In a market driven by superlatives, is a functional compact EVF that's not
the "most something" worth a second look?
It seems like every other week here at PopPhoto.com, we're hearing of a new digicam that boasts some superlative: the slimmest ultra-compact, the longest zoom, the most megapixels, fastest burst rate and so on. Then there's the recently released Canon PowerShot S5 IS ($470, street), a compact, optically image stabilized Electronic Viewfinder model that sports a respectable 12x zoom with reach from 36-432mm and an 8.3-megapixel Canon 1/2.5 inch CCD sensor, which replaces the S3 IS in the Canon stable.
Oh, but it also has a Canon EX-series hotshoe, stereo recording for VGA video at 30fps (or 60fps at 320x240), a dedicated "instant on" video button, along with full-resolution still capture during video, Average, Center-weighted, Spot or Face Detection metering; full manual controls, and an undeniable cuteness factor.
This is a good-looking camera. It's got a chunky, satisfying shutter button bulging grip, an undersized prism-style topknot holding a compact but powerful pop-up strobe, and a lens-centered design in the style of its EOS siblings. Canon utilizes the extra real estate on the S5 IS to make a lot of functions button-based, unlike its ultracompact digital Elph cohorts.
Like the PowerShot G7, the S5 IS isn't really an Elph or EOS. But the G7 and S5 IS, despite a ton of similar features and functions, are two distinct variations on a theme. And like the G7, the S5 IS eschews RAW capture, an oversight in a camera that is built for the discerning photographer.
The S5 IS really feels good in the hand, and the bright, crisp 115,000 pixel .33 inch EVF with diopter adjustments feels very natural when shooting SLR-style. The fully articulated, 207,000 pixel LCD is also bright and crisp, and can be flipped and reversed for safe keeping during transit or if you're going to be shooting with the EVF for extended periods.
It's a composite body, which saves on weight, but it feels sturdy. Fit and finish, and button and toggle feel is first-rate. The only exception is the battery and card cover. Inside that chunky hand grip live 4 AA batteries and the SDHC (or SD) card slot, and it feels a little scary to have to put a lot of pressure on the cover to force it shut when changing the batteries.
So it's cute and well-built. How does it perform?