The S70 is externally identical to the 5MP PowerShot S60 (except of course it is black), and continues the familiar long oblong design of its predecessors, albeit in a slimmer flat-fronted form. At the back the control layout has been improved over the S40/S50 generation, and at long last Canon has done away with the annoying multi-function controller and provided a 'normal' (and infinitely more usable) 4-way controller and separate SET button. The sliding cover has also been improved, it opens more easily and slides more smoothly.
In your hand
As noted when we reviewed the S60, the S70 is surprisingly comfortable, there is a subtle thumb grip molded into the rear of the body and the strap eyelet doubles as a finger hook, these combine to provide a surprisingly secure hold on the camera. Control layout is logical and the plethora of buttons (there's no less than twelve controls on the rear of the S70) means you get instant access to many of the most important shooting controls. Despite its weight and long thin shape, the S70 feels remarkably well-balanced, and is easy to use with one hand.
The S70's combined battery and CompactFlash compartment is located in the base of the camera under a fairly sturdy (plastic) spring-bound door. Fortunately both battery and card have retaining clips, so you won't lose one when changing the other. The NB-2LH Lithium-Ion battery is good for around 140 shots (using the CIPA standard). The CF slot supports both Type I and Type II cards and the S70 supports cards greater than 2GB (which require the FAT32 filesystem format).
The sliding lens cover (which also acts as the power switch) is much improved over previous generations of S series PowerShots. It's very smooth and clicks nicely into place at either end of its travel. You can power up the camera in playback (review) mode (without opening the lens cover) by pressing and holding the play button.
As with the S60, the S70 sports that rarest of beasts; a true wideangle lens. The 28-100mm equiv. range is one of the most useful - photographically speaking - you'll find on any compact camera. It's nice and bright (F2.8) at the wide end, though the F5.3 maximum aperture at the long end is less impressive - and will limit its usefulness in low light.
The small built-in flash offers the usual options (on/off/auto) and red-eye reduction (using the AF illuminator lamp). There is a +/- 2.0 flash output control and - by switching to the night scene mode - you can use slow synch flash too. The range is pretty normal for this type of camera (14 ft at the wide end, 6.6 ft at the tele end, ISO 100), and we experienced no problems when shooting quite close - the flash seems to throttle down well.
The 1.8-inch LCD screen is pretty standard fare; it's bright, clear and suffers from very little video lag. The lack of an anti-reflective coating does make shooting in very bright light a little hit-and-miss, but overall there's little to complain about here.
The viewfinder is the standard compact camera 'optical tunnel' type with no dioptre adjustment or parallax correction lines. It's also small, not that clear and - as with all cameras of this type - only likely to be used when battery life is an issue or in very bright direct sunlight, when the LCD screen suffers from glare. The LED lamps to the left of the viewfinder eyepiece indicate camera status including auto focus lock, camera shake warning and flash status.
As seen on the S60, the S70 replaces the S50's fiddly combined zoom/four-way controller with a new cluster of controls for accessing and navigating on-screen menus. The status light glows orange in record mode, green in play mode and yellow when attached to a PC.
The zoom rocker switch (also used to magnify images in playback mode) is perfectly positioned for your thumb and - though it feels a little mushy - is very responsive.
The shutter release, which sits beside the main mode dial on the top of the camera, has a very positive 'half press' point, making pre-focus a breeze.