Taking pictures

As the S20 shares its aesthetics and features with the S10 the things I said about the S10 still count here, the S20 is one of the nicest built, quality feeling digital cameras on the market, with it's all metal exterior and tiny proportions it's both convenient and rugged. Taking photos is a joy, the camera is fast and responsive, LCD is bright, clear and non-reflective (and about as big as you could expect in such a small camera).

The lack of an option to see a review of the image without holding your finger down on the shutter is a shame (some of us like that instant gratification), you can get around this by putting the camera in continuous mode.

Timings & File Sizes

Timing Notes: All times calculated as an average of three operations. Unless otherwise stated all timings were made on a 2048 x 1536 JPEG image @ FINE compression.

File Size Notes: All file sizes as 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 wildly depending on the content of the image (especially the amount of detail captured). For example, take a photograph of a fairly empty wall and you'll get a small JPEG, take a photograph of a bush with a lot of detail and you'll get a larger image. File sizes here are closer to the later, the larger size of file you should expect.

The estimated number of images per 8 MB Compact Flash card is given as a guide to beginners (as an 8 MB Compact Flash card is supplied with the camera).

Action Time taken
OFF to RECORD 2.6 (Lens extension)
OFF to PLAY 1.4 (LCD appears and "busy" is displayed)
RECORD to OFF 2.5 (Lens retraction)
RECORD to PLAY 2.5 (LCD appears and "busy" is displayed)
PLAY to RECORD 3.1  
PLAY: Image to Image <1.0  
PLAY: INDEX thumbnail view <1.0 Almost instant
PLAY: Zoom-in <1.0 Almost instant
Auto Focus LAG ~1.0 Fast by digital camera standards *
Shutter Release LAG 0.1 VERY fast *
Total LAG (new timing) 1.5 No pre-focus, one complete press *

* LAG times are often mis-understood and so are described below:

Auto Focus LAG is (roughly) the amount of time it takes the camera to auto-focus (a half-press and hold of the shutter release button), this timing is normally the most variable as its affected by the subject matter, current focus position, still or moving subject etc. This timing is an average.

Shutter Release LAG is the amount of time it takes to take the shot after auto-focus, this timing assumes you have already focused (half-pressed the shutter release) and now press the shutter release button all the way down to take the shot. On modern cameras such as the S20 this is VERY fast. This timing is an average.

Total LAG is the total time it takes (not just the two above added together) if you haven't pre-focused, that is no finger touching the shutter release button, press it all the way down in one movement, this new timing is how long it'd take if you were in one of those spur-of-the-moment situations. This timing is an average.


Timings shown below are the time taken for the camera to "flush" the image out to the CF card. They in no way affect the ability of the camera to "recycle" and shoot again, the S20 has a very large internal buffer (I've estimated it to be around 4 MB) which means you can shoot even in Super-Fine mode and be ready to shoot the next image within about 1.5 seconds.

Action Time taken
File size
Images on an
8 MB CF card (supplied)
Images on a
340 MB CF Microdrive **
Store 2048 x 1536 Super-Fine 11.0 ~ 1,760 KB 4 193
Store 2048 x 1536 Fine 7.5 ~ 1,050 KB 7 323
Store 2048 x 1536 Normal 5.3 ~ 550 KB 14 618
Store 1024 x 768 Super-Fine 6.5 ~ 900 KB 8 377
Store 1024 x 768 Fine 3.7 ~ 330 KB 24 1,030
Store 1024 x 768 Normal 3.2 ~ 120 KB 66 2,833
Store 640 x 480 Super-Fine 3.9 ~ 400 KB 20 850
Store 640 x 480 Fine 3.0 ~ 120 KB 66 2,833
Store 640 x 480 Normal 2.5 ~ 70 KB 114 4,857

Interesting result here is that although the timings to store are longer than the S10, which is no surprise as the images are considerably bigger. It doesn't affect the shooting experience one bit, due to the S20's big internal RAM buffer... I didn't find myself in a situation when I ever had to wait for the camera more than 1 - 1.5 seconds (the amount of time it takes to recycle back to shooting mode).


** These numbers were added just to give an impression of whats possible if you added a 340MB CF MicroDrive to the camera (Note: the Microdrive is a CF type II device which limits the number of cameras in which it can be used, the S20 supports CF type II devices).

Battery life

As it turns out I kinda screwed up on the S10 review, Canon don't supply the battery and charger as standard in all regions (boo-hiss) which is a bit daft saying that the camera will only accept their proprietary rechargeable or the near-to-useless-and-stupidly-expensive 2CR5 lithiums...

However, as I did have a charger and battery I found the battery life on the S20 to be pretty variable, the manual claims around 55 shots with the LCD on and 230 with it off, I slightly managed more (about 60) with the LCD on after the third or fourth charge although I did find the battery fading sometimes after the 40th shot, it's a shame they didn't decide to include two battery packs with the camera and I'd guess that would be the first item on my accessory list if I bought it.