Review: Canon PowerShot S30/S40
Keller, DCRP Founder/Editor
Originally posted: Monday, October 1, 2001
Saturday, June 1, 2002
review has been updated after using the production model cameras.
Product photos have been re-shot where necessary, and all sample
images are from the new cameras.
product photos from here on will be of the S40 model.
happens when you take the PowerShot G2 and throw it into a small,
metal body? You get the PowerShot S30 and S40! The S30
is a 3.2 Megapixel camera, whereas the S40
is 4.0 Megapixel. They are both almost identical to the excellent
PowerShot G2. The only differences are the lack of a hot shoe, no
accessory lens support, and of course, the new body.
two cameras will be priced at $599 and $799 respectively. Let's
take a closer look at these two cameras in this special dual review!
in the Box?
PowerShot S30/S40 have an excellent bundle. Inside the box, you'll
3.2/4.0 (effective) Mpixel Canon PowerShot S30/S40 camera
Li-ion rechargeable battery
featuring Canon PowerShot Solutions, ArcSoft software, and drivers
page camera manual plus software manual (both printed)
you need is right in the box with these two cameras. The 16MB card
is small for the S40, a 4 Megapixel camera. The PowerShot G2 on
which it is based includes a 32MB card, and I wish they did so here.
NB-2L battery is new to Canon digital cameras. It's a 7.4V, 570
mAH battery pack about the size of three AAA batteries. Canon says
that the battery will last for around 150 minutes, depending of
course on LCD use.
general, I'm not a big fan of proprietary batteries. For one, they're
expensive. Secondly, imagine you're on a trip somewhere (say, Disneyland),
and your battery dies. You're out of luck. However, if you had a
camera that uses AA batteries you could buy a set of alkalines to
get you through the rest of the day. Many people won't agree with
my logic, but that's my argument.
battery is charged in a small, external charger which plugs directly
into the wall socket.
S40 shown with deck of cards
the lens cover is part of the design of the camera, no lens cap
Canon PowerShot Solutions Software is one of the best included with
digital cameras. The handy RemoteCapture software lets you control
the PowerShot with your Mac or PC.
of this writing, neither camera is compatible with Mac OS X.
the S30 and S40 can't use an external flash or converter lenses,
there's one very cool accessory available: the underwater case.
This case (model WP-DC300) will retail for around $240. It lets
you take the S30 or S40 up to 30 meters underwater!
manual is the typical Canon manual -- which means it's better than
the PowerShot S30 and S40 are attractive cameras in aluminum bodies.
No plastic here! Well, maybe a little.
cameras aren't particularly light, due to their construction. They
are small, though, and they slip into a pocket with ease. They're
not nearly as small as, say, the Digital ELPH, but they are still
only difference between the S30 and S40, body-wise, is the color:
the S30 is a traditional aluminum color, and the S40 is a darker,
"Titanium" (my word) finish.
begin our tour of these two cameras, again using the S40 as the
the front of the camera, with the lens cover opened. When you do
so, that turns the camera on (into record mode). To get to playback
mode only, you need not do this -- there's a button on the back
of the camera that you'll see in a moment.
lens on the S30 and S40 is a F2.8 3X optical zoom. The focal range
is 7.1 - 21.3 mm, which is equivalent to 35 - 105 mm. By comparison,
the PowerShot G2's lens is F2.0, 34-102 mm. The S30/S40 lens is
the upper right of the above photo is the unique looking flash.
The working range of the flash is 0.35 - 4.8 m (wide-angle) and
0.35 - 3.0 m (telephoto). As I mentioned, external flashes are not
supported. The PowerShot G2, by comparison, has a hot shoe.
feature on the front of the camera is an AF illuminator, to assist
in focusing in low light situations.
is the back of the camera. The 1.8" LCD is high quality --
fluid and bright. Just above the LCD is a good-sized optical viewfinder.
The downside is that it lacks diopter correction for those with
less than perfect vision.
buttons directly to the left of the optical viewfinder control:
[record mode] / Thumbnail mode [playback]
[rec] / Jump [playback]
buttons to the left of the LCD are for:
compensation, white balance, flash exposure compensation, auto
Focus [rec] / Delete photo [play]
metering [rec] / Attach audio clip [play]
buttons to the right of the LCD are for invoking the menu system,
and for toggling the LCD on/off.
some more information now about some of the buttons I just mentioned.
compensation is the usual -2.0EV to +2.0EV in 1/3EV steps. The flash
exposure compensation settings have the same range.
S30/S40 have many choices for white balance, including a manual
mode. Here's the full list:
(warm-white, cool-white types)
H (daylight type)
(shoot whatever you want to be white)
bracketing lets you use that same range to take three consecutive
photos with different EV settings. If you've got a big enough memory
card, this is a good way to always ensure properly exposed photos.
focus: see the zoomed area in the center, and the focus bar on the
the MF button will allow you to use the LCD to manually focus the
photo. The camera will blow up an area of the photo so you can see
if it's in focus (I still had trouble), which is a feature also
found on the Fuji FinePix 4900 and 6900. A "bar" on the
right side of the LCD shows the current focus distance.
final buttons of note can be seen towards the top right of the above
photo. Just below the mode wheel (which I'll get to in a second),
there's a switch. This switch puts you in playback mode. If the
camera is off, and you just want to enter playback mode, there is
no need to open the lens cover -- just hit the switch.
the right of that is the four-way switch. I'm not a big fan of its
placement or feel -- it just isn't comfortable. The switch is used
for menu navigation and changing settings in manual mode.
addition, the four-way switch can be used for selecting an auto
focus frame. This feature lets you choose one of three areas in
the frame for the camera to focus on. This is useful for situations
where the subject you want to focus on is not in the center of the
we've made it to the top of the camera. Up here you will find the
speaker, microphone, mode wheel, zoom control, and shutter release
button. The zoom control is small and hard to find, but it controls
the zoom mechanism smoothly.
is no LCD info display up here, so you'll be forced to turn on the
main LCD to see your current settings and shots remaining.
mode wheel has a few changes from the PowerShot G2, but is mostly
the same. Here is what you'll find:
Manual - you pick shutter speed and aperture
(aperture priority) - you pick aperture, camera picks appropriate
(shutter priority) - you pick shutter speed, camera picks appropriate
- camera picks exposure settings but you can change everything
- camera chooses all settings
- sharp subject, soft background
Scene - for illuminating human subjects against dark backgrounds
Shutter Auto - I have no idea what this does yet
Effect - choose from vivid, neutral, sepia, and monochrome color.
Assist - helps you make panoramas like the one earlier in the
mode - more on this later
shutter priority mode, you can choose from a range of 15 - 1/1500
sec. If you take shots with shutter speeds slower than 1.3 seconds,
the camera will run a special noise reduction filter. This will
increase recording time, of course.
aperture priority mode, the range is F2.8 to F8.0, with many stops
is one side of the S30/S40, where you can see ports for A/V and
"digital" (USB) output. There is (obviously) a rubber
cover which protects these when not in use.
is the other side of the camera.. with nothing to see! Where is
that CompactFlash slot?!
down here on the bottom! Open the battery door and you'll not only
find the battery compartment, but also a CompactFlash Type II slot.
That's right, Type II. The IBM Microdrive is fully supported.
on the bottom of the camera is a metal tripod mount.
the Canon PowerShot S30 and S40
PowerShot S30/S40 take just under four seconds to extend the lens
and "boot up" before you can start taking pictures.
there was any question about Canon getting a bit flashy on the PowerShot
G2, it's all been settled now. You can choose a startup screen,
startup sound, and "beep" on the camera. Thus, if you
want a photo of a bird along with bird noises when you turn on the
camera, you can have it. No word on if you can customize these.
you depress the shutter release button halfway, focus lock can occur
almost instantly, or sometimes in a second, depending on what your
subject is. There is a noticeable yet short lag when you fully press
the shutter release button.
speed is very good for a 4MP camera -- you'll wait just 3 seconds
at Large/Super Fine quality. The S30 seemed slightly faster between
shots than the S40.
is a look at the resolution and quality choices for each camera:
Images on 16MB card (S30/S40)
2048 x 1536 (S30)
2272 x 1704 (S40)
1600 x 1200
1024 x 768
640 x 480
is RAW mode? Simply put, it is the "raw" data from the
CCD, after a photo is taken. The S30/S40 don't have a TIFF mode
-- instead, they use RAW mode. To convert a RAW file into a TIFF
or JPEG, you'll have to run it through Canon's software on your
computer first. The big advantage of RAW mode over TIFF is file
size: you can store many more RAW files on a memory card than TIFFs.
A RAW image on the S40 is just 2800KB... a TIFF would probably be
9000KB. Smaller file size also means less waiting for the camera
to write the file to the memory card -- it's not much worse than
a JPEG. Canon includes a RAW Image Converter software application
to do batch RAW to TIFF conversions.
PowerShot S30/S40 have almost the same options as the PowerShot
G2. Here's what you'll find in the menus:
(2048 x 1536 or 2272 x 1704, 1600 x 1200, 1024 x 768, 640 x 480)
(Superfine, Fine, Normal)
Format (JPEG, RAW)
Mode (Single, Continuous, Continuous High, Self-timer [10 sec
and 2 sec])
Speed (Auto, 50, 100, 200, 400, 800 [S30 only])
AE Point (Center, AF Point)
Mode (continuous, single)
(Off, 2 sec, 10 sec) - how long image is shown on LCD after it's
Number Reset (on/off)
(-, 0, +)
(-, 0, +)
(-, 0, +)
are also the usual setup items available, which include date/time,
beep, LCD brightness, and more. There is a separate menu for customizing
the startup screen and sounds, as I mentioned before.
few notes: there are two continuous shooting modes on these cameras.
In regular continuous mode, the S30 can shoot up to 12 frames at
2 frames/sec, and the S40 can take up to 9 frames at 1.5 frames/sec.
In continuous high mode, the S30 can record up to 7 frames at 3
frames/sec, while the S40 can do up to 5 frames at 2.5 frames/sec.
S30 has the ability to shoot at ISO 800, while ISO 400 is the top
for the S40. Keep in mind that as the ISO goes up, so does the noise.
take a look at the photo tests for both of these cameras.
of the cameras did a great job with the macro test shot. The colors
are right-on in a room where the lighting is tough on most camera's
white balance. The focusing range in macro mode is 10 - 80cm on
both of the cameras.
cameras did a good job at the night shots. The S40 photo is brighter
because I used a longer exposure. I could've did the same on the
S30 but stopped at 3.2" (the S40 shot is 8"). The noise
reduction works well, as you can see when you blow up the images.
the photo quality is excellent on both cameras. This is not surprising
considering that they're PowerShot G2's with a different lens. I
didn't see any chromatic aberrations (purple fringing) in any of
the photos that I took. Check out the S30
gallery or the S40 gallery
to judge the image quality for yourself.
mode on the PowerShot cameras is pretty good. You can record at
15 frames/sec at 320 x 240, or 160 x 120. Sound is recorded as well.
the larger size, you can record clips as long as 30 seconds. At
the small size, up to 120 seconds can be saved.
the microphone is right next to the zoom lens, you cannot use the
optical zoom during filming, since you'd pick up the lens noise.
a sample movie from the PowerShot S30 taken while waiting (and waiting)
for the bus. If you want a sample from the S40, click
here (they look the same).
to play movie (AVI format, 2.1MB)
PowerShot's playback mode doesn't have a lot of gimmicks. But the
basic features it has are done well. That includes slide shows,
image protection, image rotation, and DPOF print marking.
zoom & scroll feature is best on Canon cameras, in my opinion
(Casio is close). This allows you to zoom in 2X or 4X into your
photo, and then move around in the zoomed in area. The scrolling
is in real-time and very smooth.
between images is very quick as well -- about one second between
high res thumbnails.
you want information about your photo, the S30 and S40 deliver.
You can find out almost everything about your photo, as you can
see above. There is also a histogram display.
cameras support Direct Print, which lets you control compatible
Canon printers directly from the camera.
Does it Compare?
the PowerShot S30 and S40 are what I call "putting the same
camera in a different case with a new name", it's not a bad
thing here. That's because they're based on the excellent PowerShot
G2, and they've arrived with most of the G2 features intact. That
includes full manual controls, excellent photo quality, a capable
movie mode, and lots of preset "scenes" for easy shooting.
Oh, and they're easy to fit in your pocket too. If you want to use
accessory lenses or an external flash, you'll want to consider the
G2 instead. But these two are excellent choices that I definitely
metallic body is easy to pocket
for CompactFlash Type II cards and Microdrive
mode - uncompressed images, much smaller than Tiffs
of info about your photos in playback mode
I didn't care for:
optical zoom in movie mode
a fan of the four-way switch (minor issue)
small cameras to consider include the Fuji FinePix 4800
Finecam S3, Nikon
Coolpix 885, Olympus
D-40, Pentax Optio 330
and the Sony
always, I recommend a trip to your local camera store to try out
the PowerShot G2 and its competitors before you buy, assuming you
can find them!
out the PowerShot S30 and
a second opinion? How about a third?
Resource has reviews of the PowerShot S30
Steves Digicams has S30
reviews as well. If that's still not enough, Digital Photography
Review also looks at the S40.
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.