Review: Canon PowerShot S45
Keller, DCRP Founder/Editor
Originally posted: December 13, 2002
February 1, 2003
of the hottest cameras of last year was Canon's PowerShot S40
our review). When the PowerShot
S45 ($649) was announced everywhere
but in the U.S. back in September, there were quite a few upset
people! As the year went on, rumors about the S45 were flying.
it be released at all in the U.S.?
a week after I was told that it probably wouldn't be released
Canon announced it. And people all over America rejoiced. Here's
The S45 is a "light" version of Canon's flagship PowerShot
G3. It offers most of the new G3 features, including the DIGIC image
processor, FlexiZone AF, improved movie mode, and the light guide
flash. What is it missing? The hot shoe, flip-out LCD, and neutral
density filter are the main things. And don't forget the body and
more on some of the new technologies mentioned about, be sure to
read our PowerShot G3
review. Since the G3 and S45 are so similar, I will re-use some
that out of the way, let's begin our look at the PowerShot S45!
in the Box?
PowerShot S45 has an excellent bundle. Inside the box, you'll find:
4.0 Mpixel Canon PowerShot S45 camera
Li-ion rechargeable battery
featuring Canon Digital Camera Solutions and drivers
page camera manual + software manual (both printed)
you compare this bundle with that of the G3, you will notice a few
differences. The S45 doesn't have an AC adapter or remote control
in the box.
included 32MB CompactFlash card is a good place to start, but
want a larger card soon after purchase. The S45 works with Type
I or Type II CompactFlash cards, so the IBM Microdrive is an
S45 uses a smaller battery than the G3. The NB-2L battery has
respectable 4.2 Watt/hours of power. Canon estimates that you can
get about 335 photos per charge with 50% LCD use, or 3 hours
playback mode. The battery on the G3 lasts about twice as long.
includes an external battery charger with the S45. You plug it directly
into the wall -- no cords needed. I like that. Charging the battery
takes about 80 minutes.
downside with proprietary batteries like the NB-2L is the cost ($70)
and the fact that you can't use standard batteries (as you can with
AA-based cameras) if you're in a bind. That's why I usually prefer
cameras that use AA batteries.
S45 has a built-in lens cover
PowerShot S45 doesn't have nearly as many accessories as the
G3. There are no lens or external flash options available. But
there are still some good ones, including an AC adapter,
soft case, and car battery adapter.
WP-DC300 waterproof case
favorite accessory has to be the WP-DC300 waterproof case ($240),
which lets you take your
S45 up to 100 feet underwater.
includes their excellent Digital Camera Solutions software, as
as ArcSoft's Camera Suite, with the S45. The main programs in the
DCS software package are ImageBrowser/ZoomBrowser (Mac/PC names),
PhotoStitch (a great panorama creation product), and Remote Capture
(which lets your Mac or PC control the camera over the USB connection).
Canon's software continues to be head and shoulders over the
Best of all (for us Mac users, at least), the main programs (ImageBrowser,
PhotoStitch, Remote Capture) are Mac OS X native!
is also one of the best at creating camera manuals. Unlike the "VCR
manuals" produced by some other manufacturers, Canon's manuals
are well laid-out and easy to read. There are thick, printed manuals
for both the camera and the software.
S45 is a mid-sized, all metal camera. It's not a whole lot smaller
than the G3, and is a little large to be called "pocket size".
It's very sturdy, as you'd expect with a metal camera. One negative
about metal cameras is that they can scratch easily.
dimensions of the S45 are 4.4 x 2.3 x 1.7 inches (WxHxD), and it
weighs 260 grams empty. The G3 weighs about 150 grams more.
S45 has the same lens as the S40. It's an F2.8, 3X optical zoom
lens manufactured by Canon (of course). The focal range of the
lens is 7.1 - 21.3 mm, which is equivalent to 35 - 105 mm. If
3X zoom isn't enough, you can turn on a 3.6X digital zoom, though
image quality will be noticeably reduced.
our tour now: just above the lens is the autofocus (AF) illuminator.
This bright light helps the camera focus in low light situations.
It should be on every camera, in my opinion.
the right of that is the new light guide flash, also found on the
G3. This design prevents the wasting of flash power that is common
on "regular" flashes -- it is much more focused than a
normal flash. The working range of the flash is 0.35 - 4.8 m at
wide-angle, and 0.35 - 3 m at telephoto. The S45 does not support
you saw earlier in the review, the camera has a sliding cover
which protects the lens. It is also used as the power switch
for the camera. If you want to just enter playback mode, you
can use the button on the back of the camera.
is the back of the S45 now. The 1.8" LCD is very good, with
a bright, sharp, and fluid image. It is tough to see outdoors in
bright light, though, which is par for the course. It's nice to
see that Canon hasn't compromised on LCD size on their high end
cameras, unlike some other manufacturers.
the LCD is the optical viewfinder, which is good-sized. It shows
82% of the frame, according to Canon. There is no diopter adjustment
for those with less than perfect vision though.
the left of the viewfinder are three buttons. They have different
functions depending on which mode you're in, record or playback.
From top to bottom:
compensation (-2EV to +2EV, 1/3EV increments)
Balance - see below
- see below
(Auto, 50, 100, 200, 400)
effect (Off, vivid color, neutral color, low sharpening,
sepia, black & white, custom effect)
(AE, focus) - more below
exposure compensation (-2EV to +2EV, 1/3EV increments) /
flash output (1 - 3)
Focus - see below
(Evaluative, center-weighted, spot)
need to do some major explanation for some of those items in the
the G3, the S45 has numerous white balance options, including two
the custom modes, you can shoot a piece of white or gray paper,
so you can get perfect white balance in any lighting.
are five drive modes available:
continuous - 1.5 frames/sec
speed continuous - 2.5 frames/sec, no preview between shots
(2, 10 sec)
is a new photo effect on the G3 and S45: custom effect. Here you
can save brightness, contrast, and saturation into this spot, for
easy retrieval. Also, unlike on the G2, you can use photo effects
in any mode, including movie mode.
S45 can do two types of bracketing: exposure and focus. In exposure
bracketing, you pick a median value and choose the range. For example,
I could do -1/3EV, 0EV, and +1/3EV. It's done graphically on the
LCD and it makes sense. AE bracketing is a good way to ensure that
your photos are properly exposed. Focus bracketing is the same idea:
you choose a median value and the camera focuses a littler further
away and a little closer. It makes more sense if you try it yourself.
Flash Output, in manual mode
flash exposure compensation feature varies, depending on what mode
you're in. Normally, it'll be just like regular exposure compensation.
In manual mode (or if flash adjust is set to "manual",
you can adjust the flash power in three steps: 1/3, 2/3 or full
some other higher end cameras, the S45 can enlarge the center
the frame in manual focus mode, so you can make sure you're subject
is in focus. A little gauge on the LCD shows you the current
distance. You use the four-way switch to focus.
to our tour now -- to
the right of the LCD are buttons for menu and display. Pressing
the display button will toggle the LCD on and off, as well as
the information shown on it.
the left of the optical viewfinder are buttons for flash mode
(auto w/redeye reduction, auto, forced w/redeye reduction, forced,
off) and macro mode. In playback mode, those buttons are used
mode and "jumping" through photos quickly.
the opposite site of the viewfinder is
a switch which enters playback mode. If you don't plan on taking
any pictures, you can use this button to turn
on the camera, instead of the lens cover.
the right of that is the four-way switch, which I still think
is difficult to operate. Moving up/down/left/right isn't the
problem -- getting it to press inwards for the "enter" function
isn't easy. I'd rather have a more traditional four-way switch,
like on the G3.
the automatic and scene modes, pressing the switch inwards also
activates the 9-point AiAF focusing system. The camera will choose
one of 9 points in the frame to focus on. In manual modes, this
will activate the FlexiZone AF system, which lets you move the
focusing box to nearly any point on the LCD (except for the edges),
so you can really target the focusing system. It's strange that
the 9-point mode is only available in auto mode!
on top of the camera you'll find the speaker, microphone, mode
wheel, zoom controller, and shutter release button.
options on the mode wheel include:
on this later
help making panoramic shots
portraits, believe it or not
mode, many options are locked
chooses shutter speed and aperture. All menu options are unlocked.
choose the shutter speed and the camera picks the correct
You can choose from a number of speeds ranging from 15 sec
- 1/1500 sec. The 1/1500 shutter speed is only
above F4.0 at wide-angle and F7.1 at telephoto.
pick the aperture, the camera picks the appropriate shutter
speed. The choices range from F2.8 - F8 and will vary
depending on the focal range used.
pick the aperture and shutter speed. See above for values.
saved settings, easy to access.
you can see, you can one set of custom settings (versus two
on the G3) right on the mode wheel. You do so via an option in
S45 can be used as a pure point-and-shoot camera or as an advanced,
manually controlled one.
zoom controller moves the lens from wide-angle to telephoto in
under two seconds. The zoom moves at one speed only, so it's
hard to be precise.
is the side of the PowerShot S45. Note the clear tape holding that
plastic cover open. The I/O ports seen here are for A/V out and
to see here!
here is the bottom of the camera. You can see the metal tripod
as well as the battery compartment and CompactFlash slot. This
is a Type II slot, so Microdrives work just fine.
thing to note is that since the CF slot is on the bottom, you'll
to take the camera off a tripod to remove the card.
you buy the AC adapter, you stick a DC coupler in where the battery
sits, and feed the power cable out through a little hole.
included battery and CF card are shown at right.
the Canon PowerShot S45
S45 takes about 3.5 seconds to extend the lens and "warm
up" before you can start taking pictures. If you desire,
you can change the startup screen and sounds, via the menu system.
Or better yet, turn them off.
speeds are much like they were on the G3. Press the
shutter release button halfway and the camera generally focuses
in under a second. It may take a little longer
the AF-assist lamp is used. The AF illuminator helped the S45
focus well in low light.
terms of shutter lag, the S45 has very little when the shutter
speed is fast. When it has to use a slower speed, there is a
small lag. But you probably shouldn't be hand-holding the camera
at those speeds anyway.
a picture is taken, you have two options. Press the Delete button,
and you can delete the photo as it is being written to memory.
the Func. button, and you'll be able to save the image in RAW format
instead of JPEG.
speed is excellent. You will wait for just under 2 seconds before
you can take another shot, even in RAW mode (assuming the post-shot
review is turned off).
the G3, the S45 doesn't show a live histogram as you're composing
a shot. You can see one after you take a picture by pressing
Display while the image is shown on the LCD.
here's a look at the image size and quality choices available
Images on 32MB card
(2272 x 1704)
(1600 x 1200)
(1024 x 768)
(640 x 480)
mode, by the way, is a format where the image is stored as uncompressed
data from the CCD. The files are larger than normal JPEGs, but
smaller than TIFF files (which no Canon camera supports). Information
about exposure and white balance are stored in the file, so you
can tweak them later on the computer. That's also the point where
you can save RAW files in other formats, such as TIFF.
are named IMG_xxxx.JPG, where x = 0001 - 9900. The file numbering
is maintained even if you replace and/or format memory cards.
onto the menus!
S45 has the same easy-to-use menu system as the G3 and S40. Here's
a look at the record mode menu:
sync (1st, 2nd-curtain)
shooting (Standard, high speed)
AE point (Center, AF point) - what part of the frame is used to
judge exposure while in spot metering mode
zoom (on/off) - turns on zoom feature in manual focus mode
zoom (on/off) - using this will reduce photo quality
(Off, 2-10 sec)
- see below
settings (to "C" on mode wheel)
are fewer options on the S45 than the G3, in case you were wondering.
Intervalometer (gotta love that word) tool will let you set up
the camera for time lapse photography. You choose the
interval between shots (1-60 minutes) and the total number of shots
to be taken (2-100). Using the AC adapter is strongly recommended.
is also a setup menu on the S45, so let's take a look at that.
are the interesting items:
brightness (Normal, bright)
volumes (for shutter, playback, startup, operation, self-timer)
number reset (on/off)
rotate (on/off) - rotate your images automatically in playback
units (metric, imperial)
(English, Deutsch, Français, Nederlands, Dansk, Suomi,
Italiano, Norsk, Svenska, Español, Chinese, Japanese)
system (NTSC, PAL)
(Normal, PTP) - this is for USB
you so desire, you can customize the startup screen, beeps, and
phony shutter sounds that your G3 makes. If these bother you, you
can also turn them off.
enough about menus, let's do photo tests now.
S45 turned in a good performance in our macro test -- no complaints
here. The colors on our 3" tall figurine look perfect. The camera
range of 10 - 50 cm at wide-angle, and 30 - 50 cm at telephoto.
The recordable area is 110 x 80 mm at wide-angle and 113 x 83
mm at telephoto.
want to apologize a bit for this shot. First, it's crooked (I
rotated the smaller version above). Secondly, it's underexposed.
Unfortunately, now it's raining, so I'm not sure that I'll get
to shoot this picture. But what I did get was pretty nice. There
is just a bit of purple fringing at the top of the dome, similar
to where the G3 was at that point (F3.5).
12/15/02: here's a bonus night shot that I took during
a break in a huge weekend storm here in SF. They have a twinkling
star thing on top of the Transamerica Pyramid that is extra cool.
You can see the retreating clouds in the distance. Please excuse
the tree over on the left -- it's hard to take this shot!
redeye test results were very similar on both the G3 and S45.
As you can see, the redeye is much worse in one eye. I'm starting
to think that the light guide flash focuses the light so well,
that if you're not directly in line with the flash, you'll get
redeye. I say this because the redder eye is further from the
camera, and also because many G3 owners told me they had no problems
at all. Keep this in mind if you get a G3 or S45.
below were added/updated on 12/17/02
new redeye shot above confirms my suspicions that the light guide
flash causes redeye if you're not lined
the flash. This one was a whole lot better, and I think keeping
your subjects as close as possible to directly out from the flash
is a good idea.
of the strange phenomenons I noticed on the PowerShot G3 was
purple halos around certain kinds of lights. Since the
S45 is so similar, I wanted to see if it too exhibited this problem.
So I returned to the seen of the crime and took some pictures.
shot both of these pictures with the aperture "wide open".
As you can see, the S45 has less of a
purple halo than the G3 did. Much like with the G3, the easy
way to reduce this effect is to close down the aperture a bit.
as you can see, close down the aperture (meaning use a higher
F-number) and you'll lose the purple. You do get more of a star
effect as you do it, as least with these lights.
S45's photo quality was excellent, much like the G3's. Images
have low noise levels, but aren't ultra sharp either (noise and
sharpness are often inversely proportional). Rather, the images
are "smooth". If you want a good comparison
of sharpness vs. noise, have a look at the S45 and Olympus
C-5050Z photo galleries, which I
took at the same time. Here's a quick example that illustrates
what I'm talking about (the full-size images are in the galleries).
Note that both shots were taken at default settings, and the
you tweak the sharpness.
Canon PowerShot S45
S45 did a nice job in terms of exposure and color. Purple fringing
was not a problem that I observed. Once in a while, edges seemed
a little jagged (see the fountain and Crissy Field house pictures),
but not usually.
have a look at the gallery and see if the S45's quality works
S45 has the same, improved movie mode as the G3. The
resolution is 320 x 240 or 160 x 120, and you can now
record for up to
3 minutes per movie (regardless of resolution). Of course the included
32MB card only holds about 91 seconds worth, but if you had
card, you could do 3 mins.
is recorded with the movie, which is saved in AVI format, using
the M-JPEG codec. You can use the photo effect feature in movie
mode, so you can make black and white or sepia movies.
surprisingly, you cannot use the zoom lens during filming. This
is the norm for cameras that record sound with movies.
can edit your movies in playback mode. You can delete unwanted frames
from the first or second half of the movie, and either save it as
a new movie, or overwrite the current one.
a sample movie for you:
to play movie (3.1MB, AVI format)
Can't view it? Download QuickTime.
playback mode on the S45 is just like that of the G3. It doesn't
have a lot of gimmicks, but the basic features it has are implemented
well. That includes slide shows, image protection, thumbnail
image rotation, and DPOF print marking.
zoom & scroll feature is the best on Canon cameras, and it's
even faster on the G3 thanks to the new DIGIC image processor. You
can zoom into your images up to 10X, with many steps in between.
Scrolling around in the enlarged area is very snappy.
between images is very quick as well -- a little over a second
between high res thumbnails.
can find out almost everything about your photo, including a
histogram, by pressing the display button.
S45 is one of those "always ready to shoot" cameras. In playback
mode, you can just half-press the shutter release button to get
back to record mode, assuming that the lens cover is open.
Does it Compare?
Canon PowerShot S45 is a worthy upgrade of the S40, much like
how the G3 improved upon the already excellent G2. I wouldn't
race out and buy it if I was an S40 owner, but if I was looking
for a very capable camera in a smaller body than the G3, this
one is well worth a look. The S45 gives up a number of the G3's
features, as noted in this review. The average shooter probably
won't miss too many of them, in my opinion. The photo quality
on the S45 was impressive, and I didn't notice any problems with
the autofocus system, as noted elsewhere. The AF illuminator
allowed the camera to focus on the more challenging subjects
(in low light) around the home office. The S45 offers good performance
in terms of startup, focusing, shutter lag, and shot-to-shot
speeds. Most of the negatives are carryovers from the S40, mainly
the unusual four-way switch and bottom-loading CF slot. Like
the G3, I think the light guide flash doesn't do a good job in
redeye unless you're perfectly in line with the flash. Overall,
it's hard to go wrong with the PowerShot S45 -- it is definitely
worth checking out.
- Robust performance
an AF illuminator lamp
controls (the G3 has more, though)
focusing system lets you focus on any area of frame; 9 point
AiAF for automatic modes too.
movie, playback modes
I didn't care for:
noticeable if not directly in line with flash
smoother (less sharp-looking) than other cameras
diopter correction knob
live histogram in record mode
switch poorly designed
small 4 and 5 Megapixel cameras to check out include the Casio
FinePix F601 Zoom, Kodak
EasyShare LS443, Konica
KD-400Z, Kyocera Finecam S4 and S5, Minolta
DiMAGE F100, Nikon
Coolpix 4300, Olympus
Optio 430RS, and the Sony
always, I recommend a trip down to your local reseller to try
the PowerShot S45 and it's competitors before you buy!
to see how the photo quality turned on? Check out our PowerShot
a second opinion?
only other review available is a very extensive one over at
welcomes your comments or questions. Send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Due to my limited resources, please do not e-mail me asking for
a personal recommendation.