DCRP Review: Canon PowerShot S200 Digital ELPH
by Jeff Keller, DCRP Founder/Editor
Originally posted: Wednesday, May 8, 2002
Last Updated: Wednesday, August 28, 2002

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I don't need to give a lot of background information about the Digital ELPH, as anyone familiar with photography probably already knows about. When the original PowerShot S100 Digital ELPH shipped in mid-2000, it was a hit with critics and consumers alike. The small, metal body helped the camera get noticed everywhere it went (it was the first "micro camera"). It was also easy to use and took nice pictures.

Jump ahead two years, and the ELPH hasn't changed a whole lot. The changes between the models have been minor, because the camera was already very good. The latest models are the PowerShot S200 ($449) and S330 ($499; see our review). Since they're so similar, the review text will be the same in many places. (I highly recommend reading that review for additional photo tests and information)

Is the S200 as good as its predecessors? Read on...

What's in the Box?

Canon did a great job with the included software, and just so-so on the other stuff they include with this camera. Here's what you get:

  • The 2.0 (effective) Mpixel PowerShot S200 camera
  • 8MB CompactFlash card
  • NB-1LH Li-ion battery (rechargeable) w/charger
  • Wrist strap
  • USB cable
  • A/V cable
  • 144 page camera manual + additional software manual
  • Canon Digital Camera Solution Disk v. 9.0 plus ArcSoft Camera Suite (more on this later)

The only real thing to comment on is the rather skimpy 8MB CompactFlash card. I would have liked to see something larger, considering just how cheap CF cards are these days. I'd recommend buying at least a 32MB card.


Battery and charger

Canon includes a Li-ion rechargeable battery and the charger right in the box. The charger plugs directly into the wall, which means you don't have to carry a power cord around. The battery is rated at 3.7V and 840 mAh, which means it has 3.1 Watt/hours of power. Canon says you can get about 285 photos taken with mixed LCD use per charge. It takes 130 minutes to recharge the battery.

I am not a big fan of proprietary batteries, as they are expensive ($58 each!) and you can't easily buy one to get out of a jam. But with micro cameras, there's really no avoiding them.


This should give you an idea as to how small the S200 is

Since the S200 has a built-in lens cover, there is no fussing with lens caps.

While there aren't any lens or flash accessories available for the Digital ELPH, there are some other add-ons that you may find useful. My favorite is the waterproof case (WP-DC600, about $240), which lets you go swimming with the S200 up to 30 meters deep. Other accessories include an AC adapter, soft case, and car power adapter.

You can also print to Canon's photo printers directly from the camera.

I covered the Canon Digital Camera Solutions in detail in my S330 review, so I will refer you to that for further reading. The bottom line is the Canon's bundled software is the best out there in my opinion. I will give you a sample panoramic shot, which was created from three shots using the included PhotoStitch software. It kind of looks like the ship is parked uphill, but what do you expect from a handheld panorama?


Click for full size image -- it's huge.

Canon's manuals have always been my favorites for digicams, and the newly updated S200 manual is no exception.

Look and Feel

I've already described what's unique about the Digital ELPH. The metal body makes it look very nice, but it also adds weight and scratches easily. It's also hard to photograph for these reviews! The S200 looks very much like the S110 that it replaces.

The body is made entirely of metal and it feels very solid. The only exceptions to the solid feel are the battery and CF compartment doors. The camera is super-easy to hold, and fits in any pocket. The chart below details the size and weight of the S200, compared to the competition.

Camera Dimensions Weight
Canon PowerShot S200 3.4 x 2.2 x 1.1 180 g
Canon PowerShot S330 3.7 x 2.5 x 1.2 245 g
Olympus D-40Z 3.4 x 2.6 x 1.7 190 g
Pentax Optio 330/430 3.6 x 2.3 x 1.2 205 g
Kyocera Finecam S3 3.4 x 2.2 x 1.2 165 g

Note that the PowerShot S330 is slightly larger and heavier, due to its larger lens. Let's begin our tour of the camera now, shall we?

Didn't I tell you that these are hard to photograph? The S200 has an F2.8, 2X optical zoom lens with a focal range of 5.4 - 10.8 mm, which is equivalent to 35 - 70 mm. The lens is not threaded. The S330 model has a 3X zoom lens -- this is the primary difference between the two models.

Just above the lens is the optical viewfinder and AF illuminator, which assists in low light focusing.

Moving over to the right, you can see the built-in flash. The S200's flash has a working range of 0.57 - 3.0 m at wide-angle, and 0.57 - 2.0 m at telephoto. There is no support for external flashes on any of these micro cameras.

Below the flash is the microphone (just that one hole).

Here's the back of the camera. The S200 has a 1.5" LCD, and images are bright and fluid. The LCD brightness is not adjustable.

Straight above the LCD is the optical viewfinder, which is large for a camera of this size. It lacks diopter correction for those with less than perfect vision, however.

The four buttons below the LCD are for:

  • Set - "OK" in menus + shooting mode (auto, manual, stitch assist) {rec/play}
  • Menu {rec/play}
  • Display - toggles info on the LCD, as well as the LCD itself {rec/play}
  • Exposure compensation + white balance + photo effect {rec} / Delete photo {play}


The Photo Effect menu

The exposure compensation feature on the S330 is the usual: -2EV to +2EV in 1/3EV increments. White balance choices include auto, daylight, cloudy, tungsten, two kinds of fluorescent, and custom (yay!). The choices in photo effect mode are vivid color, neutral color, low sharpening, sepia, and black & white.

Moving along now -- the four-way switch to the right of the LCD is for menu navigation and more. Each direction has it's own functions:

  • Up: Spot metering
  • Right: Flash (Auto, auto w/redeye reduction, forced on, forced off, slow-synchro)
  • Down: Continuous shooting (2.5 frames/second) + self-timer (2 or 10 secs)
  • Left: Macro + landscape focus

At the far right is the switch used to open the CF slot door. Just above that is the switch which puts the camera in record, movie, or playback mode.

Here's the top of the camera. None of these micro cameras have an LCD info display. Up here you will find the on/off switch (you've got to hold it for a second to turn the camera on), plus the shutter release button with zoom controller around it.

Another difference between the S200 and S330: no speaker on S200.

On this side of the camera, under a rubber cover, you'll find the A/V and Digital (USB) out ports. What about an AC adapter? Instead of a DC-in plug, you get a DC coupler, which goes where the battery normally does. The cable feeds out the bottom of the battery compartment.

Here's the other side, with the CF slot door opened up. The included 8MB memory card is shown. This is a Type I CF slot, so no Microdrive.

Finally, here is the bottom of the camera. The bottom of the S330 features a metal tripod mount and the battery compartment. The tripod mount is strangely located near the edge of the body. The battery compartment door is very flimsy plastic.

Using the Canon PowerShot S200

Record Mode

The PowerShot S200 takes about 2.5 seconds to extend the lens and "warm up" before you can start taking pictures. Unlike the S330, you can't customize the startup screen and sound (oh darn).

Depressing the shutter release button halfway generally resulted in locked focus in a second or less. If the camera uses the AF illuminator, focusing may take a little longer. When you fully press the button, the photo is taken after a short and barely noticeable lag.

Shot-to-shot speed is pretty good, with a wait of about three seconds between Large/Superfine shots. The image is shown on the LCD for 2 or 10 seconds (use setup menu to change this) after it is taken, or indefinitely if the shutter release button is held down.

If the auto rotate feature is turned on, the camera will automatically rotate images (such as portraits) to display correctly on the LCD.

Speaking of image quality, let's take a look at the resolution and quality choices available on the S200:

Resolution Compression # shots on 8MB card
(included with camera)
Large
1600 x 1200
Superfine 7
Fine 11
Normal 24

Medium
1024 x 768

Superfine 16
Fine 24
Normal 46
Small
640 x 480
Superfine 35
Fine 50
Normal 87

There is no TIFF or "RAW" mode available on the S200.

The S200 has both auto and "manual" modes (though it's not very manual). You have control over ISO speed, shutter speed (sort of), exposure compensation, white balance, metering, and of course, image quality and resolution.

The camera has an intuitive and easy to use menu system. Here's a look at what you'll find. Items that are only available in Manual Mode are bold.

  • Resolution (see chart in previous section)
  • Compression (see chart)
  • ISO (Auto, 50, 100, 200, 400) - in auto mode, the camera will choose a value between 50-150. According to Phil Askey, these values are halved for some reason. so ISO 50 is really ISO 100.
  • AiAF (on/off) - when on, camera chooses from three focus points. When off, camera uses center focus point.
  • Digital zoom (on/off)
  • Self-timer (2 or 10 sec)
  • Review (Off, 2 or 10 sec)
  • AF-assist beam (on/off)
  • File No. Reset (on/off)
  • Auto Rotate (on/off) - I described this a few paragraphs above
  • Long shutter (on/off) - allows you to choose the shutter speed

The long shutter feature will let you choose from a range of shutter speeds from 1 to 15 seconds.

There's also a setup menu, with the usual options like date/time, beep, language, and card formatting.

Let's take a look at some of my photo tests now.

While the picture above looks pretty good, when you blow it up, you'll see that there is quite a bit of noise. This is strange because the S200 supposedly has a noise reduction system, and it seems like it does based on the extra processing time after the picture was taken. Who knows?

The macro test, on the other hand, turned out quite well. The colors are right on, and the figure looks nice and sharp. The cameras do like to focus on Mickey's nose sometimes, and it may have done that a bit here. Anyhow, the macro focusing range is 10 - 57 cm at wide-angle and 27 - 57 cm at telephoto.

Overall, the S200 takes very nice pictures. The colors look good and the images are sharp and noise free. In a couple of situations, the camera "blew out the sky" (turned it white), but these were pretty tough metering situations. Take a look at the gallery to see what I mean.

Movie Mode

The PowerShot S200 can record movies at three different resolutions. The choices are 640 x 480, 320 x 240, and 160 x 120. Before you get too excited, clips are limited to 4, 10, and 30 seconds respectively for each resolution.

Movies are recorded at a rate of 20 frames/sec, and are saved in the AVI format using the M-JPEG codec. Sound is recorded with the movies. The camera does not have a speaker, so you'll have to hook the camera up to a TV or your computer to hear the sound.

The zoom lens is not useable during filming, so you'll need to get it where you want it before you start.

Here is a very unexciting sample movie:


Click to Play Movie (3.8MB, AVI format)

Can't play it? Download Quicktime.

Playback Mode

Canon cameras have always had a superb playback mode, and this newest Digital ELPH continues the tradition. The basic features include image protection, DPOF print marking, slide shows, and thumbnail mode.

More advanced features include "zoom & scroll", and image rotation.

Zoom and scroll mode (my term) lets you zoom in as much as 10X into your image, and then move around in the image. The scrolling is super-fast and real-time.

The camera can show basic or detailed information about your photos. In the detailed mode, you get exposure information and even a histogram!

The S200 zooms through images -- there's about a second delay between images on the LCD. The camera goes straight to the high res image -- there's no low res placeholder like some other cameras.

The only downside for me is the camera's inability to delete a group of photos.

How Does it Compare?

Like the PowerShot S330 I recently reviewed, the PowerShot S200 is one of my favorite micro cameras. It's great for taking everywhere, and the stylish body is both strong and eye catching. The camera has a good number of controls, including the ability to set the shutter speed manually. The photo quality was very good, though it did have some trouble in tough lighting (I don't think any other comparable camera would've done better, though). If the 2X zoom isn't enough for you, consider the S330, which has a 3X zoom, and just a few more (non-critical) features.

What I liked:

  • Very small, sexy body
  • Good feature set for a low-cost camera
  • High quality pictures in most cases
  • Good playback mode
  • Ability to set shutter speed
  • Good bundle and software

What I didn't care for:

  • Noisy night shots
  • Blew out the sky in a few shots
  • Only a 2X optical zoom
  • Flimsy plastic door for battery compartment

Other small cameras with an optical zoom include the Canon PowerShot S330 Digital ELPH, Fuji FinePix 2600Z and 2800Z, Kyocera Finecam S3, Minolta DiMAGE X and F100, Nikon Coolpix 2500, Olympus D-40Z, D-520Z, and D-550Z, Pentax Optio 330 and 430, and the Sony DSC-P5, DSC-P71, and DSC-P9.

Photo Gallery

Check out our photo gallery to see how the photos turned out.

Want a second opinion? How about a third?

Check out the Steve's Digicams PowerShot S200 review. If Steve and I still don't have you convinced, then the Imaging Resource Page has one too.

Feedback

Jeff welcomes your comments or questions. Send them to jakeller@pair.com. Due to my limited resources, please do not send me requests for personal camera recommendations.

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