closely on the footsteps of the successful PowerShot S45 (see
our review), Canon has introduced the PowerShot
their first 5 Megapixel camera.
the S45, the S50 is a "light" version of Canon's flagship
PowerShot G3 (except for the higher resolution). It offers most
of the G3's features, including the DIGIC
processor, FlexiZone AF, improved movie mode, and the light guide
flash. What it lacks is a hot shoe, flip-out
LCD, and neutral
density filter. And of course, the body and lens are different.
For more info on some of these features, be sure to glance over
our G3 review.
S50 is the exact same camera as the S45, except for:
of body (note: the S50 will be silver in countries other than
digital zoom (vs 3.6X on S45)
with FAT32 file format on cards > 2GB
that in mind, this review will be very similar
to the S45 review (and I mean it). Of course, all sample photos
and test shots are original.
in the Box?
PowerShot S50 has an excellent bundle. Inside the box, you'll find:
5.0 Mpixel Canon PowerShot S50 camera
Li-ion rechargeable battery
featuring Canon Digital Camera Solutions, ArcSoft Camera Suite,
page camera manual + software manual (both printed)
S50 doesn't have as nice of a bundle as the G3, but it's still
excellent (the remote control and AC adapter are exclusive to
included 32MB CompactFlash card is a good place to start, but
definitely need a larger card. The S50 works
with Type I or Type II CompactFlash cards, so the IBM Microdrive
option (and a good one at that).
S50 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 S50. 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.
S50 has a built-in lens cover
PowerShot S50 doesn't have nearly as many accessories as the
G3, such as add-on lenses or an external flash.
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
S50 up to 100 feet underwater.
includes their excellent Digital Camera Solutions software, as
as ArcSoft's Camera Suite, with the S50. 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
competition, in my opinion.
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.
S50 is a mid-sized, all metal camera, now with a professional
black finish. 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 (though the
black body covers it up a bit).
dimensions of the S50 are 4.4 x 2.3 x 1.7 inches (WxHxD), and it
weighs 260 grams empty. The G3 weighs about 150 grams more.
S50 has the now familiar F2.8, 3X optical zoom
lens that was on the S30, S40, and S45. The focal range of this
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 4.1X digital zoom, though
image quality will be noticeably reduced.
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
S45 and 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 -
wide-angle, and 0.35 - 3.0 m at telephoto. The S50 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.
of which, here
is the back of the S50 now. The 1.8" LCD is very good, with
a bright, sharp, and fluid image. It is tough to see outdoors
bright light, though, which is "how it is" with digital cameras.
It's nice to see that Canon hasn't compromised on LCD size on their
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 of us 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 S50 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 frames/sec, no preview between shots
(2, 10 sec)
effects let you quickly change the color of your photos --
you can see some of them above (full-size images are in the gallery).
There is also a new photo effect on the G3 and S50: custom effect.
can save brightness, contrast, and saturation into this spot,
for easy retrieval. You can use photo
in any mode, including movie mode.
S50 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
you're in. Normally, it'll be just like regular exposure compensation.
In manual (M) mode,
you can adjust the flash power in three steps: 1/3, 2/3 or full
some other higher end cameras, the S50 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 opening 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 have one set of custom settings (versus
two on the G3) right on the mode wheel. You do so via an option
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 S50. Under that plastic cover, you'll
find the USB and A/V out ports.
to see here except for some smudged fingerprints.
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 S50
S50 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.
same things I wrote about autofocus lag on the S45 apply here.
Press the shutter release button halfway and the camera generally
in a second or a little less. It will take a little longer
the AF-assist lamp is used (about 1.4 sec in my test). The AF
illuminator helped the S50 focus well in low light.
terms of shutter lag, the S50 has very little when the shutter
speed is fast. When it has to use a slower speed, there is a
noticeable (but still brief) lag. But you probably shouldn't
be hand-holding the camera at those speeds anyway
speed is excellent. You will wait for just under 2 seconds before
you can take another shot, even in RAW mode -- the same as the
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.
Press the Func. button, and you'll be able to save the image
in RAW format instead of JPEG.
the G3, the S50 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
(2592 x 1944)
(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!
S50 has the same easy-to-use menu system as the S45 and G3. Here's
a look at the record mode menu:
sync (1st, 2nd-curtain)
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 S50 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 S50, 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)
you so desire, you can customize the startup screen, beeps, and
phony shutter sounds that your S50 makes. If these bother you,
can also turn them off.
enough about menus, let's do photo tests now.
S50 turned in a good performance in our macro test -- no complaints
from me. The colors on our famous 3" tall figurine look
perfect. The camera has
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.
S50 did a really amazing job with this night shot (the location
didn't hurt either). I took the same shot with my EOS-D60, and
the S50's photo comes pretty
It is a little noisier than my D60, even though the D60's exposure
was 30 sec, versus 10 sec here. Nevertheless, the S50's full
manual controls will you pull off amazing night shots, as long
as you use a tripod!
is sort of a mixed bag with the S50, as well as the S45 and G3,
and I think the new light guide flash has something to do with
it. I found that if you're able to get perfectly inline with
the flash (both horizontally and vertically), redeye will be
pretty minor, as you can see above. However, if you're not in
spot, the redeye is very noticeable. For two additional redeye
tests that show this, check out the S45
new (and completely unscientific) distortion test illustrates
the barrel distortion evident at wide-angle, as well
as a tiny
of vignetting (darkened corners).
S50's overall photo quality was excellent in my opinion. The
colors were always accurate and the exposures were good in most
cases, even in challenging situations (you'll find two in the
gallery). Purple fringing was rarely seen. The corners of the
images seem a little blurry sometimes, but the older models had
this issue as well. And maybe it's just me, but the S50's photos
seem just a little bit sharper than the "smooth" look of the
just take my word for it though -- have a look at the photo
gallery and let your own eyes be the judge!
S50 has the same, improved movie mode as the G3/S45. 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
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 if you
surprisingly, you cannot use the zoom lens during filming. This
is the norm for cameras that record sound with movies (okay, except
can be edited in playback mode. You can delete unwanted frames
from the first or second half of the movie, and either save it
a new movie, or overwrite the current one.
a sample movie for you:
to play movie (2.8MB, AVI format)
Can't view it? Download QuickTime.
playback mode on the S50 is just like that of the S45/G3. There
aren't a lot of gimmicks, and the basic features are implemented
very 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 S50 thanks to the new DIGIC image processor.
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.
S50 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?
the PowerShot S45, the S50 is an excellent camera in a small
(but not too small) package. As I mentioned at the beginning
of the review, they are virtually identical exception for the
CCD. The S50 offers superb photo quality, full manual controls,
an AF assist lamp, fast performance, and nice movie and playback
modes. The downsides are few: redeye can be a problem, there's
no diopter correction feature or a live histogram. And I'm still
not a fan of the four-way switch. The S50 definitely gets my
the next question: S45 or S50? For the average person, the S45
is plenty. If you're printing large size prints (and by that
I don't mean 8 x 10), the S50 is worth the extra dough. I suppose
some people will be drawn to the S50 by the high Megapixel count
and/or professional black body, but you don't need to go overboard.
Either camera is an excellent choice, though.
- Robust performance
an AF illuminator lamp
controls (not as many as the G3, but plenty for most)
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 inline with flash
diopter correction knob
live histogram in record mode
switch poorly designed
small, full-featured 5 Megapixel cameras to check out include the
FinePix F601Z (I suppose), Konica
DiMAGE F300, Nikon
Coolpix 5000, Olympus
Optio 550, and the Sony DSC-P92, -P10,
always, I recommend a trip down to your local reseller to try
the PowerShot S50 and it's competitors before you buy!
to see how the photo quality turned out? Check out our PowerShot
a second opinion?
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.