Canon PowerShot S5 IS
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The Canon PowerShot S5 IS ($499) is the follow-up to the incredibly popular PowerShot S3, which was introduced in February of last year. The S5 takes an already excellent camera and improves up on it, adding these new features:
What hasn't changed since the S3? The S5 IS still has a 12X optical zoom lens, optical image stabilization, full manual controls, a rotating LCD display, and a top-notch movie mode. A few things have changed for the worse, though, including the continuous shooting rate and battery life.
The PowerShot S3 (along with its two predecessors) was one of my top picks in the ultra zoom category. Does the new S5 continue the tradition? Find out now in our review!
What's in the Box?
The PowerShot S5 IS has an average bundle. Inside the box, you'll find:
Canon includes a 32MB memory card with the S5, which holds a grand total of eight photos at the highest quality setting. So, unless you have one laying around, you'll want to pick up a larger card right away. The S5 supports SD, SDHC, and MMC media, and I'd recommend picking up a 1GB card at the very least. If you plan on taking a lot of movies, spring for a 4GB SDHC card. Having a high speed card is important with this camera, so look for one with a speed rating of at least 60X (for SD) or Class 4 (for SDHC).
Like its predecessors, the S5 IS uses four AA batteries for power. Canon includes four alkaline batteries in the box, which will quickly find their way into your trash can. Thus, you'll want to get a set or two of NiMH rechargeable batteries (2500 mAh or better) and a fast charger. Once you have those installed, you'll get these battery life numbers:
As you can see, the S5's battery life is a good 20% lower than on the S3. I'm guessing that the larger LCD has a lot to do with this. Despite that, the S5's numbers are still well above the group average.
I'm a big fan of cameras that use AA batteries. They cost less than their proprietary counterparts, and if your rechargeables dies you can just pull some regular alkalines off the shelf to get you through the day. About half of the normal-sized ultra zooms use AAs.
A lot of people complained about the lens cap on the S3, and it's been reworked a bit here. Unfortunately it still pops off way too easily, probably to keep the lens from jamming.
Like accessories? Then the PowerShot S5 will be right up your alley. Here's what you can add to it:
That's a pretty nice list if you ask me. The big story here is the support for external flashes, courtesy of the S5's new hot shoe. You can still use the HF-DC1 slave flash, but why would you want to?
ImageBrowser (Mac OS X)
Canon includes version 30.2 of their Digital Camera Solution software package with the PowerShot S5. The main applications are the ImageBrowser/ZoomBrowser "twins" that come with all PowerShot models. ImageBrowser is for the Mac, while ZoomBrowser is for Windows PCs. The Mac version is not Universal, so it doesn't run as fast as it could on Intel-based Macs.
After you download photos via the CameraWindow application, you'll end up with the screen above, which has a standard-issue thumbnail view. Photos can be organized, printed, and e-mailed from this screen. There's also a rather bizarre TimeTunnel view that lets you view thumbnails in a "tunnel", with a jog dial that lets you move forward and backward in time.
Double-click on a thumbnail and you'll bring up the edit window. Editing functions include trimming, redeye removal, and the ability to adjust levels, color, brightness, sharpness, and the tone curve.
RemoteCapture Task (Mac OS X)
Another nice part of the software bundle is the RemoteCapture Task. As its name implies, the software lets you control the S5 over the USB connection, saving photos directly to your computer instead of a memory card. You can control virtually all of the camera's features, as you can see. This is a feature that is extremely rare on consumer-level cameras, and Canon gets bonus points from me for offering it.
ImageBrowser - MovieEdit Task (Mac OS X)
One of the big features on the S5 is its movie mode, and Canon provides a tool that lets you take advantage of it. The MovieEdit task lets you edit videos, complete with transitions, effects, text overlays, and much more. Perhaps the most important feature is the ability to downsize the videos, which makes them easier to share with friends via e-mail or your website.
PhotoStitch (Mac OS X)
A separate program called PhotoStitch can, well, stitch together separate photos into one giant panorama. The interface is simple, the process takes minutes, and the results are impressive, as you can see. You can use the S5's StitchAssist feature to line up the photos side-by-side with just the right amount of overlap.
The S5's documentation comes in several parts. You get a basic manual to get you up and running, and an advanced manual for more complex camera features. There are also separate manuals for the bundled software and for direct printing (via PictBridge). While the manuals aren't what I'd call pleasure reading, they will answer any question that may come up about the camera.
Look and Feel
The PowerShot S5's design has changed very little since the S3. And that's a good thing, because it's was a pretty well designed camera to start with. The S5 is made of a mixture of plastic and metal, and it feels really solid in your hands. Speaking of which, there's a large grip for your right hand, while your left hand can fit comfortably under the lens barrel.
The camera's button layout still leaves something to be desired. There are buttons all over the place, and not necessarily in easy-to-reach locations. That said, the controls you'll use the most are within easy reach of your fingers.
Okay, here's how the PowerShot S5 compares to the competition in terms of size and weight: