Canon Powershot S300 Review
Steve's ConclusionThe Canon PowerShot S300 and the Digital IXUS 300 are the same, just different names for different markets. Canon took last year's popular PowerShot S100 with a 2x zoom and made it just a little bigger to hold a 3x (35-105mm) zoom lens. It is still a very small and highly "pocketable" camera that's built to take a beating and keep on clicking. The body is 95% stainless steel, the only non-metal parts on the outside are the CompactFlash door, the battery door and the small rubber flap over the I/O ports. When powered down the lens retracts into the body and is protected by a builtin lens cover. Unlike a lot of other cameras with retracting lenses that take 5 or 6 seconds to power on, the S300 is ready to go in under 3 seconds. This is an excellent camera for the "on the go" tourist or the extreme sportist and will handle pretty much anything short of being submerged.
Canon designed a small, high-resolution 1.5" color LCD for the S100 and used it again on the new S300. The surface of the screen is covered by a non-reflective coating that makes it highly visible in bright light as well as resistant to nose smears. The backlight for the LCD is supplied by very energy efficient white LEDs, this is a good thing as a small camera also means a small power supply. The S300 is powered by a small 680mAH rechargeable lithium battery that's good for about an hour of continuous use. The problem with a proprietary battery is that you can't use any kind of off-the-shelf battery if it dies on you out in the field. So the wise owner will immediately buy a second battery and keep it charged and ready. Canon supplies a nice, small external charger for the battery that takes a little over two hours to fully charge a depleted pack.
Images are stored on CompactFlash Type I cards, Canon includes an 8MB card which is nowhere big enough. I'd suggest at least a 64MB or 96MB size card for even the semi-serious user. The builtin USB port will swiftly move your pictures from the camera to your computer, drivers included for Windows 98 SE, ME, 2000 and Mac OS 8.5+. The overall operation of the S300 is very robust. As I already mentioned it only takes about three seconds from pushing the power button until it is ready to snap the first picture. It takes less than a second to go from Record to Play mode. The camera has a fairly fast autofocus system that is further enhanced in the dim to dark by an onboard lamp. The total shutter lag (time from pressing shutter to actually capturing) varies from less than a second to about a second and a half, this is a little faster than average. In Large/Fine mode the shot to shot time is about a second and a half, this is faster than most digicams. The continuous drive mode lets you capture up to 7 Large/Fine images per burst at around 1fps.
Overall the image quality is quite good but often the pictures can be in need of some contrast. Unlike other Canon cameras it does not have a contrast or sharpness control. Being a small camera it also has a small builtin flash and its coverage is somewhat limited. For small group shots it's OK if shooting in wideangle but don't expect much beyond 5 to 6 feet especially if it's really dark. The lens exhibits moderate barrel distortion in full wideangle and a little pincushioning at full telephoto but no more than most 3x zoom lenses and better than some. The optical viewfinder covers about 92% of the captured image and has no dioptric adjustment. About the only other negative that I can see is the price, at $699 is on the high side for a 2-megapixel camera. Other than that this is an excellent and most durable camera.
I have not yet had a chance to test out the S300 with the new CP-10 card printer, I'll update this review later when I have both the camera and printer. See my PMA 2001 report for information about the new mini printer and the direct print capability with the S300, A10 and A20 cameras.
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