Canon PowerShot S2IS Review

Canon PowerShot S2IS Review: It succeeds the PowerShot S1 IS …… Hardly recognizable

Canon really does not leave their competitors in peace! And not only in the DSLR field, but now also in the market for super-zoom cameras in the 500-euro class. The Sony DSC-H1 is not yet on the market, and the Konica Minolta Dimage Z5 and Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ5 are just beginning to sell, when the camera giant announces the new PowerShot S2 IS. The successor of the PowerShot S1 IS can do almost everything better than this one and is generally not stingy with technology and equipment. Here the detailed presentation of the Canon novelty.

Brief assessment


  • video mode that leaves little to be desired
  • rotatable and tiltable LC colour screen
  • well thought-out operation, equipment and functionality
  • Sound recording in stereo
  • optical image stabilization in photo and video mode
  • generally good to good image quality
  • powerful on-board flash
  • 0 cm near border
  • enormous zoom power


  • AF speed strongly situation-dependent
  • strong vignetting in the tele range
  • weak input dynamic
  • no automatic AF area selection
  • Tripod thread outside the optical axis and made of plastic
  • Flash does not pop up automatically (unlike the previous model)
  • no RAW mode
  • Histogram only in playback mode
  • spongy pad
  • Resolution of the LC viewfinder (EVF)

You only need to let a market segment out of your sight for a short time – and the competition there is already spreading. At Canon, where they had already entered the market for super-zoom or mega-zoom cameras in 2001 with the PowerShot Pro90 IS, they are determined to recapture the field lost for a short time to brands such as (Konica)Minolta, Kodak or Panasonic and scare away the competition. If last year’s “first strike” with the PowerShot S1 IS was still quite restrained, Canon is flexing its muscles with the successor model S2 IS tested here. In the following test we want to get to the bottom of what the competitors have to fear and what the end customers expect.


Even though the PowerShot S2 IS may look like a simple model update of the PowerShot S1 IS at first glance, the new features and improvements are so numerous that only the rough description and appearance of the two cameras are left to be combined. So the description of a futuristically styled super zoom camera with built-in optical image stabilizer, power supply via 4 AA/Mignon cells, photo and video recording, built-in pop-up flash, video viewfinder as well as rotatable and tiltable LC screen applies to both cameras – but that’s where the similarities end.

The Canon PowerShot S2 IS is first and foremost a 5 megapixel camera with a usable maximum resolution of 2,592 x 1,944 pixels and a fixed lens with 12x zoom factor (36-432 mm/F2.7-3.5 equivalent to 35 mm). In both cases this is significantly more than with the previous model. Also, the S2 IS no longer records its images on CompactFlash cards but on removable storage media of the type Secure Digital (short: SD card). The rotatable and tiltable LC colour screen grew in diagonal from 1.5 to 1.8 inches; only the electronic video viewfinder remained in the more than modest range with a resolution of only 115,000 pixels. Using the new DiGIC II signal processor – familiar from Canon’s latest digital SLR cameras – the S2 IS starts and focuses almost twice as fast (exactly 45 percent faster) as its predecessor and can now shoot series of shots at up to 2.4 frames per second. And it will continue until the memory card is full. The performance of the small “computing monster” is also sufficient to take photos in highest resolution during a running video recording and to reduce the switch-on time by more than half.

Speed is also the key feature of the USB 2.0 high-speed interface (for connecting the camera to a computer or PictBridge/DPS-compatible printer) and the USM zoom drive. The ultrasonic motor provides both fast and virtually silent zooming. The latter is all the more important because the PowerShot S2 IS is capable of recording sound within a video sequence or as a 60-second stereo voice memo (with switchable electronic wind filter). This allows zooming during video recording (which takes place in VGA resolution for up to 1 hour at a maximum of 30 fps) without the zoom noise being included in the film. The macro mode, for its part, ensures that the subjects are sharply focused from a distance of 0 (!) centimeters. In order to display them more fully, a close-up lens from the accessory range (macro lens 500D) can be connected to the camera via a lens adapter. Alternatively, the TC-DC58B teleconverter or the WC-DC58A wide-angle attachment can be mounted on the S2 IS. The former extends the focal length by a factor of 1.5 at the telephoto end to 648 mm (KB equivalent), while the latter shortens the focal length or angle of view by a factor of 0.75 at the wide-angle end to 27 mm (KB equivalent). The built-in Optical Image Stabilizer (IS) helps reduce camera shake to a tolerable level, especially in the telephoto range. The IS can now be operated in three different modes: continuous operation, recording only, or “pan” mode, which only compensates for up and down movements and leaves horizontal movements unaffected.

FlexiZone AF allows the AF target to be placed anywhere in the image. Exposure and white balance metering uses iSAPS technology, which – thanks to the DiGIC II processor – performs an “intelligent” analysis of the subject in fractions of a second and then adjusts the image parameters (exposure, white balance, colour reproduction, etc.) to suit the situation. A new lens element with ultra-low dispersion (UD) in the lens also ensures better image quality; the built-in pop-up flash with a maximum range of 4 metres (with automatic adjustment of the light sensitivity level) brings light into the dark. By the way, there is no external flash connection, but with the servo flash HF-DC1 Canon has additional flash power for the S2 IS in the (accessory) program. The PowerShot S2 IS offers a wide range of scene modes and advanced settings (program, aperture and shutter priority, manual exposure control, auto bracketing, exposure and/or flash compensation) to suit both novice and creative photographers. Other “special features” or special equipment features of the latest Canon shoot include a panorama assistant, a selection of various colour effects (9 in number), a “Night Display” function, an AF auxiliary light, a 4x digital zoom, automatic or manual adjustment of light sensitivity levels and white balance, noise reduction for long exposures, a fastest shutter speed of 1/3.200 s, menu navigation in 20 different languages, ID-PhotoPrint and MoviePrint functions, a Share/Transfer button, an orientation sensor, a personalization option for start screen and camera sounds – and much more. Additional information on the technology, function and features of the Canon PowerShot S2 IS is provided in the corresponding digitalkamera.de data sheet, which accompanies this announcement. The compact (113 x 78 x 75.5 mm with a net weight of approx. 405 g) super-zoom novelty from Canon including 4 alkaline disposable cells, software package, 16-MByte memory card and further supplements was launched already a couple of months ago.

Even though the Canon PowerShot S2 IS is quite similar to its predecessor S1 IS, appearances are deceptive. Canon has revised the camera in so many points that the two cameras have only the rough description and the silhouette in common. We had not tested the S1 IS; with the test of the S2 IS we now comply with this.

Ergonomics and Workmanship

Not quite as daring as a Konica Minolta Z-Series Dimage camera, but still very futuristic, the PowerShot S2 IS presents itself to the viewer. Although the clearly rounded shapes are not for conservative natures, the curves are ergonomically very good for her. The camera lies well balanced and (non-slip) firmly in the hand; the controls are within easy reach without any great finger acrobatics. As usual in this price range, solid plastic is used and also the tripod thread, which lies outside the optical axis, was not spared. Loaded with batteries and a memory card as well as with shoulder strap and lens cap, the S2 IS weighs just under 530 grams. While inserting the batteries or rechargeable batteries requires unscrewing the tripod or the quick-release plate, the memory card can also be changed in tripod mode thanks to a separate compartment on the right side of the camera.

At first glance, the S2 IS seems a bit overloaded in terms of operation. No less than 13 function buttons (including shutter release and off button), 2 switches, 1 unlock button and 1 program selector wheel populate the surface of the camera, which is considered compact with external dimensions of 113 mm x 78 mm x 75 mm. But every control element has its justification, and it only takes a short acclimatisation period to quickly operate Canon’s little zoom man. Thanks to a mostly uniform operating concept, especially if you already owned a camera of the PowerShot series from Canon. The fact that you can change the resolution or metering mode without going into the menu, change the operating mode (recording, playback) with a thumb movement even when the camera is switched off, and call up the most important recording settings (including white balance, sensitivity levels, corrections) at the touch of a button shows how well thought-out this concept is. The S2 IS even has a special record button to start video recording, so that just one press of a button is all it takes to quickly capture something on video.







The main menu of the S2 IS is typically divided into three areas with tabs (recording/playback functions, basic settings, personalized functions); if the range of functions of an area exceeds one screen page, the menu can be scrolled down. A total of 43 menu items with over 142 settings are available. To avoid having to repeat all settings the next time the camera is turned on, you can tell the camera to remember the settings in the menu. The only point of criticism of the menu navigation is the navigation key (control pad) that feels a little “spongy”; there is nothing to criticize in the clarity of the menus despite the extensive adjustment possibilities. By the way, the navigation button is also used to set the exposure values (left/right for shutter speeds, up/down for aperture), whereby the exposure mode can be conveniently selected by turning the program dial. The latter is divided – as usual with Canon – into a “creative zone” with the programs P (program mode), Tv (aperture priority), Av (aperture priority), M (manual exposure control) and C (user program) as well as an “image zone” with the standard subject programs, the special subject programs, the color setting mode, the Panorama Assistant and the video mode. The separation between the two zones makes the fully automatic position.







The menus are displayed either on the color LCD monitor or in the viewfinder (EVF) on the back of the camera. The two screens also serve as viewfinder substitutes when creating images. Switching from the screen to the viewfinder takes place as soon as the monitor is folded with the screen surface towards the back of the camera. This is because the monitor can be aligned in almost any direction (180 degrees to the right and left and 180 degrees or 90 degrees up and down), allowing you to take pictures from the most unusual perspectives (e.g. from the hip, at navel height, squatting, overhead) without having to strain yourself. In addition, the sensitive screen surface – which is prone to fingerprints and scratches – is optimally protected when the screen is flipped over. However, the colour screen pays for its flexibility with a modest diagonal of 1.8″. The resolution of 115,000 pixels is acceptable for the size and allows a reasonably good assessment of sharpness. If you believe Canon Europa’s technical specifications, the viewfinder (0.33″) resolves with the same number of points. Here the blessed Kyocera Finecam M410R with its FLC viewfinder remains the measure of all things – it’s just a pity that Kyocera has given up the camera business. The diopter wheel next to the viewfinder allows the viewfinder image to be adjusted to the photographer’s visual acuity. Automatic viewfinder or monitor image intensification makes it easier to take pictures in low light. This increases the noise on the live image (if desired, the brightening function can be turned off in the camera menu); under normal conditions, neither the monitor nor the viewfinder will suffer from any kind of image degradation such as color cast, noise, dragging effects, reflections, or illegibility in sunlight.



Like its predecessor, the PowerShot S1 IS, the S2 IS’s zoom mechanism is set in motion by a USM drive – with the only difference that this time, instead of a 10x zoom lens, an impressive 12x zoom is given “thrust”. The USM zoom motor is an offshoot of the USM ultrasound motor that provides fast, whisper-quiet focusing on Canon’s EF series lenses. The USM zoom motor is controlled by the circular zoom rocker on the shutter release, whereby the entire focal length range from 36 to 432 mm (converted to 35 mm ratios and at a speed of F2.7 to F3.5) is passed through at three speeds. Thus, by slightly tapping the zoom, one can advance in more than 100 steps from one end of the focal length to the other; depending on whether the zoom rocker is stopped or not, the distance is otherwise continuously covered in 5,6 or only 1,1 seconds. Those who engage the faster gear have to expect stronger zoom noises. However, you can hardly hear the zoom mechanism in slower mode – which is especially noticeable when listening to the background noise of recorded videos.

Unique and spectacular is the ability of the S2 IS to allow shooting from a distance of 0 cm (!) in super macro mode. So you can practically “stick” to the subject with the lens, provided you find some way to illuminate the subject properly. The super macro mode is activated by briefly stopping (approx. 1 s) the macro button on the front part of the lens barrel. If you leave the camera in normal macro mode, you must keep at least 10 cm distance to the subject and stay in wide-angle position to get sharp pictures. A valuable aid for macro photography and everywhere else where there is a risk of camera shake (e.g. in the telephoto range and/or at low light) is certainly the built-in optical image stabilizer. Unlike Konica Minolta’s anti-shake system (where the CCD is moved to compensate for unwanted shaking) and electronic stabilization systems that only work in video mode, Canon (IS), Nikon (VR), and Panasonic (O.I.S.) stabilization technologies move a lens group within the lens to compensate for camera shake. Technically, the optical image stabilisation works as follows: In fractions of a second, the photographer’s shaking movements are detected by two tiny gyro sensors (as used in rockets or in aircraft navigation systems, among other things) and analyzed in real time by a special chip (supported by the DiGIC II signal processor), which in turn controls the actual stabilization process. Roughly simplified, a lens system is also moved in the opposite direction in real time to compensate for a large part of the camera shake. With the S2 IS, the menu allows you to define how the stabilization should work. You can choose whether the image stabilizer remains switched off, works permanently, switches on or off immediately after the shutter release button is pressed, or only compensates for vertical camera movements. The latter is especially useful if you drag the camera along while taking pictures in order to get dynamic streak effects on the pictures.

Unless set otherwise, the S2 IS focuses in the center of the image. The FlexiZone AF/AE system also allows the AF target to be manually positioned anywhere in the image (approximately 375 individual positions can be taken), allowing you to focus on off-center subjects. However, the S2 IS does not have an automatic measuring field selection like some other PowerShot and all EOS models as well as some cameras of other manufacturers. However, it is practical to be able to couple the exposure metering with the focusing. A spot metering (if set) is then performed on the AF area and light is metered wherever the focus is placed. If the autofocus of the S2 IS has become up to 45 percent faster compared to its predecessor S1 IS according to Canon, it still doesn’t set any records in terms of AF speed (see table of measured values). Its direct competitor, the Konica Minolta Dimage Z5, focuses much faster, and – as far as we could judge from a pre-series model – the Sony DSC-H1, which will soon be on the market, is also faster. On the other hand, the S2 IS is slightly faster than a Nikon Coolpix 8800 or Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ20 and thus takes a respectable third place. By the way, the focusing time is very much dependent on the set focal length, the focusing distance and the light conditions or subject contrasts. For example, the more you move into the telephoto range and/or the greater the distance between the last and the next subject, the longer it takes to focus. The camera’s built-in AF auxiliary light supports the autofocus in low light or with weak subject contrasts; if the autofocus fails completely, you can also switch to manual mode at the touch of a button, where you can adjust the focus manually with the navigation buttons. The sharpness is then controlled either visually on the LCD screen (where you can activate the display of an enlarged image section in the menu) or by setting the estimated distance on a distance scale. The S2 IS offers additional AF functions in the form of AF-measuring lock and AF mode selection (single-frame advance or focus tracking) – using the focus bracketing function, the camera automatically shoots 3 consecutive images with the focus point shifted to a greater or lesser extent to limit focus on critical subjects.

If the standard zoom power is not enough, you can connect a wide-angle or telephoto converter (WC-DC58A and TC-DC58B) to the S2 IS. In this way, the focal length is shortened to 27 mm (KB equivalent) or extended to 648 mm (KB equivalent). To connect the converters, it is first necessary to unlock (there is a corresponding button on the camera for this purpose) and remove the front lens ring. Using a bayonet system, the LAH-DC20 lens adapter is then mounted on the lens, to which the converters (or the LH-DC40 lens hood, the 500D close-up lens or any filter with a thread dimension of 58 mm) are screwed. If you buy two lens adapters at the same time, the bayonet connection allows you to change the converters quickly. In order to ensure that the camera is compatible with the converters, you should draw their attention to their presence in the camera menu.


With a measured output of LZ 12, the S2 IS’s built-in miniature flash is about twice as powerful as a Digital Ixus 700 from the same manufacturer. This is sufficient to correctly illuminate subjects up to a distance of 3.4 or 4.4 meters, depending on the focal length set. Larger flash ranges are achieved by increasing the light sensitivity level, but since the manual states a maximum range of 4 or 5.2 meters (wide angle/telephoto), one can assume that Canon does not turn the sensitivity screw too much for the sake of noise-free operation. In normal mode, the minimum flash range is 0.5 to 0.9 meters depending on the focal length. If you press the macro button, you can also flash in a range between 0.3 and 0.5 meters. From these distances on, no overflash effects are to be feared. Even though Canon does not give any information about the technique used for flash metering and flash control, it must be at least a rudimentary version of E-TTL technology, as there is no separate flash sensor on the camera (which would indicate TTL metering), flash metering (FEL) is possible and a metering flash is emitted.

It is incomprehensible why the flash of the S2 IS no longer pops up automatically when lighting conditions require it. If this was still the case with the predecessor model S1 IS, you now have to open the flash manually. Only then does the camera decide whether to fire the flash or not, provided the autoflash is on. This can only be an unfortunate economy measure, because especially beginners will probably seldom think of opening the flash prophylactically. The integrated flash already has advanced functions, but they are not directly accessible. Thus, to get the options “Red-eye reduction: on/off,” “Flash sync: on/off,” and “Flash sync: 1st shutter/2nd shutter” you must go to the settings menu; the flash compensation function must be found in the function menu. The risk of getting red eyes in the pictures is low. The combination of the measuring pre-flash and the lighting of the small orange lamp (which otherwise also serves as a self-timer/video recording signal) on the front of the camera is not particularly discreet, but it is effective. There is no function for electronic retouching of red eyes like in some other digital cameras.

Typical for digital cameras from Canon is the fact that with manual exposure control (M-mode) the flash works unregulated. Instead of the flash exposure compensation function, the flash output is set in 3 levels. This makes it possible to use the S2 IS in the studio, where the smallest flash power level can be used to trigger more powerful studio flash units with servo cells via the on-board flash. Also smaller flash devices can be ignited in this way; in the accessory program of Canon there is for example the HF-DC1 (LZ 18) that works similarly. It should be noted, of course, that in this case the user has to determine the exposure himself and make some settings manually, as automatic adjustment of the flash output to the lighting conditions would only be possible via a TTL hot shoe or via a wireless TTL system (which the S2 IS does not have). As far as the built-in flash is concerned, the entire image field is evenly illuminated even in the wide-angle range (no shadowing effects caused by the lens barrel can be observed) and the flash light is color-neutral as far as we can judge. The flash charging time is about 10 seconds at full power output. In everyday use, however, the charging times are so short that the S2 IS can even flash in continuous shooting mode. This is where the flash system of the S2 IS can score again, because almost all other compact digital cameras switch off the flash in continuous shooting mode.

Image quality

The S2 IS also does not compromise on image quality. Despite the enormous zoom factor, the lens of the S2 IS shows no particular weaknesses; not even the loss of resolution towards the edge of the image in the telephoto range, which is not unusual for zooms of this magnitude. The resolution remains good even at the edges, and in the centre of the image it is even excellent. In the wide-angle range the edge drop is even less pronounced. In the middle zoom position or focal length, the resolution remains very good from the center of the image to the edges. The fact that the lens and CCD of the S2 IS are well matched to each other is demonstrated by the high efficiency. In the short and long focal length, even the finest image details are reproduced well and in the medium focal length even very well. Typical for Canon (at least for entry-level cameras of the brand) is the strong electronic “post-processing” of the image details, which makes the images look very flattering on screen as well as on paper, but for ambitious photographers, who prefer to “fine-tune” the images themselves on the computer, it might be a bit too much.

The S2 IS pampers the eye not only with detailed but also with sharp images. The sharpness of the image is very well balanced overall. Along horizontal contours, the electronic sharpening is much less than on vertical contours, and on sharp edges there are generally no color fringes – caused by too much sharpening – visible. Very little sharpness is seen in the shadow areas of the image. The brighter the image becomes, the stronger the sharpness, reaching its maximum in the image areas of medium brightness and then decreasing continuously. Because the S2 IS produces almost no color fringes, very slight color artifacts are formed on the finest horizontal and vertical structures due to a slightly too low pass filtering. Image disturbances of a different nature, which occur in the early stages of image computation, form in almost any orientation on rising and falling fine structures. Otherwise, by having a closer look to some image details, one can still recognize some slight staircase effects in the images. Although even the lowest of the three quality levels (quality/compression and recorded pixels can be set separately on the S2 IS) will not cause compression artifacts, the medium quality level is recommended as a good compromise between the number of images and image quality. Unless you have an SD card with plenty of capacity, with which you can then take pictures in the highest quality level without worries and still have enough free space on the memory card after the most extensive photo tour.

The S2 IS also does quite well with image noise. Without setting any standards, it produces less noise than a Dimage Z5 and Lumix DMC-FZ20, which are by no means notorious as “noisy”. If one does not refer to the direct competitors of the S2 IS, the noise behaviour of the camera can be described as medium. The appearance of the noise is more or less balanced between luminance noise and chromatic/color noise. However, the noise reduction does not seem to work completely homogeneously, as the electronic “cleaning” sometimes omits certain parts of the image for no apparent reason. The noise increases from the darkest parts of the image to the dark areas of the image, only to decrease again towards the brightest parts of the image. And speaking of brightness distribution: The electronics of the S2 IS classifies the image into a maximum of 248 (of 256 possible brightness levels) and can cope with differences in brightness of 8.0 f-stops in total. The latter is not a particularly good performance, but only mediocre. The tonal value reproduction is very neutral except for the darkest parts of the picture (which are reproduced somewhat “softly”); however, the signal transmission is one of the weaker points of the S2 IS.

The qualities of the Canon lens are particularly evident in the low vignetting, which is hardly noticeable with a difference in brightness between the center and the corners of the image of about half an aperture, especially in the wide-angle range and in the medium focal length. But if you zoom into the picture, the edge darkening at the extreme tele end can be a good 1 f-stop. Therefore, the wide-angle end has to struggle with a strong barrel distortion that only disappears when leaving the wide-angle range. Thus, those who do not want to have line distortions or edge shadows in their pictures, preferably work in the medium focal length range.

Certainly due to the performance of the iSAPS system (read more about this technology in our photo lexicon and in previous tests of Canon cameras), the very neutral color reproduction, the rare white balance errors and the exposure metering that is difficult to get out of sync. If you are still not satisfied with the colours, exposure or other image parameters (e.g. contrast or sharpness), the S2 IS offers a number of ways to influence these values. In terms of image quality, the S2 IS gives a good picture overall, and we haven’t yet come across a super-zoom or mega-zoom camera that doesn’t have any weaknesses in any of the image-important disciplines (resolution, noise-free, image noise, distortion, vignetting, etc.).

Other Special Functions

If the USM drive in the lens guarantees fast zooming, the DiGIC-II signal processor ensures fast reactions wherever electronics are required. This is already apparent when switching on, where the S2 IS is ready for operation after only 1.3 seconds. From the moment you take a picture to the almost instantaneous change from one picture to the next in playback mode, you can always feel the sheer power of the tiny calculating brain. In this context, the S2 IS also benefits from the increased performance when capturing moving images, as Canon’s super-zoom or mega-zoom bolide has finally been given a worthy video mode.

That this is important can already be seen by the fact that a separate shutter release or recording button is dedicated to it. Pressing this button immediately starts video recording (even if the program dial is in a position other than video mode), which is in VGA resolution at 640 x 480 pixels and with a refresh rate of 30 frames per second. For those who find this too much, the resolution can be reduced to 320 x 240 pixels and/or the refresh rate to 15 fps. Even in VGA mode, the maximum recording time is only determined by the available or remaining memory capacity. But there should also be plenty of memory, since MPEG-4 compression has not yet found its way into Canon cameras and the S2 IS records its videos in Motion JPEG format as AVI files. If you are well equipped in terms of memory card technology (the S2 IS uses SD cards), nothing stands in the way of video fun in the highest quality.

The performance of the video mode is further enhanced by the fact that it is possible to zoom (both optical and digital) and adjust the sharpness during filming. You can even take photos and videos at the same time; all you have to do is press the shutter button while filming. Videos in black and white or with sepia tone are also possible, and many photo functions (e.g. adjusting sharpness manually, increasing/decreasing colour saturation and sharpness, saving exposure and focus) are also available in video mode. But the highlight is that the S2 IS records the sound in stereo (16bit at 44.1 kHz) within a video. On the left and right above the lens there are two small microphones that are responsible for this. An electronic filter eliminates or reduces disturbing wind noise; outside of a video, the microphones are used to record voice notes (in stereo, of course). However, the S2 IS does not have a stereo loudspeaker. If you want to listen to the recordings in surround sound mode, you must connect the camera to a stereo-compatible device (TV, stereo system, etc.) using the A/V stereo cable provided. A video function can only be used when using a Canon printer from the CP or Selphy series: The Movie Print function “breaks down” a video sequence into individual frames, which are then printed out in a thumbnail overview (so-called “Index Print”).

Until the memory capacity is exhausted, the continuous-advance mode also works. More precisely, there are even two continuous shooting modes. Optionally with 1.5 (standard) or 2.4 (high-speed) frames per second, more or less fast motion sequences can be captured. To enjoy the “continuous fire”, however, you should use a not too “lame” memory card. Older generation SD cards or low-cost models with too low data throughput may not be able to keep up and cause a kind of backlog. An interesting combination of a self-timer mode and an interval function is the “Custom Timer” setting. In addition to the usual two self-timer settings with 2 or 10 second lead time, this can be selected and configured via the menu. The lead time until the first picture is taken can be set individually between 0 and 30 seconds, and you can also specify how many pictures are to be taken in succession after the set time has elapsed. This is quite practical, if you don’t want to have to walk to the camera between several shots in order to press the release button again.

Canon is emulating its competitor Kodak in terms of image data transfer. Canon does not (yet) offer camera and printer docks (update of 2020, it offers now these printer connections), but if the S2 IS is connected to a computer or a direct printable (PictBridge, Canon Direct Print, Canon Bubble Jet Direct) printer via USB cable in playback mode, pressing the blue illuminated Print/Share button is sufficient to transfer or print the images. When connected to a computer (PC/Mac), you can choose whether to transfer all the images, a selection marked with the DPOF image-order function, the image currently displayed, or all new images since the last transfer, and whether to install the image as wallpaper on the computer when transferring single images. With direct printing, the DPOF function also lets you choose which images (the number of prints can also be specified) to print. Again, the ID-Photo-Print function, which allows you to take and print photos in passport format, is only available with Canon’s CP/Selphy series printers; connected to a PictBridge compatible printer, you can set the print format (including paper and page settings) at camera level.

This would not be the end of the list of functions, features and settings. This enables the S2 IS to recognize images taken upright as such and incorporate this information when determining sharpness, exposure and white balance. Automatic image alignment in playback mode is another benefit of the orientation sensor. The My Camera mode allows you to change the welcome screen and the acoustic signals (e.g. the shutter sound), and in some cases you can also assign your own motifs and sounds to them; if you prefer to be discreet, you can use the mute function to make the camera quiet when taking pictures. Friends of special effects will also get their money’s worth with the S2 IS. For example, if you want to make a so-called color key recording, you can select the color in the image that you want to keep during the recording with one keystroke, and all other color tones are converted to gray scales. Other color effects allow you to simulate the characteristics of a slide film, make skin tones lighter or darker, replace one color with another (e.g. a blue car turns into a red speedster in no time at all) or increase the saturation of a single primary color (red, green or blue). Image parameters (sharpness, contrast, and color saturation) can be adjusted, and black and white or sepia images can be captured. Other features of the S2 IS include a histogram display (unfortunately only in playback mode), a panorama assistant, multi-language menu navigation (21 languages), an interval function, a bracketing function (for exposure or sharpness), a safety shift function (the exposure parameters set by the user in Av or Tv mode are automatically corrected if the function is switched on and the lighting conditions are not sufficient for the setting made) or a mirror function for the swivel screen. The possibilities offered by the S2 IS are enormous, and it can be a lot of fun to discover them all.


Canon has indeed managed a remarkable demonstration of power with the PowerShot S2 IS. In almost all areas it outstrips its direct competitors, and even with some “prosumer” models it can take it (as long as you can do without a flash connection). Their most direct competitor, the Konica Minolta Dimage Z5, only has the faster autofocus and hot shoe to keep the S2 IS at bay, and the soon-to-be-released Sony DSC-H1 would have to come up with unexpected “killer features” to avoid being crushed to the ground by the overwhelming competition as soon as it was launched. But the S2 IS also offers the basis for a possible Pro1 successor: Equipped with a hot shoe (and full E-TTL-II support), an even faster autofocus, a slightly lower focal length range and a really good video viewfinder, the S2 IS would certainly have what it takes to clean up the prosumer market. Let’s see what surprises Canon has in store for us, but let’s first see if the S2 IS is as well received by the customer as it is by us.

Brief assessment


  • video mode that leaves little to be desired
  • rotatable and tiltable LC colour screen
  • well thought-out operation, equipment and functionality
  • Sound recording in stereo
  • optical image stabilization in photo and video mode
  • generally good to good image quality
  • powerful on-board flash
  • 0 cm near border
  • enormous zoom power


  • AF speed strongly situation-dependent
  • strong vignetting in the tele range
  • weak input dynamic
  • no automatic AF area selection
  • Tripod thread outside the optical axis and made of plastic
  • Flash does not pop up automatically (unlike the previous model)
  • no RAW mode
  • Histogram only in playback mode
  • spongy pad
  • Resolution of the LC viewfinder (EVF)

Canon PowerShot S2 IS Datasheet


Sensor CCD sensor 1/2.5″ 5.8 x 4.3 mm (crop factor 6.0
)5.3 megapixels (physical), 5.0 megapixels (effective)
Pixelpitch 2.2 µm
Photo resolution
2.592 x 1.944 pixels (4:3)
2.048 x 1.536 pixels (4:3)
1.600 x 1.200 pixels (4:3)
640 x 480 pixels (4:3)
Image formats JPG
Color depth 24 bits (8 bits per color channel)
Metadata Exif (version 2.2), DCF standard
Video resolution
640 x 480 (4:3) 30 p
320 x 240 (4:3) 30 p
Maximum recording time 60 min
Video format
AVI (codec n.a.)
Audio format (video) WAV


Focal length 36 to 432 mm (35mm equivalent
)12x zoomDigital zoom
Aperture F2.7 (wide angle
)F3.5 (telephoto)
Autofocus yes
Autofocus functions Single AF, Continuous AF, Area AF, Manual, AF Assist Light
Filter thread 58 mm

Viewfinder and monitor

Monitor 1.8″ TFT LCD monitor with 115,000 pixels
Video finder Video viewfinder available, dioptre compensation (-5.5 to 1.5 dpt)


Exposure metering Center-weighted integral metering, matrix/multi-field metering, spot metering, AF-AE coupling
Exposure times 1/3,200 to 15 s (automatic)
Exposure control Programmed automatic, Shutter priority, Aperture priority, Manual
Exposure Compensation -2.0 to +2.0 EV with step size of 1/3 EV
Photosensitivity ISO 50 to ISO 400 (manual)
Remote access non-existent
Scene modes Fireworks, indoor, landscape, foliage, night scene, night automatic, portrait, beach/snow, full auto, 0 additional scene mode programs
Picture effects “My colors” function with a total of 9 settings
White balance Automatic, Clouds, Sun, Flash, Fluorescent lamp with 2 presets, Tungsten light, Manual
Continuous shooting 2.4 frames/s at highest resolution
Self-timer Self-timer with 2 s interval, special features: or 10 s (optional)
Recording functions Live histogram


Flash built-in flash (hinged)
Flash range 0.7 to 5.2 m at wide angle0
.7 to 4.0 m at telephoto
speed12 (ISO 100)
Flash code
Guide number 12 (ISO 100)
Flash functions Auto, fill-flash, flash on, flash off, slow sync, flash on second shutter curtain, red-eye reduction


Image stabilizer Lens shift (optical)
Power supply unit Power supply connection
Power supply 4 x AA (standard battery
)4 x AA (standard battery)
Playback functions Red eye retouching, playback histogram, image index
Voice memo Voice memo (WAV format)
Image parameters Color saturation, noise reduction
Special functions Orientation sensor
Connections Data interfaces: USBUSB type
: USB 2.0 High SpeedVideo output
: yes (HDMI output Micro (Type D))
Supported direct printing methods Canon Direct Print, PictBridge
Tripod thread 1/4″
Special features and miscellaneous DIGIC-II signal processoriSAPS Intelligent
Scene Analysis technologyFlexible zone
AF/AE autofocus/exposure metering over 345 individually selectable fields of viewAF mode
switchable (single focus, focus tracking)
Noise reduction for long exposures of over 1,3

secondsNight display functionPlayback zoom

(2 to 10x)
Auto image orientationMy-Camera mode
for customizable welcome screens and camera sound Custom
settingID-PhotoPrint function
for direct printing of portraits / passport photos with 28 different image size templatesMovie Print function
for direct printing of individual images from a video sequenceSimplified
image transfer to computer or printer thanks to Share/Transfer-


uttonEnergy saving switchAutomatic

bracketingPTP image transfer protocoltwo stage
adjustment of camera internal focus (normal/low)
two stage adjustment of colour saturation (neutral/saturated)
Optical image stabilizerUSM ultrasonic drive
for motorized focal length adjustment

Size and weight

Weight 530 g (ready for operation)
Dimensions W x H x D 113 x 78 x 75 mm


standard accessory Canon AVC-DC300 audio / video cableStandard batteries16

MByte removable memory cardShoulder strap
NS-DC3Image editing software
ArcSoft Photo StudioPanorama software
ZoomBrowser EX for MacintoshSoftware
Image Browser for MacintoshTwain
driver (98/2000)
Remote control software Remote CaptureWIA device driver
for Windows ME

additional accessories Canon CBK4-200 Charger for standard batteriesCanon
DCC-90 Camera caseCanon
HF-DC1 Small additional flash unitNB4-200
(NiMH) battery
USB 2.0 High Speed

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