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Canon PowerShot S10

Canon packs 2 megapixels and a 2x optical zoom into the smallest digicam yet!

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Page 2:Executive Overview

Review First Posted: 12/5/1999

Executive Overview
We've always been big fans of compact cameras, subscribing to the theory that a camera that sits in a drawer doesn't take many pictures. Accordingly, we were definitely excited about the exceptional compactness of the PowerShot S10. It's actually the smallest digital camera currently (October, 1999) on the market although the rectangular body shape makes it look a little bigger than some others noted for their 'pocketability.' The all metal body and metal tripod socket add greatly to the sense of ruggedness and sturdy durability that we find with the S10. We really liked the design of the battery compartment, which automatically locks into place when you close it. A built-in automatic shutter protects the lens, making you feel a little more confident about just dropping it in your pocket on the way out the door. But don't let its small size fool you, its resolution reigns at the top of the current two megapixel category, with excellent image quality to boot.

The optical viewfinder doesn't feature a dioptric adjustment, but it does have a high eye point which should make eyeglass wearers a little more comfortable. Overall, we found the optical viewfinder quite "loose", although the accuracy is very consistent from wide angle to telephoto on the zoom lens. Alternatively, the LCD monitor shows a bit more of the subject on the wide angle end than the final image reveals while the telephoto end showed about 95 percent accuracy. A bonus is the optional live status display on the LCD monitor, which displays small menus down the sides of the monitor.

We found the 6.3 to 12.6mm, F/2.8 to F/4.0, 2x zoom lens (equivalent to a 35 to 70mm lens on a 35mm camera) a little limited, compared to the abundance of 3x zooms out on the market. But the resolution places the S10 at the top of the current (October 1999) two megapixel marketplace with about 700 lines per picture height, in both vertical and horizontal directions. Zoom action is fairly smooth, although it's not as sensitive to the controls as we might like it to be. We did appreciate the bright autofocus assist light which aids focusing in dim lighting situations (but it's a two-edged sword as it takes a big bite out of battery power).

We experienced good exposure control and enjoyed the option of four shooting modes (Automatic, Manual, Stitch Assist and "Image"). Automatic mode is pretty straightforward with the camera making all the decisions while Manual gives you control over exposure compensation (EV) and white balance. Image capture mode was helpful for fast shooting situations, providing preset exposure settings for landscapes, night scenes, etc. The Stitch Assist mode takes the guesswork out of panorama shots.

The Gain setting provides versatile ISO (light sensitivity) adjustment options from zero (100 ISO), to +1 (ISO 200) and +2 (ISO 400). Although you don't have any direct control over shutter speed or aperture settings, the S10's automatic shutter covers a wide range from two to 1/1,000 seconds. The built-in flash operates in four modes: Auto, Red-Eye Reduction, On and Off and features through the lens metering which increases the accuracy.

Feature-wise, the S10 offers a very versatile selection. The digital telephoto function magnifies up to 4x and can be turned off and on through the record settings menu. Additionally, the macro function allows you to capture subjects from 4.7 to 18 inches (12 to 46 cm) away and is accessible in all four capture modes. The Self-Timer gives you 10 seconds once the shutter button has been pressed, indicated by the self-timer light on the front of the camera. In the continuous shooting mode, the S10 captures approximately 1.7 images per second, depending on the amount of space on the CompactFlash card, the entire time the shutter is held down.

Exposure compensation is adjustable from -2 to +2EV in Manual, Image and Stitch Assist modes. Likewise, white balance offers Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Tungsten and Fluorescent settings but is only available in Manual, Image and Stitch Assist capture modes. In Manual capture mode only, you can choose between spot and center weighted metering, depending on the composition of your subject. You can also adjust contrast and sharpness, giving you further control over the final image.

The S10 utilizes CompactFlash for image storage and comes with an 8MB card, which of course is upgradeable. Images can be stored as Superfine, Fine or Normal quality (compression level) and at resolutions of 1600 x 1200, 1280 x 960 and 800 x 600. When it comes to power, the S10 uses either a rechargeable, nickel-hydride NB-5H battery pack or a 2CR5 lithium battery, with a CR2016 lithium battery backing up the internal calendar. The PowerShot S10 is sold in the US without the optional NiMH battery pack, charger, and AC adapter cable. In our view, these items really should be included with the camera, as it would be prohibitively expensive to operate the camera on 2CR5 lithium cells all the time. Thus, when comparing digicam prices, be sure you include the cost of the battery/charger kit with that quoted for the S10 itself.

Two software CDs and serial cables for Mac and PC come with the camera (we were thrilled by the inclusion of a USB cable). The PowerShot Browser program downloads the images from the camera, PhotoStitch pieces together panorama shots and Adobe PhotoDeluxe gives you image manipulation and correction capabilities. There's also an NTSC video cable for connection to a television set, which can be used for image playback or composition.

Other than a few minor drawbacks here and there (the limitation of a 2x zoom lens, etc.), we really liked the S10. The most impressive feature is its compact size and carefree portability, which is definitely a plus in the current digicam marketplace. But beyond that, the four capture modes and variety of exposure control options ensure high quality images that give you more than the usual amount of control over the composition. Best of all, the picture quality is second to none.

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