Top of camera controls

S20 top controls (click for larger image)

Top of the camera is the main mode dial which switches between (counterclockwise): Stitch Assist Mode (used to assist in recording of panoramas), IMAGE Mode (specific image shooting modes), Manual Record Mode (Gives full control over manual settings), Auto Record Mode (camera automatically selects photography settings) Off (Camera Off), Play Mode (image playback), PC Mode (used for connection to a computer)

The dial is metallic and solid feeling, the slight overhang of the dial to the back of the camera is just enough to switch modes with your thumb (if a little stiff), you can rotate the dial through a complete 360 degrees to (say) move from stitch to playback counterclockwise without having to roll the whole way back clockwise.

Rear of camera controls

S20 rear controls (click for larger image)

On the rear left of the camera are three horizontal buttons beside the viewfinder
In record mode: Flash mode, Continuous / Single / Self-Timer, Macro mode
In play mode: Thumbnail view, Zoom, Multi-image jump
Beside the LCD are (top to bottom)
In record mode: Exposure compensation / White balance mode, Enter Menu, Metering mode / Set menu option, Display mode (none, normal, overlay)
In play mode: No operation, Enter Menu, Set menu option, Display mode (normal, overlay, detailed overlay)
On the right hand side is the navigation selector which performs the following actions
In record mode: Zoom in and Out, Navigate Menu system
In play mode: Image previous, Image next. Scroll when zoomed in, Navigate menu system

Control layout is good, with controls to all major functions available on the outside of the camera, easy access to flash mode, continuous / self-timer, macro, white balance, metering and exposure compensation. Once you're used to the location of the controls it's easy to set the exact mode you need.

Record Mode Controls

Exposure Compensation - To adjust exposure compensation just tap the compensate button on the rear and use the navigation selector to choose between -2EV to +2EV in 1/3 EV steps.

White Balance adjustment - One more press of the compensate button allows adjustment of the White Balance mode: AWB (Automatic White Balance), Daylight (sunny), Cloudy, Tungsten, Fluorescent.

AE Lock - To lock exposure settings (shutter speed and aperture) independently of the auto focus hold the shutter release half-down and press SET. An asterisk (*) will appear in the center of the LCD, now reposition the scene and take the shot. I would additionally like to see a way to lock the AE for multiple shots.

Continuous shooting - In continuous mode the camera can shoot at up to 1.7 images per second until the internal memory buffer is full. Macro mode - The macro mode on the S20 allows shooting up to 4.7" (12cm) from the camera.

Record mode display

In manual record mode this is the normal display, with current mode settings summarized as icons on the left hand side, on the right the zoom indicator and memory buffer display (this takes the form of a square which fills up with dots as you take sequential shots, for each image written to the CF card a dot disappears. This is a welcome addition to the LCD display as it gives you an instant readout of the cameras ability to recoil and take another sequence of shots. Having said that the S20 is a very fast camera and unless you're continuous shooting it's pretty tough to fill the internal buffer.

In the special IMAGE mode you have six specific shooting modes:

Landscape (infinity focus lock + flash off)
Fast shutter (higher speed shutter)
Slow shutter (slow speed shutter + flash off - useful for doing those blurred water effects)
Night Scene (shoot night scenes or people at night - AKA Slow Sync flash mode)
Black & White (shoots only in black & white)

Play mode display

In playback mode you can choose from three different details of display, just an image, an image plus brief information or an image detailed information (camera settings used to take the photograph).

You can also switch to a thumbnail view (example shown here). Thumbnails are navigated using the navigation cursor pad, you can change to a "page by page" view of thumbnails by switching to jump mode (press the jump button).