Steve's Digicams

Canon PowerShot S20

Menus & Playback Features


Canon S20

This is the Setup Screen with options to enable or disable the camera's beeper when pressing buttons. Two settings for the color LCD's backlight brightness. Set the date and time. Format the memory device. And set the menu language: English, German, French, Spanish or Japanese.

Canon S20

First part of the Record Menu:

  • Resolution: (L) 2048x1536, (M) 1024x768 or (S) 640x480
  • Compression: (S) Super-Fine, (F) Fine or (N) Normal
  • Gain (ISO boost): 0, +1 or +2, see screen below
  • Digital Zoom: On/Off
  • Review: On/Off
  • File number reset

Canon S20

Two more items from the Record menu when you scroll down

  • Contrast adjustment: - (low), 0 (normal), + (high)
  • Sharpness adjustment: - (low), 0 (normal), + (high)

Canon S20

Here's the menu showing the options for setting the ISO sensitivity speed

    0 (default) = 100
    +1.0 = 200
    +2.0 = 400

Canon S20

Onscreen slider control for EV compensation during Record mode. It is settable for +/- 2.0 in 1/3-step increments.

Canon S20

Onscreen menu for the White Balance settings:

  • Automatic
  • Daylight
  • Cloudy
  • Tungsten
  • Flourescent

On the left is all of the current settings for the other Record mode options. On the right is the zoom lens setting.

Canon S20

This is the Image Mode menu which is more or less like a Programmed AE mode. Settings for:

  • Landscape - locks focus to infinity, disables flash
  • Fast Shutter - uses large aperture and fast shutter speeds
  • Slow Shutter - uses small aperture and slower shutter speeds up to 2 secs
  • Night Scene - uses slow shutter speed and fires the flash to illuminate a foreground subject but still get a dimmer background subject too
  • B&W - records only grayscale information, no color

Canon S20

This is the Play mode menu with options to Delete single frames, Erase the entire card, Protect selected images, Rotate (super handy for TV playback!) portrait mode shots to landscape, Slide show playback and DPOF print order information.

Canon S20

The S20 can display 9 small thumbnails to allow you to quickly select and playback full-screen the desired image.

Canon S20

This is a typical playback screen with all of the onscreen info being displayed. Toggle this info display with the Display button next to the LCD.

Steve's Conclusion

The S20 is truly a "fits in your pocket" sized camera, housed in champagne colored, all-metal and highly durable aluminum body. It's loaded with features like a 3.3 megapixel imager, a 2X optical (32-64mm) zoom lens with little to no barrel distortion in wideangle, a light-assisted autofocus system that works in the dark, a high-speed USB port and a versatile CompactFlash Type II card slot.

When needed there's adjustable ISO gain to give you an extra stop or two to increase the shutter speed. The robust imaging firmware processes and stores even the largest 2048x1536-pixel, fine mode images in seconds. It may not have an uncompressed mode but the "Super-Fine" JPG mode uses almost no compression. It yields 2-3MB sized files that create photo-realistic 8x10" (and larger) prints with ease.

The one-use 2CR5 lithium batteries get eaten up fast, even when being conservative with the color LCD.  I highly recommend buying the optional DK110 power kit with the NiMH rechargeable battery and charger. Outside of the U.S. it comes with the camera but over here it's an additional $100 and well worth the investment.

The nearly flawless point-n-shoot automatic mode lets anyone take great pictures the first time they use it. For the more experienced digi-photographer there is the manual mode that allows altering the EV compensation, white balance, image quality (gain, contrast and sharpness), flash modes or to shoot in continuous mode. For the advanced beginner the Image Mode has presets for Landscape (stitching), Fast Shutter (action shots), Slow Shutter (intentional blurring), Night Scene (subjects against dark backgrounds) or Black & White mode.

The Landscape mode features "Stitch Assist" where the user is prompted with overlays on the LCD to build a perfect panorama shot easily. Combining the S20's Stitch Assist mode with the supplied PhotoStitch 3.0 software and anyone can quickly create a high-quality panorama shot.

Stitch Assist

Onscreen view of Stitch Assist mode

The S20's large internal RAM buffer lets you shoot pictures as fast as you press the shutter (1.7fps with flash and LCD disabled.) It will slow down once the buffer is full but it is more than ample for most people's needs. Shutter lag time is negligible thanks to a vastly improved TTL autofocus system.

For a pocket camera the S20 has a very respectable macro mode. You can capture extremely detailed closeups of objects as close as 4.7 inches from the camera. For exposure control you can select between the default center-weighted metering or a spot metering option when in manual mode. There is a Review feature like the one on the Pro 70 that displays the last picture taken as long as you keep the shutter button pressed.

For the ultimate in image storage you can pop an 340MB Microdrive into the CompactFlash Type II slot and shoot pictures until the cows come home!   I won't lie to you, the Microdrive does exact a 20-30% power penalty versus a solid state CF card.

All things considered this is one great camera. It's everything the S10 is plus more resolution and faster autofocus. The S20 is a very durable camera that performs better than other cameras three times its size. The builtin flash is a little on the weak side, I often used a +1 EV setting to brighten things up. Considering the size of the flash this is to be expected. Outdoors or in normal lighting conditions this camera is an excellent choice.

Steve's Canon S20 Sample Pictures

DC Resource's S20 User Review

Imaging-Resource's S20 User Review

DP Review's S20 User Review

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