Canon PowerShot S10Canon packs 2 megapixels and a 2x optical zoom into the smallest digicam yet!
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PowerShot S10 Sample ImagesReview First Posted: 12/5/1999
|We've begun including links in our reviews to a Thumber-generated
index page for our 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! ;)
(1418k) We shot this test with both automatic and
daylight white balance settings, with essentially identical results. We
used the automatic white balance shots for our test series here. Suprisingly,
the S10's exposure system got the exposure just right with no compensation
at all, as seen in our main shot (1418k).
Usually, cameras underexpose this image significantly, requiring up to a
full EV unit of exposure compensation. Tonal range is very good, with the
strongest highlights lost, but shadow detail very good. (In hindsight, we
probably would have done well to drop the EV compensation by -0.3 EV.) Resolution
and sharpness are very good, comfortably at the top of the 2-megapixel field.
Color is good, with just-right skin tones, and good saturation in the flowers,
but a little tinge of purple in the always-difficult blues of the flowers.
Overall, an excellent performance! The table below shows results for a range
of exposure compensations settings, from 0 to +1.0 EV
(1365k) Again, really exceptional detail and resolution.
The shot is slightly overexposed, as we didn't shoot a test at negative
EV compensation. (As noted above, most cameras tend to underexpose this
scene, so we thus far have never shot an exposure series for it including
negative compensation.) Very good color and tone. For completeness, the
table below again shows results for a range of exposure compensation settings,
from 0 to +1.0 EV, although all but the first are really too blown out to
portrait, flash: (1340k) Really one
of the better handlings of this shot, out of all the cameras we've tested
(November, 1999). Color balance between the flash and room light is very
good, colors clean, skin tones reasonably neutral. The strong colors in
the flowers are somewhat muted however. Exposure compensation on the S10
affects flash exposures as well as those from ambient light, a nice feature
that's surprisingly rare. We ran a series of shots with exposure compensation
varying from 0 to +1.3 EV, and chose the shot with +0.7EV
compensation (1340k) as our main one here. The
table below shows the subtle variations the 1/3 EV compensation offered
by the S10 provides for flash exposures like this, with examples from +0.0
to +1.3 EV of adjustment.
portrait, no flash: (1313k) This shot
is 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 S10's white balance system did fairly well here, but we were a little
torn as to which image to choose as our main shot
(1313k) here. The images shot with automatic
white balance (1313k) had more of the warm cast
from the room lighting left in them than we'd have liked (although fairly
typical of other cameras we've tested), while shots taken with the incandescent
white balance setting (1313k) had very good skin
tones, but an odd purplish color cast in the highlights (model's shirt and
wall behind her), which became more pronounced as we increased the positive
exposure compensation. We ended up picking the incandescent version with
+0.3 EV as our main shot (1313k)
here, but include a range of exposure compensation settings, shot with both
white balance options in the tables below, for your perusal.
Automatic White Balance:
Incandescent White Balance:
(2177k) Always a tough test of camera resolution,
the S10 performed very well here, with very crisp, sharp detail, but no
sign of over-sharpening of the image. Also worthy of note is the excellent
quality of the medium and low-resolution images from the S10: Some high-resolution
digicams produce less-than-stellar results when shooting at lower resolution
settings, but the S10 does very well in this respect. (Good news for people
looking for images to use on the web.) Besides our normal test of the full
range of size and quality settings in the first table below, we also used
this target to show the effect of three of the S10's white balance settings
(auto, sunny, cloudy), shown in the second table below, as well as the effect
of the three "sharpness" settings (-,0,+), as seen in the third
table following. Overall, the auto white balance produced the most neutral
image here, and the default sharpening gave very good results. As is commonly
the case, the "-" sharpening setting simply skips the in-camera
sharpening, producing an image better suited to post-capture sharpening
in Photoshop(tm) or other image-manipulation program.
White Balance Variations:
(1935k) 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
Wow! Now *that's* detail! This test is the strongest test of detail of any we do, and the S10 came through with flying colors. Clearly at the top of the current crop of 2 megapixel digicams, in terms of detail and resolution! The default in-camera sharpening is just right, and noise levels are very low as well. Detail is lost in the strong highlight of the central bay window, but it should be noted that the house was repainted in August, 1999, so shots taken by cameras prior to that date were of a much more subdued shade of white! As before, the table below shows samples of the full range of resolution/quality settings for the S10.
We again ran a range of sharpness variations on this shot, with the results shown in the table below. Overall, the normal sharpening setting works extremely well, while the unsharpened images will work well for post-processing in Photoshop, and the increased-sharpness ones may be better for reproduction on lower-quality inkjet printers.
Besides sharpness, the S10 also has a setting to vary the contrast of the captured images. The table below shows the results of adjusting the contrast to "-", "0" (the default), and "+". The reduced-contrast version still loses the highlights, but looks like it would have produced a very well-balanced image if we'd combined it with a negative exposure compensation. - We think this is a potentially very useful image-control setting!
||Lens Zoom Range (new): We've
received a number of requests from readers to take shots showing the lens
focal length range of those cameras with zoom lenses. Thus, we're happy
to present you here with the following series of shots, showing the field
of view with respectively, the lens at full wide-angle, the lens at full
telephoto, and the lens at full telephoto with 2x and 4x "digital telephoto"
enabled. We blew it a bit here in terms of viewer convenience though, in
that all images were shot in "Large" mode, adding to the download
time. The 2x and 4x digital tele setting produces soft images in Large mode,
but they get proportionately better when the final image size is reduced.
2X in "small" mode produces (smaller) images as sharp as those
shot at full size with no digital tele. 4X is always soft, but no nearly
as bad when the small image size is used.
poster: (1760k) Again, excellent resolution
and detail, good color too. The overall color is slightly warm in our main
shot (1760k), taken using the automatic white balance
setting. The sunny and cloudy settings produced even more coloration though.
Even so, the color is very good, and the resolution absolutely top-of-class.
The table below shows the usual full range of size/quality options, while
the second table below shows the results of our white balance experimentation,
and the bottom one the results of sharpness variations.
White Balance Variations:
(1750k) While not in the "microscopic" range,
the S10 performs quite well in the macro category, with a minimum area of
only 2.0 x 2.7 inches (51 x 68 mm). Once again, great detail, sharpness,
and color. The S10's flash had a hard time throttling down enough at closest
approach, producing this (1694k)
somewhat washed-out image. The digital tele works well up close, as seen
in this 2x (450k) and this
4x (340k) image. (Interestingly, we noticed a
slight decrease in sharpness with the 2x digital tele, as compared to just
cropping into the full-size image in high-resolution mode. 4x of course
is noticeably soft, even at the small image size.
test target: (1202k) Wow! (Again) This test
is probably the best one we have to see what's really going on in a camera
with color and tonal range. The S10 did exceptionally well again, with excellent
color accuracy across the board, as well as excellent tonal range. The only
criticisms we could find to make are that the blues and greens seem a little
less saturated than the other colors. Otherwise, a near-perfect performance.
The table below shows all combinations of image resolution and quality.
We again tried various white-balance settings. The differences weren't as pronounced with this target as some of the others, but we felt the automatic white balance option once again won out.
White Balance Variations:
Because its large areas of flat color and tone are well-suited to observing image noise, we used the Davebox target to test the S10's behavior with different ISO settings. The default (ISO 100) setting produces images with very low noise. As expected, the ISO 200 and 400 options create progressively noisy images, but even at ISO 400, the noise is better than most cameras we've tested at that rating. (November, 1999)
The S10's low light capability came as a bit of a surprise, in that it was a bit less than we were expecting. We thought that the combination of the optional ISO boost, reasonably fast lens, and exposure times out to two seconds would result in very low minimum light levels. Instead, we found that boosting the ISO really didn't make a great deal of difference in the minimum usable light level, but rather only in the shutter speed available for a given illumination. Still, the S10 should be more than adequate for taking pictures in dim interiors, or outdoors at night under good street-lighting. We obtained very usable images down to an exposure level of EV 7 in our prior parlance (more properly, 1.0 foot-candles, or 11 lux), and got somewhat usable pictures a full EV unit below that.
The table below shows the best exposure we were able to obtain for each of a range of illumination levels. Images in this table (like all our sample photos) are untouched, exactly as they came from the camera.
Exposure Compensation series:
||Flash Range Test (New)
(This test was added in August 1999, so cameras tested before that time won't have comparison pictures available. As we go forward though, all the new models will have similar tests available.) Canon rates the S10's flash out to a maximum of 7.5 feet in telephoto mode, but we felt it actually did fine as far away as 9-10 feet. The table below shows results obtained at a range of distances from 8 to 14 feet.
||ISO 12233 ("WG-18")
resolution target: (1204k) Very good performance,
in keeping with the results on our "natural" test images. On cameras
like the S10, we find this test difficult to "call" accurately,
because our eyes can see detail well beyond the point at which we really
shouldn't be able to. Visually, we're tempted to say that the resolution
is on the order of 800 lines per picture height in both horizontal and vertical
directions, even though technically, we shouldn't be able to see anything
over ~600 lines vertically. So what's up? Among other things, the S10's
optical system does an excellent job of avoiding glaring aliasing artifacts
(jaggies and color artifacts) at the target's higher frequencies. There
actually is some aliasing visible starting just over 600 lines per picture
height in both directions, but it's so subtle you have to really be looking
for it. Overall, we'd call the resolution as about 700 lines per picture
height in both directions, trying to use equivalent subjective measures
to those we've used on other cameras. A very good result though, and remarkably
good suppression of aliasing. As noted earlier, the smaller image sizes
look very good also. As always, the tables below contain samples of all
combinations of resolution and image quality, this time for both telephoto
and wide angle lens settings. (Interestingly, the S10's lens is ever so
slightly sharper at telephoto than wide angle, the reverse of what we usually
Resolution Series, Wide Angle:
Resolution Series, Telephoto:
Resolution Series, Telephoto:
||Viewfinder accuracy/flash uniformity target:
We found the S10's optical viewfinder to be rather "loose", showing
only 77 percent of the final image area, and what it does show is biased
slightly toward the top of the field of view. The good point about it though,
is that the accuracy doesn't vary at all from the wide
angle (169k) to the telephoto
end (157k) on the zoom lens, meaning that you
don't have to mentally compensate for varying accuracy as you zoom the lens.
Still, we'd really like to see it a bit tighter. The optical viewfinder
does feature center autofocus target brackets, helpful when composing.
Alternatively, the LCD monitor goes toward the other extreme, actually showing a bit more of the subject than what appears in the final image, at least at the wide angle end (144k) of the range (101.8 percent of final field of view shown). At the telephoto end (149k), we found about 95 percent accuracy. This variation in accuracy figures for wide angle and telephoto is possibly due to the difficulty we experienced in seeing the extreme edges of the image in the LCD when conducting our tests. Overall though, the S10's LCD viewfinder is more accurate than most.
Optical distortion on the S10 is fairly low, with the lens showing 0.5 percent barrel distortion at wide angle and 0.3 percent (almost undetectable) at the telephoto setting. Chromatic aberration is almost non-existent, estimated at less than half a pixel at all focal length settings. (This distortion is visible as a very slight colored fringe around objects at the edges of the field of view on the resolution target). Flash uniformity is quite good at the telephoto end of the lens' range, but shows some falloff in the corners at the widest angle setting.