Canon S2 IS [2005]

Canon S2 IS

For Christmas 2005 my wife told me that she wanted a new digital camera. Admittedly the Minolta X31 I'd got for her previously was pretty horrible so I didn't protest too much. I thought she'd want something small and sexy that she could carry in her purse but my wife a constant surprise to me (I count that a good thing). She also knows how to do her research and she decided that she didn't want something too small; she wanted it to have a grip and she wanted more than a 5x zoom. She narrowed it down to the either the Sony H1 or the Canon S2 IS before even consulting me, the self affirmed camera-geek. It was a tough call but we both read every review we could find and tried handling both. In the end it was the S2's articulated LCD and its video capabilities (as we don't have, or intend to get a dedicated video camera) that won out.

The S2 is surprisingly small when you get it in your hands. Pictures on the web give the impression that it is some kind of mini-SLR and that's what it does turn out to be, however, it is more mini than you might imagine. It is a bit plasticy but the build quality is generally good. The picture quality is very good. That long, stabilized lens really does the job and all the advanced features do make for a pretty powerful tool when you don't want to, are can't, carry a real SLR.

The S2 was used by my wife heavily for a year. She is pretty hard on her gadgets and the camera was by no means mint after 12 dedicated months in her purse, however, the S2 took all this abuse in its stride and still provides faithful service today. Ultimately, my wife started to take her photography more and more seriously until she got to the point that most new enthusiasts arrive at; the realization that there is no substitute for an SLR. The S2 still does get used today but not nearly as much as it used to. We have at least 5 friends who also own this camera and one who owns it successor, the S3; all of them love it and none regret buying the superzoom Canon.

There's no point in me reviewing this camera fully as, as with most digicams, it has been thoroughly reviewed to death by the professional review sites. Instead, I will just list what we do and don't like about the S2:

Things we like:

  • the image stabilization really works
  • the reach of the 12x zoom
  • amazing video with stereo sound and zoom available while you're recording
  • independent shutter releases for video or stills means that you never miss a still or a video opportunity because you're in the wrong mode
  • manually flip up the flash and it is turned on - close it and it's off - very intuitive UI
  • the articulated screen means you can close it with the LCD with it inside and protected
  • articulated screen for getting interesting camera angles and sneaky shots
  • amazing macro and 'super macro' modes
  • 'custom' button (we use it to control the ISO)

Not so much:

  • slip on lens cap is less than satisfying; gets in the way when you're trying to use the camera and falls off when you want it to protect your lens
  • as with most EFT viewfinders, it is tricky to tell when you have accurate focus
  • grainy above 100 ISO
  • pictures sometimes feel a little over-sharpened or over-processed (probably due to the small sensor size)
  • getting into the right macro mode can be tricky.
  • Lcd hard to see in direct sunshine.

This is the perfect camera for the soccer mom who wants to take outdoor sports shots without the hassle of an SLR. It is a great camera if you want a camera to learn about photography and a tool that will grow with you until you get to the point when you want to work with an SLR. It would make a great carry camera, or second camera for the DSLR user. Ultimately, the S2 is not a substitute for a DSLR but, as long as you know that going into its purchase, you won't be disappointed.