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Timing & Performance

We praised the S1 IS for its excellent overall performance, but thanks to the new DIGIC II processor the S2 IS is considerably faster in virtually all areas, and offers significant improvements in key areas such as focus speed and shutter lag - despite the higher pixel count and larger file sizes. In use the S2 IS feels very responsive indeed, with the improvements in focus speed particularly welcome. It should be noted that the difference between the S1 and S2 focus speed isn't as great as our figures might indicate - they are an average, and the S1 IS suffers far more from hunting issues (where it struggles to fix focus). In a direct shootout with an easy subject, the S2 always beats the S1, but only by around 0.1 to 0.2 seconds: that's still quite an improvement, but it's more about focus accuracy than actual speed. It's also worth noting that in our shootout tests the S2 IS was consistently beaten - by a small margin - by the Sony H1, Panasonic FZ5 (using the high speed focus mode) and Konica Minolta Z5 - the three fastest focusing 'superzoom' compacts.

Timing Notes

All times calculated as an average of three operations. Unless otherwise stated all timings were made on a 2592 x 1944 Super-Fine JPEG image (approx. 2,350 KB per image). The media used for these tests was a 512 MB SanDisk Ultra II SD card. The green figures are those with a measurable, material improvement over the S1 IS, the red figures are those where performance is lower than the S1 IS.

Action Details
Time, secs

Power: Off to Record

 
1.3
Power: Off to Play Image displayed
1.6
Power: Record to Off Lens retracted and all activity ceased
1.8
Power: Play to Off When buffer is empty 0.0
Record Review Image displayed
0.5
Mode: Record to Play  
1.0
Mode: Play to Record Lens already extended
~1.0
Mode: Play to Record Lens not extended
1.5
Play: Magnify To full magnification (10x) 0.9
Play: Image to Image Time to display each saved image
~ 0.3
Play: Thumbnail view 3 x 3 thumbnails
~ 0.6

Action Details
Time, seconds
Zoom from Wide to Tele 36 to 432 mm (12 x) full speed 1.0
Zoom from Wide to Tele 36 to 432 mm (12 x) low speed 5.5
Half-press Lag (0->S1) Wide angle
~0.5
Half-press Lag (0->S1) Telephoto
~0.7 *1
Half to Full-press Lag (S1->S2) LCD live view
~ 0.1
Half to Full-press Lag (S1->S2) Electronic Viewfinder
~ 0.1
Full-press Lag (0->S2) LCD live view, wide angle
~0.7
Off to Shot Taken LCD live view
2.2
Shot to Shot Flash off 1.6
Shot to Shot Flash on (red-eye reduction off) *2 1.6
Shot to Shot Flash on (red-eye reduction on) *2 1.8
*1 This is an average figure for 'normal' photography, though there are occasions where the S2 IS struggles to fix focus at the long end of the zoom with low-contrast subjects, when the time can extend to as much as 1.5 seconds
*2 In this test the subject distance is only 2 feet (0.6 m) - the recycle time will increase at greater subject distances, and if the batteries are running low.

Lag Timing Definitions

Half-press Lag (0->S1)
Many digital camera users prime the AF and AE systems on their camera by half-pressing the shutter release. This is the amount of time between a half-press of the shutter release and the camera indicating an auto focus & auto exposure lock on the LCD monitor / viewfinder (ready to shoot).
 

(Prime AF/AE)
Half to Full-press Lag (S1->S2)
The amount of time it takes from a full depression of the shutter release button (assuming you have already primed the camera with a half-press) to the image being taken.
 

(Take shot, AF/AE primed)
Full-press Lag (0->S2)
The amount of time it takes from a full depression of the shutter release button (without performing a half-press of the shutter release beforehand) to the image being taken. This is more representative of the use of the camera in a spur of the moment 'point and shoot' situation.
 

(Take shot, AF/AE not primed)

Continuous mode

The tables below show the results of our continuous shooting test, indicating the actual frame rate along with maximum number of frames and how long you would have to wait after taking the maximum number of frames before you could take another shot. Media used for these tests was a 512 MB SanDisk Ultra II SD card. Shutter speed was kept above 1/200 sec during these tests.

Continuous drive mode

The S2 IS has two continuous shooting modes (standard and high speed), both of which allow you to shoot pretty much indefinitely (we gave up waiting after about 70 shots) with a fast card. The standard continuous mode shows the normal live preview between frames, but the high speed mode only shows a very brief review image after each shot (no live preview).

Image Type
Mode
Avg. frames
per sec
Frames in a burst *1
After
burst
*2
2592 x 1944 JPEG Super-Fine Continuous 1.54 fps 50+ n/a
2592 x 1944 JPEG Fine Continuous 1.42 fps 50+ n/a
2592 x 1944 JPEG Normal Continuous 1.54 fps 50+ n/a
2048 x 1536 JPEG Super-Fine Continuous 1.54 fps 50+ n/a
2592 x 1944 JPEG Super-Fine Continuous-High 2.32 fps 50+ n/a
2592 x 1944 JPEG Fine Continuous-High 2.08 fps 50+ n/a
2592 x 1944 JPEG Normal Continuous-High 2.33 fps 50+ n/a
2048 x 1536 JPEG Super-Fine Continuous-High 2.33 fps 50+ n/a

*1 In a single "burst" (finger held down on shutter release).
*2 With the shutter release held down. With a fast card it is impossible to fill the buffer

We were pretty impressed with the continuous shooting capabilities of the PowerShot S1 IS, and the S2 IS offers significantly better performance; up to 2.3 frames per second with no limit on the amount of shots you can take, showing just how much faster the DIGIC II processor is than its predecessor. It's still not as fast as some of its competitors - the Panasonic FZ5, for example - but the buffering is superb (and the standard continuous mode retains the live preview, which is actually quite a rarity, and makes keeping up with moving subjects much easier).

File Write / Display and Sizes

Timings shown below are the time taken for the camera to process and "flush" the image out to the storage card, the timer was started as soon as the shutter release was pressed and stopped when activity indicator went out. This means the timings also include the camera's processing time and as such are more representative of the actual time to "complete the task". The media used for these tests was a 512 MB SanDisk Ultra II SD card.

Image Type
Time to store
(secs)

Time to display
(secs)

File size *1
(approx.)
Images on a *2
512MB Card
2592 x 1944 JPEG Super-Fine ~0.8 ~0.3 2,350 KB 195
2592 x 1944 JPEG Fine ~0.6  ~0.3 1,395 KB 347
2592 x 1944 JPEG Normal ~0.5  ~0.3 620 KB 687
2048 x 1536 JPEG Super-Fine ~0.6 ~0.3 1,440 KB 302
2048 x 1536 JPEG Fine ~0.5  ~0.3 870 KB 542

*1 All file sizes are an average of three files. As is the case with JPEG it's difficult to predict the size of an image because it will vary a fair amount depending on the content of the image (detail and noise).
*2 Camera estimation.

With write times averaging around 0.8 seconds for a Super Fine JPEG the S2 IS is certainly fast - around 3.0 MB/sec, thanks again to the DIGIC II processor.

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