Operation and controls

The S2 IS, in common with most higher end PowerShots, can appear a little daunting at first glance - there is hardly a square inch of body space that isn't covered in buttons and switches. But don't be put off - unlike many cameras this means that virtually all the most commonly accessed shooting features get their own dedicated buttons, so you don't need to enter the on-screen menu system every time you want to change something. The sheer number of external controls is also an indication of sophisticated functionality on offer, which is well up there with much more expensive models such as the G6 or S70.

Rear of camera

The main 'digital' controls - those concerned with activating and navigating on-screen menus - are found on the rear of the camera, ranged around and to the right of the swing-out-and-tilt 1.8- inch LCD. Some of the buttons have a dual function according to whether you are in recording or playback mode, and there is one that is unique on a Canon compact (except the S1 IS) - the prominent movie start/stop button, which is used to start/stop movie clip recording. One nice touch is a shortcut button to which any of a number of shooting options (ISO, resolution, white balance setting and so on) can be assigned. As well as menu controls you'll also find buttons for metering mode and focus point on the rear of the camera, as well as one for switching between the electronic viewfinder (EVF) and LCD screen.

Top of camera

The top of the camera shows how much deeper the S2 is than its predecessor, as well as the deeper, easier to hold grip. In addition to the shutter, zoom, drive mode, power and mode dials/buttons, on the far right, on the sloping shoulder on the left sits the flash mode button.

Side Controls

The right hand side of the camera (as seen from the front) houses the miniature speaker (for playing back movies and sound captions), the AV (audio/visual) output and two controls directly related to the lens; manual focus and macro mode. The S1's IS button has disappeared, with image stabilization now controlled via the record menu.

Display and menus

This is a typical record mode live view with camera setting information displayed around the outer edge of the display. There's still no live histogram, but otherwise there's a wealth of information (you can turn most of it off if you find it distracting). The size/quality and remaining space indications are shown for both stills and movies, which takes some getting used to! Half-press the shutter release and the camera will calculate exposure (AE) and focus (AF) indicating the aperture and shutter speed chosen, along with a camera shake warning if necessary.
Users of previous PowerShots will be perfectly at home with the record mode FUNC menu, which offers a wide range of controls over shooting and image parameters. The 'Flexizone' AF system allows you to choose from any one of 375 points in the frame by pressing the set button and moving the focus point around using the arrow keys.
Manual focus is a simple case of pressing the MF button and using the up/down arrows. You can choose to have the area around the focus point magnified in manual focus mode (not shown), though in practice it doesn't help a great deal. Selecting the 'My Colors' option brings up several extra options, allowing you to boost certain colors, swap colors in the scene (screenshot), remove all but one color (all other colors come out black and white) or set custom colors (screenshot). It's not Photoshop, but it's a nice novelty.
The new 'Special scene' mode adds six new subject programs (Foliage, Snow, Beach, Fireworks, Indoor, Night Snapshot). Record mode menu allows you to customize everything from flash synch to the spot AE point and self-timer delay. It is also here where you'll find the control for image stabilization and where you can assign a function to the shortcut button. There's even an intervalometer function.
Play mode default display, a line of basic information showing filename, date & time stamp and quality setting. One of the three alternative play mode views includes a histogram display and exposure information. You can also view the full detailed information without the histogram (screenshot).
The 'Jump' function has been enhanced to offer options for jumping 10 or 100 frames at a time, just to movie files or by the date the images were shot. This can be very useful if you use a big card and take a lot of pictures between downloads. The S2 IS provides play magnification up to to 10x (as shown here). You can move around the image using the 4-way controller. As with other recent PowerShots you can jump from image to image at the same magnification by pressing the SET button and using the left/right keys. You can also view magnified images with exposure information on display (screenshot).
Press the zoom controller towards the wide angle to switch to a 3x3 thumbnail index, note that you can also enable JUMP mode which allows you to step through a full page of 9 images at a time. The play menu offers the usual range of options, including protecting, rotating and deleting images, plus slideshows and print ordering (DPOF).
The setup menu (accessible from both playback and record modes) is where you find more general camera settings, including sounds, power saving, date and time, LCD brightness, card formatting, language and video output format. The My Camera menu allows you to customize the camera startup image and various sounds.