Canon PowerShot S5 IS

      Photo Review 8.5

      In summary

      Lens-shift stabilisation and plenty of adjustable controls make this 12x zoom digicam attractive to travellers.In its PowerShot S5 IS, Canon has made some worthwhile improvements on its predecessor, the S3 IS, although the basic concept of the camera and many features and functions are unchanged. The new model has higher resolution (8 megapixels vs 6 megapixels) and a larger, vari-angle LCD. Its updated DiG!C III processor supports Face Detection AF and AE, in-camera redeye removal, Auto ISO shift and an extension of the sensitivity range to ISO 1600 (equivalent). . . [more]

      Full review


      In its PowerShot S5 IS, Canon has made some worthwhile improvements on its predecessor, the S3 IS, although the basic concept of the camera and many features and functions are unchanged. The new model has higher resolution (8 megapixels vs 6 megapixels) and a larger, vari-angle LCD. Its updated DiG!C III processor supports Face Detection AF and AE, in-camera redeye removal, Auto ISO shift and an extension of the sensitivity range to ISO 1600 (equivalent).

      Features common to the S5 IS and its predecessor include the 12x optical zoom lens and lens-shift Optical Image Stabiliser (IS) technology as well as the digital zoom magnification ratio. The sensor sizes in both cameras are also the same, which means the photosites in the new model are slightly smaller. This presents a challenge for the image processor at high ISO settings. Interestingly, the shutter speed range is also identical for both cameras. The supplied lens cap is also unchanged and is still too easy to dislodge accidentally.


      The S5 IS is slightly larger and 40 grams heavier than its predecessor and looks more ‘SLR-like’, thanks to the addition of a flash hot-shoe on the top panel. The plastic tripod socket is now metal lined but, unfortunately, the separate memory card compartment has been dispensed with and the card slot is now located in the battery compartment, which is awkward to open and close. There’s no latch to prevent the batteries from falling out when swapping memory cards.


      Aside from a few minor cosmetic changes, most of the controls on the new model are in familiar places and the new model has the same separate buttons for Function, Menu, ISO, manual focus and close-up shooting as its predecessor. It also sports the same large, quick-access Movie button, which is located on the rear panel, just below the mode dial, within easy access of the photographer’s thumb.


      The larger LCD makes the S5 IS more enjoyable to use and improves viewing facilities for both shooting and playback. The quality of the display is very good and its resolution and colour accuracy are well above average ““ even in bright outdoor lighting. The EVF provides a sharp view of the subject but colours are muted and contrast is relatively high. Streaking and flare are common with backlit subjects ““ although flare was less obvious in actual test shots than we expected from the viewfinder display.

      Battery capacity is higher with alkaline cells in the new model at approximately 170 shots, compared with 110 shots for the S3 IS. But it’s lower for NiMH rechargeables with approximately 450 shots/charge, compared with 550 shots. In both cases capacities relate to having the LCD monitor on.

      The Face Detection AF/AE function places a green frame over detected faces when the shutter button is half-pressed. If the camera is finding focusing difficult, the frame colour is yellow. The system can identify up to nine faces in a scene, although only three AF frames are displayed initially. If no face is detected, the frames are grey, with the main AF frame outlined in white. When Flexizone AF is selected in the Menu, photographers can move the main AF frame around using the arrow pad buttons to ensure a selected area in the shot is sharp. Manual focus control is also provided.


      The Function menu is similar to most current Canon digicams.


      Photographers can overlay a grid screen, histogram and camera settings on the LCD as shooting aids. The AF frame in the centre of the screen can be moved by pressing the arrow pad buttons.

      Larger image files make the S5 IS slower in burst mode than its predecessor but both cameras can shoot continuously until the memory card is full. Canon has also dropped the 15 fps movie option in the new model and no longer offers QQVGA movie resolution. However, Canon has extended the length of movie files from 1GB to 4GB and the S5 IS is compatible with the new SDHC memory cards.

      Like its predecessor models, the S5 IS can only record images as JPEG files. Unfortunately, compression ratios are relatively high, as can be seen in the table below.


      Super Fine



      3264 x 2448 (L)




      2592 x 1944 (M1)




      2048 x 1536 (M2)




      1600 x 1200 (M3)




      640 x 480 (S)




      3264 x 1832 (W)




      Video clips shot with the S5 IS at VGA resolution and 30 fps are among the best we’ve seen and the stereo sound recording adds impact to the clips. Best performance is with stationary and relatively slow-moving subjects because the Motion JPEG compression system cannot keep pace with rapid motion and produces macro block artefacts. Video files are also rather large, as shown in the table below.


      Frame Rate

      File Size

      640 x 480 pixels (VGA)

      30 fps

      2.006 MB/sec

      640 x 480 pixels (VGA)

      30 fps (LP)

      1.046 MB/sec

      320 x 240 pixels (QVGA)

      60 fps

      1.406 MB/sec

      320 x 240 pixels (QVGA)

      30 fps

      0.746 MB/sec

      Playback facilities include the standard viewing of stills and movie clips (which are played with sound). You can also protect images, mark them for transfer or direct printing, rotate shots, view thumbnail indexes and add one of three transition effects to slideshows. You can also magnify still photos by up to10x and use the arrow pad to select which part of the displayed image will be enlarged.


      Playback options include a histogram and shooting data display.

      For stills playback, the S5 IS can display the same shooting data as it does in shooting mode. A thumbnail image is provided, along with a brightness histogram, full exposure information and file size. Photographers can also sort shots into several “Categories” and the camera provides four pre-sets (People, Scenery, Events and To-do) and three Custom Categories ““ but there’s no way of naming the latter. At the Category level you can perform the following actions on all files in each folder: image searches, protect images, configure print settings, slideshow playback and erase.

      Movie playback functions include slow motion viewing and a trimming function that works in one-second increments. The sound recorder lets you record up to two hours of stereo sound separately, and benefits from the same selectable microphone levels, wind filter and sampling rates as the movie mode. My Colours processing can be applied to both stills and video clips post-capture.

      Pictures taken with the test camera were generally well exposed with good colours and slightly elevated contrast and saturation. We noticed some colour shifts in blues and purples, which were confirmed by Imatest evaluation. Imatest also showed the sensor/lens combination produced resolutions that were slightly below expectations.

      This weakness increased progressively from about ISO 200 upwards to the point where ISO 1600 images were visibly poor.

      Many of our close-up shots had saturation levels that bordered on lurid, even with the My Colours setting switched off. When set to Vivid, both contrast and saturation were quite strongly boosted, whereas the Neutral setting produced an almost desaturated, low-contrast result that looked rather soft. Digital zoom shots also lacked the punch of the optical zoom shots and showed some processing artefacts.

      Imatest showed lateral chromatic aberration to be between low and moderate and we found noticeable coloured fringing in many outdoor shots. Some vignetting was also observed at the widest angle of view, particularly with the lens stopped down. Slight Barrel distortion was also found at the wide lens setting, although no other rectilinear distortion was detected.



      Coloured fringing (image enlarged to 200%).

      Flash performance was good across all ISO settings, although the position of the built-in flash made the S5 IS prone to red-eye. The in-camera correction facility solves the majority of problems in Playback mode.

      On average, the test camera took just over 1.4 seconds to power-up and extend its lens and shot-to-shot times without flash averaged 1.5 seconds. With flash, average shot-to-shot times were around three seconds with a fully-charged set of NiMH batteries. We measured an average capture lag of 0.5 seconds, which reduced to less than 0.1 seconds with pre-focusing. In continuous shooting mode, the camera recorded shots at 0.6 second intervals, slowing slightly after 22 high-resolution JPEGs. When the continuous AF mode was selected, shot-to-shot intervals expanded to just over one second.

      It’s a pity Canon didn’t provide raw file capture as an option in the S5 IS because this camera offers most of the controls and functions that keen photographers require. It is also compatible with a wide range of accessories, including add-on flash units and conversion lenses. Movie recording is excellent ““ provided you have a fast, high-capacity memory card.

      Although not outstanding, image quality from the test camera was on a par with, if not slightly ahead of most competing long-zoom cameras but we feel a better sensor size/resolution ratio (i.e. a larger sensor for the same resolution) would put this camera in the lead. We would also like to see a better ““designed battery compartment (especially the lid) and a return to the separate card slot of earlier models.








      Resolution declined at high ISO settings.




      Auto white balance with incandescent light.



      Auto white balance with fluorescent light.



      ISO 80


      ISO 400


      ISO 1600






      Close-up with the zoom lens.



      Digital zoom.


      A 15-second exposure at ISO 100.




      Image sensor: 5.76 x 4.29mm CCD with 8.3 million photosites (8.0 megapixels effective)
      Lens: 6.0-72.0mm f/2.7-3.5 zoom (36-432mm in 35mm format)
      Zoom ratio: 12x optical, up to 4x digital
      Image formats: Stills ““ JPEG (Exif 2.2); Movies ““ Motion JPEG/WAV (stereo, 16 bits)
      Image Sizes: Stills – 3264 x 2448, 3264 x 1832 (widescreen), 2592 x 1944, 2048 x 1536, 1600 x 1200, 640 x 480; Movies – VGA at 30 fps (SP and LP); QVGA at 60/30 fps
      Shutter speed range: 15 – 1/3200 sec.
      Image Stabilisation: Optical (lens shift type)
      Exposure Compensation:. +/- 2 stops in 1/3-stop increments
      Focus system/range: TTL Autofocus (manual, Face Detect, Flexizone AF available); range 50 cm to infinity; macro 10-50 cm
      Exposure metering/control: Evaluative, centre-weighted and spot metering; Auto, P, Tv, Av, M, C,(Super Macro), Portrait, Landscape, Night Snapshot, Sports, Special Scene (9 pre-sets), Stitch Assist, Movie modes
      ISO range: Auto, ISO 80, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600
      White balance: Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Tungsten, Fluorescent (X2), Flash, Custom
      Flash modes/range (ISO auto): Auto, On, Off, Slow-synchro and 2nd curtain ,Red-eye reduction, safety FE is available; range 0.5-5.2 metres
      Sequence shooting: Approx 1.5 shots/sec
      Storage Media: SD/SDHC/MMC card slot (32MB SD card supplied)
      Viewfinder: Electronic Colour LCD viewfinder; dioptric adjustment -5.5 to +1.5 m-1
      LCD monitor: Vari-angle 2.5-inch Low-temperature polycrystalline silicon TFT colour LCD with approx. 207,000 pixels
      Power supply: 4x AA batteries (alkaline or rechargeable NiMH)
      Dimensions (wxhxd): 117 x 77.7 x 80 mm
      Weight: Approx. 450 g (camera body only)





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