Canon PowerShot S2 IS
- Big zoom, great optical image stabilisation, strong movie mode; extensive set of photographic features
- You'll need to buy some rechargeable batteries
If you want a carry-around camera capable of handling a wide range of tasks, including good-quality video, the S2IS is well worth a look.
Price$ 799.00 (AUD)
Buy now (Selling at 2 stores)
Big-zoom, image-stabilised cameras are a hot item. While previously we have looked at the Panasonic Lumix FZ5 and the Sony CyberShot H1, this time round it's Canon's latest, the PowerShot S2 IS.
The S2 IS is the successor to the S1 IS which was released in 2004 - a 10x zoom, 3.2 megapixel unit. The S2 upgrades both those main specs, and the camera now has a resolution of 5 megapixels, with a new f2.7-3.5, 12x zoom that's both quite long and wide, with a 35mm-equivalent range of 36-432mm. That's a hefty zoom and, like its competitors, the S2 deals with any camera shake when at full magnification by including image stabilisation (IS), in this case with Canon's tried and tested optical stabilisation technology.
But the S2 isn't content to beef up just a few key features. It has incremental improvements across its feature set. Like most of Canon's new cameras, it uses the DiG!C II processor, which results in a very fast startup time and quick image processing. The ultrasonic motor in the lens improves focusing performance, while the lens itself has a special super-macro mode that will focus from as close as under 1cm for those big-detail shots. The image stabilisation system has been enhanced with two extra modes. Previously, IS was always on. But the new shoot-only mode leaves IS off until you actually press the shutter, which lacks the advantage of having your image preview stabilised but seems to result in a slightly better result. The other new mode, panning, corrects only for vertical shake. Whatever mode you employ, IS works well, letting you use the big zoom at slower shutter speeds or take images indoors at shutter speeds that would certainly blur without IS.
IS can also be used in movie modes and you can even zoom at the same time. Movie modes have been improved, too, with full VGA, 30fps recording supported and stereo sound. Like the S1, the S2 has a separate record button for movies, so you can continue taking still shots while recording a movie, a nifty feature.
While the design of the S2 is broadly similar to the S1, it is slightly larger and heavier. At 405g without batteries, it's a fairly weighty little camera for its size but as a result it feels solid and dependable. It also features an SD card slot instead of CompactFlash and a marginally larger, twist-and-tilt LCD (1.8 inches versus 1.5 inches on the S1). The USB connection is now High Speed USB 2.0.
The S2 IS bumps up the shooting performance, thanks to the DiG!C II processor. You now get continuous shooting at 2.4 frames per second, essentially limited in duration only by available card space; once you start shooting, it will just keep going. Maximum shutter speed is raised to 1/3,200 from 1/2,000, and a bunch of new scene modes have been added, as has an auto-focus illumination lamp to aid focusing in low-light conditions. In general the auto focus on the S2 IS was both fast and accurate; although it did have some difficulty focusing in low light when the zoom was at its maximum.
There are other weak spots. While its ISO range is from 50 to 400, the sensor is fairly noisy at ISO400 - though this is a shortcoming it shares with most of its competition at this price range. And while the camera takes four standard AA-sized batteries, you don't get a set of rechargeables in the box, so you'll have the extra expense of buying rechargeables and a charger.
The S2's image quality is on a par with that of the Sony H1 and Panasonic FZ5; while it's not up to the quality you'll get with a digital SLR you're unlikely to be disappointed. In fact, overall the S2 is very solid product and a more significant upgrade to the range than is first apparent. If you want a carry-around camera capable of handling a wide range of tasks, including good-quality video, it's well worth a look.
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