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Canon PowerShot S2 IS Review

June 2005 | By Simon Joinson

Review based on a production Canon PowerShot S2 IS, Firmware version 1.0

Almost as soon as it was announced in February 2004, the PowerShot S1 IS - Canon's long-awaited successor to the Pro 90 - made its way into dpreview's top 5 cameras (based on visitor clicks), a position it held for the best part of a year, despite stiff competition. There have been few compact cameras as eagerly awaited as the S1's successor, which finally arrived at the end of April 2005. In the 14 or so months between the S1 and the S2, the 'super zoom' market has grown immensely, with affordable 5MP image-stabilized models from Panasonic, Konica Minolta - and now Sony with its H1. This means the S2 IS has a lot more to prove than its predecessor, and has to stand its ground in a considerably more competitive marketplace.

The good news is that the S2 is no 'minor upgrade' - almost every aspect of the S1's specification and performance has been improved or refined, the body is entirely new and some of the most serious problems found on the original model have been addressed. But is it enough? Let's find out...starting off with the headline specifications;

  • 12x optical zoom (36-432mm equiv.)
  • 5.0 million effective pixels
  • 1.8-inch tilt-and-swivel LCD monitor
  • Color electronic viewfinder
  • Optical Image Stabilizer (3 modes)
  • Ultrasonic motor (USM)
  • Extra-long movie mode with enhanced VGA resolution and stereo sound
  • Canon DIGIC II processor with iSAPS
  • PictBridge and Canon Direct Print compatible – no PC required
  • Six new 'special scene' shooting modes

Side by Side

Here for comparison is the S2 IS alongside three of its closest competitors - (from left): Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ5, Canon PowerShot S2 IS, Sony Cyber-shot H1, Kodak EasyShare DX740Z (the smallest, but also the only one without image stabilization). As you can see, the S2 IS is one of the largest cameras in its class - certainly a lot larger than the Panasonic FZ5 (and the Konica Minolta Z5, not shown).

Powershot S2 IS vs S1 IS; what's changed?

Unlike most 'upgrades', the S2 IS is not only better specified than its predecessor; it's larger (much deeper) and heavier too. Most of this is down to the slightly larger sensor, which leads to a slightly larger lens (which also has a wider zoom range). Overall styling is very similar, though some controls have been re-positioned, and there are an extra couple of buttons. Here's the most important differences;

  • Wider and longer zoom (12x versus 10x)
  • Higher resolution (5MP versus 3.2MP)
  • DIGIC II processor gives faster operation and improved burst mode
  • Different storage format (SD versus CompactFlash)
  • Bigger LCD screen (1.8-inch versus 1.5-inch)
  • Better macro mode (0cm versus 10cm)

Canon PowerShot S2 IS

Canon PowerShot S1 IS
Sensor 1/2.5” CCD, 5.3 million pixels 1/2.7” CCD, 3.34 million pixels
Effective Resolution 5.0 million pixels 3.2 million pixels
Processor DIGIC II with iSAPS technology DIGIC with iSAPS technology
Maximum Image Size 2592 x 1944
2048 x 1536
Lens • 36-432mm equiv. (12x), F2.7-3.5
• 1 aspherical element,
• 1 UD element
• 38-380mm equiv.(10x), F2.7-3.5
• 1 aspherical element
Storage SD card CompactFlash card
Digital Zoom 4.0x 3.2x
Image stabilization modes

• Continuous
• Shoot only
• Panning

• Continuous
Scene modes

• Custom
• Portrait
• Landscape
• Night Scene
• My Colors
• Stitch Assist
• Foliage
• Snow
• Beach
• Fireworks
• Indoor
• Night Snapshot

• Portrait
• Landscape
• Night Scene
• Fast Shutter
• Slow Shutter
• Stitch Assist
AF illuminator Yes No
Closest focusing distance 0cm 10cm
Shutter speeds 15 - 1/3200 sec *1 15 - 1/2000th sec *2
Continuous Shooting 2.4 fps, unlimited 1.7 fps, max 24 images
LCD screen • 1.8-inch TFT (flip out and twist)
• 115,000 pixels
• 1.5-inch TFT (flip out and twist)
• 114,000 pixels
Viewfinder • EVF (0.33" type),
• approx. 115,000 pixels
• EVF (0.33" type),
• approx. 114,000 pixels
Flash range 70cm - 5.2m (wide, auto ISO) 1.0 - 4.2m (wide, auto ISO)
USB speed USB 2.0 High Speed USB 1.1
Weatherproof case option No Yes
Dimensions 113 x 78 x 75.5 mm 111.0 x 78.0 x 66.1mm
Weight (no batteries) 405g (14.3 oz) 370g (13 oz)
*1 Slow Shutter speeds of 1.3 sec. and more, available in Manual and Shutter Priority AE modes only.Certain combinations of shutter speed and aperture may not be available.
*2 Slow Shutter speeds of 1.3 sec. and more, available in Manual and Shutter Priority AE modes only.

Key specifications

Street price • US: $499
• UK: £390
Body Material Plastic
Sensor • 1/2.5" CCD, 5.3 million total pixels
• 5.0 million effective pixels
Image sizes • 2592 x 1944
• 2048 x 1536
• 1600 x 1200
• 640 x 480
Movie clips • 640 x 480, 30/15 fps
• 320 x 240, 30/15 fps
• Length limited only by storage (maximum single movie file 1GB)
• With audio

• 36 - 432mm equiv. (10x optical zoom)
• F2.7 - F3.5
Image Stabilized

Focus • TTL autofocus
• Center Area AF
• AE area selection
• Single / Continuous AF
• Manual focus
• Focus lock
• 1-point AF
• 10 cm minimum focus range (macro)
Shooting mode • Custom
• Portrait
• Landscape
• Night Scene
• My Colors
• Foliage
• Snow
• Beach
• Fireworks
• Indoor
• Night Snapshot
• Stitch Assist
Sensitivity • Auto
• ISO 50 - 400
White Balance • Auto
• Daylight
Fluorescent H
• Custom
Image parameters

• Contrast (3 levels)
• Sharpness (3 levels)
• Saturation (3 levels)
• Photo effects (Vivid, neutral, low sharpening, sepia, black & white, custom effect)

Continuous • 1.5 fps (large/fine mode)
• 2.4 fps (high speed continuous shooting, large/fine mode)
Flash • Built-in, pop-up
• Auto, Manual on/off, Red-eye reduction: on/off, slow synch, 1st and 2nd curtain sync flash
• Range (ISO Auto): W 0.7 - 5.2 m (2.3 - 17.1 ft), T 0.7 - 4 m (2.3 - 13.1 ft)
• Macro: 0.3 - 0.7 m (1.0 - 2.3 ft)
• Compensation: +/- 2.0 EV in 0.3 EV steps
• Flash output: 3 stops
Storage SD card
Viewfinder • Electronic Viewfinder
• 114,000 pixels
• 100% coverage
• Dioptre adjustment (-5.5 to 1.5 dpt)
LCD monitor • 1.8" TFT, 115,000 pixels
• 100% coverage
• Tilt, twist and swivel ('Vari-angle')
Connectivity • USB 2.0 High speed
• A/V out
Power • 4 x AA batteries (NiMH recommended)
• (Optional AC adapter)
Other features

• Evaluative, center-weighted average and spot
Orientation sensor
• PC controlled shooting
• PictBridge
• Interval shooting
• Index view
• Histogram in playback
• Sound memo
• 21 languages
• Direct print (Canon & PictBridge)
• 2 and 10 sec self-timer

Weight (no batt) 405 g (14.3 oz)
Dimensions 113 x 78 x 75..5 mm (4.4 x 3.1 x 3.0 in)

* Supplied accessories may differ in each country or area

If you're new to digital photography you may wish to read the Digital Photography Glossary before diving into this article (it may help you understand some of the terms used).

Conclusion / Recommendation / Ratings are based on the opinion of the reviewer, you should read the ENTIRE review before coming to your own conclusions.

Images which can be viewed at a larger size have a small magnifying glass icon in the bottom right corner of the image, clicking on the image will display a larger (typically VGA) image in a new window.

To navigate the review simply use the next / previous page buttons, to jump to a particular section either pick the section from the drop down or select it from the navigation bar at the top.

DPReview calibrate their monitors using Color Vision OptiCal at the (fairly well accepted) PC normal gamma 2.2, this means that on our monitors we can make out the difference between all of the (computer generated) grayscale blocks below. We recommend to make the most of this review you should be able to see the difference (at least) between X,Y and Z and ideally A,B and C.

This article is Copyright 2005 and may NOT in part or in whole be reproduced in any electronic or printed medium without prior permission from the author.

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