Canon PowerShot S2 IS – First Impressions

01-E

I recently had to replace my Canon PowerShot A70 digital camera since it started taking entirely black photos for some reason. I’d replaced the memory cards and batteries, turned it off and on, given it a manly shake and exploratory prod, but the shots kept on being pitch dark. Always looking for an opportunity, I decided an upgrade was due, since the zoom was limited and the resolution only 3MB, which isn’t great for landscape shots or cropping. I opted for a Canon PowerShot S2 IS – a 5 megapixel, 12x zoom mid-range digital camera.

Now I’m not a photography expert. Far from it in fact. I’m from the school of digital photographers who take lots of shots in the hope that some turn out good. It’s the machine-gun approach to photography which is why digital suits me well. I can just keep snapping away until I get what I want.

02-EThe PowerShot A70 was my first digital camera (late to the game about 24 months ago). I have found there are two uses for digital cameras – on social or impromptu occasions where you want a quick snap of friends and events to record the moment, and then more set-piece shots of people portraits or landscapes. The A70 was an all-rounder, but I found myself using my cameraphone for the spur-of-the-moment pix, and the A70 is a bit under-powered for the staged photo moments. (Plus mine is broken).

My first port of call when buying products like this is to read the peer reviews at sites like Amazon or on the electrical stores like Circuit City. I figure people who are motivated to post their experiences will tend to be highly involved in the purchase and have done their homework. Many are photography buffs and have reasoned opinions about lens quality, as well as image sharpness, saturation and contrast.

It’s worth noting there are also some great review sites out there like this one. I was torn between the Sony Cybershot DCS H1 and the Canon PowerShot S2 IS. Similar price, features, brand values, and specifications. On balance the reviews seem to favor the Canon, which I’ve just unpacked.

My first impressions are that this camera will suit a range of users from beginner to prosumer. It’s a pretty serious piece of kit which automates the process of taking a picture in different conditions for the novice, but allows fine-grained manual adjustment for those with the knowledge and inclination. It’s ideal for photographers, like me, who would like to learn more and experiment, but don’t want to jump to a digital SLR without the autopilot safety-net. I quite like to change the settings, but I’ll always fire a few shots on auto to make sure I have the moment safely captured.

The best thing for me is the zoom – 12x optical zoom, with the option of digital enhancement on top. It also has an Image Stabilizing (IS) technology which limits camera-shake for distance shots (the cause of some of my more blurred attempts). The other criteria I was looking for was the start-up time, which is pretty much instant. My A70 had to warm up a bit before it was ready, which was a bit frustrating. More importantly the S2 IS takes images the moment you hit the shutter button. With the A70, there was a 1-2 second delay which meant you had to predict when to take photos of moving objects. With the S2 IS, there’s no such guesswork, meaning fewer shots of the back legs of running animals, the veils of passing brides and the disembodied limbs of those who walk into shot.

A few negatives include the need to manually pop up the flash, which elicits angry red symbols on screen when you forget; the oddly shaped camera bag (an extra designed for this product), which doesn’t actually accommodate the camera without inadvertently turning it on amid beeps and grinding lens gear; and the ill-fitting lens cap (which many reviewers flagged).

That said, my trial shots have all been sharp and clear (unsaturated and calorie-free), the grip is comfortable, the buttons accessible, the weight balanced and not too heavy, and the menu interface easy to understand and customize. It even has a rapid-fire mode where it takes continuous pictures. Ideal for a point and shoot snapper like me.

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  • So where’s the pics that prove the point? I rely on a combination of a Nokia 6600 (crabby but great for those impromptu pics) and a Rollei dt4000 (LCD is crap in sunlight but pics are great quality)

  • It’s the Labor Day weekend here so I’m hoping to put it through its paces. I’ll post any meaningful efforts up onto Flickr.
    Agree a cameraphone gets the impromptu shots best, though I quite like the small cigarette packet-sized cameras. Easy to lose though on a night out. And eminently stealable.

  • Not much spare time, but I did manage to try out the Macro mode. Here’s a shot of some of the roses at the Cline Vineyard in Sonoma.
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/56222279@N00/40632583/
    Afraid I was mainly concentrating on the tasting, but despite high sunlight, this came out fairly well.