Canon PowerShot S2-IS
The update to Canon’s PowerShot S1-IS has been a while coming but the new S2-IS model offers some significant improvements over its predecessor; the most obvious being the 5-megapixel CCD sensor and longer 12x optical zoom lens. The zoom lens is slightly faster and covers a wider angle of view than its predecessor. The built-in stabilisation system has been extended with a new ‘Shoot Only’ IS mode that works only during exposures, thereby reducing battery drain. . . [more]
Quality rating (out of 10) Build: 8.5Ease of use: 8.0Image quality: 8.0Value for money: 8.5
The update to Canon’s PowerShot S1-IS has been a while coming but the new S2-IS model offers some significant improvements over its predecessor; the most obvious being the 5-megapixel CCD sensor and longer 12x optical zoom lens. The zoom lens is slightly faster and covers a wider angle of view than its predecessor. The built-in stabilisation system has been extended with a new ‘Shoot Only’ IS mode that works only during exposures, thereby reducing battery drain.
The S2-IS also sports the latest DiG!C II image processor plus Canon’s iSAPS (‘Intelligent Scene Analysis based on Photographic Space’) technology, which improves the performance of the autofocus, auto exposure and auto white balance functions. Other noticeable changes include the swap from CompactFlash to SD memory cards, a slightly larger LCD monitor and marginal increases in body size and weight. Like the S1-IS, the S2-IS has a top-mounted mode dial with 13 shooting modes, including Auto, the standard P, A, S and M settings, a Custom mode for saving frequently-used settings and icons for portrait, landscape, night scene, stitch assist and movie modes.
Replacing the Fast Shutter and Slow Shutter modes are two new settings: Special Scene and My Colours. The former accesses settings for shooting foliage, snow, beach, fireworks, indoor and night snapshot modes, while My Colours replaces and extends the S1-IS’s parameter settings. In this mode you can program the camera to replicate the colours of your favourite positive or negative film, lighten or darken skin tones and emphasise particular hues. You can also set the camera to save both the altered and the original (camera determined) image – an admirable feature.
An AF assist lamp makes autofocusing faster and more accurate in dim lighting and you can use the Set button and four-way arrow pad to select and move the AF frame when shooting off-centre subjects. In manual focusing mode, a selected AF frame can be magnified for focus checking. The manual focus button can also be used to lock focus separately from the shutter button. The S2-IS also boasts a stunning new Super Macro setting that focuses from less than 1cm to 10cm, where the regular macro takes over.
Continuous shooting has also been improved, with the High-Speed setting offering burst speeds of 2.4fps to card capacity with high-speed SD cards. Movie capture has been enhanced with the addition of a stereo microphone and a function to record stereophonic sound, and the camera now records 16-bit audio tracks at 44.1 kHz. You can record up to 1GB of VGA video at 30fps and capture high resolution still shots while recording movie clips. Other improvements include USB 2.0 support, a customisable self-timer (delay time and sound settings), and slightly higher viewfinder resolution.
Performance-wise, the PowerShot S2-IS delivered images with good edge-to-edge sharpness, accurate colours and no apparent coloured fringing. Image saturation and contrast levels were typical of most compact digicams (ie, slightly elevated) but the camera’s performance under flat lighting – especially for close-ups and zoom shots (including digital zoom) – was outstanding. White balance performance was similar to other Canon digicams, with the auto setting failing to subdue colour casts but the manual pre-sets and custom measurement doing a good job overall. Long exposures were colour accurate and well exposed, but noise was visible at ISO 400 and images were slightly soft due to noise-reduction processing. The flash had plenty of power, covering an average sized room at ISO 100 and 400.
Imatest detected lateral chromatic aberration in peripheral areas but it may only be noticeable in enlargements over A4 size. Resolution was slightly below expectations for the lens/sensor combination, especially since the S2-IS uses the latest DiG!C processor.
Response-wise, the S2-IS was no slouch – but certainly not the fastest camera we’ve reviewed. We measured an average capture lag of 0.5 seconds, which reduced to a consistent 0.1 second with pre-focusing. The burst mode recorded shots at 0.45 second intervals in high-speed mode and 0.7 second intervals with the standard setting. Burst lengths were limited by available memory. It took less than two seconds to power-up and shut down the camera.
With so much in its favour, the S2-IS surprised us with a couple of significant omissions. For starters, there’s no external flash hotshoe, a facility many serious users would welcome. And the remote control supplied with the S1-IS is no longer provided. A black body would also have been a nice option. Perhaps next time! 
Image sensor: 5.34 x 4.01mm CCD sensor with 5.3 million photosites (5.0 megapixels effective)
Lens: 6-72mm f2.7-3.5 Canon zoom lens (36-432mm in 35mm format)
Zoom ratio: 12x optical, up to 4x digital
Lens multiplier factor: 6.1x
Dimensions (wxhxd): 113 x 78 x 75.5mm
Weight: 405g (without battery and card)
Image formats: Stills – JPEG (Exif 2.2); Movies – AVI (VGA at 30fps)
Shutter speed range: 15-1/3200 second
Focus system/range: TTL AF with 1-point AF (any position); range 50 cm to infinity; macro 10-50 cm; super macro 0-10 cm
Exposure metering/control: Evaluative, centre-weighted or spot (centre or AF point); Auto, P, A, S, M plus 9 scene modes, My Colors, Stitch Assist and Movie.
White balance: TTL auto plus daylight, cloudy, tungsten, fluorescent (x2), flash and custom (manual)
Flash modes/range (ISO auto): Auto, on (with/without red-eye reduction), off; range 0.7-5.2 m.
ISO range: Auto, ISO 50, 100, 200, 400
Sequence shooting: up to 2.4 fps in Large/Fine mode
Storage Media: 16 MB SD card; holds 5 high-resolution images or up to 127 VGA shots.
Viewfinder: Colour LCD EVF with dioptric adjustment -5.5 to +1.5 m-1
LCD monitor: vari-angle 1.8-inch TFT colour LCD with 100% coverage (115,000 pixels)
Power supply: 4x AA batteries (alkaline or NiMH)
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