In a market driven by superlatives, is a functional compact EVF that's not
the "most something" worth a second look?
We've determined that the Canon PowerShot S5 IS is a great-looking, solidly built camera with a good feature set, but what really matters most for us is image quality, and in a couple of significant ways, the S5 IS is lacking where it counts.
We can make generalized statements like "High ISO performance is less of an issue on optically image stabilized cameras because you gain some stops to keep shooting at lower ISOs." But while that might be true, we expect more from a camera that will cost close to half a grand after shipping and taxes.
At ISO 80, image quality is Extremely High, bordering on Excellent, but it goes downhill pretty quickly, as resolution drops and noise increases as the ISOs climb.
Noise is Low (1.9) at ISO 80, Moderate at ISO 100 (2.4) and 200 (2.5), but High/Unacceptable at ISO 400 (3.2), 800 (4.1) and 1600 (6.3).
Resolution is Excellent at ISO 80 (1725), Extremely High at ISO 800 (1590), and High at ISO 1600 (1315).
Color Accuracy is Extremely High with an Average Delta E of 8.2 at ISO 80, with Auto White Balance. The 12x zoom shows visible barrel distortion at 36mm (.44%), but distortion is well contained at both 216mm (Imperceptible Pincushion: .00%) and 432mm (Imperceptible Pincushion: .03%)
In short, we're not pleased at all with the noise and resolution performance of this camera at ISO 400 and up. ISOs 100 and 200 are usable, but a camera of this class and at this price should produce better quality images at low ISOs. Our advice: never use the Canon PowerShot S5 IS above ISO 200 unless it is absolutely necessary. Use the lower ISOs, preferably ISO 80, and hope that the two to three stop gain in Image Stabilization will keep the image sharp, and keep the camera in its lower, higher-image-quality ISO range whenever possible.
THE BOTTOM LINE
This is a great-looking EVF that is solidly built, fun to use, and has unique stereo recording for video capture. Dedicated buttons for image quality adjustments are a great touch, as is the articulated LCD screen. Optical Image stabilization allows for sharp shots even when the lighting isn't perfect, and overall the ergonomics and design of this camera are top-shelf. Unfortunately, image quality at ISO 400 and up isn't up to snuff, and it is a shame that such a well-designed camera from a major player suffers where it matters most.
CERTIFIED TEST RESULTS
Noise: Low (1.9) at ISO 80, Moderate at ISO 100 (2.4) and 200 (2.5), High/Unacceptable at ISO 400 (3.2), 800 (4.1) and 1600 (6.3)
Resolution:Excellent at ISO 80 (1725), Extremely High at ISO 800 (1590), and High at ISO 1600 (1315).
Color Accuracy:Extremely High (Average Delta E:8.2. ISO 80 AWB.)
Distortion:Visible barrel distortion at 36mm (.44%), Imperceptible Pincushion at 216mm (.00%) and 432mm (.03%)
IN THE BOXPowerShot S5 IS Body
AA-size Alkaline Battery (x4)
SD Memory Card SDC-32M
Neck Strap NS-D4
Digital Camera Solution CD-ROM
USB Interface Cable IFC-400PCU
Stereo Video Cable STV-250N
Vital Statistics:Compact digital still camera with built-in flash, 12x Optical/4x Digital/48x Combined Zoom with Optical Image Stabilizer (IS) System
8.0 Megapixel, 1/2.5 inch type Charge Coupled Device (CCD)
Total Pixels:Approx. 8.3 Megapixels
Effective Pixels:Approx. 8.0 Megapixels
Lens Focal Length:6.0-72.0mm f/2.7-3.5 (35mm film equivalent: 36-432mm)
Digital Zoom: 4x
Normal: 1.6 ft./50cm-infinity (WIDE), 3.0 ft./90cm-infinity (TELE)
Macro: 3.9 in.-1.6 ft./10-50cm (W)
Super Macro: 0-3.9 in./0-10cm (W)
Autofocus System:TTL Autofocus
Viewfinder:0.33-inch low-temperature polycrystalline silicon TFT color LCD electronic viewfinder
LCD Monitor: 2.5-inch low-temperature polycrystalline silicon TFT color LCD screen, Vari-angle type with wide viewing angle
LCD Pixels:Approx. 207,000 pixels
Maximum Aperture:f/2.7 (W) - f/3.5 (T)
Shutter Speed 15-1/3200 sec. (settable in Tv and M)
ISO Sensitivity:Auto, High ISO Auto, ISO 80/100/200/400/800/1600 (Standard Output Sensitivity. Recommended Exposure Index)
Light Metering Method: Evaluative*, Center-weighted average, Spot**
* Control to incorporate facial brightness in Face Detection AF
** Metering frame is fixed to the center
Exposure Control Method: Program AE, Shutter Speed-Priority AE, Aperture-Priority AE, Manual; AE Lock available
Exposure Compensation:+/-2 stops in 1/3-stop increments
White Balance Control: Auto, Preset (Daylight, Cloudy, Tungsten, Fluorescent, Fluorescent H, Flash), Custom
Built-in Flash: Auto, Auto w/ Red-eye Reduction, Flash On, Flash On w/Red-eye Reduction, Flash Off; FE lock, Safety FE available
Normal: 1.6-17 ft./50cm-5.2m (W), 3.0-13 ft./90cm-4.0m (T)
Macro: 1-1.6 ft./30-50cm (W) (when sensitivity is set to ISO Auto)
Flash Recycling Time:12 sec. or less (battery voltage=6.0V)
Flash Exposure Compensation: +/-2 stops in 1/3-stop increments
Shooting Modes: Auto; Creative: P, Av, Tv, M, C; Image: Portrait, Landscape, Sports, Special Scene (Foliage, Snow, Beach, Fireworks, Aquarium, Indoor, Night Scene, Color Accent, Color Swap), Night Snapshot, Super Macro, Stitch Assist, Movie
Self-Timer:Activates shutter after an approx. 2-sec./10-sec. delay, Custom
Wireless Control: Not available
Continuous Shooting: Approx. 1.5 fps; AF/LV: approx. 0.9 fps
Storage Media: SD Memory Card, SDHC Memory Card, MultiMediaCard
Design rule for camera file system, DPOF Version 1.1
JPEG Compression Mode
Still Image: Exif 2.2 (JPEG)
Movie: AVI (Image: Motion JPEG; Audio: WAVE (Stereo))
Number of Recording Pixels
Still Image: 640 x 480 (Small), 1,600 x 1,200 (Medium 3), 2,048 x 1,536 (Medium 2), 2,592 x 1,944 (Medium 1), 3,264 x 2,448 (Large), 3,264 x 1,832 (Widescreen)
Movie: 640 x 480 (30 fps/30 fps LP), 320 x 240 (60 fps/30 fps) available up to 4GB or 60 minutes
1. AA-size Alkaline Battery (x4)
2. Rechargeable AA-size NiMH Battery (x4)
3. Compact Power Adapter CA-PS700
Shooting Capacity: Still Image: approx. 170 shots (AA-size Alkaline Battery); approx. 450 shots (AA-size NiMH Battery)*
Playback Time: Approx. 12 hours (AA-size Alkaline Battery); approx. 15 hours (AA-size NiMH Battery)*
* LCD screen on. The above figures comply with CIPA testing standards and apply when fully-charged batteries are used.
Dimensions (W x H x D): 4.60 x 3.15 x 3.06 in./117.0 x 80.0 x 77.7mm
Weight: Approx. 15.9 oz./450g (camera body only)