2 EV. The camera makes all three exposures with just one press of the Shutter button. Unfortunately, this function cannot be used with flash photography. If the flash fires, only one image will be recorded. (The likely reason for this is that the onboard flash recharges too slowly to be usable in a multiple-exposure application like this.)

Continuous Shooting
The S70 has two Continuous Shooting modes, which are accessed through the Drive option of the Function menu. Standard Continuous Shooting captures multiple, successive still images, at about 1.4 frames per second, providing enough time to display each image briefly after it is captured. High Speed Continuous Shooting captures images at 1.8-2.2 frames per second, as long as you hold down the shutter release. The number of images and actual shot-to-shot speed depend on several factors, including the amount of memory remaining on the flash card and the size/quality of the images being acquired. (Canon rates the two modes at 1.5 and 2.0 frames/second respectively, see the detailed timing results further on in this review for the exact performance numbers I measured in my own tests.)

Movie Mode
The S70 also offers a Movie mode, which is accessed by turning the Mode dial on top of the camera to the miniature movie camera symbol (a camera will appear in the upper left corner of the LCD display). The AVI / Motion JPEG files are recorded at 640 x 480, 320 x 240, or 160 x 120 pixels. At the highest resolution, the camera can record up to 30 seconds of video, at 10 frames per second, while the two lower resolutions permit recordings as long as three minutes, at approximately 15 frames per second. (Naturally, these maximum recording times assume that sufficient space is available on the CompactFlash card.) To begin recording, you simply press the Shutter button all the way down and hold it there until the red circle in the upper right corner of the LCD appears. Once the red circle appears, you can release the Shutter button and the camera will continue recording. To end the recording, press the Shutter button again. The flashing green LED light next to the eye-level viewfinder indicates that the camera is storing the movie. When finished, you can view the recording by pushing the Playback button to the right and depressing the Set button. The camera will play back both moving images and sound. Note that the recording options are largely preset in Movie mode: Image resolution, Self-Timer, Exposure Compensation, White Balance, and Macro and Manual focus are the only adjustable functions. While the lens can be zoomed before and after movie recording, it cannot be activated during the recording process itself, and the camera's exposure is also set and fixed at the beginning of the recording interval.

Stitch-Assist Mode
The Stitch-Assist mode records a series of overlapping images to create horizontal or vertical panoramas, and 2x2-frame rectangular composites. A framing guideline for each format appears in the LCD monitor to help line up successive shots: After each image in the series is captured, a portion of it remains onscreen to serve as an alignment guide for the next shot in the series. This makes it much easier to line up each shot with the ones that went before it. For the panoramas, you can take as many images in a series as you want, enabling you to record a full 360-degree circle of the surrounding scenery if you so desire. The 2x2 mode uses a series of only four images, starting from the top left corner and moving in a clockwise direction, to create a complete composite. Once captured, you can use Canon's included PhotoStitch program to seamlessly combine the images in your computer.

Self-Timer Mode
The Self-Timer is set through the Drive sub-menu in the Function menu. When set to Self-Timer, the camera displays the standard self-timer icon (a clock counting down) in the LCD display, and depressing the Shutter button activates a two- or 10-second countdown (depending on the Drive mode selected), during which a bright amber lamp on the camera's front panel blinks, gaining speed in the last two seconds. If the camera's Beep function is turned on in the Setup menu, you will also hear the beep counting down. The two-second option is very handy when you're shooting long exposures with the camera on a tripod, and want to avoid jiggling the camera and blurring the shot when you press the Shutter button with your finger. The two-second countdown is enough time for any vibrations to die down before the shutter opens, but not so long as to seriously slow your shooting.

Intervalometer
Set through the Record menu, the S70's Intervalometer mode lets you record images at set intervals, achieving the effect of time-lapse photography. Shooting intervals range from one to 60 minutes, with a maximum of 100 images in the series (depending of course, on the amount of space available on the memory and the image size and quality settings you've selected). Once you've set the parameters, pressing the Shutter button starts the series. Once the set number of shots has been captured, the camera shuts itself off.

 

Shutter Lag and Cycle Times

When you press the shutter release on a camera, there's usually a lag time or delay before the shutter actually fires. This corresponds to the time required for the autofocus and autoexposure mechanisms time to do their work, and can amount to a fairly long delay in some situations. Since this number is rarely reported on (and even more rarely reported accurately), and can significantly affect the picture taking experience, I routinely measure both shutter delay and shot to shot cycle times for all cameras I test, using a test system I designed and built for the purpose. (Crystal-controlled, with a resolution of 0.001 second.) Here are the numbers I collected for the Canon S70:

Canon PowerShot S70 Timings
Operation
Time
(secs)
Notes
Power On -> First shot
2.9
LCD turns on and lens extends forward. Average.
Shutdown
2.5 - 48
First time is time to retract lens, second time is worst-case buffer-clearing time. Average: Long buffer-clearing corresponds to series of 11 large/fine JPEGs. (A large buffer.)
Play to Record, first shot
1.4
Time until first shot is captured. Fairly fast.
Record to play
3.4/0.9
First time is that required to display a large/fine file immediately after capture, second time is that needed to display a large/fine file that has already been processed and stored on the memory card. On the fast side of average.
Shutter lag, full autofocus
0.96/0.93
First time is at full wide-angle, second is full telephoto. On the slow side of average. (Average is a range from 0.8-1.0)
Shutter lag, prefocus
0.072
Time to capture, after half-pressing shutter button. Very fast.
Cycle Time, max/min resolution

2.22 /
2.24

First number is for large/fine files, second number is time for "TV" mode (640x480) images. Times are averages. In large/fine mode, shoots 10 shots this fast, then slows to about 6 seconds per shot, and takes 46 seconds to clear the buffer with a Lexar 80x card. In TV mode, continues this fast for more than 50 shots, clears the buffer in 17 seconds after 50 shots. Pretty fast for a 7-megapixel camera, generous buffer capacity.
Cycle Time, RAW mode 2.84 Times are averages. Shoots 5 shots this fast, then slows to about 10 seconds per shot, and takes 38 seconds to clear the buffer with a Lexar 80x card. Quite fast for RAW-mode shooting, and a good buffer capacity.
Cycle Time, continuous Low mode, max/min resolution 0.95
(1.05 fps)
Shoots large/fine files or TV mode files at about the same rate. Times are averages. Shoots 11 images in large/fine mode before slowing to 4.6 seconds per shot, and clears the buffer in 46 seconds with a Lexar 80x card. In TV mode, continues this fast for more than 100 shots, clears the buffer in 38 seconds after 100 shots. Not terribly fast.
Cycle Time , continuous Low mode, RAW 1.48 Times are averages. Shoots 5 shots this fast, then slows to about 10 seconds per shot, and takes 42 seconds to clear the buffer with a Lexar 80x card. Not bad for RAW mode.
Cycle Time, continuous High mode, max/min resolution 0.50 / 0.60
(2.0 / 1.67 fps)
Times are averages. Shoots 4 images in large/fine mode, then slows to 0.67 sec/frame for 5 more images, then finally slows to 4.0 seconds per shot, and clears the buffer in 33 seconds with a Lexar 80x card. Shoots 100+ images in TV mode, and clears the buffer in 35 seconds.
Cycle Time, continuous High mode, RAW 1.39 Times are averages. Shoots 5 shots this fast, then slows to an average of 8.5 seconds per shot (varying between 12.2 and 3.6 seconds), and takes 37 seconds to clear the buffer.

Overall, I'd rate the S70's timing performance as a bit better than average. It starts up and shuts down reasonably quickly, is reasonably fast from shot to shot, and has average shutter response times. It does excel in two areas though, namely prefocused shutter lag and RAW-format cycle times, both of which are quite a bit faster than average. All in all, not a first choice for sports photography, but not a bad performer either, and about the only reasonably compact option on the market for raw-format shooting, if you care at all about cycle times in that mode.

 

Operation and User Interface

The PowerShot S70's user interface is straightforward and should present a relatively short learning curve if you read over the Camera User Guide. (Although there are a lot of features here, so I'd imagine that novice users could easily spend a couple of hours learning them all. Experienced digicam users should be able to come up to speed on the major functions in under an hour though.) I generally prefer to see external access to as many exposure controls as possible, and the S70 does provide a fair amount of control without resorting to the LCD menu system. The Function menu offers access to most of the common settings quite easily, and is accessed via the FUNC button (though it does still use the LCD monitor). Instead of successively cycling through a series of Function and Effects menus, the Function menu displays all of its options at once, meaning you only have to scroll down to the desired option. Also, the Function menu offers image resolution and quality settings, making them slightly faster to access than as if you had to fish through the main Record menu as on cameras from some other manufacturers. The S70's control buttons are somewhat spread out, so you'll likely have to operate the camera with two hands when adjusting settings or using the Manual Focus, although the Zoom and Multicontroller buttons are directly adjacent to the Shutter button, so you can easily shoot one-handed in most situations.


Shutter Button: Located on the right side of the camera's top panel, when the Shutter button is halfway depressed, it sets focus and exposure, and when fully depressed, it trips the shutter release. In Self-Timer mode, fully depressing the Shutter button triggers a two- or 10-second countdown before the shutter is released.


Mode Dial: To the left of the Shutter button, this notched dial is used to select the camera's shooting modes. Canon divides these functions into three categories: Auto, Image Zone, and Creative Zone. The options are as follows:


Auto: The camera controls everything about the exposure, except for Flash and Macro modes, and image size and quality settings.

"Creative Zone"

"Image Zone"


Zoom Lever: Now moved to the back behind the shutter button, the Zoom rocker extends the lens to maximum telephoto range when pushed to the right, and returns the lens to maximum wide-angle when pushed to the left. When Digital Zoom is engaged, pushing the Zoom Lever past maximum telephoto activates the Digital Zoom function. In Replay mode, the Zoom rocker magnifies the on-screen image when pushed to the right and returns it to normal magnification when pushed to the left.


Replay Button: Right of the LCD, the Playback button automatically puts the camera in Playback mode from any Shooting position. When the lens cover is closed, pushing the Replay button to the right turns on the camera in Replay mode. Pushing the button a second time turns off the Replay function.


Omni Selector: Located directly right of the LCD, the Omni Selector replaces the old Multicontroller from past S-series cameras because some users found the earlier design too difficult to use. The Omni Selector is more like other digital cameras and PDAs, with a four way rocker disk on the outside and the Set button in the middle to confirm menu choices. The arrow keys navigate through menu options, while the Set button confirms menu selections. The combination is becoming universal and is easy to understand, and the S70's implementation is one of the better ones I've seen. The four arrow directions are easy to actuate, and I never had a problem with the camera being confused as to which arrow direction I was pressing. Likewise, the separate Set button in the center is cleanly separated from the arrow controls, so there's little chance of accidental interaction between them.

Pressing the Set button without an on-screen menu active lets you adjust the AF area, using the arrow keys to move the AF target frame freely around an area covering roughly 60 percent of the frame.


Menu Button: To the bottom right of the Omni Selector is the Menu button, which calls up the Record, Setup, My Camera, and Replay menus on the LCD display in all camera modes. A second press of the Menu button cancels the menu display.


Display Button: Bottom left of the Omni Selector is the Display button, which controls the LCD monitor's display mode. In Record mode, this button turns on the image display with the first press, activates the information display with the second press, and cancels both with the third press. In Playback mode, the button cycles through the captured image information displays.


Macro / Jump Button: Left of the optical viewfinder is the Macro / Jump button, which accesses the Macro function when the camera is in Record mode. In Replay mode, it calls up the "jump bar." When the jump bar is displayed, the right and left arrow buttons jump nine images forward or backward at a time, letting you quickly scan through the images on the memory card.


Flash / Index Display Button: Positioned in the very top left corner of the back panel, this button cycles through the Red-Eye Reduction (Auto), Auto, Red-Eye Reduction (Flash On), Flash On, and Flash Off flash modes. In playback mode, this button displays up to nine images at a time, in a thumbnail index format, on the LCD screen.


Exposure Compensation (EV)/White Balance (WB) / FUNC. Button: The top button on the left of the LCD menu, this button activates the on-screen Function menu. You can scroll between the menu items by pressing the up or down arrows on the Omni Selector, and select options for each with the left and right arrow buttons. Here's the list of options that can be controlled from here:


Manual Focus / Delete Button: Located beneath the FUNC. button, the Manual Focus / Delete button activates the Manual Focus if held down in Record mode, while the up or down arrow on the Multicontroller is actuated. In Replay mode, this button brings up the Delete menu on the LCD monitor.


Metering / Audio Button: Just below the Manual Focus / Delete Button , this control places the camera in Evaluative Light Metering, Center-Weighted Averaging, and Spot AE Point metering modes when the camera is in Record mode. The Metering button also accesses secondary menu options in the Function menu, when indicated on the LCD display. Pressing this button in Replay mode allows you to record up to 60 seconds of sound with individual images.

 

Camera Modes & Menus

Record Menu: With the exception of the Auto exposure mode, and most of the Image Zone exposure functions, the Record menu provides virtually the same options for all exposure modes. These menus are accessed by depressing the Menu button once while in Shooting mode. Following are the available settings, with notes as to which are not available in Auto mode:

Play Menu: This menu is only available in the Replay mode. It lets you scroll through captured images; erase, protect, and rotate them; or set them up in a slide show or for printing on a DPOF compatible device. The Play menu offers the following selections:

Setup Menu: The Setup menu provides universal camera control options that remain the same in both Shooting and Replay modes, with the exception of shutter and speaker volume (see below). This menu is accessed by depressing the Menu button once and scrolling to the right with the Omni selector arrow pad. Following are the available settings:

My Camera Menu: This menu lets you customize certain camera functions, including the startup image, and startup, shutter, button, and self-timer sounds.


Image Storage and Interface

The Canon S70 uses CompactFlash memory cards for image storage, accommodating both Type I and II card sizes. This means that the camera should also be able to store images to a Hitachi MicroDrive for increased storage capacity, although I did not test the camera with one. A 32MB CompactFlash Type I memory card is supplied with the camera. Entire CompactFlash cards cannot be write-protected, however, the S70's Play menu allows you to write-protect individual image files, protecting them from accidental erasure, unless the card is formatted.

Still images can be saved at one of five resolutions (3,072 x 2,304; 2,592 x 1,944; 2,048 x 1,536; 1,600 x 1,200; 640 x 480 pixels), while movie images are recorded at 320 x 240 or 160 x 120 pixels. Still images also have three JPEG compression levels available: Superfine, Fine, and Normal, plus a RAW setting that records the image straight from the CCD, with no further processing. RAW images require the Canon ZoomBrowser or ImageBrowser software for processing on a computer. The benefit of the RAW data file format is that it compresses the image file without any loss of image quality.

A full complement of interface software comes with the S70, as does a USB cable for speedy connection to a PC or Macintosh computer. Downloading files to my Sony desktop running Windows XP (Pentium IV, 2.4 GHz), I clocked the S70 at 513 KBytes/second. This is moderately fast for cameras with USB v1.1 interfaces, but a good bit slower than most USB v2.0-equipped models. Still, it's fast enough that you shouldn't need an external card reader. (Cameras with slow USB v1.1 interfaces run as low as 300 KB/s, cameras with fast v1.1 interfaces run as high as 600 KB/s. Cameras with USB v2.0 interfaces run as fast as several megabytes/second.)

Following are the approximate resolution / quality and compression ratios for a 32MB card (compression numbers are based on my own computations):

Image Capacity vs
Resolution/Quality
32 MB Memory Card
RAW Fine Normal
Basic
3072 x 2304 Images
(Avg size)

4
7.4 MB

10
3.1 MB
16
2.0 MB
33
946 KB
Approx.
Compression
- 7:1 11:1 23:1
2592 x 1944 Images
(Avg size)
- 12
2.6 MB
22
1.5 MB
43
734 KB
Approx.
Compression
- 6:1 10:1 20:1
2048 x 1536 Images
(Avg size)
- 19
1.7 MB
34
929 KB
67
473KB
Approx.
Compression
- 6:1 10:1 20:1
1600 x 1200 Images
(Avg size)
- 30
607 KB
54
344 KB
103
197 KB
Approx.
Compression
- 6:1 10:1
19:1
640 x 480
Images
(Avg size)
- 115
278 KB
178
179 KB
280
114 KB
Approx.
Compression
- 3:1 5:1
8:1

 


Video Out

The S70 has a video-out port that supports both PAL and NTSC timing formats. The video output can be used for reviewing previously recorded images or running slide shows from the camera. It also shows all three LCD menu screens, as well as the preview display from the LCD viewfinder.

The output cable is a true AV cable, as it fans out into two RCA jacks, one for video, and one for audio. Plugged into any video monitor (or TV with direct video and audio inputs), the audio capabilities of the S70 make it a potentially effective portable presentation device.

 

Power

The S70 is powered by an internal Canon NB-2LH rechargeable lithium-ion battery pack. This battery is new for 2004, offering up to 26% greater capacity than the previous model, based on Canon's mAh ratings of the two units. The camera ships with one battery pack and a charger. An AC Adapter Kit ACK700 is sold separately, with a power adapter, DC coupler, and power cord. A built-in rechargeable battery maintains the date, time, and other settings, drawing power from the main battery to recharge.

The camera has a Power Mode Indicator lamp directly to the left of the Replay button, which stays on as long as the camera is powered on. An orange light indicates Shooting mode, a green light indicates Replay or printer connection modes, and yellow indicates computer connection mode.

Because the S70 relies on its LCD display for viewing and selecting some of its settings, it can be somewhat of a drain on the power supply. Fortunately, the camera has an automatic shutdown mode to help conserve battery power, and you can save power by relying on the optical viewfinder whenever possible.

The proprietary battery connection won't let me perform my usual power measurements on the S70, but I did conduct a run-down test with a fully-charged battery, and with the S70 operating in its worst-case power drain mode. (Capture mode, with the LCD turned on.) This produced a very respectable run time of 131 minutes, and the camera would doubtless do much better were the LCD left turned off. I still strongly recommend purchasing a second battery right along with the camera, but overall the S70 showed good battery life for its size.

 

Included Software

The Canon PowerShot S70 comes with an very nice complement of software on the included CDs. Compatible with Windows (98, ME, 2000, and XP) and Macintosh operating systems, Canon's Digital Camera applications allow you to download images from the camera, process RAW data files, stitch together images shot in Stitch-Assist mode, set up images for printing, and even operate the camera remotely from the computer. For the Mac, the Canon Applications include ImageBrowser v3.6 and PhotoStitch 3.1. For Windows machines, the applications include ZoomBrowser EX 4.6, PhotoRecord 2.1, Camera TWAIN Driver 6.4, and Camera WIA Driver 6.2, and Apple QuickTime. The software bundle includes their RemoteCapture program for controlling the camera remotely, something that most will never use, but a few who discover it will find RemoteCapture indispensable. You actually see a live image from the camera on your screen, and every picture you take is loaded onto the computer. You can control nearly every aspect of the camera, including ISO, White Balance, Zoom, flash and EV settings, and of course shutter speed and aperture. It's pretty impressive. Captured images are sent directly to the computer.

 

"Gallery" Photos

Readers interested in seeing a sample of more pictorial images shot with the Canon S70 can visit our Canon PowerShot S70 Photo Gallery.

 

 

Test Results

In keeping with my standard test policy, the comments given here summarize only my key findings. For a full commentary on each of the test images, see the Canon PowerShot S70's "pictures" page.

As with all Imaging Resource product tests, I encourage you to let your own eyes be the judge of how well the camera performed. Explore the images on the pictures page, to see how the G6's images compare to other cameras you may be considering.

Not sure which camera to buy? Let your eyes be the ultimate judge! Visit our Comparometer(tm) to compare images from the G6 with those from other cameras you may be considering. The proof is in the pictures, so let your own eyes decide which you like best!

The S70 is very similar internally to Canon's PowerShot G6, so a lot of my comments below will match what I had to say about the G6. The main differences between the two cameras are that:

Bottom line though, differences between the G6 and S70 are relatively slight, and both produce very good images. Here's a summary of my findings for the S70:

 

Conclusion

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Following the tradition of earlier high-end S-series PowerShots, the S70 is perhaps best described as a "G6 in sheep's clothing." Compared to the G6, about all that's missing are a flash hot shoe, the tilt/swivel LCD, and the G6's internal neutral density filter. Everything else about the camera fits the needs, desires, and interests of "enthusiast" shooters, while at the same time remaining approachable for rank beginners, thanks to a full auto mode and a small assortment of scene modes. In terms of image quality, the S70 is also a near match for the G6. Its color is slightly more saturated, calculated to better appeal to typical consumer tastes, but it gives up a little sharpness in the corners of the frame at the (very) wide angle end of its zoom range, and also has slightly less well-behaved image noise. These are relatively minor quibbles though, as the S70 is an unusually strong performer in virtually every respect. - Another easy choice for a Dave's Pick from Canon...

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