Operation and controls

Canon's PowerShot S series of cameras have always offered considerably more control than their 'point and shoot' appearance suggests, and the S80 is no exception. As well as a decent smattering of external controls the logical and easy to navigate on-screen menus contain a wealth of advanced functions. The S80 - though it can appear over-complex when you first pick it up - offers an even greater level of external control than its predecessors, with the addition of direct AE compensation and ISO buttons, and it certainly puts most of its 'serious compact' competitors to shame.

Rear of camera

The rear of the S80 is covered in buttons - most of which have a single function - covering all the most commonly accessed photographic controls. Top left are the shortcut / direct print and drive mode buttons. To the of the large screen is a fairly dense cluster of controls and buttons filling virtually all the spare surface area. To the left of the zoom / mode dial is a small button that switches to playback mode, below this are buttons for focus frame (delete in playback mode) and AE-compensation (Jump in playback), then the multi-function dial, which also offers direct access to ISO, flash mode, macro mode and manual focus and has the usual FUNC/SET button in the middle. Finally, down the bottom are the DISP (for changing the amount of on-screen information or switching off the screen) and MENU buttons.

Top of camera

The top of the S80 is a lot cleaner than its predecessors - mainly due to the loss of the mode dial, which is now on the side of the camera. The lens fits flushly into the body when the sliding cover is closed, and extends by around 27mm (1.1") when powered up.

Display and menus

The S80's interface is only slightly different to the S70 (and most other advanced Canon models) - which is a good thing, as it has matured nicely over the last few PowerShot generations, and is as intuitive and fluid as you could possibly want.

You can choose a clutter-free screen in record mode, or - as shown here - get a wide range of information around the edge of the screen. Whether you shoot with information displayed or not, a half press of the shutter activates the AF (autofocus) and AE (auto exposure) systems, with the camera displaying the focus point selected (in AiAF mode) and the exposure chosen.
The record menu gives you two additional display options. The first is 'grid lines' (shown here), which can be an invaluable compositional tool. The second option is a live histogram (you can use the grids and the histogram together if you so desire).
A nice new touch is a dedicated ISO button (first seen on the SD550). There's also instant access to manual focus. You can choose to have the central area magnified for more accurate focus assessment.
Canon's ubiquitous FUNC menu offers fast and easy access to a single page menu covering all the most commonly accessed shooting controls - save for those that now have their own buttons; white balance, picture effects, bracketing, flash level output, metering pattern and image size/quality. Note that this display is normally overlaid onto the live preview. Selecting the 'My Colors' option brings up several extra options, allowing you to boost certain colors, swap colors in the scene, remove all but one color (all other colors come out black and white) or set custom colors. It's not Photoshop, but it's a nice novelty.
You can also change various image parameters (Contrast, Sharpness and Saturation, each with three levels). Press the Menu button in record mode and you can change more fundamental shooting settings from how long images are displayed after shooting, to basic flash settings, digital zoom, self-timer duration and an intervalometer.
As you change modes (by turning the mode dial) a nicely animated rotating display appears. When the mode dial is turned to the SCN (scene) position turning the mutli function dial cycles through the 12 options.
Press the new AE-compensation button and turn the multi-function dial to alter exposure levels in automatic modes. In the various manual and semi-automatic modes exposure settings are also changed easily with a spin of the wheel.