Dissecting the Canon Powershot S5 IS

First published on: Tuesday, 8 May 2007

The long-awaited replacement to the Powershot S3 IS was announced in May 2007 in the form of the Canon Powershot S5 IS.

The Canon S5 IS boasts a host of new features and impressive specs, but let’s pick them apart to see how useful they really are.

Official Canon Powershot S5 IS website

Official Canon Powershot S5 IS imagesLots of information explaining the features and functionality of the Canon S5 in great detail at Canon BeBit.

There are also eight sample images available there. Download the full-sized samples and see if you’re satisfied with the quality.

At 100%, I see some loss of hair detail in the portrait shots which I’m quite sure is caused by an aggressive NR (noise reduction) algorithm.

Even after that, there’s still some visible luminance and chroma noise remaining. And all this at ISO 80. I wonder what photos at higher ISO values would look like. Sample Image 3 (still life) is excellent though.

Improvements (or otherwise), new features and specifications

First, get the complete specs and read the press release for the Powershot S5 at DPReview.com.

Flash hotshoe: This new addition is very welcome. The Canon S5 allows you to mount Canon EX Speedlite external flashes which goes a long way towards improving photographs of scenes illuminated by flash.

This opens up a whole new world of lighting creativity — you get to easily try your hand at bounced and diffused flash, for instance.

If you’re not contemplating purchasing an external flash, it might interest you to know that the internal flash on the S5 is quite a bit weaker compared to the one on the Sony Cybershot DSC-H9 — the illumination range works out to be 5.2m on the Powershot S5 IS vs 9.8m on the Cybershot H9.

Missing enhancements: The new S5 won’t please everybody. It doesn’t have HD (high definition) movie capability, nor does it allow you to shoot RAW.

Additionally, I really wish it came with a native 28mm wide angle focal length without having to use the 0.75x wide-converter lens (WC-DC58A).

I think these are just minor niggles though, as the S5 should prove to be one mean photo-taking machine and allow its owners to churn out great photographs.

Does it fix annoyances in the older S2 and S3 IS models? We await further reports from users of the S5 IS on the following matters once it becomes available for sale:

  • When the camera lens is manually focused and the camera subsequently goes to sleep, does one need to press the manual focus button again? On the Powershot S2, the camera wouldn’t remember the setting.

Disappointing sensor size: The Canon S5 comes with a 1/2.5” CCD sensor, which is rather small when compared to the competition that have sensors with larger dimensions (namely: Fujifilm FinePix S6000fd, Fujifilm FinePix IS-1, Kodak P880, Konica Minolta DiMAGE A2, Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ30, Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ50, Samsung Pro815).

In other words, the individual pixels in the Powershot S5’s sensor has a relatively smaller surface area, and that typically leads to narrower dynamic range, and higher noise.

Let’s see if Canon managed to work some miracle into their Digic III imaging processor to counteract these drawbacks.

Movie mode: I consider the S5’s VGA 640 x 480 resolution to be pretty underwhelming, at least when compared to what you’d get on the Powershot G7 or Digital IXUS 900 which give you XGA movies at 1024 x 768 pixels.

LCD screen: This isn’t really a new feature, but the flip and twist LCD screen on the S5 IS is sure to be favored by many over the less flexible LCD screens found on the Sony H9 and Olympus SP-550 UZ cameras.

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