Canon PowerShot S5 IS Optics


A generous 12x optical zoom with very good performance. Digital zoom performance is about average these days.

36mm 432mm 4x Digital Zoom

The Canon PowerShot S5 IS' optical zoom covers the equivalent of a 36-432mm, which is an impressive offering among most consumer digital cameras these days. Details are reasonably sharp at full wide angle, with low coma distortion, but some perceptible corner softness in both upper and lower corners. Results at full telephoto are also quite good. Details are soft with the 4x digital zoom enabled, though there's still a reasonable amount of fine detail visible.

A slightly large macro area in the normal mode, but better results in Super mode. The camera's flash is partially blocked by the lens, and useless in Super mode.

Standard Macro Macro with Flash Super Macro

The Canon PowerShot S5 IS' macro setting captured a larger than average area in its normal mode, measuring 4.06 x 3.04 inches (103 x 77 millimeters). However, in Super Macro mode, the minimum area was much smaller, only 1.07 x 0.80 inches (27 x 20 millimeters). Detail and resolution were good in both shots, though in Super Macro mode, details are a hint softer. Both images show some softening in the corners from the lens, and the Super Macro shot has a fair amount of chromatic aberration not far from the center. (Most cameras have some softening in the corners in macro mode, and it's not surprising to see chromatic aberration in a 12x lens' macro mode.) The S5 IS' flash was partially blocked by the long lens in the normal macro shot, resulting in an uneven exposure. You'll need to use external lighting for macro shots with the S5 IS.

Moderate barrel distortion, though low pincushion.

Barrel distortion at 36mm is 0.7%
Pincushion at 432mm is 0.1%

The Canon PowerShot S5 IS' 0.7% barrel distortion at wide angle is about average, though I think this level is too high. At the telephoto end, the S5 IS' 0.1% pincushion distortion is fairly low. Note: Distortion is the tendency for the lens to bend straight lines outward (like a barrel -- usually at wide angle) or inward (like a pincushion -- usually at telephoto).

Chromatic aberration
High and quite bright at both zoom extremes. A very noticeable effect on some images.

Wide: High and bright,
top left @ 200%
Wide: Very bright,
top right @ 200%
Tele: High and bright,
top left @200%
Tele: High and bright,
top right @200%

Chromatic aberration is high and bright at both wide angle and telephoto, showing strong coloration on either side of the target lines. The effect is quite noticeable in a few images. Note: This distortion is visible as a slight colored fringe around the objects at the edges of the field of view on the resolution target.

Corner Sharpness
Some blurring in the corners of the frame at wide angle and telephoto, strongest in upper left corners at both zoom settings.

Wide: Softest in the upper left corner, slightly soft in the other corners. Wide: Sharp at center.
Tele: Softer in the
corners (upper left)
Tele: Sharper at center.

The Canon PowerShot S5 IS produced slightly soft corners of the frame at full wide angle as well as full telephoto. At both zoom settings, the blurring is strongest in the upper left corner, with minimal softening in the other corners of the frame. This is actually a pretty good performance for a 12x zoom.


Excellent accuracy from the electronic viewfinder and LCD monitor.

36mm eq., EVF 432mm eq., EVF
36mm eq., LCD 432mm eq., LCD

The Canon PowerShot S5 IS' EVF and LCD monitor both showed about 100% coverage accuracy at wide angle, and about 102% at telephoto.


The images above were taken from our standardized test shots. For a collection of more pictorial photos, see our Canon PowerShot S5 IS Photo Gallery .

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