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sue6389 Apr 25, 2006 6:32 AM

I just purchased the Canon S2 yesterday, and am leaving in a few days for Sanibel Island for a week. I plan to spend most of my time taking photos of birds, dolphins, etc.
I printed out a few of the suggestions from this forum, and tried them last night, but still seem to get blurry distance shots using auto or P mode. I do have a tripod to use. I couldn't get the manual focus to work at all, and wonder if I misunderstood the directions. I'm helpless as far as understanding/changes the F-stops, etc. If anyone can tell me the "shooting wildlife for dummies" directions, I would sure appreciate it.

Tullio Apr 26, 2006 12:27 AM

Well, I have an S2 and my first suggestion is for you to take it back to the shop and get a Sony H1 instead. If that's not an option, here are some suggestions/recommendations from an S2user who struggled to get good pictures of live animals. Set the camera to P mode (AUTO will limit your ability to change other settings). Set color effect to VIVID (it will help reduce the softness by increasing the contrast) or to Custom with increased sharpness. Turn off AF assist so the camera does not attempt to use it. You will only need it in real dark environments and when you do, you'll find it's useless for the AF hunts for focus and generally it will lock thefocus incorrectly. Set the ISO to either 50 or 100 unless you are in a low light situation out of the flash range. Use a polarizer filter for daylight shooting. Believe it or not,this filter helps the camera AF, specially in macro/super macro modes. TheS2 AF is poor, reason why you've got blurred pictures. This is a known issue that has been pointed out by many reviewers. The polarizer filter works as an imagecleaner, thushelping the camera's AF system. Have the image stabilizer (IS) always ON in "shooting" mode. It's the most efficient.Last but not least, make sure you bring extra batteries for the S2is not battery efficient (at least not when compared to the H1 or the Pana FZ5). Good luck!

sue6389 Apr 26, 2006 6:10 AM

Thank you so much for responding back to me. First thing today I will look into the possibility of getting a sony H1. If that isn't an option before I leave, I will definitely heed your advise (to the letter), and hope to come back with a few salvageable shots. Before getting this camera, I owned a film Minolta Maxxum with a great 70-310 lens, and was able to get very nice pictures. This camera takes so long to zoom in and focus, that the bird or animal is over in the next county. I also own a Canon Digital Rebel EOS 300D, with a Tamron 70-300 lens 4/5.6, but can't afford the "real" quality zoom lens with it that will allow me to take distance shots (It takes wonderful everyday shots of my grandaughter, etc.) I bought the S2 hoping for a small, simple camera with great zoom abilities. I planned to get the 3.2 HD tele lens for it, but now figure it will just magnify my blurriness. It seems I found this forum a couple of days too late, but fortunately didn't spend an arm for the S2. I'm going to search out some of your other responses, and make notes to take with me.
Thanks again.

JimC Apr 26, 2006 8:25 AM

You may want to post a sample image or two so that members can help you determine what is going wrong.

Your problem may not be Autofocus. For one thing, you've got tremendous depth of field with a non-DSLR model (f/2.8 with your S2 IS gives you as much DOF as you'd have using f/8 with a DSLR).

You may have a different problem (for example, shutter speed). Remember that these cameras default to very low ISO speeds, which will require longer exposures.

Tullio wrote:

Use a polarizer filter for daylight shooting. Believe it or not,this filter helps the camera AF, specially in macro/super macro modes.
A Polarizer will cost you 1 to 2 stops of light. That means that shutter speeds will be 2 to 4 times slower using one for any ISO speed and aperture. That can lead to blurry photos in less than optimum lighting, especially at lower ISO speeds.

So, if the problem is shutter speed related, a Polarizer will make it much worse.

If you have a subject with insufficient contrast in bright light with glare, a Polarizer can help the camera see contrast better by eliminating the glare. With many macro subjects, you tend to have a solid color in the AF sensors. This makes it harder to find contrast if light is reflecting of of the subject.

But, it's not as much of a problem in most non-Macro conditions and a Polarizer can do more harm than good in many other conditions (due to loss of light resulting in slower shutter speeds).

The OP mentioned shooting dolphins. Reflections from water can fool AF systems and a Polarizer can help. But, you have to make sure you're not compromising shutter speed to the point that motion blur is a bigger problem.

Tullio wrote:

TheS2 AF is poor, reason why you've got blurred pictures. This is a known issue that has been pointed out by many reviewers
Really? From Steve's review conclusion:


The S2's autofocus system delivered consistently sharp images. It uses only a single AF point, but you can position it virtually anywhere in your composition.

Make sure the focus point is actually on your subject before pressing the shutter button all the way down.

Or, if you'd prefer to leave the focus point in the center, you can also lock focus with a half press of the shutter button, reframe so your subject is where you want it in the image, then press the shutter button the rest of the way down.

I'd post a sample image that we can look at before jumping to any conclusions. It could be something as simple as the focus point not being on your subject. Or, it could be shutter speed related.

If you can't figure it out, post a sample here that includes the EXIF (a header in the image file that contains camera settings used).

Around 640x480 is usually a good size for forum posts. If you don't have an image editor to easily downsize images, download irfanview from (it's free).

After opening a problem image, go to Image, Resize/Resample and make it around 640x480, save it under a new filename (so you don't overwrite your original),and post a copy of it here. By default irfanview will retain the camera settings used in the EXIF (unless you uncheck that box).

Then, members can better understand what you are referring to and look for a setting that could be causing the issue.

To include your downsized image in a post, use the Browse button and select the image from your hard disk. You'll see this Browse button under the entry screen when you're typing in the entry box for a new post (not visible until entering a new post). Here is a thread discussing posting of images:

sue6389 Apr 26, 2006 10:48 AM

Thanks for your insight and suggestions. I've been looking around trying to find out if the Sony H1 is better at auto-focusing when using zoom. I haven't found much yet, but found great shots from folks using both Canon S2 and Sony H1. I'll try to post a couple of the shots later this evening. I realize that practice will help a lot, but would like to get a few good shots while away on vacation. I may go back to the store where I bought the S2, and see if the Manual button is defective, because I can't get the up or down arrows to change the focus at all, and I've read and reread the directions. I sure did like being able to focus using the ring on my Minolta lens... I can see where this forum is going to become my "Bible and Savior".

Thanks for taking a few minutes out of your day to help - I do appreciate it :lol:

Tullio Apr 26, 2006 10:51 AM

Jim, I do agree with some of your suggestions/comments but disagree with others. Although the pol filter eats up 1-2 f/stops, it does improve the S2AF performance (I've ran many tests that proved me that). Although the main purpose of a pol (for short)filter is to reduce glare, it does serve other purposes. But, it is not a filter to be used in low light conditions. Unless you set the ISO to a high values (which will increase picture noise), you will experience blurriness due to slow shutter speeds. Here's where I agree with you, shutter speed can be responsible for blurred pictures (and I failed to mention that)if the camera sets it too low (having IS onhelps but not that much). However,the conditions to photographwild life is usually good in terms of light (I mean,bright daylight, whether sunny or cloudy).Most animals retreat at dawn. As for the AF issue, here's an extract from the S2 dpreview review:


It should be noted that the difference between the S1 and S2 focus speed isn't as great as our figures might indicate - they are an average, and the S1 IS suffers far more from hunting issues (where it struggles to fix focus). In a direct shootout with an easy subject, the S2 always beats the S1, but only by around 0.1 to 0.2 seconds: that's still quite an improvement, but it's more about focus accuracy than actual speed. It's also worth noting that in our shootout tests the S2 IS was consistently beaten - by a small margin - by the Sony H1, Panasonic FZ5 (using the high speed focus mode) and Konica Minolta Z5 - the three fastest focusing 'superzoom' compacts.
Here's another from DIGICAMHELP (see link below for detailed information):

CANON S2 BLOGG: Focusing issues and solutions
BLOGGs introduction | Canon S2 IS BLOGG
Canon A510/A520 BLOGG | Nikon 5400 BLOGG | Panasonic FZ3 BLOGG

I am not of the opinion that the Canon S2 IS has major focusing problems but, like most digital cameras, it does have some. Most occur when using the zoom at 12X. Main causes of focus problems:

  • Photographing low-contrast subjects


  • Overlapping nearby and distant objects


  • Very bright subjects in the center


  • Subjects moving very fast


  • Photographing subjects through glass


  • Taking pictures out of the camera's shooting range


  • Smudges on the front of the lens
To help minimize focus problems, learn to anticipate what conditions may cause the S2 to not focus. Also make sure you use the two-step shutter-release button correctly.

This from the dcresource review of the S2:


Autofocus speeds are good, though not as fast as the Panasonic FZ5 or Sony DSC-H1. Typically the camera takes 0.3 - 0.5 seconds to focus and longer at the telephoto end or if the camera needs to "hunt" a bit.
As one can tell, opinions about the S2 AF varies but the bottom line is that there are issues, otherwise I would not find these links.

Anyway, I'm curious to see what Sue has to say (and post) when she returns.

Tullio Apr 26, 2006 11:03 AM

Sue, take a look at this link from the Sony forum. I've posted half dozen shots taken with my H1 showing different scenarios (long zoom, macro, etc.). I did not post process those shotssotheyshould give you a good idea of the picture quality you get out of the camera. There is no doubt that the H1 AF is superior than the S2 (faster and a lot more accurate).If the link does not work, look for a topic named Sony dsc h1 vs h2.;forum_id=28

JimC Apr 26, 2006 11:56 AM


I'm aware that the H1's AF is slightly faster, and the issues you mention are common with virtually any digital camera.

My point is that we don't know what is causing the OP's blurry photos, and if it's a shutter speed issue, using a Polarizer is only going to make it worse. It could also be user error (focus point not on subject).

In more cases than not, AF is blamed for blurry photos when something else is the cause.

That's why I suggested posting some samples. Telling the OP to return the camera for a different model, without determining the source of the problem, is not an approach that I favor.

There are many Canon users that like this camera.

JimC Apr 26, 2006 12:59 PM

sue6389 wrote:

I've been looking around trying to find out if the Sony H1 is better at auto-focusing when using zoom. But, the Canon is no "slouch" in this area.
Yes, the H1 is slightly better by most accounts. But, it sounds like you may have a more basic issue. Unless light is toolow for a focus lock using AF, manual focus is probably not the best way to go for most subjects.

Your Canon has an option in the menusformagnifying the focus area if you do use manual focus. But,it has to be turned on. You'll see it in the camera's review on this page (look for MF-Point Zoom).

For Autofocus, you can press the set button and use the arrows to move the focus box around the frame. But, some users prefer to leave it centered, then half press the shutter button to lock focus, reframe so that the subject is in the desired portion of the viewfinder, then press the shutter button the rest of the way down.

It's a good ideato makesure you're actually getting a focus lock (and that goes for any camera) with a half press first, especially in less than optimum lighting.


I sure did like being able to focus using the ring on my Minolta lens...
I saw you mentioned having a Maxxum. I've gota Konica Minolta Maxxum 5D DSLR now (as well as a couple of Maxxum film bodies). The Maxxum DSLR models can use your Maxxum lenses.

In addition, Sony will be introducing DSLR models this summer that can use Maxxum lenses (they acquired some of Konica Minolta's assets and are entering the DSLR market with the intent of capturing more than 25% of DSLR marketshare over the next few years).

Personally, I use Autofocus unless light is too low to get a lock on anything in the scene with contrast. That goes for film bodieswith Autofocus, as well as Digital Cameras. I Half press the shutter button to get a focus lock, then press it the rest of the way down (after making sure focus is locked).

sue6389 Apr 26, 2006 1:22 PM

That bubble shot is amazing!!! Oh- what I wouldn't give to get a photo like that :-)
I sure wish you were closer - I'd request a training fieldtrip. I'm sure that spending a couple of hours with someone who knows the camera, and can actually show me what to do instead of trying to understand the printed instructions, would be extremely helpful. I got to the point with my film Minolta where I could get wonderful shots most of the time. I read that you own a Canon S2, but choose the Sony H1 over it. Is that just for zoom shots, or does it perform better with Macro also? Back to work, but I'll be back later.

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