The main feature that distinguishes the PowerShot S20 from its brother, the S10, is the CCD. In this case a 3.34 million pixels delivering 2048x1536 pixel images.
Although the camera is, therefore, suitable for those who want top-quality results, it's not a model for those who want a myriad of manual controls. In fact, it is very much a point & shoot model where creative overrides have been kept to the minimum.
Despite this it's not the smallest camera around either, even allowing for the built-in 2x optical zoom. It has great appearance, thanks to its all-over silver finish, but it looks and feels like its been on steroids.
The camera comes with a 16Mb CompactFlash card to store six images at the maximum resolution and quality. However, to do this you need to set the camera's main mode dial to manual - in the fully automatic mode the picture quality settings are made for you.
In manual mode there's no way to set aperture and shutter speeds to suit your photographic subject. The only exposure controls at your disposal are exposure compensation and a choice of two metering patterns. One nice touch is that the exposure lock works independently of the focus lock.
Focusing controls are also kept to a minimum, with no provision for manual distance setting. There is a macro mode that lets you get down to 12cm from your subject. More unusually there is a near-infrared light emitter, which assists the autofocus in lowlight.
Surprisingly, the white balance controls are more extensive - with four presets available for sunny, cloudy, tungsten and fluorescent lighting.
Apart from the self-timer, various flash modes and a continuous shooting facility, the camera provides a fun stitch feature that helps you take joiner pictures. These are shots of panoramas made up of several different images. Using the camera's special mode and the supplied software shots are placed in the right place for you, rather than having to battle with glue and scissors as in days of yore. This mode is well-complimented by the camera's expansive wide-angle setting that's equivalent to a 32mm lens on a 35mm camera.
The camera comes with its own rechargeable nickel metal hydride pack, helping you to eliminate the main running cost of digital cameras. But Canon have been clever here - if you want to you can use a 2CR5 lithium pack that's used widely on autofocus SLRs instead. This is a handy facility to have in an emergency. Just as usefully, Canon provide a mains connector in the box.
The computer connectors supplied are equally extensive. As well as supporting USB, you also get Mac and PC serial leads. As well as the PhotoStitch software needed for making your joiners, the camera comes with library and browsing software, plus Adobe's PhotoDeluxe.
For a camera at this price you would expect more creative controls - or at least a smaller camera. However, the proof of the pudding is in the eating - and as far as the results you get from the S20 are concerned this if fine fare indeed. Sharpness is excellent and colour balance is first class. If you want great images and are not fussed with photographic manual overrides this is an excellent camera.
- Rechargeable battery
- Three-megapixel CCD
- Supplied computer connectors
- Minimal exposure control
- Boxy design
- No manual focus control
Test by Chris George