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Canon Powershot S5 IS Digital Camera Review

Canon Powershot S5 IS Digital Camera Review - Like a Chinese puzzle box, getting it right with the Powershot S5 IS can produce some pretty sensational results. Luckily for Matt Grayson, the S5 doesn't allow demonic creatures to swarm through a dimensional rift inflicting pain and misery on him. Phew.

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Canon Powershot S5 IS in Compact Cameras

As a replacement to the S3 IS, the S5 provides a bulked up resolution, Digic III processor, 4Gb movie clip limit, higher ISO sensitivity, an extra AF zone, larger LCD screen, an Aquarium pre-set mode, Playback red-eye correction but also loses out with shorter battery life and a slower 1.5fps.

Canon Powershot S5 IS Canon Powershot S5 IS Specification

  • Sensor: CCD - 8Mp
  • Image Size: 3264 x 2448 pixels
  • Lens: 36-432mm - f/2.7-3.5 USM
  • Focus: Auto/Manual - 10cm Macro
  • Exposure: Programme AE/AEB
  • Metering : Evaluative/Spot/CW
  • Monitor: 2.5in TFT LCD
  • Movie Mode: Yes
  • Storage: SD Cards
  • Batteries: 4x AA
  • AC Adaptor: Optional
  • Video Output: Yes
  • Size/Weight: 117x80x78mm - 450g
  • Transfer: USB 2.0

The Canon Powershot S5 IS is a prosumer digital camera with 8Mp, 12x optical zoom and point blank macro facility. Close equivalents are the Sony DSC-H9 at £339 with 8Mp, 15x optical zoom and a 3in tilting screen. Alternatively, there's the Panasonic DMC-FZ50 at £365 with 10.1Mp, 12x optical zoom and optical image stabiliser.

Canon Powershot S5 IS Modes and features
There is so much happening on the Canon Powershot S5 IS that it is difficult to know where to start. Top of the camera has the shutter release button with the zoom switch wrapped around it. Just aside that is the drive button to choose between continuous shooting of which there are two options and three for the self timer including a custom timer. The power switch is an odd affair, continuing on from the S3 with the left/right switch to power on depending on recording or playback and the power off is a central button on top of the switch.

The Mode dial is typical Canon with Auto in the centre, the programmable settings above of PASM and a C mode which is a Custom function and the programmed settings below. Quick access options from the dial are Portrait, Landscape, Night shot, Sports, Scene mode, Stitch assist and Video mode. The Scene modes available are the same as the S3 being Colour accent, Colour swap, Night scene, Indoor, Foliage, Snow, Beach, Fireworks and additionally an Aquarium setting for shooting through glass into water and underwater with the appropriate housing.

Immediately over the lens is the pop-up flash and the hotshoe with dedicated Canon points. The pop-up flash activation button is over to the left of the camera and this button also doubles up as the microphone button to add notes to images.

The rear of the camera has many options available to keep you busy. The top left of the camera has the button which doubles as the print direct button and this is directly over the 2.5in screen which can flip out and rotate around. Also above the screen is a direct record button for instant video recording. As a bridge camera, the S5 IS is surprisingly video orientated as the direct film button is coupled with the 4Gb movie clip limit.

Canon Powershot S5 IS Five buttons adorn the right of the screen with three immediately to the right and two more further right under the navigation pad. The three next to the screen are the Function, ISO and Display buttons. The Function button allows changes to White balance , Colours with choices of Vivid, Neutral, Sepia, Black & white, Positive film, Lighter skin tone, Darker skin tone, Vivid blue, Vivid green, Vivid red and a Custom colour setting. Other options on the Function button are the Bracket options, Flash compensation options, Metering modes, Video quality and resolution quality settings. Interestingly, the Function button only allows access to the Video and Quality settings when in Auto mode.

The Display button allows flicking between the screen and the EVF and also the amount of information that is displayed. A histogram can be brought up as well as a rule of thirds grid. An argument would be that the people using this type of high spec bridge camera will be aware of the rule of thirds so the grid could be seen as patronising, but there is nothing wrong with a little help from time to time. The Set button confirms any changes made in menu systems and it also doubles up as the flexible AF zone selector. Press once and the centre focus square turns green, then the focus square can be moved around the screen using the navigation pad.

The last button on the back of the camera is the Menu and is not as comprehensive as you would first think. Three tabs are available which are to allow changes to the recording options, the Set up and the Start up themes and sounds. Some of the more interesting options in the menu are the Flash synchronisation curtain which can be changed from 1st to 2nd curtain , a Safety FE feature which will override the set Shutter speed and Aperture even in Shutter or Aperture priority to ensure that using the flash doesn't overexpose the image and a Spot AE point which can be set to the centre or can be set to the Focus point which is great for if you decide to move the focus point to a different area of the screen.

The Set up menu allows changes to Canon Powershot S5 IS the basic core areas of the camera like the Volume, Power saving, Date & time, Formatting the card and whether you want the file numbers of the images to be continuous or reset when the card is emptied. This is a dangerous subject and I would only advise changing the setting to Reset if you rename all your pictures once downloaded onto your computer. If not and you have a file 001, the second download will also have a file 001 and will overwrite all your previous work.

The front of the camera also has a few things to keep you busy and just under the bottom left of the lens is the bezel release to take the front part of the lens off so a screw thread adapter can be fitted for telephoto or wide-angle adapters and even filters. On the side of the lens is a Manual focus button and a Macro button. The Macro button has two settings for Macro and a reset to normal option. The Super macro that is accessed by holding the button down for a few seconds has a point blank range. The image I took of my pocket watch had the watch actually resting against the glass of the lens. This is a good and a bad thing as it means excellent macro, but can also mean a smaller sensor which in turn can give problems with noise.

Canon Powershot S5 IS Build and handling
The Powershot S5 IS is a good quality camera, a plastic casing houses a metal chassis. The grip is comfortable and as the camera is held, the thumb will slot perfectly down the side of the navigation pad to sit resting on the mode dial and hovering over the record button for the video function.

The lens is one of USM range with built in optical image stabiliser. The flash is a flimsy one and has to be pulled up manually, the flash button only gives access to changing the flash from Auto to On. Flash off is selected by simply pushing the flash back down. Red-eye reduction is changed in the Menu.

The screen is connected to the camera very well and feels solid enough. The screen will automatically switch to the EVF when it is pointed to the camera and closed.

The zoom is very fast and responsive and gives the familiar double beep when the focus has been found. The review will then display the image with the file information and a histogram in case you decide to retake the image.

Canon Powershot S5 IS Canon Powershot S5 IS Flash options
As mentioned previously, the flash has to be flipped up manually and the flash button only flips between Flash Auto and On. Red-eye is changed in the Menu and Flash off is chosen by pushing the flash back down. Simple really and the flash functions can be extended by adding a separate flash gun onto the hotshoe that the S5 has fitted.

The built in flash range is 50cm-5.2m at wide angle and 90cm-4m at telephoto which is a very good range. It works better that the flash is pop up as this moves it further away from the lens and reduces red-eye automatically.

Canon Powershot S5 IS Performance
The Canon Powershot S5 IS has a capability of 1.5fps and it barely made this just managing 15 shots in the 10 second test. That doesn't include download time and, interestingly, the camera has a constant download with each image and not downloading onto a buffer so the continuous shooting can last for as long as your card has room.

The colourchart image gives a boost to primaries and a nicely balanced skin tone. The lock image has given an overexposed image which is down to the metering taking a reading from the focus area which was the canal but it does give the advantage of seeing the fringing which is also evident but minimal.

The images of the wrecked cars display the difference between the normal colour result and the Vivid colour which can be accessed on the function button. The Vivid colour certainly saturates the image, but not to a sickly degree which can sometimes happen. The greens of the foliage have boosted a lot but, interestingly, the pale blue of what is left of the car has gone even paler.

The dragonfly was a great model, sitting nice and still letting me get close in. The colour rendition has not been tampered with but the image has been cropped to get a nicer composition. I used the selective focus for the eyes and the focal plane has also brought great detail out in the wings.

Canon Powershot S5 IS
The colourchart gives good results which are rich but not too saturated.

Canon Powershot S5 IS
The supermacro image gets in really close. The watch was touching the glass of the lens.

Canon Powershot S5 IS
The Macro shot gives sharp detail of the wings and the facets of the eyes can even be seen.

Canon Powershot S5 IS
The detail of the dragonfly shot can be seen here.

Canon Powershot S5 IS
This image was taken with the natural colour setting and has given balanced realistic colours.

Canon Powershot S5 IS
On this image, the vivid colour setting was switched on. the green has boosted, but the pale blue has paled more.

Canon Powershot S5 IS
The portrait mode has sharpened the image and a slight yellow cast indicates warming of the image.

Canon Powershot S5 IS
Program mode gives an all round even image as to be expected. the image is the softest of the three.

Canon Powershot S5 IS
The Light skin tone feature in Functions has darkened the skin slightly to cope with pale skin.

To compensate for the ground, the Canon has overexposed the sky. Aberration can be seen on the building with purple fringing down the left and green on the right.

Canon Powershot S5 IS Noise test
The ISO80 image gives great detail and colour but does show a little fringing on the border of the black square. ISO100 also proves a good result but looking at the image full size, a very slim amount of noise is starting to sharpen. Purple distortion is starting to show on ISO200 which may be down to the smaller sensor, but this also allows such great macro shots. ISO400 is where the fun starts as noise is definitely noticeable on the mid tones as well as the low key areas. The edges of the squares are also starting to distort whilst ISO800 simply amplifies the process even more. On a small image, the noise doesn't look too bad on ISO1600, but enlarging the image to actual size shows the destruction. Blue and purple pixels decay the colours and dark red pixels scatter over the petals.

Canon Powershot S5 IS
The ISO80 test.

The ISO100 test
The ISO100 test.

The ISO200 test
The ISO200 test.

The ISO400 test
The ISO400 test.

The ISO800 test
The ISO800 test.

The ISO1600 test
The ISO1600 test.

Canon Powershot S5 IS Verdict
I really like this camera. The results that I got are very good which I have to admit is not just my amazing talent. I am a little undecided on Canon's decision to make the video mode so high profile as this is specifically a still imaging machine and even with the upgrade to the video clip limit, it is not designed for video. I'm still not a great believer in a high performance cameras taking AA batteries, but there are many batteries about that have high capacity these days, so cannot really deride the camera because of it.

The Canon Powershot S5 IS is a very capable camera and can give great images time after time. There are some inclusions of systems which seem to be a little patronising in the way that they take over the controls like the Safety FE.

If you are a small business or a semi-pro looking for a back-up camera, never mind the enthusiast for whom this is a great choice, then you wouldn't go wrong by taking a look at this one.

Canon Powershot S5 IS Plus points
USM lens
Image stabiliser
Point blank super macro
Flip out screen
Responsive focus
Continuous shooting really is continuous

Canon Powershot S5 IS Minus points
Zoom is a little too fast
Buttons are not very responsive
Too many overriding safety features for a camera of this calibre





The Canon Powershot S5 IS costs around £349 and is available from the ePHOTOzine shop here.


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ronss 12 1.2k Canada
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Should Magezine be Magazine?

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hi ronss,
The group name is Magezine publishing.

Because we specialise in ezines, hence ePHOTOzine.

Thanks for your enquiry, though.


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