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Conclusion - Pros

  • Good resolution (up there with the best of the five megapixel)
  • Good metering, nice tonal balance (more shadow detail)
  • Good color, slightly too strong in some situations (can be adjusted)
  • Control over cameras internal processing algorithms (saturation, tone, sharpness)
  • Low noise at ISO 50, not as clean at ISO 100, more sensitive than rated value
  • Excellent build quality, solid 'brick like' feel to the camera, nice metallic finish
  • More portable and more robust design than the G5
  • Shooting priority play mode (a half-press of the shutter release always returns to shooting)
  • Excellent range of manual controls (for a compact camera)
  • Good shot-to-shot times, fairly good startup time (for an extending lens camera)
  • Manual focus has magnified loupe and ruler readout
  • Flexible continuous shooting modes (buffer after processing)
  • RAW file format maintains 12-bits of data
  • Ability to turn JPEG shot into RAW during record review
  • Compact Flash Type II and official Microdrive support
  • Voice annotation feature
  • Orientation sensor, although JPEG's are only tagged not rotated
  • Invervalometer (time lapse)
  • AF assist lamp works well
  • Remote Capture software with live video feed included
  • Good accessory support


Conclusion - Cons

  • Chromatic aberrations visible at wide angle or maximum apertures
  • Vignetting at wide angle and maximum aperture
  • Moderate barrel distortion at wide angle
  • Rotated CCD (in the camera I had for review)
  • Nine-point AiAF not available in P, TV, AV, M or C exposure modes
  • Flash can be under-powered if 'tricked' by a white background
  • Average macro performance
  • Poorly designed multi-controller (pressing SET can be hit and miss)
  • Location of battery/CF compartment can be a pain if you use a tripod often
  • Lens slow at telephoto (F4.9)
  • AF Assist lamp doesn't have enough power at telephoto zoom
  • Limited apertures at telephoto
  • Manual mode limits in relation to combinations of aperture and shutter speed


Overall conclusion

Here's my rating of the Canon PowerShot S50: (5 megapixel compact)

Detail Rating (out of 10)
Construction 9
Features 9
Image quality 8
Lens / CCD combination 8
Ease of use 9
Value for money 8

Lets be honest I think we all expect more from Canon than to simply bolt a larger sensor into an existing design, but that's exactly what they did with the G5 and the S50. And what's the reasoning behind this? Market pressure. Both the G3 and S45 are excellent cameras which get the absolute maximum out of their four megapixel sensors, produce very nice images without too many undesirable artifacts. Indeed in my opinion nobody actually needs a five megapixel compact camera, it's just a case of 'bigger must be better' (I'm sure we can thank some retailers for this).

While it's true that the S50 carries all of the excellent features, control and image processing from the S45 it can't be said that the lens is as good a match for the sensor as it was with the four megapixel unit. This is clearly visible in the strong chromatic aberrations which can occur (this is the same thing we experienced with the G5). This is the reason I can't give this camera 'Highly Recommended'.

Enough complaining, the S50 is a very capable digital camera with good resolution a huge feature set well beyond its 'compact' label, it also feels responsive and works well as a photographic tool. There's little doubt that if you really feel-the-need for a five megapixel compact then the S50 should be on your short list. Unfortunately I feel that Canon has lost a little of its focus with the production of the S50 and G5. A company with such a dominant market position should be braver.

Recommended

So which one should I buy? A question I get asked several times a day, and I wouldn't like to say. In a new addition to my reviews (after the amount of feedback I normally get) I've added a link to a specific forum in which you can discuss the review or ask me specific questions which I've not answered in these pages.

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