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Top of camera controls

On the top of the camera is the rectangular shutter release button, beside this is the power button. Press the button once to power the camera up into shooting mode, press and hold to enter voice recording mode (limited only by storage space). The white power button surround glows green when the camera is in shooting mode and red when in voice recording mode.

I would have preferred the power button on the left, shutter on the right.

One quite annoying problem with the Optio S is shutter release while the camera is writing images to the SD card. After taking a shot the camera returns to live view and flashes both lights beside the viewfinder to indicate it is still writing the image. At this stage you can re-press the shutter release (as in a fast action situation) and the camera will auto focus but will not allow you to take the shot until the last image has been written. This is compounded if you enable operation sounds as the camera 'beeps' to confirm AF lock, this can easily be mistaken for confirmation of shutter release.


Rear of camera controls

The rear of the camera features a molded thumb grip with the zoom control lever at the top. There are two function buttons, three monitor action buttons and the rather awkwardly designed 4-way controller (a bit like a notebook joystick but no where near as well implemented). I found this 4-way controller to be particularly difficult to use, you literally have to just 'tap' the edge to choose left / right / up or down, it was too easy to press the OK function of the button while trying to navigate menus.

Buttons functions in shooting (record) mode

Icon
 
Mode

Flash mode

• Auto Flash
• Flash Off
• Flash On (fill-in)
• Auto Flash with red-eye reduction
• Flash On with red-eye reduction

Focus mode

• Auto focus (wide area)
• Macro auto focus
• Super-Macro auto focus
• Infinity lock (landscape)
• Manual focus (magnifies center of frame while focusing)
• Select AF area (any one of 49 areas, a 7 x 7 grid)

Zoom wide

Press the zoom lever in this direction to zoom towards wide angle (35 mm equiv.), there are seven steps from telephoto to wide angle.

Zoom telephoto

Press the zoom lever in this direction to zoom towards telephoto (105 mm equiv.)

Drive mode (up arrow of 4-way controller)

• Single shot
• Self-timer
• Remote control (3 sec self-timer)
• Remote control
• Continuous

4-way direction controller

The up arrow function is to change Drive mode (above), the down arrow function is to change shooting mode (below). Left and right by default adjust exposure compensation but this can be customized for Image size, Image quality, White balance, Focus area, Metering mode, Sensitivity, Instant Review, Fast Forward movie or Exposure Compensation.

OK

OK / Confirm

Has no function in shooting mode other than in menus and to confirm setting changes.

MODE

Shooting mode menu (down arrow of 4-way controller)

The mode menu is a circular menu of eight options, use the left and right arrows of the 4-way controller to change shooting mode, OK to confirm, down arrow to change options (some shooting modes only). All shooting mode menu options are described below.

MENU

Menu

Enters or leaves the camera menu.

DISPLAY

Display

Switches the current LCD monitor display mode:

• Default display (brief settings, exposure mode, date)
• Histogram display (detailed settings, overlaid live histogram)
• AF brackets (just AF brackets)
• LCD monitor off

Enter play mode

Switches to the camera's play mode, from here you can browse, erase, protect and perform other functions on previously taken images. The camera by default displays the last image taken or the last image on the card. Use the 4-way controller's left or right buttons to browse. The Optio 550 is a shooting priority camera which means you can always return to shooting mode by simply half-pressing the shutter release (or press Play again).

Shooting mode menu

Icon
 
Mode

Program Auto Exposure

This is the camera's main shooting mode, exposure is metered and set automatically based on the current sensitivity, metering mode and exposure compensation. This mode can be used as point and shoot or with more manual adjustment such as sensitivity selection, exposure compensation.

Picture Mode

Picture Mode is the Optio's range of preprogrammed scene exposure settings. Use the up and down arrows on the 4-way controller to select picture mode, depending on the picture mode certain camera features (such as flash mode) may not be available. Descriptions below are from the Optio S manual.

Landscape Enables to take landscape photos with bright colors.
Flower Enables to take flower photos bright in color.
Portrait Enables to take portraits with spatial effect, by emphasizing the person.
Self-portrait Enables you to take pictures of yourself or to be included in pictures.
Surf & Snow Enables to take clear photos at dazzling places like beaches and snow covered mountains.
Autumn colors Enables you to take colorful photos of trees in autumn.
Sunset Enables to reproduce beautiful colors for sunrise and sunset photos.
Night Scene Mode

Night scene mode allows you to take long exposures of up to 1 second, the normal longest exposure is 1/8 sec.

Movie Clip Mode

The Optio S records movie clips at 320 x 240, 15 fps with audio. The camera records while you hold down the shutter release button. Exposure is automatically adjusted during shooting, pressing the zoom buttons invokes digital zoom, optical zoom is not available. The Optio S allows you to take clips of 30 seconds maximum. Note that from the camera menu you can also enable a 'fast forward movie mode', this slows movie recording by 2, 5, 10, 50 or 100 times to create a 'time lapse' movie (audio recording is disabled in this special mode).

Panorama Assist Mode

This mode allows you to take a series of images which will be later stitched together to make a wide or tall panorama image. When you first enter Panorama Assist Mode the camera prompts you to select the direction of the Panorama, after the first shot it overlays a quarter of the previous image at the edge of the frame to help align the next shot. Unfortunately this mode doesn't appear to lock Auto Exposure or Auto White balance, both of which are pretty essential for quality Panorama's.

Stereo Pictures (3D Image Mode)

This mode allows you to take 'Stereo 3D' images, it does so by prompting you to take one image from the left of a subject and one shifted slightly (normally around 1 cm) to the right. When printed and viewed with the supplied 3D Image Viewer (a clip together vertical spectacles set) the image can appear to take on a 3D appearance. What a gimmick.

Digital Filter Mode

This mode allows you to simulate certain 'lens filters', these are: Black & White, Sepia, Red, Pink, Purple, Blue, Green, Yellow and "slim filter". The slim filter option allows you to stretch the image either horizontally or vertically (a very odd option).

User Mode

User mode allows you to preprogram the camera with any combination of settings from any exposure mode to be quickly retrieved when User Mode is selected.

Buttons functions in play mode

Icon
 
Mode

Delete

Pressing the erase button displays an Delete / Cancel option, press Erase twice to have the option to erase all images on the card. If the image has an attached sound annotation you can choose to remove that from the image ('Sound Delete').

Protect

Pressing the protect button displays an option to Protect or Unprotect the current image, it seems to me that it would have been easier to simply make this a toggle switch for protection. Press Protect twice to Protect or Unprotect all images. Note that when an image is protected its 'read-only' flag on the flash card filesystem is set, this can guard against accidental deletion from the camera but not from a full card format.

Thumbnail index (nine image display)

Press this button to switch to a 3x3 thumbnail index, navigate through the images using the 4-way controller and press OK (or this button again) to return to a single image view.

Magnify

Magnifies the current image up to 4x zoom, once magnified you can pan around the image using the 4-way controller. Press OK to return to a single image view. There are four steps to 4x zoom.

DPOF

Displays the DPOF (Digital Print Order Format) option for the current image, select the number of copies you want and if you want the date overlaid. Press the DPOF button twice to set DPOF options for all images. DPOF works by writing a small 'print order' file onto the flash card which compatible printers and photo finishing kiosks recognize.

4-way direction controller

In single image view press left or right to browse through images, in thumbnail index view you can use all four arrows to move around the images, in magnified view you can use the arrows to pan around the magnified image.

OK

OK / Confirm

In single image view press OK to record a voice annotation of up to 30 seconds, otherwise the OK button is used to return to single image view from either thumbnail index or magnified view modes.

MENU

Menu

Enters the play menu which provides functions such as image resizing, trimming, slideshow and even setting a photo alarm.

DISPLAY

Display

Switches the current LCD monitor display mode:

• Default display (filename, date and time)
• Histogram display (as above plus exposure info, settings and a histogram overlaid)
• No overlay (just the image, no information)

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