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Canon PowerShot S70 Digital Camera - Wide Angle and RAW, but High Price
Oct 13, 2005 (Updated Oct 18, 2005)
a Very Helpful Review
by the Epinions community
Although I was happy with the 5-Megapixel Canon PowerShot S60, I wanted to see what the 7.1-Megapixel Canon PowerShot S70 could do. I got it for $394, which is $176 more than I paid for my S60.
Recommend this product?
I definitely was interested in a lens that starts as wide as 28 mm, which is one of the features of the Canon S70. Most compact cameras (film or digital) start at 35-38 mm. What does it mean for you? Imagine going on vacation to Europe or anywhere else where the streets are narrow or there is not much space for you to step back to be able to fit everything you want in the frame. If your camera has a wider-angle lens (e.g. 28 mm), you will be able to fit more in the frame without moving back as much as you would have to with a 35-38 mm lens. It is a very cool feature and highly underrated one.
The Canon PowerShot S70 has a lens that starts as wide as 28 mm equivalent focal length and goes to 100 mm at telephoto. Some other cool features are RAW mode, full manual control, available manual focus, tough, well built body and a rechargeable battery with charger.
About Canon PowerShot S70
The Canon PowerShot S70 is a 7.1-Megapixel digital camera with a 3.6x optical zoom (28-100 mm equivalent), 1.8-inch LCD screen and an optical zooming viewfinder, 9-point or 1-point autofocus, powered by a supplied Li-Ion rechargeable battery. The camera is black in color.
The camera has 13 shooting modes. The S70 stores pictures on CompactFlash (CF) Type 1 and Type 2 cards. The camera has aperture ranges of f/2.8-8.0 at wide angle, f/5.3-8.0 at telephoto. The shutter speed range is 15-1/2,000 sec. The camera features a histogram display in review mode and an ability to write a RAW file if while shooting JPEG you decided you need to record the last shot image as RAW.
The S70 is very well built and seems to be very durable. The camera is quite heavy and its body is partially made of metal. The controls have excellent tactile feel and require well-calibrated amounts of effort.
The only element that could be improved is the battery/CF card compartment door, which is made of plastic. I would prefer if it was made of metal. But it is sturdy enough and the battery does not push against it when closing, which makes it less difficult to break than the battery compartments of Canon cameras that use 4 AA batteries (e.g. A620 or A610).
The S70 has a mode selection wheel on the top deck next to the shutter release button. The mode wheel has positions for full auto mode, scene modes, program mode, Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority, Manual, Custom, Video and Stitch Assist. The wheel requires the right amount of effort to rotate.
The S70 has a metal tripod mount on the bottom and an A/V and USB outs under a rubberized lid on the side of the camera. The rear panel has a 1.8-inch LCD screen, an optical viewfinder and a multitude of buttons as well as the zoom buttons.
When the S70 arrived, I used the supplied charger to charge the included proprietary Li-Ion battery pack, inserted it and the Kingston Elite Pro 512MB CF memory card that I bought separately and was ready to shoot. The S70 comes with a 32-MB CF card, but it cannot hold many photos at full resolution.
The S70 is powered on by sliding the lid that protects the lens and the viewfinder window. The camera extends its lens and you are ready to shoot. The power-up takes about 3 seconds. The shutdown is initiated by sliding the lid back and lasts about 2 seconds.
The LCD increases its brightness in the dark (gains-up) and is fluid. It is not the largest on the market, but works well. One issue I have with it is that when you review the photo with shooting information and the histogram, the histogram and parameters are not superimposed on the picture, but picture is reduced in size and the histogram is shown next to it :(
The camera is rather easy to use for anyone who used Canon digital cameras before. The menus are not the most efficient, but usable and easy to deal with. The camera gives you a lot of control in manual modes, but you can select the full auto mode for point-and-shoot simplicity or scene modes for simplicity of operation.
The camera has a dedicated button that lets you switch from shooting to review and back. I like this idea. You can also turn the camera on in review mode without sliding the lens' protective cover by pushing and holding this button.
The S70 can display a histogram in review mode, but it is not implemented well. The histogram is not superimposed on the image, but rather the image is displayed as a small thumbnail with the areas of overexposure blinking and the histogram is shown next to it and other shooting parameters are shown below.
The S70 has a good automatic white balance system and also has useful presets for several situation, including daylight, cloudy, incandescent, fluorescent and even underwater. The auto white balance system works well outdoors and the incandescent/tungsten setting is good for incandescent lighting indoors.
The S70 has a "real" adjustable aperture, unlike some cheaper models with eitehr fixed or two-step apertures. The aperture goes down to f/8.0 at either wide angle or telephoto.
The camera has a built-in flash, which has good coverage and its output can be adjusted if needed. There is a red-eye reduction mode that uses the same red lamp as the focus assist. The flash recycle time is very fast at only about 3 seconds.
The S70 allows you focus manually by pushing and holding the MF button while adjusting the focus using arrow buttons. The center of the image can be magnified to help you confirm focus. A bit awkward, but it works.
The camera also has focus bracketing (takes 3 photos with different focal distances) as well as exposure bracketing. You can also select between automatically focusing in one area (by default it is a rectangle located in the center of the frame, but you can move it by pushing "SET" button and using arrow buttons) and 9-point AiAF automatic focus selection.
The camera is fast in operation. It focuses in under a second, even in dim lighting and the shutter lag (when pre-focused) is virtually nonexistent. The pictures can be taken at about 2 seconds intervals.
When shooting RAW images, the camera can take a picture about once in 3 seconds. And the flash recharge time is under 3 seconds as well, which is rather short.
The camera can take pictures in compressed JPEG format at 3072x2304, 2592x1944, 2048x1536, 1600x1200 or 640x480 resolution. Each resolution can be combined with one of three compression levels: Normal, Fine and SuperFine.
You can also select RAW format, which lets you record information directly from the CCD sensor without sharpening, adjustment of colors and contrast and without JPEG processing. This way you can open the RAW file in your image editing software (e.g. Adobe Photoshop CS2) and adjust some things that cannot be adjusted (or adjusted well) if you shot JPEG: white balance, contrast, color space, noise reduction, sharpening, gamma and more.
Not many compact cameras have RAW recording capability and the S70 is one of them. You can also record a RAW file even if you selected shooting JPEG. If you took a picture and realized you want it in RAW format, push the FUNC button while it is still on the screen and you will be prompted if you want it saved as RAW.
I mostly used the S70's RAW mode, but also used its JPEG Fine mode. Just as the S60, the S70 has a sharp lens that goes as wide as 28 mm (equivalent). The lens is sharp from corner to corner and at all focal distances. The images have excellent sharpness. But the camera's optics exhibits some chromatic aberration (purple fringing) at wide angle in areas of high contrast.
I noticed purple fringing in photos made in the mountains shooting trees with bright sky as the background at wide angle. It is not very noticeable and is probably a byproduct of having such a compact wide-angle optics, but it is there and might be an issue if you want to produce enlargements from your wide-angle shots. I personally have no problem with that.
The chromatic aberration disappears if you zoom in a little, so you should know: if you can, zoom in a little to avoid purple fringing. And if you need the full wide angle, just use it: the aberration is not so bad as to cause unusable prints and is barely visible at normally-sized prints. I have not noticed any vignetting or loss of sharpness in the corners.
In addition to being sharp, the pictures have pleasing "Canon" colors with rich saturation and nice-looking skies. The people's skin tones look good too.
The S70 has pretty average, for compact camera, image noise levels. The image noise at ISO 50 is pretty much invisible, gets slightly visible at ISO 100-200 and gets pronounced at ISO 400 to a point where I would only consider making 4x6 or 5x7-inch prints at this sensitivity setting.
After having taken about 150 pictures the battery has not been depleted yet. I estimate it will last for about 250-300 photos, depending on usage.
The S70 has a USB port, but I have not uses it.I removed the CF memory card and uses it in my Zio Dazzle USB 2.0 Hi-Speed Universal 8-in-1 Memory Card Reader.
You might have to download the latest Camera RAW plugin from the Adobe web site if you are suing Adobe Photoshop.
The Canon PowerShot S70 is an excellent camera with wide-angle optics. It is flexible, compact and well built. But it has a relatively small screen and high price. I recommend it if you need the 7.1-Megapixel resolution. But if you don't, check out the 5-Megapixel Canon PowerShot S60.
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Amount Paid (US$): 394
This Camera is a Good Choice if You Want Something... Flexible Enough for Enthusiasts
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