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Canon PowerShot S200 Digital ELPH Camera

Camera QuickLook
Review Date
User Level
Novice to Advanced
Product Uses
Family / Travel / Special Events
Digicam Design
Automatic / Partial Manual Exposure Control
Picture Quality
Good, 2.1-megapixel CCD
Print Sizes
4x6, 5x7 inches
May, 2002
Suggested Retail Price
(at release)

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Ask any photographer, be they professional or amateur, to name the first couple of camera manufacturers that they can think of, and one of them will likely 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 S200 that's the subject of this review is now the second unit I've reviewed in the third generation of that design. (My most recent Digital ELPH review was the S200's "big" brother, the PowerShot S330.) The S200 is very similar to the S110 of last year, with the same 2x zoom lens and 2 megapixel sensor, but with a number of new features and a greatly improved user interface. The S200's color is also somewhat improved over last year's model, as Canon's engineers continue to refine their color management algorithms. The net effect is a evolutionary upgrade to an already successful camera design, an ultra-compact digicam with excellent image quality in a truly tiny package.

Camera Overview
As the Digital ELPH name implies, Canon's new PowerShot S200 continues the distinctive, compact styling that has made the ELPH line so popular in both the film and digital worlds. Just slightly smaller than the new S330, the S200 is the same size as last year's S110 model, which it replaces in the lineup. Packed into the S200's small dimensions are a surprising range of features, including limited manual exposure control (a selection of manually-selected long shutter times), creative photo effects, and shooting modes for capturing still images or movies with sound.

The S200's tiny size makes it great for taking just about anywhere, even underwater with the separately-available underwater housing accessory. In more ordinary usage, the rugged, all-metal body stands up to heavy use, and the flat camera front (with lens retracted) makes it very pocket-friendly. Equipped with a 2.0-megapixel CCD, the S200 captures good quality images, suitable for printing photos as large as 8x10 inches. Lower resolution settings produce images suitable for use on the 'web, or for email distribution.

The S200 has a 2x, 5.4-10.8mm optical glass zoom lens, equivalent to a 35-70mm zoom on a 35mm camera. (That range corresponds to moderate wide angle to slight telephoto focal lengths.) The lens aperture remains under automatic control at all times, but the maximum aperture varies from f/2.7 at wide angle to f/4.0 at full telephoto. A maximum 2.5x digital zoom option increases the S200's zoom capabilities to 5x, but remember that digital zoom always decreases the overall image quality because it simply crops out and enlarges the central pixels of the CCD's image. Focus ranges from 1.9 feet (57 centimeters) to infinity in normal autofocus mode, and from 3.9 inches to 1.9 feet (10 to 57 centimeters) in Macro mode. An Infinity fixed-focus mode is also available for faster shutter response with distant objects. The S200 uses Canon's sophisticated, three-point AiAF (Artificial Intelligence Autofocus) system to determine focus, which uses three active areas spread across the center of the image to calculate the focal distance. In my testing, I found the AiAF system to be quite accurate, especially with subjects that were slightly off center. It provides accurate focus without having to reframe the subject, very handy in many real-life shooting situations. The S200's autofocus assist light also does an excellent job of helping the camera focus in low lighting - With a reasonably contrasty subject, it can literally focus with no outside illumination. A menu option lets you turn off the AF assist light to save battery power, or for more candid shooting.

For composing images, the S200 offers a real-image optical viewfinder, as well as a 1.5-inch color LCD monitor. The LCD reports fairly detailed camera information, but excludes aperture and shutter speed data. The optical viewfinder is about average in its accuracy, showing 85% of the final frame area, but the LCD viewfinder is almost 100% accurate, something I'd like to see on all digicams.

In Playback mode, you can select how much exposure information you want overlaid on the LCD screen, including none, a little, or a lot. In the most informative mode, an inset histogram display shows the tonal distribution of a captured image, useful in determining over and underexposure.

Like the rest of the ELPH line, the S200's exposure control is mostly automatic. It does provide some manual adjustments, however, as well as Movie and Continuous-Mode shooting. A Mode switch sets the camera to Playback, Movie, or Still Record modes, and a separate mode menu offers Auto, Manual, and Stitch Assist settings. In straight Auto mode, the camera controls everything about the exposure apart for file size, flash, drive mode, etc. Manual mode provides a little more hands-on control, with options for White Balance, Exposure Compensation, ISO, and a host of creative effects. Shutter speeds range from 1/1,500 to 15 seconds, with the one- to 15-second end of the range only available in Long Shutter mode. Long Shutter mode also automatically invokes a Noise Reduction system to greatly reduce image noise in longer exposures. Camera operation is straightforward and simple, requiring nothing more than just pointing and shooting 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.

By default, the S200 uses an Evaluative metering system, which divides the image area into zones and looks at both exposure and contrast across the scene to determine the best overall exposure. A Spot metering option ties the exposure to the very center of the frame. Spot metering is useful for off-center or high contrast subjects, as you can base your exposure on a very specific part of the subject. 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. The exposure compensation adjustment is accessed by pressing the Exposure Compensation / White Balance button on the back panel. Pressing this button a second time activates the White Balance settings menu, which offers Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Incandescent, Fluorescent, Fluorescent H, and Custom (manual) settings. A third press of the same button displays the Photo Effect menu, which adjusts sharpening, color, and saturation. In Auto mode, the camera automatically adjusts the ISO (light sensitivity) from 50 to 150, but in Manual mode, the available range increases to include 50, 100, 200, and 400 ISO equivalents, in addition to the Auto setting. The S200's built-in flash operates in Auto, Red-Eye Reduction, Forced On, Suppressed, and Slow-Synchro modes.

The S200 also offers separate exposure and focus lock functions, unusual features for what's primarily a point & shoot camera. These options let you lock exposure or focus on an off-center subject, and then reframe the picture before snapping the shot. Both functions require a two-handed approach though, because you need to half-press and hold the shutter button while simultaneously pressing one of the buttons on the 4-way arrow pad. I found this somewhat awkward, particularly given the already-cramped spacing of controls on the camera's back panel. It's workable though, and I'm happy to see these features provided. Even more unusual than the exposure lock function itself is that it works for flash exposures as well. The sequence of actions is identical (press & hold the shutter button, and press the up-arrow key to lock the exposure), you just need to have the flash enabled when you start. Very slick!

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. The longer delay gives you time to duck around the camera and get into the shot, while the shorter delay is great for snapping pictures with the camera perched on a convenient object for support. - The brief delay after pressing the shutter button lets any vibrations die down before the shutter trips, making for sharp, blur-free photos.

Stitch-Assist mode is the S200's panoramic shooting mode, which lets you shoot as many as 26 consecutive images that can be "stitched" together into one panoramic shot with Canon's provided software. Exposure and white balance are locked on the first shot of the series, helping avoid any shifts of color or brightness between successive photos. The S200's stitch assist mode also displays a "ghosted" partial view of each image as an aid to lining up the next one in the series.

To capture rapid action, the S200 offers 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 640 x 480, 320 x 240, or 160 x 120 pixels.) Finally, a Continuous Shooting mode captures a series of consecutive images (much like a motor drive on a traditional camera) very rapidly. The instruction manual for the S200 claimed a capture rate of 2.5 frames per second in continuous mode (large/fine resolution, with LCD monitor off), but the best rate I measured was about 1.5 frames/second. (Note that you must turn off the LCD display to get the highest speed from the continuous shooting mode.) The S200 will record a "burst" of up to four frames in continuous mode at the large/fine setting, or as many as 64 frames in small/basic quality mode. (Actual burst lengths of course may also be limited by available memory card space.)

The S200 stores images on CompactFlash Type I memory cards. An 8MB card accompanies the camera, but I'd strongly recommend picking up a larger capacity card. CompactFlash cards are available separately in very high capacities (1 GB, or 1,000 MB cards have been announced), and even relatively large cards are quite cheap these days. - Plan on getting at least a 64 MB card, you'll be glad of the extra capacity on your first excursion with the camera.

The S200 utilizes a rechargeable lithium-ion battery pack for power, which accompanies the camera, along with the necessary battery charger. Because the S200 does not accommodate AA-type batteries in any form, I'd advise picking up an extra battery pack and keeping it freshly charged as a hedge against running out of battery power in the middle of shooting. The optional AC adapter is useful for preserving battery power when reviewing and downloading images to your computer, or when playing a slide show on a TV screen. (Unless you're using the camera to run slide shows a lot though, I don't think you'll need the AC adapter.)

A USB cable and interface software are also packaged with the camera, for downloading images to a computer and performing minor organization and corrections. (The S200 is about average in its download speed. - I clocked it at about 400 KBytes/second.) Finally, an A/V cable connects the S200 to a television set, for reviewing and composing images. The S200 also complies with the DPOF (Digital Print Order Format) standard, meaning that the camera can print directly to any DPOF compatible printer, including Canon's range of accessory photo printers. (Like other 2002 model-year PowerShots, the S200 also supports direct printing on a variety of Canon printers, ranging from very compact thermal-dye units to their latest "bubble jet" inkjet printers, a nice feature.)

S200 vs. S330
Given their strong "family resemblance," many readers will doubtless wonder what the differences are between the S200 and S330 that I reviewed earlier. Truth be told, the two models are very similar, but there are some significant variations between them. To my mind the biggest difference is in the lenses, the S330 sporting a 3x optical zoom, the S200 a 2x one. The S200 also lacks a speaker for sound playback, and doesn't have the fanciful "My Camera" settings of the S330. The S200 also looks a good bit smaller than the S330, but the actual difference amounts to a scant 0.3 inches in length and height, and 0.1 inch in thickness. Surprisingly, the net impression is of a considerably smaller camera, even though the actual dimensions are not all that different.

I suppose a little table would make the comparison easier:
Feature S200 S330
Lens 2x
(35-70mm equiv)
(35-105mm equiv)
Audio Movies Only Audio Notes also
Internal Speaker No Yes
"My Camera" options No Yes
Dimensions 87 x 57 x 27 mm
3.4 x 2.2 x 1.1 in
95 x 63 x 32 mm
3.7 x 2.5 x 1.2 in
Weight 180g, 6.6 oz 245g, 8.6 oz

Basic Features

  • 2.1-megapixel CCD.
  • Real-image optical viewfinder.
  • 1.5-inch color TFT LCD monitor.
  • Glass, 2x, 5.4-10.8mm lens, equivalent to a 35-70mm lens on a 35mm camera.
  • Maximum 2.5x digital zoom.
  • Automatic exposure control with Long Shutter mode.
  • Shutter speeds from 1/1,500 to 15 seconds.
  • Maximum aperture of f/2.7 to f/4.0, 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.
  • Two- or 10-second Self-Timer for delayed shutter release.
  • 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 from 50 to 400 equivalents.
  • 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.

With a 2x zoom lens, 2.0 megapixel CCD, and nice assortment of features, the S200 trades off a few of the S330's features in exchange for a smaller size and slightly lower price. Just like the S330, 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. It's a true "take anywhere" camera that'll snap great-looking photos under a wide range of conditions.

Even smaller than the PowerShot S330 Digital ELPH, the S200 is the newest addition to the ELPH line. Thanks in part to a shorter-ratio zoom lens, the S200's smaller body size makes it that much more travel-friendly. A rugged exterior should hold up under heavy use, and its trim dimensions means it slides into pockets or purses easily. The retracting lens with its built-in automatic lens cover is a smart design element that keeps the front of the case completely flat when the camera is turned off, while protecting the lens against fingerprints and smudges. Measuring just 3.4 x 2.2 x 1.1 inches (87.0 x 57.0 x 26.7 millimeters), the S200 weighs a trifling 6.4 ounces (180 grams) without the battery or CompactFlash card.



The S200's front panel has the same distinctive styling as the rest of the ELPH line, with the lens slightly off-center 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 when the camera is shut off, maintaining a flat profile when not in use. The focus-assist light is a bright, bluish-white LED that helps the camera focus at low light levels, and seems to be a very effective solution. (As long as the subject had some contrasting elements in it for the camera to focus on, the S200 focused just fine for me in total darkness.) There's not much for your fingers to grip on the front of the S330's case, as the small, circular Canon logo plate offers no purchase. You'll almost certainly want to use the accompanying wrist strap as assurance against dropping the camera. Barely noticeable under the flash is a tiny hole for the microphone, used for recording sound with movie files.



The Shutter button, zoom control, and Power button are all on top of the camera. They protrude only slightly, helping to maintain the S200's sleek design.



On the right side of the camera (as viewed from the back panel) 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, protected by a snug rubber cover. While I'm happier to see these ports covered by a rubber flap than left exposed, I have to say that I really don't like rubber covers like this on cameras. I found the flap on the S200 a little tricky to get properly seated once I'd opened it, and all such flaps look a little insubstantial to me to begin with. - I worry about them breaking off over time.



The remaining camera controls are on the back panel, along with the optical and LCD viewfinders. A small indention and some raised bumps on the right side provide a slight thumb grip, helping to make up for the lack of a real grip on the front of the camera when shooting one-handed. With my somewhat large hands, I found a singlehanded grip on the S200 a little awkward, as I needed to hold it uncomfortably close to the edge in order for my index finger to press the shutter button properly. Arrayed beneath 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 these. The mode switch in the top right corner selects the main operating mode (Playback, Movie, or Record). A sliding latch on the right side releases the CompactFlash slot door. For such a small camera, the S200 manages to include a goodly number of external controls. - I like to see plenty of external control buttons on cameras, as they help keep you out of the LCD menu system for routine settings changes, thereby speeding operation. The S200 manages to provide enough controls without overly cluttering the camera body with them. Two LED lamps next to the optical viewfinder report camera status, lighting to indicate when focus is set, when the camera is writing to the memory card, and when the flash is ready to fire.



The S200 features a nice, flat bottom panel, which holds the metal tripod mount and the battery compartment. I don't usually like to see the tripod mount this far over to the side of the camera, partly because it places extra strain on the socket (less of a consideration with a very light camera like the S200), but also because it often results in the camera not sitting flat on the tripod head. Both issues are probably of little concern to typical S200 users though, as I'd guess that this camera will be hand held much more often than it will be used on a tripod. The locking battery compartment cover slides open and then outwards to reveal the battery. The small, rubber flap in the center of the compartment door covers a hole that provides access to the connector jack in the "dummy battery" used with the AC adapter kit.

Camera Operation
Like the rest of the ELPH line, the S200's user interface is straightforward and uncomplicated, with a clear and concise LCD menu system and efficient external controls. The 2002 model year updated the interface design to incorporate a 4-way arrow pad, which does a lot for ease of use. (Last year's S110 model had a very limited set of external controls, making for a somewhat awkward user interface.) Most of the camera's functions are controlled by the buttons on the top and the back panel, while settings such as image size and quality are controlled through the LCD-based Record menu. The LCD menu system itself is quick to navigate, as you scroll through a list of options, rather than through a series of pages. Additionally, the Setup menu is always available, regardless of the camera mode, avoiding the need to change operating modes to perform setup functions. 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 while you make the change. This helps you save battery power by making it easier to work with the LCD monitor turned off. All in all, the S200 is a pretty easy camera to operate: With the instruction manual in-hand, it shouldn't take the average user more than a half hour to get comfortable with the camera.

External Controls

Shutter Button: Located on the top panel inside the ring/lever of the Zoom control, this button sets focus and exposure when halfway pressed and fires the shutter when fully pressed. If the Self-Timer is activated, a full press of the Shutter button triggers the 10- or 2-second countdown.

Zoom Lever: Encircling the Shutter button on top of the camera, this lever controls both optical and digital zoom in Record mode. In Playback mode, it activates the nine-image index display when pushed toward the wide-angle setting, or enlarges the displayed image by as much as 10x when moved toward the telephoto setting.

Power Button: Just to the left of the Zoom lever, the Power button turns the camera on or off. Turning it on requires holding the button down for a second or so, a deliberate design choice intended to avoid the camera accidentally being turned on while in a pocket or purse. When the camera is powered on, the lens extends outward into its operating position. Turning the camera off retracts the lens back into the camera body again.

Mode Switch: In the top right corner of the back panel, this sliding switch selects the camera's primary operating mode. Choices are:

  • Record: Sets up the camera for recording still images, with Auto and Manual exposure modes available via the other controls.
  • Movie: Records moving images with sound, for as long as 30 seconds per movie (depending on resolution and available CompactFlash space).
  • Playback: Replays captured movies and images, with options to delete, protect, set up for printing, or rotate.

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

Spot Metering (Up Arrow Key): The top button in the Four-Way Arrow pad in the lower right corner of the camera's rear panel, this control activates the Spot Metering mode in Record mode. It also activates the autoexposure lock (AEL) option if you press it after first pressing and holding down the shutter button. Whenever AEL is active, the characters "AEL" appear on the LCD screen. The AEL clears when the shutter is finally released, or when this button is pressed again. If the flash is enabled, the flash exposure is locked, and the on-screen indicator reads "FEL."

In any settings menu, this button navigates through options and selections.

Macro/Infinity Button (Left Arrow Key): The leftmost button in the arrow key pad, this control cycles between Macro, Infinity Focus, and normal focusing modes while in Record mode. This button also activates the autofocus lock (AFL) option if you press it after first pressing and holding down the shutter button. The AFL clears when the shutter is finally released, or when this button is pressed again. Whenever AFL is active, the characters "AFL" appear on the LCD screen.

In both Playback and Record menus, this button 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 vary 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. (Not available in "auto" exposure mode.)
  • 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. (Not available in "auto" exposure mode.)

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 bottom button on the key pad, this one 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. (NOTE that the cycle time between shots in continuous shooting mode is much faster when the LCD display is turned off.)

Exposure Compensation / White Balance / Photo Effect Button: To the left of the 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. When the Long Shutter mode is activated, this button also lets you set the camera's shutter speed, from one to 15 seconds, as part of the Exposure Compensation menu. 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.

In Playback mode, this button calls up the single-image erase menu, for deleting the currently-displayed image (unless write-protected).

Display Button: On the left side of the Exposure Compensation / White Balance / Photo Effect button, this button turns the LCD display on and off. In Playback mode, it controls only the information display, cycling between no information, limited information, and detailed information, including a histogram display of the captured image. (What I'm calling "detailed" data does not include shutter time or aperture information though.)

Menu Button: Nestled between the Set and Display buttons, this button accesses 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. In Record mode, pressing and holding this button displays up the exposure mode menu, with options for Auto, Manual, Stitch-Assist Left, and Stitch-Assist Right.

Camera Modes and Menus

Record Mode: Designated by a red camera icon on the Mode switch, this mode lets the user capture still images. Pressing the Set button offers the following exposure mode options:

  • Auto: The camera makes all exposure decisions, with the exception of flash mode, Macro/Infinity focus, Spot Metering, and Self-Timer/Continuous modes.
  • Manual: Restricts the camera's control to shutter speed and aperture only, letting you adjust the digital zoom, flash mode, image quality, shooting method (Single, Continuous, or Self-Timer), Macro mode, Infinity Focus mode, Exposure Compensation, White Balance, Photo Effect, metering, and ISO. A Long Shutter mode is also available, with exposure times from one to 15 seconds.
  • Stitch Assist Left to Right: Records a series of as many as 26 images to be "stitched" together as a panoramic shot. Shots are aligned left to right. 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.
  • Stitch Assist Right to Left: Identical to the Left to Right Stitch Assist mode, only now shots are captured from right to left.

Movie Mode: Records short movie clips with sound. The maximum recording time varies with the resolution setting and amount of CompactFlash space, but the longest clip time is 30 seconds. A handful of exposure controls are available in this mode, though options such flash mode (obviously), Continuous Shooting, and digital zoom are disabled.

Playback Mode: This mode lets you scroll through captured images and movies, write protect images, view a nine-image index display, zoom into a captured image (up to 10x magnification on the LCD screen), delete unwanted images, rotate images, and set up images for printing on DPOF compatible output devices.

Record Menu: Accessed by pressing the Menu button any capture mode (Automatic, Manual, Stitch Assist, and Movie modes). Some options are not available in all modes. Two menu tabs appear, one each for Record and Setup sub-menus.

  • Record Menu
    • 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. Movie resolution options are 640 x 480, 320 x 240, and 160 x 120 pixels.
    • Compression: Controls the amount of JPEG compression. Options are Superfine, Fine, and Normal. (Still capture modes only.)
    • ISO: Sets the camera's sensitivity to Auto, or to 50, 100, 200, or 400 ISO equivalents. (Manual mode only.)
    • AiAF: Turns on the AiAF focus system. If switched off, the camera bases autofocus on the center of the frame. (Manual mode only.)
    • Digital Zoom: Enables or disables the digital zoom function, which is engaged by zooming past the optical zoom range. (Still capture modes only.)
    • Self-Timer: Sets the Self-Timer countdown to two or 10 seconds. (Still capture modes only.)
    • 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. (Still capture modes only.)
    • AF Assist Beam: Turns the AF assist light on or off. If on, the light automatically activates in low lighting. (Still capture modes only.)
    • 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.)
    • Auto Rotate: When enabled, Auto Rotate tells the camera to automatically rotate the image when the camera is tilted 90 degrees. (Still capture modes only.)
    • Long Shutter: Enables a slower shutter speed mode for night shooting, which extends the shutter speed range to 15 seconds. Noise reduction automatically enables in exposures from one to 15 seconds. (Manual mode only.)

  • Setup Menu
    • Beep: Turns the camera's beep sounds on or off.
    • Auto Power Down: Turns on the automatic shut down, which turns the camera off after a period of inactivity.
    • 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.)
    • Language: Changes the menu language to one of 12 languages.
    • Video System: Establishes the type of video signal, NTSC or PAL. (Note though, that the camera only includes cables in the box appropriate for the country of sale. - European units will have PAL cables, the US and Japan will have NTSC ones.)

Playback Menu: Accessed by pressing the Menu button in Playback mode, the Playback menu also has a subject tab for the Setup menu described above.

  • Protect: Protects the currently displayed image from accidental deletion. (NOTE though, that card reformatting will still erase it.)
  • Rotate: Lets you rotate the image 90 degrees left or right. (Handy for making "portrait" format images shot with the auto rotate option disabled display properly on the LCD screen.)
  • 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.


Test Shots & Sample Pictures
See our test shots and detailed analysis here. For our sample images, click here. The thumbnails below show a subset of our test images. Click on a thumbnail to see the full-size photo.

Indoor Flash






Viewfinder Accuracy


See the specifications sheet here.

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

Test Results

  • Color: The S200 produced very nice color throughout my testing, both outdoors and under the studio lighting. I most often chose the Manual and Auto white balance settings during studio shooting, but found the Daylight setting most accurate when shooting outdoors. The Incandescent white balance setting performed very well under standard (incandescent) room lighting, with good color accuracy and saturation. (It did much better than average under these conditions.) The S200 also produced good color on the test targets under the studio lighting, and wasn't fooled by the large amount of blue in the Musicians poster. The blue flowers of the Outdoor and Indoor portraits were nearly accurate, with only the slightest purplish tints. Skin tones also looked good, both indoors and out.

  • Exposure: The S200 did a great job here, exposing the difficult outdoor portraits and house shot well. The camera produced good midtone values in the harsh lighting of the Outdoor portrait, without blowing out the highlights, and accurately exposed the outdoor house shot as well, with a good dynamic range. The S200 also picked up the subtle tonal variations of the pastels of the Q60 target in the Davebox, a difficult area for many digicams.

  • Sharpness: Image sharpness was good in most cases, with the S200's 2.0-megapixel CCD and lens producing good detail and definition. Images were slightly soft in some cases, but detail definition was good. (Canon tends to use fairly conservative sharpening algorithms, leaving their cameras' images slightly soft-looking, but doing an excellent job of preserving fine detail.) Optical distortion was lower than average at the wide-angle lens setting, and chromatic aberration in the corners of the image was likewise less apparent than usual. The strongest distortion was some corner softness, most visible in the Macro test shot.

  • Closeups: The S200 performed well here, capturing a minimum area of 4.06 x 3.04 inches (103 x 77 millimeters). (This is average to a bit better than average.) Detail was strong in the coins, brooch, and dollar bill, though all four corners were a little soft. Color and exposure were both good. The camera's flash had trouble throttling down at the closest focusing distances, creating a hot spot in the center of the frame with a lot of falloff in the corners.

  • Night Shots: The S200's maximum shutter time of 15 seconds gives it really excellent low-light shooting capabilities. (Not to mention the AF-assist illuminator LED that lets it shoot in total darkness with many subjects.) At all four ISO settings, the S200 captured bright, clear images at light levels as low as 1/16 foot-candle (0.067 lux). Color was good, and the camera's Noise Reduction system did a great job of eliminating "hot pixel" image noise (though random noise is moderately high at the ISO 400 setting). The S200 should thus easily handle after-dark shooting situations, at levels well below average city street lighting. Color was also quite good, only slightly cool.

  • Battery Life: Canon didn't send me a power adapter with the S200, so I couldn't perform my usual detailed power measurements. As with most subcompact cameras though, the S200's battery life is rather short. In its worst case power consumption mode, with the LCD on in capture mode, battery life seems to be about an hour. As always, I strongly recommend purchasing a second battery with the camera, keeping it charged and bringing it with you on any extended picture-taking excursions.

In the Box
Packaged with the PowerShot S200 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.

Recommended Software: Rescue your images!
Just as important as an extra memory card is a tool to rescue your images when one of your cards fails at some point in the future. I get a lot of email from readers who've lost photos due to a corrupted memory card. Memory card corruption can happen with any card type and any camera manufacturer, nobody's immune. A surprising number of "lost" images can be recovered with an inexpensive, easy to use piece of software though. Given the amount of email I've gotten on the topic, I now include this paragraph in all my digicam reviews. The program you need is called PhotoRescue, by DataRescue SA. Read our review of it if you'd like, but download the program now, so you'll have it. It doesn't cost a penny until you need it, and even then it's only $29, with a money back guarantee. So download PhotoRescue for Windows or PhotoRescue for Mac while you're thinking of it. (While you're at it, download the PDF manual and quickstart guide as well.) Stash the file in a safe place and it'll be there when you need it. Trust me, needing this is not a matter of if, but when... PhotoRescue is about the best and easiest tool for recovering digital photos I've seen. (Disclosure: IR gets a small commission from sales of the product, but I'd highly recommend the program even if we didn't.) OK, now back to our regularly scheduled review...


In Canon's year 2001 lineup, I liked the S300 quite a bit more than the S110, in large part because its sparse array of external controls made the S110's user interface rather awkward to navigate. In the 2002 model year though, the S200 and S330 are equally easy to operate, thanks to the addition of the four-way arrow pad on both models. The main tradeoff for the S200's smaller size is its shorter 2x zoom, compared to the 3x zoom lens on the S330. As I mentioned in the body of the review, the actual size difference between the two cameras is relatively modest, although the S200 "feels" quite a bit smaller. If size means a great deal to you, then the S200 is the model to buy. On the other hand, if you want small, but don't care about tiny, I'd go for the 3x zoom and slightly enhanced feature set of the S330. Regardless of your choice, both cameras snap excellent pictures, offering a surprising amount of flexibility in very small packages. These definitely make the "Dave's Picks" list in the subcompact category.

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