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Old Aug 14, 2005, 8:37 PM   #11
Join Date: Jul 2005
Posts: 53

I attended a birthday party for my 6 year old nephew yesterday. It was a nice outdoor affair that included a slew of kids, their parents, about 20 relatives, and a pro clown.There were a number of cameras and digital movie cams pressed into use, and it was interesting to compare them to the S2 as the day passed. One of the relatives brought his digital Canon EOS packed with the standard 50mm lens, and a huge, white, 70-200mm zoom. Aside from having lots of people milling about, the back yard is nicely landscaped with flowering plants and a few small fountains. It was a great opportunity to use many of the features of the S2 as the day went on.

I just finished printing some stills for people who asked for them, and burning several DVD's of the nearly three gigabytes of images and movies I took at the party for my collection, and to send to the parents for their album. I used the basic S2 with the conversion lens adaptor and a UV/haze filter mounted, and nothing else. It was 97 degrees outside, with lots of haze, and all shots were taken at ISO 50. Here are my conclusions from the day's shooting...

First, carrying the S2 around all day is not a burden. It is small compared to an SLR, and it is very light compared to anything with such a wide and long lens, so it is always there when a photo opportunity came up. The people with the SLR cameras needed more than fast focus speed to capture a shot, as they had to find their camera first. I got the shot time after time. To be fair, as afternoon turned into evening, and the haze still hung in the air, I noticed that at max telephoto , the S2 didn't always snap to focus on subjects that didn't offer a high contrast target. Mind you, it wasn't a constant problem, but under those conditions, it popped up often enough to be noticable.

On the plus side, every picture taken was properly exposed, and offers outstanding color and contrast. Most of the outdoor still shots were taken in Program mode. I mentioned the landscaping and flowers in the party yard. I noticed that the flowers attracted a number of Butterflies, and I spent some time photographing them handheld with the various close up modes offered by the S2. I recorded pics of several Butterflies, including a yellow Swallowtail, and several orange colored individuals that look like Monarchs (but different), and the results I viewed today were astounding.

There were several times that I was waiting for a target to open it's wings before I shot, and the result was always right on the money. A mechanical SLR might well be faster, but the S2 performed as I asked it to. The key seems to be using the continuous focus feature, and keeping the shutter button pressed half way. DIGIC II is a huge improvement over earlier systems, and even if the sensor loses focus speed under some lighting conditions, it is as fast as lightning under others, including when you are following action with the shuter pressed halfway.

Back to the party.... I took about 18 minutes of high quality video in several clips running from a max of 6 minutes, to the shortest one at 40 seconds. The quality is amazing. I shot movies of events that were covered from a less advantageous angle by people with camcorders, and the S2 provided movies that offered better color, sharper images, and far better sound than the camcorders could deliver. The auto focus, optical zoom, and image stabilization made the output of the DV camcorders that were only a few years old seem outdated. The only advantage offered by the dedicated camcorders is that they can make much longer uninterrupted movies. Eight minutes of recording time covers most movie situations though, and with a two gig memory card, you only lose about 3 seconds while the buffer flushes before you can record another eight minutes.

One feature that should get more press is the ability to take stills while recording a movie. The auto focus and IS features are working all the time while a movie is being shot, so there is no delay when you decide to snap a still pic while the movie is rolling. Every shot I captured while recording video was a full 5 MP image, sharp as a tack, and had no discernable delay between pressing the button, and recording the image. Still shots I captured while shooting a movie came out exactly as I hoped they would. During playback of the movie, there is a one second period where the movie goes black, and the audio track burps out a realistic shutter sound when a still has been snapped, but it isn't offensive in real life, and can be edited out if you please.

Kodak has announced the 850 (I think that's it), and it seems to match the S2 in many areas, but after reading the promo at the Kodak site, I think Canon still offers some functional details that make the S2 a better buy. As fast as things are moving in the digital camera world though, nothing is cast in concrete for more than a Month or two. If Canon expects to maintain it's edge in the future, I can't wait to see what the S3 will offer.

One last note. I filled three 1 gig SD cards, and the supplied 32 meg card from Canon with pics and movies (including some indoor flash pics), and never had to change my batteries, even though I carry eight extra NiMH batteries in my camera bag. Granted, the bulk of my storage was used up making movies, but it is nice to know that one set of batteries will last through a hectic day. It's one less distraction to deal with when taking pictures is your goal.

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