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Camera Reviews > Canon PowerShot S1
Canon PowerShot S1 Review
Date: Dec 4, 2004
Tuesday, Nov 16, 2004 - Here's what I receive
in the box:
- PowerShot S1 IS
- Neck Strap
- Lens Cap
- 4 AA Alkaline Batteries
- 32MB CompactFlash (CF) Memory Card
- Interface Cables: A/V; USB
- Documentation: User Guide; Software Starter
Guide; Quick Start Guide; System Map
- Software CDs: Digital Camera 17.1; ArcSoft
Camera Suite 2.1
The Canon PowerShot S1 IS has so many
good features all in one camera: 10x optical zoom,
with the addition of image stabilization; full
exposure flexibility, plus AEB and Focus Braketing;
a Vari-Angle LCD and a large and comfortable EVF;
an excellent movie mode; very good image quality,
and low noise at ISO 50. All this in a compact
and attractive design. You feel you are handling
a more expensive pro model from the design, layout
and practical feature set.
The Canon S1 comes with 4 disposable standard
AA Alkaline batteries. Battery life is excellent,
but I believe most people would still want to
get rechargeable NiMH batteries. I recommend buying
the optional battery charger and 1 set of 4 AA
NiMH rechargeable batteries. l also usually carry
4 fresh AA Alkaline batteries as spare. According
to Canon, fresh AA ALkaline batteries give up
to 120 shots using the LCD, 125 shots using the
EVF; with AA NiMH batteries, you can get up to
550 shots using the LCD and 570 shots using the
Concerning the documentation, the handy Quick
Start Guide is all I need to get the Canon
S1 up and ready for picture taking. Read this
card first before you put in the battery and memory
The User Guide is well illustrated and
written, though with the usual small fonts. You
can download a softcopy of the manuals (English
version only, sorry) from Canon Canada's site
and view them in as large a font as you want on
your own PC display monitor: Canon
PowerShot S1 IS Manuals.
Here are the settings I use and that I found
(for me, at least) to bring the best out of the
MENU (Rec. Menu tab):
- Spot AE Point = AF Point (allows AF point
to be moved around)
- MF-Point Zoom = ON (center of image is enlarged
in Manual Focus)
- AF = Continuous (seems to provide better low-light
- Digital Zoom = Off
- Review = Off (reduces shot to shot time)
- Shortcut Button = WB
MENU (Set up tab):
- Mute = On
- LCD Brightness = Bright
- Power Saving: Auto Power Down = On; Display
Off = 2 min.
- File No. Reset = Off
- Auto Rotate = Off (the intelligent orientation
sensor automatically rotates portrait shots
-- I personally find this annoying, especially
when taking macro shots and it keeps changing
orientation on me)
- Exposure Compensation = 0
- White Balance = Auto
- ISO = 50
- Effect = Off
- Bracket = Off
- Flash Strength = 0
- Image Size = 2048x1536 (L)
- Image Quality = Superfine
The included 32MB CompactFlash memory card holds
about 18 SuperFine Large (2048x1536) images. I
recommed you either get a 256MB or 512MB CF card
(the 512MB CF card holds about 308 SuperFine Large
Sunrise" (Norah Jones)
12.5mm, Program AE, Evaluative
1/640 sec., F4.5 and ISO 50
The Canon S1 handles very well, except for the
placement of the Omni Selector which gets in the
way of my thumb. I believe it could be moved down
to free up that space.
While it is good that there are dedicated buttons
and we don't have to go into the menu to set the
most common settings, there seems to be more than
necessary. Here is my list of suggestions for
- I find the "switch Mode Lever left to
turn on (Shooting Mode), switch Mode Lever right
to go into Playback Mode, and press down OFF
Button to turn off" design just a tad confusing.
First of all, I am too used to either press
a button down, or switch a lever around the
shutter release button, to turn the camera ON
and OFF. But since on the Canon S1, I need to
switch the Mode Lever left to turn the
camera on, I find myself switching the Mode
Lever right to turn the camera off.
- The placement of the Omni Selector also confuses
me because I am so used to have a Zoom Lever
at that position.
- The separate SET button is nice but its proximity
to the MENU button means I am forever mixing
the two especially when I have my eye glued
to the EVF. I personally prefer the SET button
to be in the middle of the Omni Selector to
avoid all confusion and for the fastest operation.
- There is a separate Movie Button when most
digital cameras simply reuse the Shutter Release
- The IS and MF buttons are correctly placed
around the lens barrel but I find them way too
touch sensitive. I would prefer the need for
a deliberate push to engage them.
- The flash still pops up a bit too loud for
my taste, and I would rather be allowed to manually
lift it up silently.
- The Zoom does not have enough intermediate
steps so it's difficult to stop exactly where
you want to.
- The tripod socket is not inline with the lens.
[It's probably to balance the camera on a tripod
that the different camera engineers keep doing
this, but with the panorama feature, you'd think
this is important? And with a good tripod, weight
balance is taken care of?]
As you can see, nothing major here, nothing that
I won't get used to if I use this camera for a
long time. More serious improvements that need
to be mentioned are:
- Add an AF-Assist Illuminator (I never thought
I would ask this from Canon, seeing that their
digital cameras were for a long long time the
only ones that had one).
- Improve the Shutter and AF lag.
- To earn an Editor's Choice, the Canon S1 needs
to improve on the following: reduce CA, improve
shutter and AF lag, fix the EVF freeze.
OK, things I love on the Canon S1:
- I love the large and clear EVF with the big
rubber cup around it (large EVF compared to
the tunnel view of most optical viewfinder).
I can easily see the whole screen with glasses
- I love the diopter adjustment wheel that is
easy to turn and easy to reach on the left side
of the EVF.
- The shutter release button has excellent
tactile feel for half press and full press.
- I like the separate FUNC button with all
the settings you would use; no need to go into
MENU. The only time I go into MENU is to erase
the memory card after I have transferred all
images from camera to PC.
- I also like the fact that the rubber Terminal
Cover housing the USB and A/V Out connectors
swivels out of the way.
- The Movie quality is very good, plus the image
stabilization makes a real difference. You can
even zoom during the movie recording -- just
like a real camcorder -- thanks to the super
quiet Ultrasonic Motor. You can also record
as long as you like, limited only by the capacity
of the memory card (or battery power left).
Throw a 2GB CF card in, and you do have the
best of both worlds (digital camera and camcorder
in one, with long zoom and image stabilization)!
- Metering Mode and Drive Mode have their own
- FlexiZone AF.
- Choice of 2 sec. and 10 sec. self-timer. I
usually use the 2 sec. in macro photography:
long enough to eliminate camera shake, not so
long that the ladybug has time to crawl off
- Histogram in Playback Mode is a very good
way to judge whether your image is under-, over-
or correctly exposed. See the Canon S1 User
Guide for a simple explanation of how to use
the histogram on the S1 (P. 154) or read our
Tutorial. Would be nice if the histogram
also displayed in Shooting Mode.
There is no separate Macro Mode: the Canon S1
simply focuses as close as 10 cm (3.9 in.) at
wide-angle and 93 cm (3 ft.) at telephoto.
There is even a Manual Focus mode for those who
want to use it. The center of the frame can be
viewed enlarged (option can be preset via Menu)
when using Manual Focus. FlexiZone is active even
in Manual AF mode meaning the portion that is
enlarged is wherever the AF frame is pointing
There are more features to be explored on the
Canon S1, such as Remote Capture where you can
hook up the S1 to your computer and control it
from your computer, Intervalometer (for cool lapse
time photography), the ability to save your settings,
scene modes (Image Zone), ....
Canon PowerShot S1 IS is a camera you'll
love especially if you are new to photography
and want to learn, learn, learn. It has the image
quality Canon is famous for; plus, it provides
the features and exposure flexibility a beginner
can experiment with to learn and grow in photography.
Add an unbeatable price, and you've got one hard-to-beat