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Canon PowerShot S300

Canon makes a major update to their original S100 "Digital ELPH": More zoom, more controls, and better photos. Hard to beat!

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Page 2:Executive Overview

Review First Posted: 4/5/2001

Executive Overview
The Canon PowerShot S300 Digital ELPH camera continues the definitive styling and tiny size of the popular ELPH line. Small and extremely light weight, the S300 is very portable with a smooth, sleek design that allows the camera to glide right into most shirt pockets. With a similar design to the previous S100 model, the S300 offers a slightly different control layout and a couple of added external controls (namely the Exposure Compensation / White Balance button and a Mode dial). The S300 features a well designed, retractable lens with a built-in, sliding lens cover (no lens cap hassles!), that keeps the camera's surface smooth with no protrusions when the lens is fully retracted. Its all-metal case design represents some of the highest "build quality" we've seen yet in a digicam, and it feels very solid and substantial in the user's hand. All the main controls are on the back panel of the camera, with the exception of the Mode dial, power and shutter buttons. A small, recessed thumb grip on the back gives you a nice, firm hold, and a wrist strap provides easy toting.

An optical and LCD viewfinder are both located on the back of the camera. The optical viewfinder features a pair of LEDs that inform you of the camera's status, while a central autofocus target inside the viewfinder helps you line up shots. The LCD viewfinder can be turned on and off with an adjacent button and features a 1.5 inch screen with a low temperature polysilicon, TFT color display (essentially meaning that the LCD monitor has a very sharp display).

The Canon 5.4-16.2mm 3x zoom lens (35-105mm equivalent) offers a maximum aperture ranging from f/2.8-f/4.7, depending on the zoom setting. Focus ranges from 2.5 feet (76cm) to infinity in normal mode and from 6.3 inches to 2.5 feet (16-76cm) in Macro mode. A TTL autofocus function utilizes an efficient AiAF (artificial intelligence autofocus) system which evaluates a broad field in the center of the image for more accurate focusing. There's also an Infinity Focus mode (controlled by the Macro/Infinity button) that quickly sets focus at infinity for fast shooting. The optical zoom lens is controlled by the Zoom lever on the back panel, and an optional 2.5x digital zoom function can be engaged by zooming past the optical telephoto range.

The S300's controls are very easy to operate: A mode dial on top of the camera selects from among the major operating modes of the camera, with options of Playback, Automatic Exposure, Manual Exposure, Stitch Assist, and Movie modes. A good complement of rear-panel controls let you control the most frequently-used camera functions without having to resort to the LCD menu system, a feature we always look for. (In particular, the exposure compensation and white balance adjustment functions now appear on a rear-panel button: On the earlier S100, these were menu items, and therefore much slower to access.) Once in the menu system, the menu options are very clear and easy to understand, with a nice balance of icons and text. The camera has a "shooting priority" design philosophy, which means that you can pretty much always take a shot just by pressing the shutter button, regardless of where you are in the menu system. This is a great feature, as it makes it much less likely that you'll miss a shot because you're fiddling about in a menu screen.

As for it's major exposure modes, Automatic exposure mode places the camera in charge of all exposure decisions, except for flash mode, macro mode, the self-timer, and Continuous Shooting. Alternatively, Manual mode allows you to adjust things such as white balance and exposure compensation (EV) through a menu system employing the LCD screen and rear-panel controls. (No aperture priority or shutter priority metering options are offered though.) Stitch Assist (panoramic) mode allows you to capture a series of images to be "stitched" together as one panoramic shot with the accompanying software, and Movie mode records up to 30 second movie clips with sound. Aperture and shutter speed are controlled automatically in all modes. The Self-timer and Continuous Shooting options are available in most exposure modes, via the back-panel buttons. The built-in flash offers five settings (Auto, Red-Eye Reduction, Forced On, Forced Off, and Slow-Sync). White balance offers six settings (Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Incandescent, Fluorescent, and Black & White), and exposure compensation (EV) is adjustable from –2 to +2 in 1/3 EV (f-stop) units. The self-timer gives a 10 second delay with a flashing LED countdown before the shutter fires and the Continuous Shooting mode allows you to shoot approximately 2.5 frames per second, depending on available memory space and the image quality setting.

Images are stored on CompactFlash type I memory cards (an 8MB card comes with the camera) with quality choices of SuperFine, Fine, and Normal, and image sizes of 1,600 x 1,200, 1,024 x 768, and 640 x 480.

An included A/V cable allows you to connect to a television set for image playback and composition, and a USB cable provides high speed connection to a computer. Two software CDs come with the camera and provide Canon's Solution Disk software for image downloading and stitching together panoramic images, as well as a Remote Capture program that controls the camera from the computer. Additionally, ArcSoft's PhotoImpression provides tools for image correction, manipulation, and a variety of fun templates and filters, and a copy of ArcSoft VideoImpression provides minor video editing capabilities. All software packages are compatible with both Windows and Macintosh operating systems.

Power for the S300 is provided by a LiIon rechargeable battery, which is included in the box, along with a plug-in charger. US models do not come with an AC adapter cable though, so battery power is your only option.

Overall, we were very impressed with the S300: It's more than just a worthy follow-on to the previous S100, but rather takes the whole field of ultra-portable digital cameras to a new level. Really an excellent design job by Canon's engineers!


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