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Canon PowerShot S70

A 7-megapixel tool for the job
(by Conrad H. Blickenstorfer)

Canon perhaps more that any other company took full advantage of the wholesale move from film to digital cameras by consistently offering a large selection of state-of-the-art products. You can't go wrong by picking a Canon, and that certainly applies to the 7.1 megapixel PowerShot S70świth some exceptions.

At first sight you might not be overly impressed with the S70. In this field it is middle-of-the-road in terms of size and weight -- not big and bulky but definitely too large and heavy to slip into a pocket. Despite its classy looking dark gray finish the S70 is more workmanlike than beautiful. It looks and feels like a tool for a job -- purposeful and very well made. Quality will never be an issue with this camera.

The camera's feature set seems remarkably in tune with its appearance: it is more utilitarian and functional than flashy and spectacular. The 28-100 mm zoom, for example, is a bit wider than usual, and the 3.6X magnification offers more flexibility than the common 3X opticals. Canon also gave the S70 a very powerful Li-Ion battery rated at a full 550 images (which heats up the metal body quite a bit). The popular Compact Flash card format appeals to people who have plenty of them lying around. And the camera feels so solid and trust-inspiring that you never feel like you need to baby it. So there is much to like.

On the other hand, the S70 also has its share of fairly ordinary features that may limit its appeal to some potential customers. In a camera this size, a tiny 1.8-inch LCD is simply not enough, even if it is nicely readable outdoors. Those who like to shoot movie clips will be disappointed at the very brief 30 second maximum length in the 640 x 480 format, and even more so at the very slow 10 frames per second speed in VGA resolution. The S70 also isn't terribly fast on start-up or cycle time between pictures. And the extensive menus are in very small print and a bit confusing. When the camera tries to be fancy, as in the manual focus that magnifies a small part of the picture so you can focus, it doesn't do too well (you can't see if something is in focus on a small part of a small screen). Flashiness is just not its game.

If you're starting to think we didn't like the S70 very much you'd be wrong. True, this is not a thrilling, exciting camera, but not everyone needs or wants flashy whistles and bells. The S70 is a tool for the job and that job is taking pictures, and the compact Canon does this very well. Thanks to its large battery and no-nonsense approach you can shoot away day-in, day-out, anywhere. And like any good tool, the S70 helps you do your job. If you shoot raw, you can get a JPEG preview images saved at the same time. There is full manual control, of course, and the shutter and aperture priority settings have a "Safety Shift" feature so the camera can override inappropriate settings. There is noise reduction for long exposure pics, auto exposure bracketing, a playback histogram that shows overexposure. The S70 is a good companion.

The software in the S70 box consists of ArcSoft's very good PhotoStudio and VideoImpression. There are different versions for PC and Macintosh, and both work very well.

After all is said and done, the PowerShot S70 is a camera that provides you with all the tools to shoot good pictures, but it also expects you to know what you're doing, else you might be a bit disappointed in the picture quality and the significant purple fringing that we didn't expect in a camera of this caliber. The excellent wide-angle lens will be appreciated by many, but advanced users -- who this camera is really made for -- may be disappointed by some unexpected weaknesses in macro mode, focusing speed, and even the feature set. Overall, the S70 is not among our favorite Canons.

We like:

  • Quality design and execution
  • Some advanced features
  • Good software suite
Not so much:
  • Small LCD, limited movie mode
  • Busy controls and menus
  • Excessive purple fringing

Specifications Canon PowerShot S70
Status Added 09/2005
Camera Type Compact
Size 4.5 x 2.22 x 1.53
Weight (oz.) 8.1 w/o battery
Effective Pixels 7.1 mp
CCD Type 1/1.8
Max pixel size 3072 x 2304
File formats RAW, JPEG, AVI
Compression Superfine, fine, normal
Movie recording (best) 30 sec @ 10fps
Max movie pixels 640 x 480
Voice recording 60 sec sound clips
Lens NA
Focal length 5.8-20.7mm (28-100mm)
Zoom (optical/digital) 3.6X/4.1X
Aperture f/2.8 - f/8.0
Focus modes AF, AF lock, manual
Focus minimum/macro 1.4 inches, 1.4 feet
Shutter speed 1/2000 to 15 sec
Sensitivity (ISO) auto/50/100/200/400
Autofocus system 9 or 1-point AF
Metering Eval/center/spot
White-balance modes auto, 7 presets, custom
Shooting modes P/A/S/M/scenes
Exposure compensation +/-2EV in 1/3 steps
Viewfinder Type Real-image optical
LCD size 1.8" LCD (118k)
LCD type outdoor viewable
LCD construction fixed
Flash type built-in
Flash range up to 14 feet
Flash modes 4
Camera internal memory none
Storage Medium CF Card (32MB incl)
Battery type Li-Ion NB2L/NB2IH
CIPA Battery life (LCD/off) 550 images
Street Price $429
Contact www.canonusa.com

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