Canon Powershot S45 Review

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Canon PowerShot S45

Steve's Conclusion

The PowerShot S45 is the update of the popular PowerShot S40, it features the same high resolution 4-megapixel imager, 3x optical zoom lens and stylish, pocket-sized and durable metal body with a sliding lens cover. The S45 captures and processes up to 2272 x 1704 images (JPEG or RAW) very fast and stores them on CompactFlash Type I or II memory cards or Microdrives. The auto focus system has 9 user-selectable focusing points (called Flexzone AF) and manual focusing now has an enlarged view on the LCD with a distance scale.

Drive modes include the usual single frame, a 1.5fps continuous and a High-Speed 2.5fps Continuous mode capable of capturing up to 10 Large/SuperFine frames. The movie mode captures either 320 x 240 or 160 x 120 resolution at 15fps with audio and now can record clips up to three minutes in length. The S45 has an average "power-up to capture" time of just less than 5 seconds. The average shot to shot time is just under 2 seconds. It also has a short shutter lag time of less than one second in wide angle. Shutter lag is the time from depressing the shutter release until the image is captured. Most of the shutter lag is due to the time it takes for the camera to auto focus. With the camera prefocused (half-depressed shutter release) the lag time is almost zero. These times were achieved with the LCD monitor off.

In Manual or shutter speed priority (Tv) mode you can select speeds from 1/1500 out to 15 seconds. Because of the iris and shutter assembly there are limitations on the 1/1500 shutter speed. In wide angle with the aperture between F2.8 and F3.5 the top shutter speed is 1/1000. In telephoto between F4.9 and F6.3 the fastest shutter speed is also 1/1000. Noise reduction is automatically applied whenever the shutter speed is 1.3 sec or longer. Program AE mode now has Program Shift so other combinations of shutter speed and aperture can be quickly selected. The AE Bracketing mode also now includes a Focus Bracketing option. Playback mode offers a histogram plus over-exposure indication. White balance options include TTL Auto, six pre-sets and two Custom positions where a balance can be read off a white object or 18% gray card for precise balance.

The S45 is powered by a hefty NB-2L battery pack, a lithium rechargeable type. This is a capable power source but not as powerful as the BP-511 used in the G3 camera. Canon states you can capture 210 images, half with flash, or 210 minutes of playback per charge. I found no heavy power use problems like some of the other compact cameras. The battery life was even a little better than the S40 which I thought was very good. I would still recommend the purchase of a second battery because you can't power the camera with any other type of battery. My only real complaint with the S45 is that the optical viewfinder shows only about 85% of the captured image - but they did correct the centering problem we saw with the S40. The LCD when used for framing shows 100% of the captured image.

The S45's lens for the most part is excellent and produces sharply focused images but it does exhibit a minor amount of barrel distortion at full wideangle. Considering the size of this retractable aspheric zoom it is to be expected. I also saw some softness around the edges of the frame but almost no chromatic aberration. Chromatic Aberration is what most people call a "purple fringe" that is often seen around brightly highlighted objects and is present in a lot of today's digicams. The overall image quality was very good with consistently proper exposure and white balance. Focus was quick and accurate in average lighting and the focus assist illuminator works well out to about eight feet even in total darkness. Flash coverage was good but not excellent, mostly due to the lens aperture being a bit slow at anything other than full wide angle.

Software improvements include improved auto-download and ZoomBrowser applications, the Remote Capture program now has live preview and allows for changing nearly all of the camera settings directly from the PC. The PowerShot S45 can be connected directly to Canon's S830D and S820D Bubble Jet Printers to make up to 8.5x11- inch photo prints without a computer. Like all the newer PowerShots, the S45 can also be directly connected to the pint-sized Canon CP-100 dye-sub 4x6" printer.

If you're in the market for a compact but advanced high-resolution digital camera that can be operated just as easily by a novice as well as experienced photographers, then check out the Powershot S45. It offers the simplicity of point-n-shoot operation with direct (no computer required) printing to all the same advanced exposure, focus and image control options found in Canon's full size cameras. The compact S45 fits into most pockets and with a street price of $499 (as of Jan 2003), it also fits into most budgets. It's hard to beat a camera that produces high quality 4 megapixel images with a sharp 3x zoom for that kind of money.

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