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Canon PowerShot S10

Canon packs 2 megapixels and a 2x optical zoom into the smallest digicam yet!

Review First Posted: 12/5/1999

Must-have e-book for this camera -- $20, Click Here!

MSRP $699 US


True 2 megapixel sensor for 1600x1200 images
2x optical zoom lens
Tiny body, smallest currently on the market!
Exceptional image quality
Rugged all-metal construction, auto lens cover

Manufacturer Overview
Canon has long been a leader in the film-based photography world, and has developed a popular line of digital cameras as well. In recent history, their PowerShot Pro70 introduced exceptional image quality and many "studio-friendly" features at the 1.7 megapixel level in late 1998. Recently, they've made waves with a series of digicams in exceptionally compact metal bodies, echoing the style of their wildly popular "ELPH" film cameras. The latest addition to this line is the PowerShot S10, a full 2 megapixel camera with a 2x optical zoom lens, packed into what's arguably the smallest body in the digicam market. We predict that this compact form factor, combined with its exceptional image quality, will make it one of the more popular digicam designs currently on the market.



Executive Overview
We've always been big fans of compact cameras, subscribing to the theory that a camera that sits in a drawer doesn't take many pictures. Accordingly, we were definitely excited about the exceptional compactness of the PowerShot S10. It's actually the smallest digital camera currently (October, 1999) on the market although the rectangular body shape makes it look a little bigger than some others noted for their 'pocketability.' The all metal body and metal tripod socket add greatly to the sense of ruggedness and sturdy durability that we find with the S10. We really liked the design of the battery compartment, which automatically locks into place when you close it. A built-in automatic shutter protects the lens, making you feel a little more confident about just dropping it in your pocket on the way out the door. But don't let its small size fool you, its resolution reigns at the top of the current two megapixel category, with excellent image quality to boot.

The optical viewfinder doesn't feature a dioptric adjustment, but it does have a high eye point which should make eyeglass wearers a little more comfortable. Overall, we found the optical viewfinder quite "loose", although the accuracy is very consistent from wide angle to telephoto on the zoom lens. Alternatively, the LCD monitor shows a bit more of the subject on the wide angle end than the final image reveals while the telephoto end showed about 95 percent accuracy. A bonus is the optional live status display on the LCD monitor, which displays small menus down the sides of the monitor.

We found the 6.3 to 12.6mm, F/2.8 to F/4.0, 2x zoom lens (equivalent to a 35 to 70mm lens on a 35mm camera) a little limited, compared to the abundance of 3x zooms out on the market. But the resolution places the S10 at the top of the current (October 1999) two megapixel marketplace with about 700 lines per picture height, in both vertical and horizontal directions. Zoom action is fairly smooth, although it's not as sensitive to the controls as we might like it to be. We did appreciate the bright autofocus assist light which aids focusing in dim lighting situations (but it's a two-edged sword as it takes a big bite out of battery power).

We experienced good exposure control and enjoyed the option of four shooting modes (Automatic, Manual, Stitch Assist and "Image"). Automatic mode is pretty straightforward with the camera making all the decisions while Manual gives you control over exposure compensation (EV) and white balance. Image capture mode was helpful for fast shooting situations, providing preset exposure settings for landscapes, night scenes, etc. The Stitch Assist mode takes the guesswork out of panorama shots.

The Gain setting provides versatile ISO (light sensitivity) adjustment options from zero (100 ISO), to +1 (ISO 200) and +2 (ISO 400). Although you don't have any direct control over shutter speed or aperture settings, the S10's automatic shutter covers a wide range from two to 1/1,000 seconds. The built-in flash operates in four modes: Auto, Red-Eye Reduction, On and Off and features through the lens metering which increases the accuracy.

Feature-wise, the S10 offers a very versatile selection. The digital telephoto function magnifies up to 4x and can be turned off and on through the record settings menu. Additionally, the macro function allows you to capture subjects from 4.7 to 18 inches (12 to 46 cm) away and is accessible in all four capture modes. The Self-Timer gives you 10 seconds once the shutter button has been pressed, indicated by the self-timer light on the front of the camera. In the continuous shooting mode, the S10 captures approximately 1.7 images per second, depending on the amount of space on the CompactFlash card, the entire time the shutter is held down.

Exposure compensation is adjustable from -2 to +2EV in Manual, Image and Stitch Assist modes. Likewise, white balance offers Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Tungsten and Fluorescent settings but is only available in Manual, Image and Stitch Assist capture modes. In Manual capture mode only, you can choose between spot and center weighted metering, depending on the composition of your subject. You can also adjust contrast and sharpness, giving you further control over the final image.

The S10 utilizes CompactFlash for image storage and comes with an 8MB card, which of course is upgradeable. Images can be stored as Superfine, Fine or Normal quality (compression level) and at resolutions of 1600 x 1200, 1280 x 960 and 800 x 600. When it comes to power, the S10 uses either a rechargeable, nickel-hydride NB-5H battery pack or a 2CR5 lithium battery, with a CR2016 lithium battery backing up the internal calendar. The PowerShot S10 is sold in the US without the optional NiMH battery pack, charger, and AC adapter cable. In our view, these items really should be included with the camera, as it would be prohibitively expensive to operate the camera on 2CR5 lithium cells all the time. Thus, when comparing digicam prices, be sure you include the cost of the battery/charger kit with that quoted for the S10 itself.

Two software CDs and serial cables for Mac and PC come with the camera (we were thrilled by the inclusion of a USB cable). The PowerShot Browser program downloads the images from the camera, PhotoStitch pieces together panorama shots and Adobe PhotoDeluxe gives you image manipulation and correction capabilities. There's also an NTSC video cable for connection to a television set, which can be used for image playback or composition.

Other than a few minor drawbacks here and there (the limitation of a 2x zoom lens, etc.), we really liked the S10. The most impressive feature is its compact size and carefree portability, which is definitely a plus in the current digicam marketplace. But beyond that, the four capture modes and variety of exposure control options ensure high quality images that give you more than the usual amount of control over the composition. Best of all, the picture quality is second to none.

Camera Design
What a slim, compact camera! The PowerShot S10 is actually the smallest camera currently on the market, as of October 1999. Although its rectangular shape makes it look a little bigger, the S10 is very pocket friendly at 4.1 x 2.7 x 1.3 inches (105.4 x 69.4 x 33.8 mm). Weighing in at approximately 9.5 oz. (270g) without the battery and CompactFlash card, the S10's all metal body makes it a little bit heavier but a good bit sturdier as well.

The very sleek front of the camera features the lens, flash, preflash (red-eye reduction/focus-assist) light and optical viewfinder, all very smooth with no protrusions when the camera is off (except the slight lip of the front grip). When the camera is turned to a capture mode, the protective shutter over the lens opens and the lens pops out from its compartment but still maintains a low profile.

Around back, the majority of the control buttons, CompactFlash slot trigger, optical viewfinder and LCD panel take up most of the space. Consistent with the styling of the front of the camera, the back has no major protrusions.

The media side (right side, viewed from the rear) of the S10 holds the CompactFlash slot, wrist strap attachment and DC coupler cable cover (a little slot to accommodate the cord of the AC adapter). The positioning of the CompactFlash card and the slot cover make it a little finicky to get the card out of the slot. It would have been much easier if the card were turned to face the other direction, exposing the little lip most CompactFlash cards have on the back side, which is perfect for hooking with a fingernail.

The opposite side of the S10 features the video and digital jacks as well as a slot for the CR2016 battery (the CR2016 powers the S10's internal clock/calendar). The video jack remains exposed while the digital I/O port has a soft rubber cover that snaps into place to protect the interface.

A small status display, the mode dial and the shutter button live on top of the S10, all maintaining a very low profile.

Finally, the very flat bottom of the camera features a metal tripod mount and battery compartment. A big plus here, relative to some of the earlier Canon digicams, is that the battery cover now locks automatically. In previous designs, if you didn't slide the lock button shut after inserting a battery, the camera would be dead. This caused us some slight consternation the first time we used both the original A5 and the subsequent A50.

Although the S10's optical viewfinder doesn't feature a dioptric adjustment, it has a relatively high eye point, making it comfortable for eyeglass wearers. We found the optical viewfinder to be rather "loose", showing only 77 percent of the final image area, and what it does show is biased slightly toward the top of the field of view. The good point about it though, is that the accuracy doesn't vary at all from the wide angle to the telephoto end on the zoom lens, meaning that you don't have to mentally compensate for varying accuracy as you zoom the lens. Still, we'd really like to see it a bit tighter. The optical viewfinder does feature center autofocus target brackets, helpful when composing.

Alternatively, the LCD monitor goes toward the other extreme, actually showing a bit more of the subject than what appears in the final image, at least at the wide angle end of the range (101.8 percent of final field of view shown). At the telephoto end, we found about 95 percent accuracy. This variation in accuracy figures for wide angle and telephoto is possibly due to the difficulty we experienced in seeing the extreme edges of the image in the LCD when conducting our tests. Overall though, the S10's LCD viewfinder is more accurate than most. A handy feature on the LCD monitor is the live status display option (the little menus down the sides of the LCD viewfinder, if you have the display mode set right), easily disabled when you want an unobstructed view.

In playback mode, the playback zoom works very nicely, with smooth scrolling around the image and a little position indicator in the lower right hand corner so you don't get lost. (This is one of the better implementations of playback zoom we've seen to date.)
The S10's 6.3 to 12.6mm, F/2.8 to F/4.0, 2x zoom lens (equivalent to a 35 to 70mm lens on a 35mm camera) seems a little limited, with most competing models providing a 3x ratio. But the lens is of good quality, as evidenced by the resolution, which is at the top of the current (October 1999) two megapixel marketplace with about 700 lines per picture height, in both vertical and horizontal directions. Focus ranges from 18 inches (46cm) to infinity and the zoom action is fairly smooth, although it's not as sensitive as we'd like it to be.

Optical distortion on the S10 is fairly low, with the lens showing 0.5 percent barrel distortion at wide angle and 0.3 percent (almost undetectable) at the telephoto setting. Chromatic aberration is almost non-existent, estimated at less than half a pixel at all focal length settings. (This distortion is visible as a very slight colored fringe around objects at the edges of the field of view on the resolution target).

The S10 has a bright autofocus assist light that comes on in dim lighting situations. This really helps when focusing in dark conditions, but it will also give you away if you're trying for candids. Unfortunately, the assist light also takes a big gulp of the battery power, albeit for a very short time. (We really don't dislike the AF light though, since focusing is a digicam bugaboo and we'd like to see more digicams with this feature.)
We experienced fairly good exposure control on the S10, and liked the variety of capture options available. Automatic remains relatively straightforward while Manual gives you control over both exposure compensation (EV) and white balance. We found the Image capture mode helpful for many shooting situations, since it provides preset exposure settings for landscapes, night scenes, etc., although we were a bit puzzled by the exact function of some of them. Some were obvious, such as "slow shutter", which sets the autoexposure system to choose smaller apertures and longer shutter speeds. Likewise, "fast shutter" does the opposite, preferring larger apertures and higher shutter speeds. Night Shot mode apparently pairs longer exposure times with use of the onboard strobe, to produce flash exposures with better-lit backgrounds. We really aren't sure what "Landscape" mode does though, unless it involves some of the other image adjustments the camera is capable of, such as sharpening or contrast adjustment. Another plus is the Stitch Assist mode, which helps you compose panoramic shots (said shots to be subsequently merged with the included PhotoStitch software).

ISO is adjustable under the Gain option in the record menu, with options of zero (ISO 100), +1 (ISO 200) and +2 (ISO 400). Although you don't have any control over shutter speed or aperture settings, the S10 offers shutter speeds from two to 1/1,000 seconds and aperture ranges from F/2.8 to F/8.0. These specifications should translate into a usable lighting range of EV 4 to EV 21, using our previous terminology, or 0.13 to 16,000 foot-candles (1.4 to 175,000 lux) In actual tests, we found the camera somewhat less sensitive than this, producing usable images down to light levels of 1 foot-candle (11 lux). This should be adequate for nighttime photography under bright streetlights or indoors at malls, etc. Strangely enough, the +1 and +2 ISO settings didn't extend the low light capability to lower illumination levels. These settings appear to only be useful for permitting higher shutter speeds in otherwise adequately lit environments.

The S10's flash offers four modes of operation (Auto, Red-Eye Reduction, On and Off) and ranges from 6.7 inches to 10.8 feet (17cm to 3.3m) in wide angle and 6.7 inches to 7.5 feet (17cm to 2.3m) in telephoto. Auto lets the camera do all the work and is available in all shooting modes except Stitch Assist. Red-Eye Reduction emits the standard pre-flash before firing the full flash and is only available in Manual and Image capture modes. The On setting means that the flash always fires, available in all modes except for Automatic capture. The Off setting means that the flash never fires. All flash modes are accessed by pressing the Flash button on the back of the camera until the appropriate icon appears on the status display. An excellent feature is that the flash metering is actually performed through the lens, not via a separate sensor on the front of the camera. It's therefore more likely to be accurate, particularly as the lens zooms from wide angle to telephoto.

Digital Telephoto
We found the continuous digital telephoto operation interesting-Through some trickiness with the optical zoom lens, it zooms smoothly through the full zoom range. It's also relatively simple to access. Once the lens is at the maximum optical telephoto setting, keep pressing the up arrow to continue into the digital zoom. The digital zoom will engage, and the lens will rack back to the wide angle setting. The net result is that you're about where you were in terms of effective focal length, but now with the optical zoom at the wide angle end of its range. As you continue to zoom in, the optical zoom does the work, eventually ending up at its 2x setting, producing a total zoom ratio of 4x. If you continue to hold down the telephoto zoom control, the entire process will repeat again, this time with the digital zoom engaged at a 4x magnification ratio. Press on the bottom of the rocker toggle (wide-angle zoom button) to pull back out. Zoom status is displayed in an optional overlay (it can be switched off), in the form of a vertical "zoom bar" on the right hand side of the LCD monitor. (In the photo above right, the zoom is midway through the 2x digital zoom range.) You can disable the digital zoom by hitting the Menu button in Automatic, Manual and Image capture modes. Once in the record menu, select the Digital Zoom option and select either On or Off. It's also important to note that the digital zoom is only available when the LCD monitor is in use.

Keep in mind that "digital zoom" is very different from the zoom effect provided by the optical zoom lens: So-called digital zoom only increases the apparent magnification by cropping into the image, essentially throwing away information from the periphery of the CCD. Thus, as the digital zoom ratio increases, the resolution decreases in direct proportion. With a 2 megapixel digicam like the S10, digital zoom is actually fairly useful when shooting at lower resolution settings, since you don't need the full sensor resolution then anyway. (The S10 interpolates the digital tele images back up to whatever pixel size you have the camera set to: At smaller sizes, less interpolation is involved, producing a smaller but sharper image.)

In all four capture modes, the Self-Timer is accessed by pressing the Self-Timer/Continuous button on the back of the camera (just beside the Flash button). After the shutter button is fully pressed, the self-timer indicator will flash slowly on the front of the camera for the first eight seconds and then accelerate for the remaining two ( a total of 10 seconds). To cancel the mode, just hit the Self-Timer button again or turn the camera off. Since the self-timer is activated by its own control button, you can use it in conjunction with macro mode, a very desirable feature for avoiding camera shake when you're using a tripod.

The S10's Macro function allows you to capture images from 4.7 to 18 inches (12 to 46 cm) away. Macro is accessible in all four capture modes by pressing the Macro button, indicated by the traditional flower symbol. A tiny LED next to the optical viewfinder lights orange when the shutter button is halfway pressed in Macro mode. The mode is just as easily canceled by hitting the Macro button a second time.

Continuous Mode
The S10 will shoot continuously at approximately 1.7 images per second, depending on the amount of space on the CompactFlash card (the interval increases as the space fills up). In this mode, the camera shoots continuously until the shutter button is released. Access the function in either Manual or Image capture modes by pressing the Self-Timer/Continuous button until the Continuous Shooting icon appears on the status display. Cancel it the same way.

Exposure Compensation
When shooting in Manual, Image or Stitch Assist capture modes, the S10 gives you some control over exposure compensation. The +/-/WB button pulls up the settings bar, where you use the right and left arrow buttons to select an EV value from -2 to +2. You can dismiss the menu by pressing the Set button and the shutter button can be pressed at any time to capture an image. Note that the setting remains the same, even if the mode dial is turned (the +/- icon will appear in the status display with the EV value).

White Balance
The same +/-/WB button calls up the white balance settings bar, also adjustable with the right and left arrow keys. Five white balance options are available: Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Tungsten and Fluorescent. The white balance option is available in Manual, Image and Stitch Assist capture modes only. Like exposure compensation, this setting remains in effect even after the mode dial is turned. The WB symbol also appears in the status display.

You can choose between spot and center weighted metering on the S10 (in Manual mode only) by pressing the Set button and using the right and left arrow buttons to select the option. Center weighted metering takes an average reading of the entire image, weighting the value of the light at the center of the viewfinder more heavily. Spot metering measures the light from the very center of the field only and is best for backlit subjects.

Gain, Contrast and Sharpness
We mentioned the Gain setting earlier, which controls ISO. In the record menu, you have the option of zero (100 ISO), +1 (200 ISO) and +2 (400 ISO). The higher ISO values are best for darker situations and fast shutter speeds, but produce more image noise. In the same menu, you can also adjust the contrast and sharpness settings. On both settings, '-' means low, zero is normal and '+' is high, all adjustable via the right and left arrow buttons. A number of cameras offer sharpness adjustments and several now provide ISO options, but the contrast adjustment is fairly uncommon.
Shutter Lag/Cycle Times
When you press the shutter release on a camera, there's usually a delay before the shutter actually fires. This time allows the autofocus and autoexposure mechanisms time to do their work and can amount to a fairly long delay in some situations. Since this number is almost never reported on, and can significantly affect the picture taking experience, we now routinely measure it (using an electronic test setup, with time resolution limited only by the camera's shutter speed.)

On the S10, we measured the shutter lag time with full auto focus at about 1.1 seconds, a little slower than most of the field. Alternatively, shutter lag with prefocus (a half press of the shutter button before the actual exposure itself) is only 0.19 seconds, slightly faster than most.

The camera obviously has some buffer memory, as the first three shots in high-res mode are much faster than the subsequent ones. We found the shot-to-shot cycle time at the maximum resolution and image quality setting to be about 3.7 seconds for first three shots of a rapid fire series. The time then increased to 6.7 seconds for all succeeding ones. It seems like the camera is continuously emptying out the buffer memory as you prepare for the next shot. Consequently, if you wait more than 15 or 20 seconds after the last shot, you'll be able to shoot another three in rapid succession. In the lower resolution settings, the minimum shot-to-shot cycle time is about the same, but you can shoot proportionately more frames before you run out of buffer memory. A helpful feature is a little readout that shows up in the status display, clueing you into how much buffer memory is available.

With an IBM MicroDrive (340 megabyte hard drive-based Type II CompactFlash storage card), cycle time after the buffer is filled decreased to only 4.8 seconds, and the buffer memory emptied much more quickly after the last shot was taken: Only about 10 seconds to completely empty the buffer, as compared to 23 seconds with standard CompactFlash cards.

Shot-to-shot cycle times in the Continuous Shooting mode are 0.63 seconds (1.59 frames per second) in the lowest quality mode and around 4.2 seconds in highest quality setting.
User Interface
The S10 features a pretty user-friendly interface, although some of the menu navigation was complex (arrow buttons navigate but you have to remember to hit the Set button to select an option). All the controls are clearly labeled and relatively well laid out, with the exception of the rocker toggle button, which we wish was a little closer to the Menu and Set buttons. Let's look at each button individually:

Shutter Button
Located on the top right of the camera and silvery smooth, a half press sets the exposure and focus while a full press fires the shutter.

LCD Data Readout
Located at top left of the camera, a small black & white data readout displays a wide range of information about the camera's current modes and settings. You still need to enter the main LCD menu system (using the rear-panel color LCD screen) to make changes in most settings, but this readout at least saves you having to use the menu system just to check status.

Mode Dial
Also located on the top right of the camera, the mode dial is silver and notched for simple turning. This dial controls the operating mode of the camera with the following choices:

Rocker Toggle Button
Located on the top right hand side of the back panel of the camera, marked with arrows in four directions and telephoto and wide angle icons.

Macro / Jump Button
Located in the top middle of the back panel, marked with a black flower symbol and the word 'jump' in blue.

Continuous / Self-Timer / Magnification Button
Located to the left of the optical viewfinder on the back panel, marked with black continuous shooting and self-timer symbols as well as a blue magnifying glass.

Flash / Multi Button
Located to the left of the Continuous / Self-Timer / Magnification Button and marked with a black flash symbol and blue multi symbol.

+/- / WB Button
Located beneath the Macro/Jump button, to the right of the LCD monitor and marked with a black +/- and 'WB.'

Menu Rocker Button
Located beneath the +/- / WB button, marked with the word 'menu' in black.

Set Rocker Button
Located on the bottom of the Menu button and marked with the word 'set' in black.

Located beneath the Menu/Set Rocker Button and marked with the word 'display' in black.

CF Open Slide Switch
Located beneath the rocker toggle button, opens the CompactFlash slot.

Camera Modes and Menus

Stitch Assist Mode
Accessed by turning the mode dial to the red stitch assist symbol. This mode allows you to take multi frame shots for panorama images (assembled later with the PhotoStitch software). Pressing the Menu button in this mode pulls up the following options under the Record Menu:

While in the Record Menu, scrolling to the top of the LCD menu screen and over one accesses the Camera Setup Menu with these options:

Image Mode
Accessed by turning the mode dial to the word 'image' in red letters, this mode allows you to select from preset exposure settings. The menu at the bottom of the screen offers the following options:

Pressing the Menu button in this mode gives the following options under the Record Menu:

While in the Record Menu, scrolling up to the top of the screen and over to the right one pulls up the Camera Setup Menu:

Manual Mode
Accessed by turning the mode dial to the red camera symbol denoted with an 'm.' Manual gives you some control over exposure compensation (EV) and white balance in addition to a few other settings. Pressing the Menu button in this mode pulls up the Record and Camera Setup Menus:

Scrolling up and over to the Camera Setup Menu gives the same options as described earlier under the "Image" setup options.

Automatic Mode
Accessed by turning the mode dial to the lone red camera symbol. This setting gives the camera complete control over exposure. Pressing the Menu button in this mode pulls up the Record and Camera Setup Menus with these options:

Scrolling up and over to the Camera Setup Menu gives the same options as described earlier under the "Image" setup options..

Playback Mode
Accessed by turning the mode dial to the blue playback symbol. This mode allows you to review, write protect and erase images. Pressing the Menu button brings up the Play and Camera Settings menus with these options:

Scrolling up and over to the Camera Setting Menu gives the same options as described earlier under the "Image" setup options.

PC Mode
Accessed by turning the mode dial to the black data transfer symbol, this mode allows you to connect the camera to your computer and download images.

Image Storage and Interface
The S10 utilizes CompactFlash as its image storage medium, which should never be removed from the camera while in use. An 8MB card comes with the camera, but Canon-branded cards are available to 15MB, 30MB and 48MB.

The S10 is one of the few digital cameras currently (November, 1999) on the market that accepts "Type II" CompactFlash cards. These thicker cards allow for higher storage capacities, and even rotating-media storage like the incredible IBM MicroDrive. - The MicroDrive provides 340 or 170 megabytes (two models) of storage in the just slightly-thicker-than-normal Type II CompactFlash package. With digicams like the S10 making ever-larger files, the availability of truly large-capacity storage devices for them is becoming increasingly important. In the case of the S10, it's highest-quality images occupy about 2 megabytes. With the standard 8 MB CompactFlash card included, you can only store 4 maximum-quality images per card. With a 340 megabyte MicroDrive, the count goes up to 236! - Enough to keep even the most rabid shooter busy for the day! We heartily applaud Canon for supporting the Type II standard, and encourage other manufacturers to do so as well.

The S10 organizes images into storage folders, assigned numbers from 100 to 998. Within each folder, images are numbered from 0001 to 9900, with each folder containing up to 100 files. Note that images shot in Stitch Assist mode are always kept in the same folders, possibly resulting in some folders having 101 or more files.

You can protect individual images on the CompactFlash card through the Play menu (in Playback mode). This prevents accidental erasure of images. If you want to erase images, the Play Menu offers both Single Erase and Erase All options. The standard 8MB card provided with the S10 holds between 4 and 61 images, depending on the combination of image resolution and quality selected.

Resolution/Quality vs Image Capacity
High Resolution
Standard Resolution
Low Resolution
Super Fine Quality
Fine Quality
Normal Quality

Video Out

An NTSC video cable comes packaged with the S10, allowing you to connect the camera to your television set for image playback or use as a viewfinder. All modes except Stitch Assist are available and the LCD monitor remains blank while connected to a TV. We assume that European models come with the appropriate cables for the PAL system.


The S10 utilizes either a 2CR5 lithium battery or an optional nickel-hydride NB-5H battery pack as well as a CR2016 lithium battery for the internal date and time backup. The camera ships with a 2CR5 lithium cell in the box, but the (optional) battery pack and charger should absolutely be considered required equipment, as the lithium batteries are grossly too expensive to consider for routine use. (Given their exceptional shelf life though, they make an excellent backup power source!) Actually, our standard recommendation of at least two rechargeable batteries (so one can be recharging while the other is in use) holds in the case of the S10 as well. The power supply kit accessory also serves as the AC adapter for the camera. Canon estimates that the NB-5H, under normal shooting conditions, should provide approximately 55 shots with the LCD monitor on, around 230 with it off or about 50 minutes of image playback time. We don't measure playback time or number of pictures captured directly, but our own impression was that these numbers seemed slightly optimistic, although not as much so as some we've seen for other cameras.

Here's how the S10's actual power consumption measured up:

Operating Mode
Power Drain
Capture Mode, w/LCD
870 mA
Capture Mode, no LCD
120 mA
Capture, half-pressed shutter w/LCD
1090 mA
Capture, half-pressed w/o LCD
770 mA
Memory Write (transient)
960 mA
Flash Recharge (transient)
1200 mA
Image Playback
530 mA
AF assist light
1400 mA(!)
"Sleep" Mode
~1 mA

These power consumption numbers are a bit high relative to those we've measured for some competing cameras, but one factor might be that we measured these values directly at the battery pack (using the AC adapter cord), rather than via an external power connection (always at a higher voltage than the batteries), as we do for most cameras. Still, our impression was that the S10's battery life was a bit on the short side, so we strongly recommend buying and bringing along a second battery.

Included Software

Learn what the manual left out -
How to *use* your camera.

Camera manuals are (sometimes) fine for knowing which button does what, but where do you go to learn how and when to use the various features? Dennis Curtin's "Shortcourses" books and CDs are the answer. (Cheap for what you get, too.) Order the Shortcourses manual for the camera reviewed in this article.

When you're ready to download captured images to your computer, the S10 can accommodate both PC and Mac users with the appropriate serial and USB cables packaged with the camera. We heartily thank Canon for the inclusion of the USB cable, which saves iMac users from having to procure a separate adapter. The included software CD contains PowerShot Browser 1.0, PhotoStitch 3.0, a PowerShot Plug-in Module 3.0 and Adobe PhotoDeluxe, compatible with Windows 95, 98 or NT 4.0 and Macintosh OS 7.5.3 or higher. The PowerShot Browser simply downloads captured images from the camera. PhotoStitch supports any panorama shots taken, automatically 'stitching' them together. And finally, Adobe PhotoDeluxe gives you the ability to correct and manipulate images with a variety of filters and tools. PhotoDeluxe also assists with creating novelties like greeting cards and calendars, either for printing or use on the Internet.

Test Results
In keeping with our standard policy, our comments here are rather condensed, summarizing our key findings: For a full commentary on each of the test images, see the S10's "pictures" page.

As with all Imaging Resource camera tests, we encourage you to let your own eyes be the judge of how well the devices performed: Explore the images on the pictures page, to see how well the S10 performed, and how its images compare to other cameras you may be considering buying.

Overall, we were extremely impressed with the quality of the images produced by the S10. In truth, we rather expected to find that the lens had limitations or excessive distortion, given the tiny body it's crammed into: Surely there would be compromises made in this respect. (We really had no basis for this belief, as we haven't seen any evidence of such compromises in other tiny cameras we've tested, whether from Canon or others. Still, the thought was there.) We were amazed then, to find that the S10 produced photos that are easily in the top tier of current 2 megapixel camera offerings. (November, 1999) Resolution and detail were tack-sharp, and color was excellent as well.

In the resolution test, the S10 tested out at a solid 700 lines per picture height in both horizontal and vertical directions. Even at very high spatial frequencies, there's virtually no aliasing. The lens shows relatively little geometric distortion throughout its zoom range, running from 0.5% barrel distortion at the wide angle end to 0.3% barrel distortion in telephoto. Chromatic aberration was slight, estimated at ~0.5 pixel (0.03%.

Perhaps our biggest complaint about the camera is that its optical viewfinder is quite "loose", showing only 77% of the final image area across the full range of the zoom lens. This is less accurate than most cameras we've tested, but the LCD viewfinder compensates somewhat, by being a bit more accurate than most, ranging from about 102% of final view at wide angle(?!) to 95% at telephoto.

In Macro mode, the S10 acquits itself well, providing a minimum capture area only 2.0 x 2.7 inches (51 x 68 mm), at a working distance of about 4.7 inches (12 cm). This doesn't reach the microscopic levels of some recent cameras, but is well in the mainstream of the present market.

Image quality was exceptional overall: Sharpness and resolution are clearly in the top tier of the current (November, 1999) 2 megapixel market, and color is really excellent as well. The only (minor) weakness we could find anywhere was somewhat lower color saturation in blues and greens. Image noise is very low with default ISO setting (ISO 100), and increases relatively gradually as the ISO is boosted to 200 and 400. Low light performance was modest though, as the boosted ISO ratings appear to only provide shorter shutter times, not lower working light levels. Still, the approximately 1 foot-candle (11 lux) minimum usable light level is perfectly adequate for capturing images in dim interior settings, or outdoors at night under typical street lighting.

While it probably doesn't need to be said again, we were very impressed with S10's picture quality, particularly given its diminutive size.

The exceptional take-anywhere compactness and rugged construction of the PowerShot S10 make it an imposing competitor on the digicam playing field. The four capture modes give you a nice range of options and versatility and you have reasonable exposure control as well. Combine that with resolution and image quality at the top of the market for two megapixel digicams (as of November 1999), and you have an excellent digicam that we anticipate will do very well with consumers. Other than adding a longer-ratio zoom lens or a more accurate optical viewfinder, it's hard to find any way in which the S10 could be improved!

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