Conclusion - Pros

  • Good resolution
  • New 12x zoom offers excellent 36-432mm range
  • Packed with features
  • Image stabilization works really well (and can be used in movie mode)
  • Very quiet
  • Fast and responsive (faster focus than S1 IS)
  • Stunning movie mode with high quality stereo sound
  • Impressive continuous (burst) shooting
  • Good color, good exposure, generally accurate focus
  • 'Punchy' results straight out of the camera
  • Clean images at lower ISO settings
  • Impressively little distortion for such a large lens
  • Enjoyable and easy to use
  • Swing out tilt 'n' swivel screen
  • AF illuminator
  • Optional wide and tele adapters

Conclusion - Cons

  • Occasional focus errors - especially at the telephoto end of the zoom in low light
  • Fairly noisy above ISO200
  • No rechargeable batteries supplied in the box
  • Viewfinder and screen can be difficult to see in very bright conditions
  • Images slightly soft and slightly over-sharpened
  • Chromatic aberration and purple fringing
  • Some problems with blown highlights and exposure in bright, contrasty scenes
  • No RAW or TIFF mode
  • Limit to highest shutter speed usable at wide apertures

Overall conclusion

In an increasingly crowded and competitive marketplace Canon had to make the successor to the S1 IS something more than a mere upgrade, and no one can deny they did just that, bringing improvements to virtually every aspect of the camera's performance. The DIGIC II processor makes everything zip along at high speed, the AF illuminator gets rid of some of the low light focus problems and the beefed-up macro mode - though perhaps not quite delivering on its promise - is a real improvement. Image quality is very good - certainly on a par with most of its competitors - but still suffers from a slight softness and a slightly 'over-processed' appearance, though experimenting with the in-camera parameters and a little sympathetic post-processing means that in the right hands the S2 IS can produce images every bit as good as anything else in its class.

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But ultimately the appeal of the S2 IS goes beyond simple pixel-peeping; it has a class-leading feature set, a very reliable image stabilization system (the benefits of which cannot be overstated) and superb handling. It's well-priced, incredibly versatile and - above all - highly enjoyable to use. For fast action (where the focus system still isn't fast enough), I'd go for the Panasonic FZ5, and it will be interesting to see how the Sony H1 fares in our upcoming review, but for sheer shooting pleasure and versatility the PowerShot S2 IS takes some beating.

Highly recommended

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