Digital Camera Home > Digital Camera Reviews > Canon Digital Cameras > Canon PowerShot S330

The Imaging Resource

Quick Review

Canon PowerShot S330 Digital ELPH Camera

 
Camera QuickLook
Review Date
April 22, 2002
User Level
Novice to Advanced
Product Uses
Family / Travel / Special Events
Digicam Design
Automatic Exposure Control
Picture Quality
Good, 2-megapixel CCD
Print Sizes
4x6, 5x7 inches
Availability
May, 2002
Suggested Retail Price
$399


Introduction
Review Links
Overview
Picky
Details
Design
Operation
Recommended Accessories
Sample Pictures
Specifications
Conclusion
Ask a photographer, be they professional or amateur, to name the first couple of camera manufacturers that they can think of, and chances are that one of those would be Canon. In the digital arena, Canon's continued their history of innovation, with a broad line of products ranging from entry-level models all the way to no-holds-barred digital SLRs for professional photographers. In the consumer arena, their products are distinguished by superb design, sharp lenses, and excellent color.

In both the film and digital worlds, Canon has become known for their high-style, diminutive "ELPH" cameras. Long a popular brand for APS film cameras, two years ago (2000), Canon brought the ELPH size and styling to the digital world with the original S100. The S330 marks the first of the third generation of the design, with the longer 3x zoom lens we saw in last year's S300, and a number of minor design tweaks and enhancements. (These include a redesigned user interface and control layout, a speaker so you can hear the audio you record with movies or as voice memos, and a nifty position sensor that turns your photos on the camera, so you can view "portrait" images with the camera held normally.) As always seems to be the case with digicams, the S330's color is also somewhat improved, as Canon's engineers continue to refine their algorithms. The net effect is a evolutionary upgrade to an already successful camera design, an ultra-compact digicam that trades almost nothing in image quality to achieve its tiny size.


Camera Overview
Building on the trim, stylish looks of Canon's Digital ELPH line, the new PowerShot S330 retains the solid design and great performance of the previous S300 model, but adds a host of new features and a redesigned LCD menu system. The ELPH cameras continue to rank among the smallest digicams I've seen, small and rugged enough to truly qualify as "take anywhere" cameras. (An available underwater housing accessory means you can even take the S330 snorkeling or scuba diving!) The S330's rugged, all-metal body can handle heavy use, and the flat camera front (with lens retracted) makes it very pocket friendly. Equipped with a 2.0-megapixel (effective) CCD, the S330 captures good quality images, suitable for printing enlargements as big as 8x10 inches. Combine this with a sharp 3x zoom lens, straightforward user interface, and plentiful exposure options, and the S330 should appeal to a wide audience.

The S330 has a 3x, 5.4-16.2mm glass zoom lens, equivalent to a 35-105mm zoom on a 35mm camera. Aperture is automatically controlled, but the maximum setting ranges from f/2.7 at full wide angle to f/4.7 at full telephoto. A maximum 2.5x digital zoom option increases the S330's zoom capabilities to 7.5x, but keep in mind that digital zoom decreases the image quality in direct proportion to the magnification, as it simply crops out and enlarges the center pixels of the CCD image. Focus ranges from 2.5 feet (76 centimeters) to infinity in normal AF mode, and from 6.3 inches to 2.5 feet (16 to 76 centimeters) in Macro mode. An Infinity fixed-focus mode is also available. The S330 uses the sophisticated, three-point AiAF (Artificial Intelligence Autofocus) system we've now seen on other 2002-model Canon cameras to determine focus. This autofocus system uses a broad active area in the center of the image with three AF points spread out horizontally to determine the focusing distance. In my testing, I found the AiAF system to be very precise, especially with subjects that are slightly off center. The S330 also has a built-in AF assist light, which greatly aids the focusing system in low lighting. For composing images, the S330 has a real-image optical viewfinder, as well as a 1.5-inch color LCD monitor. The LCD reports a fair amount of camera information, but excludes details such as aperture and shutter speed. In Playback mode, a histogram display reports the tonal distribution of a captured image, useful in determining over and underexposure. (A histogram option is very unusual on consumer-oriented cameras like the S330.)

Like the rest of the ELPH line, most exposure control is automatic. The S330 does provide some manual adjustments though, as well as a range of exposure modes for specific shooting situations. The Mode dial on top of the camera selects the main operating mode, offering Auto, Manual, Stitch-Assist, and Movie modes, in addition to Playback mode. Shutter speeds range from 1/1,500 to 15 seconds, with the 1.3- to 15-second end of the range only available in Long Shutter mode. Long shutter mode automatically engages a Noise Reduction system, producing surprisingly "clean" images even in very dim lighting conditions. There's also an autofocus illuminator lamp on the front of the camera, enabled by a menu selection, that helps the camera focus in low light situations. (Excellent low light capability like this is quite rare in mostly-automatic cameras like the S330.) In straight Auto mode, the camera pretty well controls everything about the exposure except for file size, flash mode, etc. Manual mode provides more hands-on control, with White Balance, Exposure Compensation, ISO, and a range of creative effects. Camera operation is straightforward and simple, as you just point and shoot most of the time. Halfway pressing the Shutter button sets focus and exposure, and the small LEDs next to the optical viewfinder let you know when the camera is ready to take the picture.

The +/- WB button cycles through a set of three screens, offering options for exposure adjustment, white balance selection, or a range of special effects.

The S330 uses an Evaluative metering system, which means that the camera divides the image area into zones and considers contrast and brightness variations between the zones to determine the best overall exposure. A Spot metering option ties the exposure to the very center of the frame, and is useful for off-center or high contrast subjects, as you can pinpoint the exact area of the frame to base the exposure on. (This is very handy for dealing with backlit subjects.) Exposure Compensation brightens or darkens the overall exposure from -2 to +2 exposure equivalents (EV) in one-third step increments, in all modes except Automatic, simply by pressing the Exposure Compensation / White Balance button on the back panel. The same button activates the White Balance settings menu, which offers Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Incandescent, Fluorescent, Fluorescent H, and Custom (manual) settings. (The Custom white balance option lets you handle unusual lighting by using a white card to tell the camera what "color" white is. - This is a powerful feature usually associated with higher-end digicams, a pleasant surprise to find on the S330.) A third press of the same button displays the Photo Effect menu, which adjusts image sharpening, color, and saturation.

In Auto mode, the camera automatically adjusts the ISO (light sensitivity) rating across a range from ISO 50 to 150, but in Manual mode, the available ISO range increases and includes 50, 100, 200, and 400 ISO equivalents. (This is adjustment is an upgrade from the S300 model, very handy when shooting in low-light situations, or when you need a higher shutter speed to freeze fast action.) The S330's built-in flash operates in Auto, Red-Eye Reduction, Forced On, Suppressed, and Slow-Synchro modes, and lets you lock the flash exposure, in exactly the same manner as you would lock normal exposure. Halfway pressing the Shutter button and keeping it pressed initiates the exposure lock, signaled by two beeps, and an "FEL" icon appears in the LCD monitor until the Shutter button is released or fully pressed.

A two- or 10-second self-timer option counts down by flashing a small LED on the front of the camera before firing the shutter, giving you time to duck around the camera and get into the shot. (The two second option is great for times when you've propped the camera on a table, rock, or other rickety support to snap a photo, and don't want the pressure of your finger on the shutter button to jostle it.) Stitch-Assist mode is the S330's panoramic shooting mode, which lets you shoot as many as 26 consecutive images, keeping the exposure and white balance the same for all of them, and providing a convenient image-overlay feature to help you line the shots up with each other. The series of images can then be "stitched" together into one large panoramic photo with the accompanying software. The S330 also has a Movie record mode, which records moving images with sound for as long as 30 seconds per clip, depending on the resolution setting and amount of memory card space. (Movies are recorded at either 640 x 480, 320 x 240, or 160 x 120 pixels.) Finally, a Continuous Shooting mode captures a series of images in rapid succession, much like a motor drive on a traditional camera. Shooting speeds in continuous mode range from about 1.2 to1.5 frames per second, depending on the resolution and quality setting you've selected. The number of shots you can take before the camera has to pause to copy the photos to the memory card likewise varies with resolution, ranging from 6 or 7 shots in large/fine mode to 64 in small/basic. (Of course, you're always restricted by the available space on your memory card: You won't get six large/fine shots in a sequence if your card only has room for three.)

New on the S330 is the My Camera settings menu, which lets you customize the camera sounds and startup image to a particular theme. You can either choose one of the preprogrammed themes or download a new one with the camera software. The camera comes with Science Fiction and Bird Themes already loaded, but these can be changed through the accompanying software package. You can even record your own sounds to be used ("say cheese," for example). In playback mode, the S330 also lets you record short sound clips to accompany captured images, via the Sound Memo option, great for lively captions to vacation photos or party shots.

The S330 stores its images on CompactFlash Type I memory cards. An 8MB card accompanies the camera, but I really recommend picking up a larger capacity card, so you can take all the shots you want without worrying about memory space. - Memory cards are dirt cheap these days, with 64 megabyte cards selling for only $20-30 in some outlets.

The S330 uses a rechargeable lithium-ion battery pack for power, one of which accompanies the camera, along with the necessary battery charger. Because the S330 does not accommodate AA-type batteries in any form, I'd advise picking up an extra battery pack and keeping it freshly charged. The optional AC adapter is useful for preserving battery power when reviewing and downloading images, and actually has a "dummy" battery that inserts into the camera's battery compartment. A USB cable and interface software are also packaged with the camera, for downloading images to a computer and performing minor organization and image adjustments. Finally, an A/V cable connects the S330 to a television set, for reviewing or composing images. The S330 is DPOF (Digital Print Order Format) compatible, with detailed print settings in the Playback menu. Canon offers a selection of direct-connect printers as well, simplifying printing even more.


Basic Features

  • 2.0-megapixel (effective) CCD for images up to1600 x 1200 pixels.
  • Real-image optical viewfinder.
  • 1.5-inch color TFT LCD monitor.
  • Glass, 3x, 5.4-16.2mm lens, equivalent to a 35-105mm lens on a 35mm camera.
  • Maximum 2.5x digital zoom.
  • Automatic exposure control, with limited manual options.
  • Shutter speeds from 1/1,500 to 15 seconds.
  • Maximum aperture f/2.7 to f/4.7, depending on lens zoom position.
  • Built-in flash with five modes.
  • CompactFlash Type I memory card storage, 8MB card included.
  • Power supplied by a rechargeable lithium-ion battery pack (charger included) or optional AC adapter.
  • ArcSoft Camera Suite 1.1, Canon Digital Camera software, and USB drivers included for both Windows and Mac platforms.

Special Features

  • Movie mode with sound.
  • Continuous Shooting mode.
  • Stitch-Assist panorama mode.
  • Infinity and Macro focus modes.
  • Customizable "My Camera" settings.
  • Two- or 10-second Self-Timer for delayed shutter release.
  • Sound Memo option for recording audio captions for images.
  • Spot and Evaluative exposure metering.
  • White balance (color) adjustment with seven modes, including a Custom setting.
  • Photo Effect menu for color adjustment.
  • Adjustable ISO setting.
  • DPOF (Digital Print Order Format) compatibility.
  • USB cable for connection to a computer (driver software included).
  • A/V cable for connection to a television set.


Recommendation
With a 3x zoom lens, 2.0 megapixel CCD, and host of features, the S330 is the current top of the Digital ELPH line. It's a great camera for anyone wanting super portability, an attractive and rugged case design, and the ability to make prints as large as 8x10 inches. Its uncomplicated interface will be comfortable to novices, while a smattering of advanced exposure control options (such as variable ISO and long exposure times) will appeal to more advanced users. A true "take anywhere" camera that'll snap great-looking photos under a wide range of conditions.


Design
The PowerShot S330 is virtually identical in size, weight, and style to the S300 before it, maintaining the same compact lines and solid design that are the hallmarks of the ELPH line. The S330's rugged body can withstand more than its share of knocks, and the retracting lens with built-in lens cover means it can be quickly stashed in a pocket or purse without fear of damage. Measuring 3.7 x 2.5 x 1.2 inches (94.8 x 62.5 x 29.9 millimeters), the S330 only weighs a mere 8.6 ounces (245 grams) without battery or media.

 

 

The front of the S330 reveals the distinctive ELPH styling, with the lens off-center slightly toward the right, and viewfinder, flash, and focus-assist illuminator windows just above it. The camera's telescoping lens moves into place quickly when the camera is powered on, and retracts fully within the camera to maintain a flat profile. The focus-assist light is a bright, bluish-white LED that helps the camera focus at low light levels. A small, square Canon logo is about all the finger grip provided on the front of the camera, though the accompanying wrist strap and the recessed thumb grip on the camera's back help provide a more secure feel.

 

 

The Mode dial, Shutter button, and Power button are all on top of the camera, each with a sunken position that maintains the S330's sleek design. There's also a tiny microphone for recording sound with movies, or for attaching voice memos to still pictures you've shot.

 

 

On the right side of the camera (as viewed from the rear) are the wrist strap attachment and the CompactFlash slot, the latter hidden securely beneath a locking plastic door.

 

 

The opposite side of the camera simply holds the USB and A/V output jacks, which are protected by a snug rubber cover. This cover seems to do a good job of protecting the ports, but it sticks out a little on the otherwise very sleek case, and I also worry a bit about flexible flaps like this breaking over time.

 

 

The remaining camera controls are on the back panel, along with the optical and LCD viewfinders. A shallow indention on the right side provides a slight thumb grip, reinforcing the finger grip on the front of the camera when shooting one-handed. For such a small camera, the S330 fit surprisingly well in my moderately large hands, but the controls may be a little close together for users with large fingers. Arranged below the LCD monitor are the Set, Menu, Display, and Exposure Compensation / White Balance / Photo Effect buttons, with a Four Way Arrow pad just to the right of them. The zoom controls are in the top right corner, and a sliding latch on the right side releases the CompactFlash slot door. I always appreciate having plenty of external control buttons, as this greatly eliminates fishing through LCD menu screens to change settings, and the S330 does a pretty good job in this respect. The camera's speaker is just to the left of the optical viewfinder window, playing both camera sounds and recorded audio. Two LED lamps next to the viewfinder report camera status, lighting to indicate when focus is set (or not, as the case may be) or the flash is fully charged.

 

 

The S330 features a nice, flat bottom panel, which holds the metal tripod mount and the battery compartment. While I applaud Canon's use of metal for the tripod socket, I don't like to see the tripod mount so far to one side of the camera. The off-center tripod mount places extra strain on the socket, and also results in the camera not resting level on some tripod heads. Not a huge concern, but a minor design comment I feel compelled to make. (Of course, the flip side to all this is that most tripod heads won't interfere with the battery compartment cover, essential for using the optional power adapter with the camera mounted to a tripod.) The battery compartment cover slides open with a click, and then outwards, with a small, rubber flap in the center of the compartment door. This flap covers a hole in the battery compartment cover provided to allow access to the connector jack in the "dummy battery" used in the AC adapter kit. (Like many other Canon digicams, the S330's AC adapter uses a dummy battery that fits into the battery compartment and provides a plug for the AC power converter's cable.)


Camera Operation
The S330's user interface is very straightforward and relatively uncomplicated to use, though the host of external controls may seem daunting at first. Most of the camera's functions are controlled by the control buttons on the top and the back panel, while settings such as image size and quality and other less-frequently accessed options are controlled through the LCD based Record menu. The LCD menu system itself is somewhat improved on the 330 from that used on the earlier 300, as you scroll through menu items on-screen instead of through a series of pages. Additionally, the Setup and My Camera menus are always available (via tabs at the top of the menu screens), regardless of the camera mode. Even if the LCD monitor is switched off, pressing one of the control buttons on the back panel (such as the Exposure Compensation or Flash buttons) activates the display temporarily, so you can save battery power by leaving the LCD monitor off most of the time. This is a pretty straightforward camera to operate: With the instruction manual in-hand, it should only take an hour or less for the average user to get comfortable it.

LCD Screens, Shooting Mode
In record mode, pressing the DISP button selects one of three modes: Display off, display on with no information overlay (showing only the three focus-area rectangles), and display with information overlay (showing the current status of a variety of camera settings, as well as the number of shots remaining on the memory card at the current size and quality setting. When you half-press the shutter button, the camera indicates which focus area or areas have been selected by highlighting the corresponding focus-area boxes on the LCD screen in green. (The middle frame of the animated screenshot above right shows this in action: Here, the camera is indicating that all three regions are in focus.) When the shutter button is half-pressed, the information overlay display also disappears momentarily, so it won't interfere with your view of the subject.

LCD Screens, Playback Mode
In playback mode, the S330 offers a variety of views of your recorded images. Accessed by pressing the wide angle zoom button, an index mode shows 9 tiny thumbnails at a time, letting you scroll through the images on your memory card very quickly. Normal-sized playback options include a display with no information overlay, one with a limited overlay (showing image size and quality, date, and time the photo was captured), and a view showing very detailed information, including some exposure information (although not shutter speed or aperture settings) and a histogram. Finally, pressing the telephoto zoom button enlarges the displayed image anywhere from 2 to 10 times, letting you closely inspect images to check focus and framing.


External Controls


Shutter Button: Located on the top panel, this button sets focus and exposure when pressed halfway down and fires the shutter when pressed all the way. If the Self-Timer is activated, a full press of the Shutter button triggers the 2- or10-second countdown.


Mode Dial: Surrounding the Power button on the camera's top panel, this dial controls the camera's exposure mode, offering the following selections:

  • Playback: Allows the user to scroll through captured images and play back movie files. Files can be enlarged for closer inspection, displayed in an index format, write protected, or set up for printing on a DPOF compatible device.
  • Automatic Exposure Mode: Puts the camera in charge of all exposure decisions, except for flash mode, macro/infinity focusing, Continuous Shooting, and the Self-Timer.
  • Manual Exposure Mode: Allows more exposure control by the user, such as Exposure Compensation and White Balance settings. The camera still determines the shutter speed and aperture settings though.
  • Stitch Assist Mode: Sets up the camera for capturing a series of still images, to be "stitched" together into a panoramic image on a computer after capture.
  • Movie Mode: Captures moving images with sound, with a maximum recording time of 30 seconds.


Power Button: Resting snugly in the center of the Mode dial, the Power button turns the camera on or off. Turning on requires holding the button down for a second or so, an intentional design choice by Canon, to avoid the camera accidentally turning on while in a pocket or purse. When the camera is powered on, the lens telescopes out into its operating position. Likewise, the lens retracts back into the camera body when the camera is switched off.


Zoom Rocker Button (Lens Zoom, Index Display and Playback Zoom Control): Positioned in the top right corner of the camera's back panel, this rocker button controls the optical and digital telephoto when the camera is in Record mode. In Playback mode, it brings up a nine image index display (when pushed to the wide angle end) or zooms into captured images (when pushed to the telephoto end).


CF Open Latch: Situated on the right side of the back panel, this sliding latch opens the CompactFlash card slot.


Spot Metering Button (Up Arrow Key): The topmost button in the Four-Way Arrow pad, this control activates the Spot Metering option in Record mode. In any settings menu, this button navigates through options and selections.


Macro/Infinity Button (Left Arrow Key): Pointing to the left in the arrow key pad, this control cycles between Macro, Infinity Focus, and normal focusing modes while in Record mode. In both Playback and Record menus, it acts as the left arrow key to navigate through menu items. In Playback mode, this button scrolls backward through captured images.


Flash Button (Right Arrow Key): Pointing to the right in the arrow key pad, this button cycles through the following five flash modes (options may change depending on the exposure mode selected):

  • Automatic: The camera determines when to fire the flash based on existing light levels.
  • Red-eye Reduction: The camera fires a small pre-flash before the full flash to reduce the occurrence of Red-eye in pictures of people.
  • Forced On: The flash always fires, regardless of lighting conditions.
  • Forced Off: The flash never fires, regardless of lighting conditions.
  • Slow-synchro: The flash is used with a slow shutter speed to allow more ambient light into the exposure.

In both Playback and Record menus, this button acts as the right arrow key to scroll through menu items. In Playback mode, this button scrolls forward through captured images.


Continuous/Self-Timer Button (Down Arrow Key): The final button on the key pad, this button cycles through Single, Continuous, and Self-Timer shooting modes while the camera is in Record mode. In both Playback and Record menus, this button serves as the down arrow key to navigate through menu items.


Exposure Compensation / White Balance / Photo Effect Button: To the left of the circular key pad, this control activates the Exposure Compensation, White Balance, and Photo Effect displays in Manual, Stitch Assist, and Movie modes. Pressed once, the button displays the Exposure Compensation scale, adjustable from -2 to +2 in one-third EV steps. A second press displays the White Balance options, which include Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Incandescent, Fluorescent, Fluorescent H, and Custom. The third press displays the Photo Effect menu, with choices of Vivid Color, Neutral Color, Low Sharpening, Sepia, and Black and White. When the Long Shutter mode is activated, this button also lets you set the camera's shutter speed, from one to 15 seconds. In Automatic mode, this button has no effect.

In Playback mode, this button pulls up the single-image erase menu, which deletes the currently-displayed image (unless write-protected).


Display Button: Just to the left of the Exposure Compensation / White Balance / Photo Effect button, this button turns the LCD display on and off. In Playback mode, this button controls the information overlay display, one option of which shows a brightness histogram of the displayed image.


Menu Button: Nestled between the Set and Display buttons, this button calls up the LCD menu system in Record and Playback modes.


Set Button: Directly beneath the lower left corner of the LCD display, this button confirms menu selections and changes.


Camera Modes and Menus

Movie Mode: Records short movie clips with sound. The actual amount of recording time varies with the resolution setting and (obviously) available CompactFlash space, but the longest movie it can record is 30 seconds, regardless of other factors. A handful of exposure controls are available in this mode, though still-capture options like flash mode and Continuous Shooting are disabled, as is the digital zoom function.

Stitch Assist Mode: Records a series of as many as 26 images to be "stitched" together as a panoramic shot. Stitch assist mode locks the exposure and white balance based on the first shot taken, so the images will all have the same color and relative brightness. Two directions are available: Left to Right Stitch Assist and Right to Left Stitch Assist (based on which direction the camera will move to create the panoramic sequence). The majority of the exposure controls are available in this mode, with the exception of digital telephoto, Auto and Red-eye Reduction flash modes, and Continuous Shooting mode.

Manual Exposure Mode: Restricts the camera's control to shutter speed and aperture, letting you adjust the digital zoom, flash mode, image quality, shooting method (Single, Continuous, or Self-Timer), Macro and Infinity Focus modes, Exposure Compensation, White Balance, Photo Effect, metering mode, and ISO.

Automatic Exposure Mode: Puts the camera in charge of all exposure settings, making the camera a pure "point & shoot." You can select only the digital zoom option, certain flash modes, the self-timer, and Macro mode.

Playback Mode: This mode allows you to scroll through captured images and movies, write protect images, view a nine-image index display, zoom into a captured image, delete unwanted images, rotate images, and set up images for printing on DPOF compatible devices.

Record Menu: Accessed by pressing the Menu button in Automatic, Manual, and Stitch Assist modes (some options are not available in all modes). Three menu tabs appear, for Record, Setup, and My Camera sub-menus.

  • Resolution: Sets the image resolution to Large (1,600 x 1,200 pixels), Medium (1,024 x 768 pixels), or Small (640 x 480 pixels) for still images.
  • Compression: Controls the amount of JPEG compression. Options are Superfine, Fine, and Normal.
  • ISO: Sets the camera's sensitivity to Auto, or to 50, 100, 200, or 400 ISO equivalents. (Available in manual mode only)
  • AiAF: Turns on the AiAF focus system. If switched off, the camera bases autofocus on the center of the frame. (Available in manual mode only.)
  • Digital Zoom: Enables the digital zoom function, which is engaged by zooming past the optical zoom range. Also disables digital zoom. (Available in auto and manual modes only.)
  • Self-Timer: Sets the Self-Timer countdown to two or 10 seconds.
  • Review: Turns the instant review function on or off, or sets the amount of time that the captured image is displayed on the screen to either two or 10 seconds.
  • AF Assist Beam: Turns the AF assist light on or off. If on, the light automatically activates whenever the shutter button is half-pressed. (Leave it off in bright surroundings, to save battery power.)
  • File No. Reset: Activates or deactivates the file numbering reset. If activated, the camera resets the file numbers with each new CompactFlash card. If left off, file numbering simply continues from card to card. (Most users will want to leave this off, to avoid accidentally overwriting files when downloading to the computer.)
  • Auto Rotate: When enabled, Auto Rotate tells the camera to automatically rotate the image when it is tilted 90 degrees. (As far as I can tell though, this rotation only affects display on the camera's own LCD: The images aren't rotated when you download them to your computer.)
  • Long Shutter: Enables a slower shutter speed mode for night shooting, extending the shutter speed range to 15 seconds. (The S330's noise reduction engages automatically for exposure times from 1.3 to 15 seconds.)


Record Menu, Movie Mode: The Movie Mode record menu options are quite limited relative to those of the other capture modes. It thus seems to make the most sense to discuss them under their own heading, to avoid confusion.

  • Resolution: Movie resolution options are 640 x 480, 320 x 240, and 160 x 120 pixels.
  • Self-Timer: Sets the Self-Timer countdown to two or 10 seconds. (This is interesting, I don't think many digicams with movie capture give you a self-timer option to use with it.)
  • AF Assist Beam: Turns the AF assist light on or off. If on, the light automatically activates in low lighting.
  • File No. Reset: Activates or deactivates the file numbering reset. If activated, resets the file numbers with each new CompactFlash card. If left off, file numbering simply continues from card to card. (Most users will want to leave this off, to avoid overwriting files when downloading to the computer.)


Setup Menu: The setup menu is available in all recording or playback modes, as the second tab at the top of the menu screens. It lets you control a variety of basic camera functions that affect both record and playback operation.

  • Beep: Turns the camera's beep sounds on or off.
  • Speaker Volume: Adjusts the overall playback volume, affecting both camera sounds and playback of recorded audio.
  • Auto Power Down: Sets the camera to off after a period of inactivity, to save battery life.
  • Date/Time: Sets the camera's internal date and time settings.
  • Format: Formats the CompactFlash card, erasing all images (even write protected ones). (Option not available in Stitch-Assist mode, oddly enough.)
  • Language: Lets you choose from one of 12 languages for the menu displays.
  • Video System: Establishes the type of video signal, NTSC or PAL.

My Camera Menu: The "My Camera" menu lets you "personalize" the camera's sounds and displays somewhat. (I have to say that I don't understand the need for a camera to emit bird sounds whenever you press one of its buttons, but to each his or her own, I guess.)

  • Theme: Sets the user "theme," which selects specific settings for each of the following My Camera options. The first option is the Canon standard set of sounds and images. Option 2 is Science Fiction, and Option 3 is Bird Theme. (New "themes" can be assigned via the camera's accompanying software to Options 2 and 3.)
  • Start-Up Image: Specifies which start up image will appear when the camera is turned on. Themes are the same as above.
  • Start-Up Sound: Picks a unique start-up sound, either one recorded by the user or in the Science Fiction and Bird Theme.
  • Shutter Sound: Using the same set of themes, selects a shutter noise.
  • Operation Sound: Assigns a customized or theme sound to basic operation noises.
  • Self-Timer Sound: Also assigns customized or theme sounds to the Self-Timer noise.

Playback Menu: Accessed by pressing the Menu button in Playback mode, the Playback menu also has subject tabs for the Setup and My Camera menus described above.

  • Protect: Write protects the currently displayed image (except from card reformatting).
  • Rotate: Lets rotate the image 90 degrees clockwise or counter clockwise, to reorient "portrait mode" photos.
  • Sound Memo: Records a short sound caption to accompany a still image.
  • Erase All: Deletes all images on the CompactFlash card, except for protected ones.
  • Slide Show: Automatically plays back each image on the CompactFlash card, one by one. You can also mark specific images to be played back in a show.
  • Print Order: Sets up individual images to print on DPOF (Digital Print Order Format) compatible printers. Through this setting, you can set the number of prints to be made, turn on the date and time stamp, and setup the print style.
  • Transfer Order: Transfers the print order to an email program, so that small images can be sent via email.

 

Sample Pictures
See our sample pictures and detailed analysis here. The thumbnails below show a subset of our test images. Click on a thumbnail to see the full-size photo.

Outdoor
Indoor
Indoor Flash
 

 

 

House
Musicians
Macro
 

 

 

Davebox
Resolution
Viewfinder Accuracy

 


Specifications
See the specifications sheet here.


Picky Details
Information on shooting speed, battery life, etc. can be found here.


Following is a brief synopsis of my test results for the PowerShot S330. For a more detailed discussion, as well as links to all the test photos I shot, see the S330's Sample Pictures page,

  • Color: The S330 produced really excellent color throughout my testing, both outdoors and under the studio lighting. The Incandescent white balance setting also performed unusually well under standard room lighting, with good color accuracy and saturation. (Auto white balance had severe problems there though.) Skin tones also looked very good, both indoors and out. Overall, very nice color, under a wide range of shooting conditions.

  • Exposure: The S330 did a great job here, exposing the difficult outdoor portraits and house shot well. The camera captured great midtones in the harsh lighting of the Outdoor portrait, and accurately exposed the outdoor house shot as well, with a good dynamic range. It also picked up the subtle tonal variations of the Davebox well, a difficult area for some digicams. It had a bit more difficulty in the indoor portrait tests, requiring quite a bit of positive exposure compensation for both the flash and available-light shots.

  • Sharpness: Image sharpness was good in most cases, as the S330's 2.1-megapixel CCD and lens produced good detail and definition for that resolution level sensor. Optical distortion was very low at both wide-angle and telephoto lens settings, and chromatic aberration in the corners of the image was very faint. The strongest distortion was in the form of corner softness, the most visible instance in the Macro test shot.

  • Closeups: The S330 performed somewhat below average here, capturing a large macro area of 6.25 x 4.68 inches (159 x 119 millimeters). Detail was strong in the coins, brooch, and dollar bill, though all four corners of the image were quite soft. Color and exposure were both good, however, with just a slight warm cast. The camera's flash almost throttled down too much for the macro area, with quite a bit of falloff in the corners of the frame.

  • Night Shots: The S330's maximum shutter speed of 15 seconds gives the camera excellent low-light shooting capabilities. At 100, 200, and 400 ISO settings, the S330 captured bright, clear images at light levels as low as 1/16 foot-candle (0.067 lux). The camera captured good exposures as low as 1/8 foot-candle (1.3 lux) at the 50 ISO setting. Image noise was also very well controlled despite the long exposures. As usual, noise was lowest at ISO 50 and 100, climbing steadily for ISO 200 and 400. Particularly in light of its built-in autofocus assist illuminator, the S330 should easily handle dark shooting situations, well below average city street lighting at night.

  • Battery Life: My production sample arrived without the optional power adapter cable, so I couldn't do my normal laboratory-grade power measurements on the S330. Like most compact digicams though, its tiny battery leaves it with much shorter battery life than most larger models. It appears to run for about an hour in its worst-case power consumption mode, in record mode with the LCD turned on. I therefore *really* advise readers to purchase a spare battery for it, to keep charged and ready as a spare. I've asked Canon for a power adapter cable, and will measure and report on power consumption in more detail if and when they get me one.


In the Box
Packaged with the PowerShot S330 are the following items:

  • Wrist strap.
  • Video cable.
  • USB cable.
  • 8MB CompactFlash memory card.
  • NB-1LH lithium-ion battery pack.
  • Battery charger.
  • ArcSoft and Canon Digital Camera Solution Disk software CDs.
  • Operating manual and registration card.


Recommended Accessories

  • Large capacity CompactFlash memory card.
  • Additional NB-1LH lithium-ion battery pack.
  • AC adapter kit.
  • Small camera case.


Conclusion
I have consistently been impressed with the quality and versatility of the ELPH series, and the new S330 continues this trend. Its tiny size makes it convenient and travel worthy, and the flexible features give it an edge over many point-and-shoot style digicams in the marketplace. Though actual exposure control remains automatic, the ability to adjust ISO, White Balance, and access longer shutter times increases its shooting range considerably. The 2.1-megapixel CCD and sharp lens deliver good quality images with the excellent color that I've come to expect from Canon products. Following the stellar track record of its predecessors with incremental but noticeable improvements in many areas, the S330 should be every bit as popular as the Digital ELPHs that have gone before.


 

Reader Comments!
Questions, comments or controversy on this article? Click this link to see what other Imaging Resource readers have had to say about Canon PowerShot S330, or add comments of your own!


Follow Imaging Resource:

Purchase memory card for Panasonic Lumix DMC-XS3 digital camera
Top 3 photos this month win:

1 $300 Adorama Gift Certificate

2 $200 Adorama Gift Certificate

3 $100 Adorama Gift Certificate