Canon PowerShot S5 IS

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Canon PowerShot S5 IS
  • Canon PowerShot S5 IS
  • Canon PowerShot S5 IS
  • Canon PowerShot S5 IS

Pros

  • 12x zoom, Sharp pictures, Great colour response, Lots of features

Cons

  • Chromatic aberration issues, Slow burst mode

Bottom Line

Another strong ultra-zoom digital camera from Canon, the PowerShot S5 IS is no longer the dominating choice in this market as its predecessor was, but it still offers a good overall package if you can look past some minor flaws.

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We've seen an influx of new ultra zoom digital cameras hitting our offices recently. Their big zoom lenses combine with robust feature sets and solid designs to create attractive devices for more experienced photographers. Our favourite in the previous generation of ultra-zoom models was Canon's PowerShot S3 IS and now they have come to market with a successor, the PowerShot S5 IS, which we were eagerly anticipating. The S5 IS is another strong unit, although not as impressive as its predecessor. The pictures suffer from noticeable haloing problems, which are more of an issue in light of increased competition in this category from companies like Olympus and Sony.

We ran our standard array of Imatest results in this unit, as well as taking some more subjective test shots to check for any problems. In our sharpness test, the S5 IS performed quite well, scoring 1536. This is slightly behind some other unit's we've looked at recently, but well within expectations and our shots offered smooth edges and good resolution. In some places, we found the edges a little too sharp, but depending on how you like your pictures, this may not be a noticeable problem.

What was an issue however, was the unit's extremely prominent chromatic aberration. It received a score of 0.202% in this area, which is quite poor compared to competing models. The result of this was evident in our pictures in the form of strong haloing in areas of high contrast and a lack of detail towards the corners of our shots. High chromatic aberration is typically forgivable on a compact camera, as it is unlikely that sizeable enlargements of the pictures will be made, however the target market of ultra-zooms are typically much more experienced and will likely feel the impact a lot more.

Fortunately, Canon has once again replicated the excellent colour reproduction of previous units on the S5 IS, which achieved a colour score of 6.13. Any result below 7 is brilliant and Canon typically don't disappoint in this area. Most of the primary colours were well represented, although they were a touch pale in some situations.

In our noise test, the S5 IS' performance was on par with it predecessor, with the device achieving a score of 0.86%. This is a little higher than normal, but any score below about 1.0% indicates noise that won't degrade the quality of your shot. When zoomed in fully the pictures had a slightly grainy look that did impact upon detail a little, but it won't be an issue at any normal print size. The noise scaled as we anticipated, and we'd say everything up to about ISO 400 is usable. This time around Canon has upped the sensitivities on offer, with ISO 1600 being the new maximum (the PowerShot S3 IS only had ISO 800), but we wouldn't recommend using it.

Aside from the increased sensitivities, the feature set is pretty similar to the PowerShot S3 IS. White balance can be tweaked using the presets or custom mode and shutter, aperture and program priority mode are on hand, as well as full manual mode. There are the usual combination of focus and metering modes as well as 12 scene modes and a bracketing option. One thing that was a disappointment on the previous model was the burst mode, and unfortunately that issue is still prevalent here; the S5 IS only operating at just over two frames per second. In a market where many cameras can snap off three frames per second or better, this really isn't up to standard.

The unit's 12x optical zoom is impressive, although the latest ultra-zooms we've had through the office have sported 15x and even 18x in one case. That said, unless you're regularly using a tripod and taking extremely long range shots, the difference should be negligible. As usual, Canon has packed in their optical image stabilisation; a virtual necessity with any large zoom cameras, it helps eliminate blurring from hand shake which is much more pronounced the closer you zoom in.

We ran our speed tests on the S5 IS as well, and it performed nicely. It took about 1.7 seconds from power up until first shot, which is fairly fast for an ultra-zoom (the large lens has to extend, which typically takes a little while). Meanwhile, there was a gap of about 1.5 seconds between shots in single shot mode. The shutter speed of about .07 seconds rounds out a nice, speedy package.

Canon has once again done an excellent job in design. It isn't as impressively constructed as Olympus' SP-550UZ as the shell is mostly plastic, but its very solid and has a nice weight to it that helps it sit comfortably in the hand. The controls are in a standard function wheel and directional pad formation and will be familiar to anyone who has used a digital camera in the past. As with its predecessor, the S5 IS sports a rotating screen that can be flipped outwards and angled up and down to take pictures at awkward angles. This is a nifty feature, although many people won't make much use of it.

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