The Imaging Resource
Canon PowerShot S2 IS Digital Camera
|Very Good, 5.0-megapixel CCD|
|11 x 17 or 8 x 10 with some cropping|
Suggested Retail Price
By Shawn Barnett
With the price of digital SLRs finally within reach, should you stick with the All-in-one digicam or move up to an SLR? Why buy a high-end digicam when digital SLRs are so close in price? Do digicams still have a purpose? What are the pros and cons? An avid photographer, I spent some time thinking about that myself. Come see what I discovered about digital SLRs versus all-in-one digicams.
The Canon PowerShot S2 IS is the sequel to an extremely popular long zoom camera, the 3.2 megapixel S1 IS. The 5.0 megapixel Canon S2 IS and its predecessor follow in the footsteps of a well-received model from four years past, the 2.6-megapixel PowerShot Pro90 IS.
The Canon S2 IS accommodates a wide range of users with its variable level of exposure control. Experienced shooters will appreciate the Manual, Aperture Priority, and Shutter Priority modes, while novices will find the Auto, Program AE, and Scene modes useful. With a full range of creative effects, the added attraction of 12x zoom Canon optics, and optical image stabilization - a feature found on only a handful of digital cameras, most of them more expensive, the Canon S2 IS will feature prominently on the shopping lists of photographers looking for a long-zoom camera. A big part of the story of the Canon S2 IS though, has to do with its movie capability: Not only can it record at 640x480 pixels and 30 frames/second, but you can use the zoom lens while recording movies (a surprising rarity), and it records stereo sound. All in all, the Canon S2 IS is quite a package, with an amazing range of capabilities and good picture quality, all at an affordable price. Read on for all the details!
The S1 IS (the Canon S2 IS's predecessor) is easily one of the most popular 3.2 megapixel cameras still on the market. Indeed, as of this writing in June 2005, the S1 IS is still number 9 in the Top Ten Sellers with our readers, among the Dave's Picks cameras. Maybe it's the camera's handsome, burly looks; or perhaps the low price for such a long, image-stabilized zoom. There's no question that the S1 IS hit a sweet spot in the market, but it had a few shortcomings.
Canon's PowerShot S2 IS overcomes most of those shortcomings and increases the camera's utility as a digital still/video hybrid. Of the two main (only?) complaints with the S1 IS, the first is not really all that valid: Folks wooed by high pixel counts were put off by the S1's 3.2 million pixels, and scads emailed to ask whether it was okay to get one anyway. I told most that it was absolutely okay, with one cautionary note -- Which brings me to the S1's second major problem: image noise at ISO 400. Our tests showed the ISO 400 results to be pretty good, even in low light; but out in the field, I personally found the color to be unacceptably blotchy at ISO 400, and recommended that people stick to ISO 200 or lower. It's not a problem unique to the S1 IS; what is unique is that both of these nice little image-stabilized cameras will get you accustomed to shooting in low light precisely because of their image stabilization, and you'll develop a tendency to push your exposure too often.
The Canon S2's 5 megapixel sensor handles both the perceived and the literal shortcoming with ease. While it still has noise at high ISO (like all point and shooters), it is far better controlled, appearing more even than that of the S1, and its higher megapixel sensor allows for plenty of cropping after capture.
The Canon PowerShot S2 IS features a body design similar to that of the S1, with slightly more aggressive contours and accents throughout. It shares a familiar look and feel to the rest of the PowerShot line, along with many of the same exposure options and features. With dimensions of 4.4 x 3.1 x 3.0 inches (113 x 78 x 77.5 millimeters) and weighing some 18.55 ounces (526 grams) with batteries and SD memory card, the Canon S2 IS only a little heavier and just a smidge fatter our front due to the larger lens. This isn't a camera you'll slip into a shirt pocket, to be sure - it might fit larger coat pockets, but most likely you'll wear the camera around your neck on the included neck-strap, as I've seen so many proud S1 owners do.
We were also pleased to note that the grip on the Canon S2 IS is much better than that on the Canon Digital Rebel XT, a larger SLR camera. It's the only major criticism we had of the XT, and here the smaller, less expensive PowerShot S2 IS turns out to be a better camera ergonomically regardless of family member. It is sized just right, with your two middle fingers wrapping comfortably around the grip, the pinkie curling around underneath, and the index finger resting comfortably on the shutter. Your experience will vary, but even Dave (who was positively incensed by the XT's grip) liked the grip on the S2 IS, finding it easy to hold and balance the entire camera.
The rest of the camera body is smooth and fits the hand nicely. All controls work as expected, and the design is easy and comfortable. My only complaint is the odd power toggle/off button combination. While I understand the design, I still find myself turning it in the wrong direction. To access Record mode, whose icon is on the top left of the toggle, you have to put your thumb on the back of the toggle and move it to the right (which moves the indicator on the front of the toggle to the left). It's unnecessarily complex, and I'm not sure why they didn't just put an on/off button and a Record/Playback button to switch between the two modes.
The main reason to look at the Canon PowerShot S2 IS is the big lens. This really is the kind of lens we all want on our cameras. Just pull the zoom ring to the right, and you're able to get right up on whatever you want. Years ago, people were disappointed when they got their 200mm SLR zoom lenses because that didn't amount to such a high magnification; and they were even more disappointed when they found out how much the 300 and 400mm lenses cost. The Canon S2 IS will take you out to the equivalent of a 432mm lens, and that's not counting the digital zoom (something we don't encourage users to consider; you'll be happier cropping after the fact). Still, if you need to make your friends cry, you can tell them that your 4x digital zoom gives you the reach of a 1,728mm zoom (if not the clarity).
As if that almost ludicrous sounding focal length weren't enough, the Canon S2 IS will help you get a solid shot even at the longest zoom settings. A computer-controlled lens element inside the lens is actually moved around in time with most detected camera movement. Like most such systems, it's calibrated to adjust for twitches, breathing, heartbeat, wind; all the things we don't think about that affect our ability to hold a camera still. While we don't think about it, our cameras are honest storytellers, and will usually report these minute movements to the image sensor, which will in turn deliver blurry images to our memory cards. Even if you're a rock solid person with nerves of steel, you're going to get at least some motion blur at either the longest focal lengths or the lowest shutter speeds (like indoors in low light). Image stabilization means you'll get more clear shots more of the time.
If you shoot in Continuous mode with the Canon S2 IS, you'll be able to see the image start to float as soon as you tease the shutter button. It's the best way to shoot in low light, because it tells you how well you're holding the camera. You'll soon work with the camera better when you learn to wait for the image to stabilize. As I mentioned earlier, getting used to such a system is both good and bad, so you do have to carefully review your results. Switch to Playback mode and use the zoom lever to check for motion blur if you already know you're pushing it. If you're getting blur, you might need to raise the ISO, brace the camera against something, or flip up the flash. The IS system is excellent, and will help you get great shots you'd have never gotten otherwise, but you'll be even happier if you check how well it's doing. (Also note that the S2 IS has several different IS modes. Faced with a really challenging situation, you'll probably find that the "Shoot Only" IS mode will be more successful at compensating for extreme shake.)
Another area image stabilization comes in handy is in video capture. Usually a feature of high-end video cameras, the Canon S2 IS's always-present video mode is also enhanced by the camera's image stabilization, lending a more professional look.
The S2 IS has seen an improvement in AF speed and sensitivity, due to its DIGIC II chip. This chip has been improving Canon's entire line over the last year, making all manner of functions faster and more efficient. One feature I'm missing though is the 9-point AF found on other cameras like the Canon S70, and the popular A95. In its place is the AF system borrowed from the Canon G6, called FlexiZone AF. This system allows the photographer to move the AF point all around the screen so focus can be set to wherever you deem important. In portraits, for example, you'd want to move the AF point to keep the eyes of your subject in focus. As much as I like that, in fast action settings, I've preferred the 9-point AF system, for its surprisingly accurate and speedy processing of image data. Its decisions have impressed more than they've disappointed, and I think the typical S2 IS user would be better served.
There's a manual focus mode as well, accessible by pressing the Manual Focus button on the side of the lens. I suppose it's a good feature to have, but I've never found it that useful. Even with the magnified view and distance scale, you have a heck of a time seeing any change as you adjust the focus. I find the AF system reliable enough that I've never had occasion to use manual focus. Still, it's there if you need it.
The S2 IS is really a combination of much of Canon's best PowerShot technology, and among the high points is the 1.8 inch flip out and swivel LCD. You really don't know you need this until you start to use it. Shots you'd have never considered are suddenly possible. Overhead, down low, even pictures of yourself can be framed with unprecedented accuracy and comfort. If you like to try new angles on a subject, you need a camera with a versatile LCD like this. Because LCDs generally wash out in sunlight, Canon wisely included an EVF (electronic viewfinder), to which you can switch for easier, more familiar image framing. It's a shame you can't have an optical viewfinder, but this compromise is necessary with such a long zoom.
As seems to be the case with more and more all-purpose Canon digicams, the S2 IS has the full complement of manual and automatic exposure choices. If you just want to get the shot, you can set the camera to Auto (green zone) or P (program) and just point and shoot. But if the lighting is challenging a quick turn either left or right puts you in greater control. In Shutter, Aperture, and Manual modes, you can control how much depth of field or how much you want to freeze or blur action. But in the Scene modes, you still wield control, because you're telling the camera just what situation you're facing; and it will make the decisions from there. Settings like Portrait and Fireworks are great examples of the camera handling very unique and specific settings for you. By far, my favorite mode is Night Portrait. I've found this mode useful both in night scenes and indoor scenes, softening the impact of the flash on a subject by dialing it back, and leaving the shutter open a little longer to capture the true ambient light of the room or night backdrop. The result is a better picture that tells a truer story of the setting I saw and wanted to capture.
Long movies in stereo
The Canon PowerShot S2 IS has an unusually capable movie mode for a relatively inexpensive digicam, and its capabilities have been extended over the S1. Its movie mode allows you to capture up to 1GB of moving images and sound at either 15 or 30 frames per second, with available resolutions of 640 x 480 or 320 x 240 pixels. (Note though, that while a gigabyte of movie sounds like a lot, its only about 9 minutes worth of action at the highest quality and frame rate setting on the S2 IS.) A high-speed memory card is necessary if you want to record at the larger image size and/or higher frame rate. Its unique stereo microphones appear above the lens to the left and right, and do seem to create some separation, especially when the subjects are nearby; however, to experience the stereo, you'll need to transfer the video files to a device that can play stereo, or else play the video through a TV through the included stereo A/V cable. Several sound options allow you to change the recording bit rate and reduce wind noise on recordings. (This last is a nifty feature that's been carried over from Canon's camcorder line. - As far as I know, this is the first time that it's appeared on a digicam.)
Zoom and snap during movie recording
The Canon S2 IS's movie mode is also unusual in that it allows the zoom lens to operate while recording movies with sound. In almost all cases, digital cameras that record movies with sound disable the zoom mechanism during movie recording, as the noise of the zoom motor tends to interfere with the audio track of the movie. With the S2 IS though, Canon has chosen to allow zoom operation during movie recording, but at a reduced speed of actuation. The result is moderately successful. In quiet surroundings, you can still clearly hear the noise of the zoom motor, but it's not terribly intrusive, while in noisier environments, the noise should be entirely masked by the ambient sound. This is a useful compromise, but I do think that the manual should include a caution about zoom motor noise to make users aware of the potential impact on their sound tracks. Autofocus operation is relatively silent, thanks to the Ultrasonic focusing motor built into the S2 IS.
New to the Canon S2 is the ability to capture images during video recording. Because you activate video from the red and silver button on the camera's back, the main shutter button remains available to focus and snap a picture. And these on-the-fly still shots aren't 640 x 480 images, but full 5 megapixel images. The video stream is interrupted for a bit under a second for this capture, which creates a gap, but Canon was clever about dealing with this. In video Playback they've allowed the gap, then inserted a shutter sound and added just under a second of the still image that is captured. The resulting video looks very like the stereotypical movie scene where the private investigator is training his lens on his unsuspecting subject and snapping shot after shot. The shutter sound is inserted whether you have the sound on or not, and it cannot be disabled. I think Canon is doing that purposefully so the source of the gaps is always understood. If the AF light is turned on, you see not only the camera's focus action, but the beam itself. Personally, I'm not sure why you'd want to take a picture while doing video, but if you want to you can with the S2 IS.
Playing with the Canon S2 IS makes it clear that its designers were having a good time making not only a versatile camera, but a camera that would be fun as well. In addition to the color effects that were available on the S1, the S2 has added a Custom Color setting. You can perform all kinds of tricks with this, including intensifying or dimming specific colors, or even completely replacing one color with another. The example given in the manual shows how you can sample a color from one car and see what your own car might look like in that other color. It's really only effective if the two objects are distinct and evenly lit, but can nonetheless be fun to create surreal effects right in the camera. You can also easily darken or lighten skin tones, and emulate slide film, giving your pictures that lovely saturated "Kodachrome(tm)" look.
Add at least $70 for a nice-sized memory card to your budget before purchasing the S2 IS, because the camera only comes with a 16MB SD card. If you plan on taking advantage of the video mode, get a high speed card (Lexar 32x or above or SanDisk Ultra or Extreme) of at least 512MB, if not a full 1GB. If you have no plans to use video, then still invest in a large SD card or two. The camera captures images that are about 2MB in size apiece. You'll enjoy the camera enough that you'll fill a smaller card pretty quickly.
When I first used the camera I burned through the batteries, but it turns out I had a few sets of bum AA's. Loaded with a set of new high-quality NiMH AA rechargeables, I've been getting very good battery life, and Dave and Luke's direct tests of power drain show very good battery life indeed. The camera comes with a set of four AA alkalines, but go stick those in a flashlight and get a good set of rechargeables. Click here to read the "battery shootout" page to see which batteries currently on the market are best, or here for the review of the Maha C-204W charger, Dave's current favorite.
An AC adapter is available for the camera, which plugs into the right side of the camera, so if you're doing a lot of studio or video work, you might want to invest in one of these. A couple of sets of high-capacity rechargeable NiMH batteries and a good-quality charger really eliminate the need for the adapter in all but the most extreme cases though.
Overall, the Canon S2 IS is an impressive camera that is bound to be very popular. Its speed improvements are welcome, and its utility as a digital video/still hybrid is enhanced with the larger lens, higher resolution, and AF assist lamp. Photo enthusiasts will likely be torn between the S2 IS and the Canon G6, and family buyers will wonder whether to invest in an A95 or the S2 IS. Enthusiasts might want to augment their G6 with the S2 given its longer-ratio zoom and familiar controls, but family cam buyers looking at a 5 megapixel A-series should absolutely give the Canon S2 IS a serious look. For just a little more money and with a slightly larger body, they'll get an image stabilized 12x zoom with a virtually silent Ultrasonic focusing motor, and a camera that does double duty as a still and video camera. When it comes to viewing your images and videos at the end of the day, it's a quick upload of both types of content via the fast USB 2.0 connection from the S2 IS to the home computer, making it more likely that the content will actually be viewed in the first place. Compared to carrying separate digital still and digital video cameras, carrying the Canon S2 IS is both lighter in the bag, and easier on the pocketbook. I expect to see a lot of these little silver cameras around a lot of necks this year, this one is a real winner.
- 5.0-megapixel CCD delivering image resolutions as large as 2,592 x 1,944 pixels.
- 1.8-inch color LCD monitor with 115,000 pixels.
- Electronic optical viewfinder (unknown resolution, appears similar to LCD though).
- Glass, 12x 6.0-72mm lens (equivalent to 36-432mm zoom on a 35mm camera).
- 4x digital zoom (48x combined with optical).
- FlexiZone autofocus and a manual focus mode.
- Full Automatic, Program AE, Shutter Priority, Aperture Priority, Manual, and Custom exposure modes, as well as nine preset exposure or "Scene" modes.
- Manually adjustable aperture setting ranging from a maximum of f/2.7 to f/3.5 depending on lens zoom position, to a minimum of f/8.0.
- Shutter speed range from 1/3,200 to 15 seconds (max shutter speed only available at f/8, goes down to 1/1,600 at f/2.7).
- Built-in flash with five operating modes.
- Secure Digital (SD) memory storage.
- Power supplied by four AA batteries or optional AC adapter.
- Optical image stabilization. (Very effective.)
- New AF Assist Beam.
- 30fps VGA Movie mode (with sound), up to one hour per clip.
- Stereo recording in Movie mode.
- Sound caption recording.
- Stitch-Assist mode for panoramic shots.
- Continuous Shooting, and 2 or 10-second Self-Timer modes.
- Unique "My Colors" mode.
- Night Display brightens images for easier framing of dark subjects.
- Six custom Photo Effects including Low Sharpness setting.
- White balance (color) adjustment with eight modes.
- ISO adjustment with four ISO equivalents and an Auto setting.
- Automatic Exposure Bracketing and Automatic Focus Bracketing.
- Evaluative, Center-Weighted, and Spot metering options.
- DPOF (Digital Print Order Format) and PictBridge compatibility.
- USB cable for connection to a computer or certain printers (driver software included).
- Video cable for connection to NTSC/PAL televisions, VCRs, etc.
Selecting a flagship camera to represent the PowerShot line is a difficult task, because Canon offers so many fine cameras in each category, the top offering in each would differ depending on an individual's need. For the multi-purpose, Family Cam category, we'd have to name the S2 IS as the flagship, presiding over even the A95 and A520. Offering a complete range of auto and manual exposure controls, the S2 IS is equally suited for novice users and experienced amateurs alike, and it has a big image-stabilized zoom for getting the shot no matter the situation. The full automatic controls keep things simple for novices, while the manual settings offer the opportunity to gradually step up to more control. Plus, the range of preset exposure modes ensures that less-experienced photographers will get good pictures in difficult shooting situations. The 5.0-megapixel CCD captures high quality images, quite suitable for printing as large as 8x10-inches with good detail, eliminating the main complaint that critics of the S1 IS had. The design is reasonably compact given the increased magnifying power of the 12x optical zoom lens, and the camera should fit in a larger coat pocket or be comfortable when using the neckstrap. The Canon S2 IS reaches beyond the normal limits of its category by offering not only a long-ratio zoom lens, but a very effective image-stabilization system as well, that makes the long lens much more usable than it would be otherwise. The Canon S2 IS also offers a capable movie mode, capable of recording movie files up to 1GB in size each, even at 640x480 resolution and a 30 frame/second frame rate. The S2 IS is priced competitively, but its features and capabilities set it apart from the myriad camera choices in its price range. If you're looking for a long-zoom camera with image stabilization that captures excellent photos and videos, the Canon PowerShot S2 IS could be the camera for you!
The Canon PowerShot S2 IS's all-plastic body has a solid feel, with little in the way of flexing or creaking, and has a healthy heft that helps hold the camera steady. Measuring 4.4 x 3.1 x 3.0 inches (113 x 78 x 77.5 millimeters), the S2 IS definitely won't fit into your shirt pocket. It may find its way into larger coat pockets, but most likely will be worn around the neck with the included neck strap. The Canon S2 IS has a modest heft for its size. Weighing 18.55 ounces (526 grams) including batteries and SD card, it isn't at all uncomfortable to carry. The two-toned silver body echoes the visual style of an SLR camera, and should be both sophisticated and simple enough for any age group or user level.
The Canon S2 IS's front panel features the telescoping 12x image-stabilized zoom lens, which projects one and one eighth inch further when fully extended. Also on the front panel are the pop-up flash, red-eye reduction lamp (a lamp that doubles as a self-timer and tally lamp), and a bright green AF assist beam. Flanking the lens are holes for the stereo microphones. Unlike the S1 IS, the PowerShot S2 IS appears to have no infrared remote sensor for remote shutter release. On the lower right side of the lens (as viewed from the rear) is a small button that releases the ring around the lens barrel. Removing the ring reveals a bayonet-style mounting area that allows you to attach a lens adapter for extended telephoto, wide angle, or macro capabilities. There's also a large hand grip on the front panel, created by the battery compartment.
On the right side of the camera (as viewed from the rear) is the SD card slot, covered by a hinged, plastic door. The door slides toward the back panel before opening outward. At the top of the right side are the USB port, DC in jack (both covered by a rubber door), and an eyelet for attaching the neck strap.
The opposite side of the camera has holes a small speaker, the A/V Out port, and the second neck strap eyelet. On the side of the lens casing are the Manual Focus and Image Stabilizer buttons.
The Canon S2 IS's top panel features a number of controls located on either side of the pop-up flash. To the right of the flash is a Mode dial with 13 shooting positions divided into three basic categories: Auto Exposure, Image Zone, and Creative Zone. The Shutter button is located out on the grip, with a Zoom lever surrounding it. Behind that is the Continuous/Self Timer button. An Off button to turn off the camera's power is on the right side of the Mode dial. The Off button is surrounded by a Mode lever with a locking release button to prevent accidentally activating the camera in either Record or Playback mode; pushing the release button (which happens naturally when you actuate the control with your thumb) and turning the lever counter-clockwise sets the camera in Record mode, while turning it clockwise sets the camera in Playback mode. Directly above the Power button is a Power / Mode Indicator LED, which lights orange, green, or yellow when the camera is powered on to indicate the current mode (Record, Playback, or PC Connection respectively). To the left of the pop-up flash is the Flash/Mic button.
The rest of the exposure controls are located on the camera's rear panel, along with the electronic optical viewfinder and flip-out, rotating LCD monitor. The LCD monitor lifts off of the rear panel to face forward, can swivel 270 degrees to face several viewing angles, and can be closed against the rear panel with the LCD facing inward to offer protection against accidental knocks or scratches. The electronic optical viewfinder, activated by pressing the Display button in Record mode or turning the LCD to face inward against the camera body in any mode, duplicates what would otherwise be shown on the rotating LCD monitor. At the top right corner is a four-way multi-controller that navigates settings menus, pressing up, down, left, and right. Below the multi-controller are the Set and Menu buttons. To the right of the LCD monitor are the Function / Erase, Metering / JUMP, Shortcut / Print and Display buttons. To the right of the electronic optical viewfinder is the Movie button, which begins recording movies regardless of mode (pressing it in Playback mode returns you first to Record mode, and another press is required to start recording). On the other side of the viewfinder is a Diopter Adjustment Dial.
The Canon PowerShot S2 IS's bottom panel is reasonably flat, with a sliding door to access the battery compartment and a threaded plastic tripod mount at about center. Because the battery door and tripod mount are so close to one another, it would be difficult to make quick battery changes while working with a tripod, something I always look at, given the amount of test shooting I do. On the other hand, Canon's AC adapter plugs into the right side of the camera. Thus, for studio use, there's a convenient way to get power to the camera while on a tripod. The location of the SD card door on the side of the camera is also conducive to use on a tripod.
While the Canon S2 IS's user interface may seem a little cryptic at first approach, it's actually very efficient once you become familiar with it. Most camera functions are controlled externally, and a few of the external control buttons serve multiple functions. When you do need to enter the LCD menu system, navigation is very straightforward with only two main pages of options. The S2 IS's external controls cut down on the amount of time spent searching menu screens, and I particularly like the "Function" menu which became standard on Canon digicam models as of the 2003 model year. Combined with the instruction manual, the Canon S2 IS's user interface shouldn't take more than an hour to get comfortable with.
Record Mode LCD Display: In Record mode, the S2 IS's LCD reports various exposure settings, including camera modes, the resolution and quality settings, number of available images, etc. Half-pressing the Shutter button reports the aperture and shutter speed settings, in all modes except Manual. Pressing the Display button cycles through the available display modes, including the image with information, no information, and electronic optical viewfinder with or without information.
External Controls Zoom Lever (see previous image): Surrounding the Shutter button on the
top panel, this lever controls the optical and digital zoom while in Record
mode. In Playback mode (when not using the playback zoom), the "W"
side displays a nine-image index display of all images on the memory card, and
accesses a "Jump" function that lets you scroll through index display
screens quickly. Alternatively, the "T" position enlarges the currently
displayed image as much as 10x, so that you can check on fine details. Mode Lever (see previous image): Surrounding the Off button,
this lever turns the camera on (if it is currently off), and sets it to either
Record (counter-clockwise) or Playback (clockwise) modes, depending on which
direction it is turned. The Mode Lever has a locking release button to prevent
accidentally changing modes, which must be pushed inwards before the dial can
be turned. In Playback mode, this button calls up the Sound Memo Panel, allowing sound memos to be recorded to accompany images. In Playback mode, this button displays the single-image erase menu. In Playback mode, this calls up the Jump Bar, allowing you to move through images stored on the card very rapidly with the left / right arrows on the Multi-Controller Rocker button. Once the Jump Bar is displayed, you can use the up/down arrows to cycle through a variety of options, namely Jump 10 images, Jump 100 images, Jump Shot Date, and Jump to Movie. This is a very handy set of options, particularly Jump to Shot Date, which displays the number of images it found taken on each date, and Jump to Movie, which is very handy for finding scattered movie files buried amongst dozens of still images. When in Manual Focus mode, this button tells the camera to search for autofocus lock near the currently set manual focus distance. (Another uncommon but handy feature.) Camera Modes and Menus Record Mode: Marked on the Mode switch with the red camera
icon, this mode sets up the camera for capturing still and moving images. The
Mode Display LED lights in orange to indicate this mode is active. The following
exposure modes are available: Record Menu: Pressing the Menu button in Record mode pulls up the following
options (not all options are available in all modes): Playback Mode: This mode lets you review captured images and movies on the memory card, as well as erase them, protect them, or tag them for printing and transfer. The traditional green Playback symbol denotes this mode on the Mode switch, and the Mode Display LED lights in green to indicate this mode is active. Pressing the shutter button in Playback mode takes you immediately to Record mode, something we describe as a Shooting Priority design, because the camera is always ready to shoot. Pressing the Menu button displays the following options: Setup Menu: This menu is available in all modes, simply by pressing the Menu button and selecting the Setup tab. My Camera Menu: This is the third menu tab on the menu screen,
and appears in every mode. In the Box The Canon PowerShot S2 IS comes with the following items: Recommended Software: Rescue your Photos! See camera specifications here. Cycle times, shutter lag, battery life, etc. can be found here. See our test images and detailed analysis here.
The thumbnails below show a subset of our test images. Click on a thumbnail
to see the full-size photo. Test Results In keeping with my standard test policy, the comments given here summarize only my key findings. For full details on each of the test images, see the Canon PowerShot S2 IS's "pictures" page. For a look at some more pictorial photos from this camera, check out our Canon PowerShot S2 IS Photo Gallery. Not sure which camera to buy? Let your eyes be the ultimate judge! Visit our Comparometer(tm) to compare images from the Canon PowerShot S2 IS 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! Conclusion:
Playback Mode LCD Display: In Playback mode, the LCD reports the image series number, resolution and quality setting, file name, and the date and time of image capture. Pressing the Display button once pulls up an enhanced information display, with a histogram for checking the exposure and general exposure details. A third press cancels the information overlay entirely. Unlike in Record mode, the Display button will not let you view images through the electronic optical viewfinder, although you can force the electronic viewfinder to be used by rotating the LCD monitor so that it is closed pointing towards the camera body. In playback mode, pressing the zoom control in the wide-angle direction switches to a 9-up thumbnail display of previously captured images. Pressing it in the wide-angle direction a second time produces a "jump bar" at the bottom of the screen, which shows where the current group of nine thumbnails is relative to the total collection of images on the memory card, and that lets you jump through them nine images at a time. Toggling the zoom lever in the telephoto direction takes you back out of the thumbnail displays, and if continued beyond the point at which you see the full-sized image, zooms in on the image up to 10x, letting you check focusing and very fine details.
Shutter Button: Resting in the center of the Zoom lever, this button sets focus and exposure when halfway pressed, and fires the shutter when fully pressed.
Mode Dial: Also on the camera's top panel, this large, 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:
Off Button: To the right of the Mode dial, in the center of the Mode Lever, this button turns the camera off.
Flash/Sound Memo Button: When the Flash is manually deployed (there is no pop-up function), this button sets the flash operating mode, cycling through the available options with each press. Depending on whether the Red-Eye Reduction Function is set to On or Off, the options are either Auto with Red-Eye Reduction and Flash On with Red-Eye Reduction or Auto and Flash On. The Flash Off setting is achieved by closing the flash.
Continuous / Self Timer Button: Sets the camera's drive mode, cycling through the available options with each press. Depending on whether the Self-timer Function is set to 10 or 2 seconds or Custom, the options are: Single, Continuous Shooting, ten second Self-timer / two second Self-timer / Custom Self-timer.
Multi-Controller Rocker Button: This four-way rocker button can be pressed left, right, up, or down to navigate through settings menus. In Playback mode, the left and right buttons scroll through captured images. When an image has been enlarged, all four arrows pan within the view.
Diopter Adjustment Dial : Directly to the left of the electronic optical viewfinder, this dial is used to adjust the dioptric correction of the viewfinder, accommodating eyeglass wearers.
Movie Button: Directly to the right of the electronic optical viewfinder, this button starts and stops recording of movies, instead of the shutter button. In movie mode, the shutter button can be used to capture full-size still images (the scene blanks and the shutter sound is recorded during exposure).
Function / Erase Button: Directly below the Movie button, this button displays the following Function menu while in Record mode:
Metering / JUMP Button: Below the Function / Erase button, this button switches between light metering modes in Record mode, with options of Evaluative Light Metering, Center-Weighted Averaging, and Spot. When set to Spot, the metering area depends on the Spot AE Point function, and sets the Spot point either in the center of the frame, or to the location of the AF point.
Shortcut/Print/Share Button: Below the Metering / Microphone button, in Record mode this button allows you to call up a frequently used function, and can be assigned via the Setup menu to Resolution, ISO Speed, AF Lock, AE Lock (all in still image mode only); Recording Size or Frame Rate (both for movies only); or to Photo Effect, White Balance, Image Stabilizer, My Colors, or Display Off. When connected to a PictBridge-compatible printer, this button glows blue and pressing it initiates the print function. When connected to a computer running Canon's software package, this button also glows blue, and pressing it initiates an automatic transfer of the camera's images to the computer.
Display Button: Below the Shortcut / Jump button, this button controls the information and image display modes in Record and Playback modes, and switches between the LCD monitor and electronic optical viewfinder in Record mode only.
Set / AF Frame Selector Button: Directly below the Multi-Controller Rocker button, this button confirms menu selections. It also allows you to adjust the location of the camera's autofocus point. Pressing it in Record mode highlights the AF frame in green on the LCD or electronic optical viewfinder, allowing the location of the AF area to be adjusted with the Multi-Controller Rocker button. A second press locks in the new location of the AF point, indicated by the color of the AF frame returning to white.
Menu Button: Underneath the Set / AF Frame Selector Button, this button calls up the settings menu in Record and Playback modes. It also dismisses the menu screen and backs out of menu selections.
MF Button: On the left side of the camera (as viewed from the rear), this button enables or disables the manual focus mode. Manual focus is set by holding down the Manual Focus button while pressing the Up or Down arrows on the Multi-Controller Rocker button, and if the MF-Point Zoom function is set, an enlarged view of the center of the image is shown on the LCD or electronic optical viewfinder while the Manual Focus button is held down.
Macro Button: Underneath the MF Button, this button enables or disables the lens' Macro Mode, a mode that used to be entered automatically on the S2 IS. This mode allows focus in the 3.9 inch to 1.8 foot range. (When Super Macro mode is enabled via a menu option, the S2 IS can focus down almost to the front element of its lens.)
Battery Compartment Latch: Nestled in the center of the battery compartment door on the bottom of the camera, this sliding switch unlocks the door, so that it can slide forward and open.
Lens Ring Release Button: Tucked under the lens on the camera's front panel, this button releases the lens ring. Once unlocked, the lens ring can then be turned and removed to accommodate accessory lens kits.
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Zoom Lever (see previous image): Surrounding the Shutter button on the top panel, this lever controls the optical and digital zoom while in Record mode. In Playback mode (when not using the playback zoom), the "W" side displays a nine-image index display of all images on the memory card, and accesses a "Jump" function that lets you scroll through index display screens quickly. Alternatively, the "T" position enlarges the currently displayed image as much as 10x, so that you can check on fine details.
Mode Lever (see previous image): Surrounding the Off button, this lever turns the camera on (if it is currently off), and sets it to either Record (counter-clockwise) or Playback (clockwise) modes, depending on which direction it is turned. The Mode Lever has a locking release button to prevent accidentally changing modes, which must be pushed inwards before the dial can be turned.
In Playback mode, this button calls up the Sound Memo Panel, allowing sound memos to be recorded to accompany images.
In Playback mode, this button displays the single-image erase menu.
In Playback mode, this calls up the Jump Bar, allowing you to move through images stored on the card very rapidly with the left / right arrows on the Multi-Controller Rocker button. Once the Jump Bar is displayed, you can use the up/down arrows to cycle through a variety of options, namely Jump 10 images, Jump 100 images, Jump Shot Date, and Jump to Movie. This is a very handy set of options, particularly Jump to Shot Date, which displays the number of images it found taken on each date, and Jump to Movie, which is very handy for finding scattered movie files buried amongst dozens of still images.
When in Manual Focus mode, this button tells the camera to search for autofocus lock near the currently set manual focus distance. (Another uncommon but handy feature.)
Camera Modes and Menus
Record Mode: Marked on the Mode switch with the red camera icon, this mode sets up the camera for capturing still and moving images. The Mode Display LED lights in orange to indicate this mode is active. The following exposure modes are available:
Record Menu: Pressing the Menu button in Record mode pulls up the following options (not all options are available in all modes):
Playback Mode: This mode lets you review captured images and movies on the memory card, as well as erase them, protect them, or tag them for printing and transfer. The traditional green Playback symbol denotes this mode on the Mode switch, and the Mode Display LED lights in green to indicate this mode is active. Pressing the shutter button in Playback mode takes you immediately to Record mode, something we describe as a Shooting Priority design, because the camera is always ready to shoot. Pressing the Menu button displays the following options:
Setup Menu: This menu is available in all modes, simply by pressing the Menu button and selecting the Setup tab.
My Camera Menu: This is the third menu tab on the menu screen, and appears in every mode.
In the Box
The Canon PowerShot S2 IS comes with the following items:
Recommended Software: Rescue your Photos!
See camera specifications here.
Cycle times, shutter lag, battery life, etc. can be found here.
See our test images and detailed analysis here. The thumbnails below show a subset of our test images. Click on a thumbnail to see the full-size photo.
In keeping with my standard test policy, the comments given here summarize only my key findings. For full details on each of the test images, see the Canon PowerShot S2 IS's "pictures" page.
For a look at some more pictorial photos from this camera, check out our Canon PowerShot S2 IS Photo Gallery.
Not sure which camera to buy? Let your eyes be the ultimate judge! Visit our Comparometer(tm) to compare images from the Canon PowerShot S2 IS 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!
Questions, comments or controversy on this article? Click this link to see what other Imaging Resource readers have had to say about Canon PowerShot S2IS, or add comments of your own!
Top 3 photos this month win:
1 Canon PIXMA PRO-100
2 Canon PIXMA MG6320
3 Canon PIXMA MG5420