Thursday, April 20, 2006

Camera Review: Canon PowerShot S2 IS

I recently bought a new digital camera. It's only the second digital camera I've owned. Although I am far from an expert on cameras, I want to record my first impressions. If you are searching for a camera, this might help, but to learn all about the Canon PowerShot S2 IS, please check out this review or one of the other excellent reviews on the web.

Rita JeptooThere are several things I love about the PowerShot S2 IS. The first three are Zoom, Zoom, Zoom. The S2 IS is a long zoom camera with a built-in 12x optical zoom lens. If you have been struggling to get close-up shots with a 3x zoom camera, you'll love this feature. For example, I took this picture of Rita Jeptoo, winner of the 2006 Boston Marathon, from 40-50 feet away. With my old 3x zoom camera, I'd have to be 10 feet away to get the same shot. Of course at 10 feet, I wouldn't have been able to take the picture at all. I would have been whisked away by the BAA security volunteers.

The IS in the camera's name stands for Image Stabilization. That is my next favorite feature. Even if you have steady hands, at 12x zoom, you will find it difficult to keep most cameras steady enough to get a good shot. Image stabilization compensates for shaky hands. You will still need a tripod for long exposures (for example, in low light), but image stabilization works great for well lit scenes.

This may sound funny, but another great feature of the S2 IS is the batteries. It runs on four standard AA batteries. I bought some rechargeable NiMH batteries for everyday use, but I keep four ordinary alkaline batteries close by just in case. I guess it is common for Cannon cameras to run on AA batteries, but the elegant simplicity of this idea is new to me. My old Sony camera runs on an expensive rechargeable cell. I could never justify the expense of buying a backup battery. More than once, I was snapping pictures when the battery lost its charge. This won't happen with the S2 IS.

Although I am convinced the S2 IS was a wise choice, is has two notable drawbacks. First, the LCD screen is small compared with some other cameras in its class. As an example, the Sony DSC-H1 has a much bigger screen. I don't like to admit it, but at my age, I sometimes have to strain to read the S2 IS display. As I get more familiar with the features, this problem may become less severe.

All TogetherThe other big drawback is the lack of a pre-set high-speed shutter mode. I take lots of pictures at road races. With my old Sony camera, I could easily select high-speed shutter mode for stop-action photos of runners in action. With the S2 IS, I have to tinker with Tv (shutter-speed priority) or Av (aperture priority) modes to get the same effect. I suppose this could be a blessing in disguise. With fewer pre-set modes, Canon is forcing me to learn about the more advanced features of the S2 IS. It never hurts to learn something new.

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