Canon PowerShot S60An already sleek 5 megapixel design is updated and improved with a 28mm wide angle lens and new control and menu system.
<<Reference: Datasheet :(Previous) | (Next): Print-Friendly Review Version>>
S60 Sample ImagesReview First Posted: 05/10/2004, Updated: 06/28/2004
Digital Cameras - Canon PowerShot S60 Test Images
|I've begun including links in our reviews to a Thumber-generated index page for the test shots. The Thumber data includes a host of information on the images, including shutter speed, ISOsetting, compression setting, etc. Rather than clutter the page below with *all*that detail, we're posting the Thumber index so only those interested inthe information need wade through it!|
The extreme tonal range of this image makes it a tough shot for many digicams, which is precisely why I set it up this way, and why I shoot it with no fill flash or reflector to open the shadows. The object is to hold both highlight and shadow detail without producing a "flat" picture with muddy colors, and the PowerShot S60 did a great job here.
The shot at right was taken with a +0.7 EV exposure compensation adjustment, with its contrast option set to "low." The result was good-looking midtones with very little sacrifice of highlight detail. (Although in fairness to other cameras, this was shot on a fairly hazy summer day, so the contrast ratio wasn't as high as it sometimes is. - I'm working on a new light source, to move this shot into the studio, to avoid such variations in the future.) I felt that the Daylight white balance setting did the best overall job here, although the Auto and Manual settings both produced good results as well.
The color looks pretty good throughout the frame, although Marti's skin tones are just a little warm, with a slight yellowish tinge to them. The blue flowers in the bouquet look very good, with only faint purplish tints in the darker areas, a very faithful rendering of the original. (This is a troublesome blue for many digicams to get right, with many tending to render it with a lot of purple in it. The PowerShot S60 handled it very well here.) Color saturation is good as well, though the red flowers are just slightly oversaturated. Resolution is excellent, with a lot of fine detail visible throughout the frame, although there is some loss of detail resulting from the camera's noise suppression processing, visible in areas of subtle contrast, most noticeable in Marti's hair. Detail is strong in the shadows as well, and pretty low noise levels. All in all, an excellent performance.
To view the entire exposure series from zero to +1.0 EV, see files S60OUTAP0.HTM
through S60OUTAP3.HTM on the thumbnail index page.
High resolution and great detail, with good exposure at the default setting.
Color and exposure are similar to the wider shot above, though this close-up shot was taken at the S60's default exposure setting, with the contrast control again adjusted to its "low" setting. Midtones are properly exposed, with a lot of fine detail visible, yet shadows are open, and all but the strongest highlights are preserved. Shot with the Auto white balance setting, Marti's complexion comes out a bit more yellowish than I'd like here, but is probably within acceptable limits. The S60's 4x zoom lens helps avoid any geometric distortion of Marti's features, and captures sharp details. Resolution is very high, with great definition in the details of Marti's face and hair.
To view the entire exposure series from -0.3 to +0.7 EV, see files S60FACAM1.HTM
through S60FACAP2.HTM on the thumbnail index page.
Indoor Portrait, Flash:
Good coverage and color with the built-in flash, but an orange cast from the background lighting.
The S60's built-in flash illuminated the subject very well, requiring only a +0.3 EV exposure compensation adjustment, quite a bit less than most cameras require on this shot. Color is pretty good, though slightly warm from the strong incandescent lighting in the room, with an orange cast in the shadows on the back wall, on Marti's head, and on the white shirt. Despite the orange cast, color looks pretty good throughout the frame. I also shot with the camera's Slow-Sync flash mode, again choosing a +0.3 EV exposure compensation adjustment. The longer exposure allows more ambient light into the image, which increases the orange cast but produces a more even exposure with less harsh shadows.
To view the entire exposure series from zero to +1.3 EV in the normal flash mode, see files S60INFP0.HTM through S60INFP4.HTM on the thumbnail index page.
For the same series in the Slow-Sync mode, see files S60INFSP0.HTM through
S60INFSP4.HTM on the thumbnail index page.
Indoor Portrait, No Flash:
Nearly accurate color with the Incandescent white balance setting, and a good exposure with low image noise.
This shot is always 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 S60's Auto white balance had quite a bit of trouble here, producing a strong warm cast. Both the Manual and Incandescent settings did a good job though, with slightly different renderings that will likely appeal to different people based on personal tastes. I chose the Incandescent setting for the main image, as its remaining color cast was more appealing to my eye, though others might prefer the slightly more yellow cast produced by the Manual white balance here. The flower bouquet looks very good, color-wise, and the blue flowers have only slight purplish tints. (I typically expect these flowers to be quite dark and purplish under this light source, the S60 does better than most cameras here.) The shots at right were taken with a +1.0 EV exposure compensation adjustment, about average for this shot. (Here's a sample image at the default exposure.)
Great resolution and detail, with a slightly warm color balance.
Though slightly warm, I felt that the S60's Auto
white balance produced the best overall color here, though the Daylight
setting produced similar results (just a bit warmer). The Manual
setting produced nearly accurate results, but was slightly greenish. Resolution
is very high, with a lot of fine detail visible in the tree limbs and
front shrubbery, as well as in the brick pattern. (The S60's five-megapixel
CCD stretches the limits of this poster as a test target. Even though
the poster was made from a 500MB scan of a 4x5 negative shot with a tack-sharp
lens, the S60 is close to extracting all the detail that's to be found
here.) Details are sharp, but there's some softness in all four corners.
Excellent resolution and detail, good dynamic range. (Although the latter is helped somewhat by the hazy conditions on the day of the shoot.)
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.
This is my ultimate "resolution shot," given the infinite range of detail in a natural scene like this, and the S60 did an excellent job with it. Resolution is excellent, with outstanding detail in the tree limbs above the roof, as well as in the fine foliage in front of the house. Leaf patterns are clear and distinct, and the house details are also well-defined. Details are sharp and clear, although there's some softness in the corners, and evidence of lens flare and coma in several areas where the tree limbs and foliage are silhouetted against the sky. (Overall, it looks like the advanced lens technology Canon used in this camera let them compress a wide-angle nearly 4x zoom into a very compact package, but the distortion level remained similar to that of larger lenses with similar wide-angle and zoom ratio. - Its image quality is really not a lot better or worse than full-sized lenses of similar characteristics, the advantages of the new technology apparently being fully utilized just to compact the optics into the small form factor.)
The camera picks up good detail in the bright white paint surrounding the bay window, a tough spot for many digicams. Detail is also excellent in the shadow area above the front door, further evidence of a good dynamic range. In all fairness though, the sky was rather hazy on the day that the S60's samples were shot (a common and unfortunately unavoidable problem in the Atlanta area in the summertime), so the contrast ratio here wasn't as high to begin with as it was for some other cameras I've shot it with. Overall color looks good, and exposure is about right. The table below shows a standard resolution and quality series, followed by ISO, sharpness, saturation, contrast, and color series.
Lens Zoom Range
A good 3.6x zoom range.
I routinely shoot this series of images to show the field of view for each camera, with the lens at full wide angle, at maximum telephoto (3.6x, in this case), and at full telephoto with the digital zoom enabled. The S60's lens is equivalent to a 28-100mm zoom on a 35mm camera. That corresponds to a pretty wide angle (wider than on most digicams, particularly compact designs) to a moderate telephoto. Following are the results at each zoom setting.
Good color with the Manual white balance setting, but yellow casts with the other options. Very high resolution.
This shot is often a tough test for digicams, as the abundance of blue
in the composition frequently tricks white balance systems into producing
a warm color balance. Both the S60's Auto and
Daylight white balance settings produced noticeable warm casts, but
the Manual white balance did a very good job.
Skin tones look natural, and the blue robe looks about right, with just
slight purplish tints in the deep shadows. Resolution is excellent, with
great definition in the embroidery of the blue robe and red vest, as well
as in the flower garland, beaded necklaces, and instrument strings. (The
original data file for this poster was only 20MB though, so cameras like
the S60 are definitely capable of showing more detail than the poster
has in it.)
A small macro area with excellent detail and good color. Flash has trouble though.
The S60 did very well in the macro category, capturing a minimum area
of only 2.28 x 1.71 inches (58 x 43 millimeters). Resolution is very high,
showing a lot of fine detail in the dollar bill, coins, and brooch. Details
are slightly soft in the coins and brooch, due to a limited depth of field
at such a short shooting distance (an optical fact of life, not the fault
of the camera). All four corners of the frame are somewhat soft (a common
failing of digicam macro modes, caused by "curvature of field"
in the optics), but details are sharp in the dollar bill. The S60's flash
didn't throttle down very well for the macro area, and overexposed the
shot. (Plan on using external lighting with the S60 for your closest macro
"Davebox" Test Target
Good white balance, very accurate/pleasing color.
I chose the S60's Auto white balance setting
for the main shot here, though the Manual setting
produced similar results. The Daylight setting
produced a bit of a warm cast. The default exposure here is just a little
bright, but the S60 still manages to distinguish the subtle tonal variations
of the pastel blocks on the Q60 target, albeit faintly. The large color
blocks are quite accurate, with the slight overexposure producing slightly
lower color saturation on many of them, but well within acceptable limits.
(The red and blue primary color blocks do appear to be properly saturated
though.) The shadow area of the charcoal briquettes shows excellent detail,
with low noise, and the S60 even manages to (barely) discriminate between
the two darkest patches on the large Kodak gray scale. An excellent job,
Great low-light performance, with good color and exposure even at the darkest light levels. True in-the-dark focusing (at close ranges, anyway) too, thanks to a bright AF-assist light.
The S60 produced clear, bright, usable images down to the 1/16 foot-candle (0.67 lux) limit of my test, with good color at all the 100, 200, and 400 ISO settings. Images were only bright as low as 1/8 foot-candle (1.2 lux) at the ISO 50 setting, though you could arguably use the image shot at the 1/16 foot-candle light level. As you'd expect, noise is low at the ISO 50 setting, increasing with the ISO level, becoming quite pronounced at ISO 400. At all levels though, the noise is quite fine-grained, which makes it less obtrusive than it would be otherwise. The S60 also focuses very well in the dark, at least for subjects that are within the 5-8 foot range of its bright autofocus-assist illuminator. (The range of the AF-assist light will obviously vary strongly as a function of the brightness, color, and contrast of the subject.) The table below shows the best exposure I was able to obtain for each of a range of illumination levels. Images in this table (like all sample photos) are untouched, exactly as they came from the camera.
(Note: If you'd like to use a light meter to check light levels for subjects you might be interested in shooting, a light level of one foot-candle corresponds to a normal exposure of two seconds at f/2.8 and ISO 100.)
Flash Range Test
Good flash range, with just a small amount of falloff at the 14-foot limit of this test. - But a little "cheating" to get there.
In my testing, the S60's flash illuminated the test target all the way out to the 14 foot limit of my test, with only a small decrease in intensity at the 14 foot distance. As is the case with so many cameras these days though (particularly compact models), the S60 apparently "cheats" a little bit by boosting its ISO setting without informing the user. - Canon's File Viewer Utility software reports the ISO as 50, but it seems clear from the noise levels in the samples below shot at 10-14 feet that some sort of boost has been applied to the ISO to achieve the longer flash range. Below is the flash range series, with distances from eight to 14 feet from the target.
Very high resolution, 1,200 lines of "strong detail." Slightly high barrel distortion, but almost no pincushion.
The S60 performed very well on the "laboratory" resolution test chart. It started showing artifacts in the test patterns at resolutions as low as 1,000 lines per picture height, in both horizontal and vertical directions. I found "strong detail" out to at least 1,200 lines in both directions. (I suspect that some reviewers would rate the camera more highly than this, as there's clearly still something visible, even beyond 1,200 lines, but my own conservative standard is to resist rating cameras' resolution as extending past the point where the artifacts begin to seriously compete with the actual subject detail. Hence the 1,200 line rating.) "Extinction" of the target patterns didn't occur until 1,600 lines or so. Click here for a sample image shot with the camera's Low Sharpness setting.
Optical distortion on the S60 is a little higher than average at the
wide-angle end, where I measured approximately 0.9 percent barrel distortion.
(Average is about 0.8 percent, still too high in my opinion, but for better
or worse, more or less the industry standard. Note though, that the 0.8
percent average is common on lenses that don't extend as far in the wide
angle direction as the one on the S60 does.) The telephoto end fared much
better, as I found only 0.08 percent pincushion distortion (about two
pixels' worth). Chromatic aberration is a fairly strong function of focal
length, showing a fair bit of distortion at the widest angle zoom setting,
but relatively little at "normal" focal length (50mm equivalent),
or at telephoto. (This distortion is visible as a very slight colored
fringe around the objects at the edges of the field of view on the resolution
target.) As I observed earlier, the S60's lens generally shows good optical
quality, but doesn't seem to be markedly better than lenses with similar
zoom ratios on full-sized cameras. - It seems to me that Canon pretty
well "used up" the technical benefit of the advanced high-index
aspheric lens-molding technology developed for the S60's lens in making
a lens with as much of a wide-angle capability this compact, rather than
for delivering a lens with significantly lower distortion than is the
norm. - Given the performance of the S60's lens though, perhaps we can
hope for the technology to be applied to physically larger lenses, or
to ones with less aggressive design parameters, to deliver even higher
optical quality in full-sized cameras.
Resolution Series, Wide Angle
Resolution Test, Telephoto
Viewfinder Accuracy/Flash Uniformity
A tight optical viewfinder, but very accurate LCD monitor.
The S60's optical viewfinder is quite tight, showing only about 82 percent of the final image area at both wide angle and telephoto. The LCD monitor did much better, with close to 100 percent accuracy across the zoom range. Given that I like LCD monitors to be as close to 100 percent accuracy as possible, the S60's LCD monitor performed very well here, but I'd really like to see a somewhat more accurate optical viewfinder. Flash distribution is somewhat uneven at wide angle, with strong falloff at the corners of the frame. At telephoto, flash distribution is more uniform.
Top 3 photos this month win:
1 Canon PIXMA PRO-100
2 Canon PIXMA MG6320
3 Canon PIXMA MG5420