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Canon Powershot S70 Review

Canon S70 Front Side Angle Open
Simon is the newest member of the Digital Photography Blog reviewer team and has just submitted this review of the new Canon Powershot S70 - a 7.1 Megapixel camera with 3.6x Optical Zoom lens.

First Impressions of layout and design

Initial contact with this camera is impressive. Its stylish black exterior and traditional camera design will appeal to many. It feels nice and solid, even weighted, and robust enough to handle a few bumps during its lifetime.

Turning the S70 on and off is a simple matter of a sliding cover over the lens, which also serves to protect the glass. As with all Canon cameras Ive used, the buttons and menus are very simple to use, with anyone being able to pick this camera up and operate it confidently after a matter of minutes.

One thing I noted straight away was its lack of a handgrip on the shutter release side. For many people this wont be a problem, however if youre used to SLR cameras (or even the A or G series Canon cameras for that matter), then youll really feel the difference.


The Canon S70 is a 7.1Mp, 1/1.8" CCD digital camera. The classical black body houses an extremely feature packed camera, able to cater to users at all levels.

Its 3.6x optical zoom starts at a very wide 28mm heading through to 100mm, which makes this camera unique as most digital cameras have a focal range starting at around 38mm or so. Of course, having more range at the wider end means it can sacrifices some zoom at the telephoto end, but for most users this isn't an issue. In fact, most users will benefit more from having the wider end of the spectrum available rather than the extra few mm at the telephoto end.

Macro mode is impressive, with the S70 capable of focusing down to 4cm. And with over 7 million pixels to play with, you have plenty of room to crop if need be to produce some outstanding close up work to show off to your friends.

Image sizes range from L (Large, 3072x2304) down to S (Small, 640x480) with three Medium settings available in between. Quality of the images (compression) ranges from normal, fine, to superfine, with the last being the optimal quality.

This camera is also capable of shooting RAW files, which is basically compression less images. The file sizes for RAW are much larger than "normal", and if you don't carry extra memory cards or a photo storage device, should be used at a minimum to avoid disappointment of filling your card up to soon and missing out on other important photo opportunities.

The Control dial on top of the camera is basically the same as those found on any given SLR camera and contains the following selections: -

* Auto (camera selects everything, basic functionality available in menu)
* P mode (camera selects aperture and shutter speed, but opens up more menus)
* Av (Aperture Priority: user sets Aperture, camera works out shutter speed)
* Tv (Shutter Priority: user sets shutter speed, camera works out aperture)
* M (full Manual, user selects both Aperture and Shutter speed)
* C (Custom, saves all user preferred settings such as Tv, Av, effects, focal length etc.)
* Portrait (favours wider open apertures for softer, out of focus backgrounds)
* Landscape (gives greater depth of field, more in focus)
* Night (flash with slower shutter speed to pickup background detail)
* Fast action (favours higher shutter speeds, freezing action)
* Slow action (favours slow shutter speeds. Gives water silky effect etc.)

Canon Powershot S70 Back
For those who venture beyond Auto, and shoot in P, Av, Tv, M or C modes, the camera will give you access to several more creative controls located in the menu for extra creativity. One of those is the Effects menu, which has the following options: -

* Vivid - for more exaggerated colours, great for landscapes etc
* Neutral - gives a softer more neutral overall feel to the image
* Low sharpening - applies some in camera sharpening to the picture
* Sepia - for an old world feel, changes image to brown tones
* BW - the classical Black and White look
* Custom - the ability to control Contrast, Sharpness, and Saturation yourself

The S70 also has many White balance presets available, along with the standard Auto mode where the camera selects the appropriate white balance for any given scene. This gives that extra bit of control over the final result of the exposure.

White balance settings available on the S70 are: -
* Auto
* Daylight
* Cloudy
* Tungsten
* Fluorescent
* Fluorescent High
* Flash
* Underwater
* Custom

Bracketing is available on this camera for exposure and flash by +/- 2 stops in 1/3rd stop increments, allowing for extra fine control in situations when exposure tweaking is necessary.

The Panorama mode on the S70 is excellent. On most digital cameras with the panorama feature, after the first shot is taken the camera displays the image to one side of the LCD, making it easier to line up the next shot.

However, the S70 goes that one step further with the ability to line images up on both sides as well as above or below in the frame. This really impressed me, as on occasions when traveling you find you just cant fit in the whole front of an old church or mountain vertically on the LCD, so with the S70 you could easily line up your vertical photos for stitching later on. Of course, you could simply shoot the images individually using the LCD up / down / sideways, but the panorama mode makes it far simpler and takes away most of the guesswork for you.

For those who are also looking for movie modes on their digital camera, the S70 is impressive. It can shoot in 640x480, 320x240, and 160x120 sizes, meaning if you need to save some space but really want to get it on video, you can drop the resolution to decrease the file size and capture the moments you're after.

Drive modes available on the S70 are Single, Continuous, High Speed, to Infra Red remote. Theres also a 2 or 10 second timer on the S70 for those times when you the photographer are also required to be in the shot!

Canon Powershot S70 Front Closed
The ISO selections range from fully Auto, 50,100,200 and 400. These options are fairly standard across most digital cameras available today. Most users leave their cameras on Auto, which tends to favour the lower ISO numbers anyway as this is where the best image quality would be found (higher ISO settings start to introduce "Noise" into your image, which is basically equals a loss in quality).

The S70 uses a proprietary Canon battery, which is quick to charge on the included charger. However this also means that you can't just duck down to the local corner store to pickup some AA batteries in-between a wedding and reception once you've run out! The other downside of proprietary batteries is that they might be slightly more expensive when buying spares.

Ease of Use
Overall, the S70 is quite simple to operate. The controls appear to be in logical positions and the menus are simple and intuitive to navigate through.

However, one thing I wasn't completely sold on the way the S70 uses manual focus. You're required to hold down the MF button and use the up and down on the direction pad to change whats currently in focus. I found this somewhat awkward to use.

One thing I mentioned earlier (and Ill do it again!) is the lack of handgrip on the S70. Of course, this is purely subjective, but having larger hands than most I find the grips on the Canon G and A series much more comfortable to hold in your hand, especially for long periods of time.

The positive side of having no handgrip is that it fits very easily into a [large] pocket without getting caught on anything.

Quality of results
On the whole, the images from the S70 are decent, and will please the majority of users. However I found that once I pushed the ISO up to 400 the noise became very evident.

CA (or purple fringing as its also known as) is evident in some shots, however stopping down the lens reduces this, and ultimately it can be removed in post processing anyway so its no big deal for me.

I also found that by setting my own custom Effect with increased Saturation and Contrast, it provided more realistic shots than what the camera was capable of out of the box. I guess this is where digital cameras shine experimenting at no cost!

* Black!
* Wide angle [28mm]
* Solid and sturdy
* Lens is protected
* Fits well in a [large] pocket
* Great panorama facility
* Excellent custom effect giving even more control to the user

* Proprietary battery
* Higher levels of noise at ISO 400 than what I feel is acceptable
* Actual sensor size hasnt been increased in size from past models
* The Manual focus technique feels clumsy

7.5 out of 10 - feature packed at a good price (AUS $1099 RRP at time of release, spotted online for AUS $929 as of 22/11/2004)

General Comments
Id like to take a quick moment now to point out that even though there are 7.1 million pixels on the S70, they havent actually increased the physical dimensions of the sensor since the S30, which only had 3.1MP.

Now there are two camps out there on the theory of sensor size vs. image quality: those that believe technology is advancing fast enough that its ok to cram more pixels into sensors without making the actual sensor larger, and those that feel cramming more pixels in without increasing sensor size degrades image quality. Ill unashamedly admit Im part of the latter group.

This leads me to my final question: does the average family happy snapper really need 7.1 million pixels? Considering a 2MP camera will more than adequately print 6x4 images, perhaps we should all think twice before falling victim to the camera manufacturers megapixel race.

Get more information and reviews on the Canon Powershot S70

UK and European readers price the Canon Powershot S70 here
US readers price the Canon Powershot S70 here

Review written by DPB reviewer - Simon

Posted by Darren in our Reviews category on November 23, 2004