Canon PowerShot S330 Digital ELPH Camera @DASHING THING REVIEW

05 Jul


Camera QuickLook
Review Date
April 22, 2002
User Level
Novice to Advanced
Product Uses
Family / Travel / Special Events
Digicam Design
Automatic Exposure Control
Picture Quality
Good, 2-megapixel CCD
Print Sizes
4×6, 5×7 inches
May, 2002
Suggested Retail Price


Ask a photographer, be they professional or amateur, to name the first couple of camera manufacturers that they can think of, and chances are that one of those would be Canon. In the digital arena, Canon’s continued their history of innovation, with a broad line of products ranging from entry-level models all the way to no-holds-barred digital SLRs for professional photographers. In the consumer arena, their products are distinguished by superb design, sharp lenses, and excellent color.

In both the film and digital worlds, Canon has become known for their high-style, diminutive “ELPH” cameras. Long a popular brand for APS film cameras, two years ago (2000), Canon brought the ELPH size and styling to the digital world with the original S100. The S330 marks the first of the third generation of the design, with the longer 3x zoom lens we saw in last year’s S300, and a number of minor design tweaks and enhancements. (These include a redesigned user interface and control layout, a speaker so you can hear the audio you record with movies or as voice memos, and a nifty position sensor that turns your photos on the camera, so you can view “portrait” images with the camera held normally.) As always seems to be the case with digicams, the S330’s color is also somewhat improved, as Canon’s engineers continue to refine their algorithms. The net effect is a evolutionary upgrade to an already successful camera design, an ultra-compact digicam that trades almost nothing in image quality to achieve its tiny size.
Camera Overview
Building on the trim, stylish looks of Canon’s Digital ELPH line, the new PowerShot S330 retains the solid design and great performance of the previous S300 model, but adds a host of new features and a redesigned LCD menu system. The ELPH cameras continue to rank among the smallest digicams I’ve seen, small and rugged enough to truly qualify as “take anywhere” cameras. (An available underwater housing accessory means you can even take the S330 snorkeling or scuba diving!) The S330’s rugged, all-metal body can handle heavy use, and the flat camera front (with lens retracted) makes it very pocket friendly. Equipped with a 2.0-megapixel (effective) CCD, the S330 captures good quality images, suitable for printing enlargements as big as 8×10 inches. Combine this with a sharp 3x zoom lens, straightforward user interface, and plentiful exposure options, and the S330 should appeal to a wide audience.

The S330 has a 3x, 5.4-16.2mm glass zoom lens, equivalent to a 35-105mm zoom on a 35mm camera. Aperture is automatically controlled, but the maximum setting ranges from f/2.7 at full wide angle to f/4.7 at full telephoto. A maximum 2.5x digital zoom option increases the S330’s zoom capabilities to 7.5x, but keep in mind that digital zoom decreases the image quality in direct proportion to the magnification, as it simply crops out and enlarges the center pixels of the CCD image. Focus ranges from 2.5 feet (76 centimeters) to infinity in normal AF mode, and from 6.3 inches to 2.5 feet (16 to 76 centimeters) in Macro mode. An Infinity fixed-focus mode is also available. The S330 uses the sophisticated, three-point AiAF (Artificial Intelligence Autofocus) system we’ve now seen on other 2002-model Canon cameras to determine focus. This autofocus system uses a broad active area in the center of the image with three AF points spread out horizontally to determine the focusing distance. In my testing, I found the AiAF system to be very precise, especially with subjects that are slightly off center. The S330 also has a built-in AF assist light, which greatly aids the focusing system in low lighting. For composing images, the S330 has a real-image optical viewfinder, as well as a 1.5-inch color LCD monitor. The LCD reports a fair amount of camera information, but excludes details such as aperture and shutter speed. In Playback mode, a histogram display reports the tonal distribution of a captured image, useful in determining over and underexposure. (A histogram option is very unusual on consumer-oriented cameras like the S330.)

Like the rest of the ELPH line, most exposure control is automatic. The S330 does provide some manual adjustments though, as well as a range of exposure modes for specific shooting situations. The Mode dial on top of the camera selects the main operating mode, offering Auto, Manual, Stitch-Assist, and Movie modes, in addition to Playback mode. Shutter speeds range from 1/1,500 to 15 seconds, with the 1.3- to 15-second end of the range only available in Long Shutter mode. Long shutter mode automatically engages a Noise Reduction system, producing surprisingly “clean” images even in very dim lighting conditions. There’s also an autofocus illuminator lamp on the front of the camera, enabled by a menu selection, that helps the camera focus in low light situations. (Excellent low light capability like this is quite rare in mostly-automatic cameras like the S330.) In straight Auto mode, the camera pretty well controls everything about the exposure except for file size, flash mode, etc. Manual mode provides more hands-on control, with White Balance, Exposure Compensation, ISO, and a range of creative effects. Camera operation is straightforward and simple, as you just point and shoot most of the time. Halfway pressing the Shutter button sets focus and exposure, and the small LEDs next to the optical viewfinder let you know when the camera is ready to take the picture.

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Posted by on July 5, 2011 in Uncategorized


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