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Old Jul 13, 2005, 12:33 AM   #1
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I bought a Canon Powershot S2 IS today after several days of reading reviews and user feedback on the net. I love it. Here's some background on why I picked the camera, and how the first evening of shooting has gone.

Background: I've been using cameras for more than 30 years. I've had an Olympus OM-1, a Nikon FM-3HP, a Pentax point & shoot, and an early Canon digital camera (Powershot A50, which has a little more than 1 megapixel resolution). I was looking for a dSLR and had decided to go for the Nikon D70s … but I just couldn't justify the price, especially with the speed at which new cameras are being released. I decided to settle for a smaller and cheaper camera, figuring it would be infinitely better than my 4+ year old A50, and that I would be much more likely to carry it around. I was seriously thinking about the Casio EX-Z750, which has gotten some rave reviews. Then I checked the forums and found a lot of owners have been having lens problems, so I nixed that. Once I discovered I could get both a nice megapixel still camera AND a pseudo-video camera, I narrowed it down to the Canon Powershot S2 IS, the Sony Cybershot DSC-H1 and the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ5. The Sony and Canon got the best reviews and the Panasonic video capture seemed a little out of date. Sony has better images posted online, but I loved the video options with the Canon and didn't think it seemed that different. So that's how I wound up buying the Canon today.

Right out of the box it was a breeze to use; of course, it doesn't hurt that my other digital is a Canon so some of the buttons/menu options are similar. Still, it is a very intuitive camera to use. I'm both a manual reader and a just-pick-it-up-and-use-it sort of person, and both worked well. The camera comes with a 1-inch thick packet of manuals (although half are in Spanish), so it's pretty thoroughly documented, and you don't read PDF files. However, you can download the manuals from the net if you're so inclined.

Just a few thoughts:

I am an average size woman with relatively large hands. The camera feels quite comfy, maybe a tad small, but still easy to use. The grip is nicely textured.

I've seen some folks talking about the flash and worrying that it isn't automatic. I actually am quite pleased with that. If I want it, I put it up (it flips quite easily). If I don't, I leave it down. This means I don't have to make menu choices or hit other buttons to determine whether or not it works, and it makes it easier not to accidentally use the flash in a museum. My older digital camera required me to hit a button to use the flash, so I don't see this as being a whole lot different. However, I have the added benefit of being able to choose automatic and redeye in the menus and have those choices stick no matter how many times I put the flash up or put it back down. For those who need more help, the camera gives you a warning when it thinks a flash is needed, but it's up to you to decide what to do. I like that a lot.

The swivel LCD is awesome. It's the first one I've had and it made taking a self-portrait fabulously easy. It's bright enough, although outdoors tonight I used the viewfinder instead. You can use one or the other. If you have the LCD turned on or popped out, it's what works. Once you close it, the viewfinder works. I'm not sure you can manually switch between the two.

You can actually preview photos without really having to switch out of shooting mode. You can go from shooting to preview while keeping the lens out and then go right back to shooting with just a quick flick of a switch and no down time. Or you can go into preview mode completely and have the lens shut. It's nice to have the choice. Even the menu screens show up in the viewfinder if you have the LCD closed, although they seem much too close for me to comfortably read. I'd much rather deal with menus on the LCD.

There are two different menu buttons (one is labeled function) and it's a little hard to determine which is the appropriate one to use. I figure after 2 days I'll have this down, but am not sure why Canon didn't just put everything on the menu. The function button is mostly for changing shooting settings (such as ISO) rather than camera features (such as date and time).

You can fine-tune the audio levels. Since it's nice to hear audio play back when watching recorded videos, but it stinks to have audio beeping every time you turn the camera on or take a photo, you can actually manage the audio quite nicely. Just turn the audio on, then go to the volume settings and turn down all the annoying noises, while keeping playback up to full volume (or whatever level you prefer). Very nice.

The camera only comes in silver, but the adapter/lens hood only comes in black. And the latter doesn't come with a lens cap even though it increases the diameter of the lens up to 58mm. I bought the adapter/hood, a UV filter and a separate "real" lens cap. I haven't tried them yet. The pop-up lens cap that comes with the camera is fine. In fact, I think Canon designed it the way they did because if you accidentally turn on the camera (the switch goes left to take photos, right to preview photos and I'm still not used to it), the lens extends and this cap just pops off, keeping the lens from being restricted or harmed in any way. It works just fine.

According to Canon there is currently no underwater housing for this camera. There is one for the S1 IS, so I suspect one is in the works. The Canon C/S rep said to keep an eye on the French and UK Canon websites because items are released in Europe first.

Software: This was the most frustrating part. I've got a Powerbook G4 running Mac OS X Tiger and this isn't yet supported by Canon. The software installation took 7+ minutes and didn't give me the size of the files being installed (it's an old installer, not the OSX friendlier ones). Then the software and manuals diverged, and I actually couldn't get it to work. The described preferences don't exist, and the software won't recognize the camera. Not that this really matters, because iPhoto immediately recognized the camera and asked if I wanted to download the photos. All I think I'm missing by using iPhoto is the extra text data on camera settings used for each shot. Which, of course, I would prefer to have. Canon is working on an update for Tiger, so if you want to use their software, you'll have to wait a bit.

I took the camera outdoors at 11PM to shoot the Manhattan skyline. I used the P (Program Auto Exposure) setting, but manually changed the ISO. I took a few photos, all at different ISO speeds, and all relatively handheld (I leaned on a fence). I must say I am stunned. The photo I'm posting was taken at ISO 200 at f/3.2 with an exposure time of 1 second. I used the Medium 1 (2048 x 1536) SuperFine setting with IS turned on. The original is 9MB, so I've resized for posting. The sky looks darker and crisper in the ISO 100 photo I took, but I wanted you to see how nice the ISO 200 shot looks. The Brooklyn Bridge is at the far right strung in blue lights. South Street Seaport is to the left of the bridge, near the water, edged in white lights. Just to the left are the tall ships (one outlined with 4 bluish lights), which you can actually see if you look at the shot at 100%. It would have been difficult for me to see those ships in the darkness across the East River. This is my first night with the camera and this was more or less a quick snapshot. Imagine what this camera can produce with a little more experience and effort!
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Old Jul 13, 2005, 12:09 PM   #2
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Between the Sony and Canon you made the right choice, from what I've read here and on other review sites, the DSC-H1's purple fringing is pretty bad, one of the worst for cameras in this class. It's a nice camera, too bad Sony chose a poor quality lens.
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Old Jul 14, 2005, 12:38 AM   #3
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Just an update on the software issues with a Mac using OS X Tiger ... it isn't really a problem.

After a few emails back and forth to Canon, I hunted down the Apple-supplied software called Image Capture, and set the Preferences to Open Canon's Image Browser application.

Now when I connect the camera, Canon's program opens automatically. I just downloaded a number of images, and all the shot data was attached. Very nice.

Since the camera isn't mounted on the desktop, I've chosen to exit the program before disconnecting the camera from the USB port. I'm not sure whether or not this is necessary, but I thought it would be safer.

By the way, you do not need to turn on the camera to initiate the transfer. Once you hook it up, it turns itself on. However, you need to either press a button on the camera, or click a button on the computer, if you haven't set the software to automatically download images upon connection. When you're done, the camera does not turn off. You need to do that yourself.

One more thing, Canon tech help is great. They answer the phone (I called before purchasing to ask a few questions) and they are very prompt at answering email questions. That earns the company big points in my book!
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Old Jul 14, 2005, 4:20 AM   #4
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Thanks for posting your review Gothamgal

It is very interesting fora possible buyer of the S2, so thanks for writing it.

One quick quesion though . ..

You said

'I used the Medium 1 (2048 x 1536) SuperFine setting with IS turned on. The original is 9MB'

I am just a little confused by the size of that, I know it was a detailed shot, but is a 3-megapixel Jpeg shot at 9mb possible? The biggest ever 5mp shot with my HP is 4mb.

Thanks again for your feelings on the camera!

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Old Jul 15, 2005, 12:41 AM   #5
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You're correct. Don't know what I was looking at?? The file I just checked claims to be only 1.8mb. I was probably looking at the wrong thing in Photoshop (and it was very late at night when I posted).

BTW, I used the Extreme III 1gb card last night and so far, so good (knock wood).

I'm glad you found the review helpful. We'll see how things work out on my upcoming vacation.
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Old Jul 15, 2005, 8:24 AM   #6
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This is not to switch flame bait: FZ5 is more directly comparable to S2IS, owing to the size.

But the poin is that Lumix FZ30, at about the same price as S2IS, even if a bigger cam, is going to blast Canon away...
which will probably have a similar model only late in 2006 !

I am the first to admit that Canon Colors and WB are better than FZ10-20 (I have a Canon A series which makes more pleasant pics, as far as colors in vivid mode than FZ20), but now you have a bunch of possibilities with FZ30 (don't forget the Flash Hot shoe too). And resolution in FZ20/5 is still better than S2IS at 5Mp.

IF I did not have FZ20 I d have many doubts between FZ5 and S2IS, but no doubt between S2IS and FZ30 !!!
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Old Jul 15, 2005, 8:49 AM   #7
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I agree. The FZ30 looks A LOT better on paper. BUT, here in SA the FZ20 still costs more than the S2. There's no way someone shopping for an S2 will compareit to the FZ30 (which will probably carry aneven moreexpensive price tag)

The FZ30 looks to compete more with the Nikon coolpix 8800 (both being 12x 8MP), which costs almost twice as much as a S2 over here.
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Old Jul 16, 2005, 11:36 AM   #8
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I agree, well spoken, I purchased the new S2 IS camera about a month ago, ordered the teleconverter lens and right out of the box, takes great photos, even with the teleconverter lens and zoom fully extended, takes great and sharp detail photos, just added some rechargable batteries and large SD/MMC card, 512 meg, gives you about 200 photos, seem like enough for one outing, like this camera very well, pleased with purchase, even talked to scopetronix. com --about an attachment for digiscoping, want to take photos of long shots, hawks, raptors, etc, as well as planets, night sky shots, should work well for this, also.
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Old Jul 26, 2005, 11:41 AM   #9
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Ok, pardon the ignorance here...just got my S2 and love it so far. Course the lens cap sucks. I'm looking for a replacement, but in the mean time adding a filter sounds like a good alternative to protect the lens. However, do I have to get an adapter to use a filter? Can't I simply unscrew the outside ring of the S2 lensand screw on the filter? I don't want to add any size to the camera and I don't want to have the hassle of putting it on and off.

Thanks guys!


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Old Jul 26, 2005, 11:01 PM   #10
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I agree with Gothamgal on the lens cap. It comes with a lanyard, so you can't lose it, yet if you turn on the camera before removing it, it pops right off. I think it works just fine. The same with the flash. I can leave my favorite flash setting in the camera, and still determine if I wish to fire the flash or not in the present situation with a flick of the finger. I consider it an upgrage from the S1.

As for filters, the lens/filter adapter is dirt cheap, and if you only use it to mount filters, it does not add much at all to the size of the camera. The bonus for using it is pretty good though. You get to use 58mm filters, which cover the lens very well, can keep a UV filter installed at all times to protect the camera glass from dirt and scratches, and get a very useful lens hood as part of the bargain. The lens hood will interfere with the flash to a degree, but that can't be helped, and isn't a concern in situations where it is needed.

So far, I bought the tele converter, and the 58mm close up lens. The wide angle converter is next on the list. The tele converter is simply incredible. Having over 600mm of sharp, contrasty zoom on tap is a treat. Having the best (in my observation) IS system in the light path of that lens is a revelation. Coming from a 40 year SLR background, I still get tickled by how I can reach out with the S2 even in questionable lighting conditions, and come home with sharp, quality images.

For the sake of speed and comfort, I would suggest that you buy a new converter adaptor/hood kit each for the basic camera, the tele converter lens, and the wide angle converter. That way, you can have your normal filter stack and lens hood set up for the basic camera lens, and have an adaptor attached and ready to go on your tele and wide converters. Then, it is a simple push of a button, and slight twist to switch between them, rather than working with fine threads each time you wish to change things. In that configuration, the S2 is as quick as an SLR when changing lenses. You end up with extra lens hoods that don't work with the converter lenses, but they will come in handy some day in the future.

One last note on the available converter lenses. The tele converter is not threaded to accept filters at all. I suspect the wide angle converter is built the same way. The 58mm closeup lens is threaded. I think Canon screwed up on that call, as the tele converter is a fine chunk of glass, and it makes sense to think that people would choose to protect it with a UV filter, and maybe use a polorizer as well. The same thought applies to the wide angle converter if it is not threaded.

All is not lost though, as there is at least one cheap solution that works well. I brought the tele converter to the local hardware store, and found a roll of masking tape that had a paperboard core that slipped snugly over the OD of the tele converter lens. After stripping off all of the blue masking tape, I painted the core with flat black spray paint. Then, I used black silicone RTV to glue the business end of a Hoya 72mm UV filter to one end of the painted core. Now, I have a secure fitting UV filter to protect the tele converter (it looks like a commercial product), and I can screw any other 72 mm filter or hood to the front of the UV glass. It's cheap, ad it works like a charm. Try after you recover from laughing at the concept .

Others have detailed the camera's feature set and overall quality, so I won't duplicate their work, but I will say that I have had the opprtunity to use competing brands in the same class since I bought my S2, and I think that Canon wins in overall balance of features, quality, and performance. Mind you, the competition is tough in the class, and you won't be disappointed no matter which camera you buy, but if I had to do it all over again, I'd still buy the S2. The movie mode is awesome. I bought two 1 gig Extreme III cards for the camera, and having the ability to shoot nearly 18 minutes of high quality stereo video with only one 15 second commercial is impressive. Even more impressive is having full use of zoom, IS, and less compression than other cameras in the class offer.

For my wish list, even though the "high power" accessory flash unit does a fine job in extending the flash range of the S2, I hope the S3 comes with a hotshoe, or at least a hotshoe bracket with a cable connection to the body that allows the use of the latest Canon Speedlight flash units. If the S2 were able to use the current crop of Speedlights to their full capacity right now, it would be perfect prosumer camera. As it stands, I think it is the best prosumer camera available.


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