Canon PowerShot S80 Digital Camera@DASHING THING REVIEW

05 Jul
Canon PowerShot S80 Digital Camera
Review Date
User Level
Novice to Advanced
Product Uses
Family / Travel / Special Events
Digital Camera Design
Auto, Manual, and Scene Exposure Control
Picture Quality
Excellent, 8.0-megapixel CCD
Print Sizes
Excellent, sharp 13×19 inches
Suggested Retail Price
(At introduction)



Canon’s PowerShot S80, the flagship of its top-of-the-line S-Series PowerShots, updates last year’s S70 model with more features in a smaller package. Compact design and superior handling, the hallmarks of the S-Series, are just Canon’s way of saying “no compromise.” The S80 does that with a larger sensor, a speedy DIGIC II processor, a generous 2.5-inch LCD, 21 shooting modes and a very slick EOS-style Multi Control dial in a body Canon claims is eight percent smaller than its predecessor. And it brings a little more to the party with a 30 fps VGA or XGA Movie mode, too. Overall, one of the more appealing subcompact digicams we’ve seen. Read on for all the details! 

Camera Overview

Like Canon’s other mid-size PowerShots, the S80 presents itself as a well-built, high-quality instrument. The size and style are reminiscent of a point-and-shoot model, even though it offers an eight megapixel sensor and a wide range of shooting options — from fully manual operation to programmed, automatic, and a wide range of preset exposures. Its interface is quite a bit different from past models in the line, with several new ideas, and a few borrowed from the Canon G6. The telescoping 3.6x zoom lens is made with Canon’s UA optical glass, which stands for Ultra-high refractive index Aspherical Lens, providing a physically shorter lens with a wider angle of view than cameras earlier than the S60 and S70 in this line. The lens is protected by a sliding lens cover that blends well into the camera’s front panel. As with the majority of Canon’s high-end digicams, primary functions are accessed via external controls, providing quick and easy adjustments to flash, exposure compensation, manual focus, and light metering modes. This combination of compact design, sturdy construction, and flexible exposure options makes this camera a real pleasure to work with, and a good value for the $549 list price, occupying as it does the higher end of the category.

The Canon S80 features a 3.6x, 5.8-20.7mm zoom lens, equivalent to a 28-110mm zoom on a 35mm camera. And new converter lenses can increase the zoom range to 22.4-200mm. The maximum aperture setting ranges from f/2.8 at full wide angle to f/5.3 at full telephoto. A maximum 4x digital zoom option increases the S80’s zoom capability to 14x, but keep in mind that digital zoom decreases the overall image quality, because it simply crops out and enlarges the center pixels of the CCD’s image. Image details are thus likely to be softer when using digital zoom. Focus ranges from 1.4 feet (44 centimeters) to infinity in normal AF mode, and from 1.6 inches to 1.4 feet (4 to 44 centimeters) in Macro mode. The Canon S80 employs a sophisticated, nine-point AiAF (Artificial Intelligence Autofocus) system to determine focus, which uses a broad active area in the center of the image to calculate the focal distance (a feature I’ve been impressed with on many models and have been happy to see continued). Through the Record menu, you can turn AiAF off, which defaults the autofocus area to the center of the frame; from this mode, you can move the AF point around the screen at will. Also built-in to the S80 is an AF assist light — a very bright orange LED — which aids the focus mechanism in low light when it’s enabled via a menu option. For composing images, the S80 provides both a 2.5-inch color LCD monitor and an optical viewfinder. The LCD also displays the menu system and exposure settings.

The S80 provides as much or as little exposure control as you want. All exposure modes are accessed by rotating the Mode dial on the right side of the camera. Canon divided the dial into three exposure types: Auto, Creative Zone, and Image Zone. Shooting in Auto mode puts the camera in charge of everything except the Flash and Macro modes. Exposure modes in the Creative Zone include: Program AE (P), Shutter Speed-Priority AE (Tv), Aperture-Priority AE (Av), Manual Exposure (M), and Custom (C). Program AE lets the camera choose the aperture and shutter speed settings, but gives you control over all other exposure options. Aperture and Shutter Speed Priority modes let you set one exposure variable (aperture or shutter speed) while the camera chooses the best value of the other variable (shutter speed or aperture). Manual mode gives you full control over all exposure parameters. Finally, Custom mode lets you save a variety of specific exposure and function settings in one of the other modes, which can then be recalled instantly, simply by rotating the mode dial to the “C” position.

Exposure modes in the Image Zone are Special Scene (SCN), My Colors, Stitch Assist, and Movie. Scene modes include Portrait, Landscape, Night Scene, Night Snapshot, Kids&Pets, Indoor, Foliage, Snow, Beach, Fireworks, Underwater, and Digital Macro. My Colors allows you to change image colors when the picture is taken. Options include Positive Film, Lighter Skin Tone, Darker Skin Tone, Vivid Blue, Vivid Green, Vivid Red, Color Accent, Color Swap, and Custom Color. Stitch-Assist mode is Canon’s panorama shooting solution, in which multiple, overlapping images can be captured horizontally, vertically, or in four quadrants, in clockwise sequence. Images can then be “stitched” together on a computer, using Canon’s bundled PhotoStitch software. Movie mode provides four options includes Standard (640 x 480 or 320 x 240 resolution; 30 or 15 fps; up to 1-GB), High Resolution (1,024 x 768; 15 fps; up to 1-GB), Compact (160 x 120; 15 fps; up to 3 minutes), and My Colors (640 x 480 or 320 x 240; 30 or 15 fps; up to 1-GB).

The nine options in “My Colors” mode, available for both still image and movie shooting, are worth a closer look. The Positive Film setting attempts to replicate the bold colors of positive film in the red, green and blue channels. The Lighter Skin Tone and Darker Skin Tone settings attempt to alter skin tones appropriately, without affecting the rest of the photo. The Vivid Blue, Vivid Green and Vivid Red options emphasize saturation in one channel only. Most unusual are the Color Accent and Color Swap features, however. In Color Accent mode, you place a small square in the center of the camera’s LCD over a color you want to accent, and press the left arrow on the Four-way navigation controller. A narrow band of colors surrounding the color you selected will remain untouched in the final image; the rest of the photo will be in black and white. In Color Swap mode, you similarly select two colors with the square at the center of the LCD (one by pressing the left arrow; the other with the right arrow). The camera will then replace one color with the other in your final image — for example allowing you to make a green car appear blue. Both effects allow a little fine control over the color you selected using the left arrow key; you use the up and down arrows to slightly adjust the color you want to accent or swap. You can’t, however, fine-tune the color you want to replace the swapped color with for Color Swap mode. Both the Color Accent and Color Swap modes are rather fun, and they’re definitely very unusual, but the effects can be rather unpredictable. You generally end up with a slight fringe of the old color surrounding your replaced color in Color Swap mode, and it can be difficult to control the exact color you want to affect in both modes. For this reason, it is rather nice that Canon has provided the ability to set the camera through the Record menu to capture a duplicate copy of images captured in My Colors mode, without any color changes made. If you end up throwing away your color-altered image, you’ll still have your original source image to change with an image editor, or just enjoy in a more normal manner. Finally, the Custom Color mode allows you to manually fine-tune the saturation of colors in the Red, Green and Blue channels (plus the saturation of skin tones), with five steps of control over each.

The Canon PowerShot S80 uses an Evaluative metering system by default, which means that the camera divides the image area into zones and evaluates both contrast and brightness among all the zones to determine the best overall exposure. A Spot metering option ties the exposure to the very center of the frame, and is useful for off-center or high contrast subjects, letting you pinpoint the exact area of the frame to base the exposure on. There’s also a Center-Weighted metering option, which bases the exposure on a large area in the center of the frame. Exposure Compensation increases or decreases the overall exposure from -2 to +2 exposure equivalents (EV) in one-third step increments. A White Balance option offers Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Tungsten, Fluorescent, Fluorescent H, Flash, Underwater, and Custom (manual) settings. The Canon S80 also offers a creative Photo Effects menu, which adjusts sharpening, color, and saturation. Sensitivity equivalents include 50, 100, 200, and 400 ISO settings, as well as an Auto setting. The S80’s built-in flash operates in Auto, Red-Eye Reduction, Forced On, Forced On with Red-Eye Reduction, FE Lock (which locks the flash exposure), First/Second Curtain (which times the flash to fire when the shutter opens or closes), Suppressed, and Slow-Synchro modes.

A two- or 10-second self-timer option counts down by flashing a small LED on the front of the camera before firing the shutter, giving you time to duck around the camera and get into your own shots. In addition, a Custom timer function allows you to set the camera for a delay of 0-10, 15, 20 or 30 seconds, and a number of photos to be captured once the delay has been elapsed (from one to 10). After the timer expires, the camera will capture the number of photos requested with an interval of approximately one second between photos, and the flash does recharge quickly enough to capture 10 photos in a row with flash. This could be rather nice for people trying to take photos of a large family gathering. Thirty seconds gives you plenty of time to get into your photo, and with the ability to capture 10 images with one press of the shutter, there’s a better chance you’ll get a shot where nobody blinked or made a funny face.

Continuous Shooting mode captures a series of consecutive images (much like a motor drive on a traditional camera), at approximately 1.8 shots per second, for as long as the Shutter button is held down. The actual frame rate varies slightly with the resolution setting, and the maximum number of images will also depend on the amount of memory card space and file size.

The My Camera settings menu lets you customize camera settings to a specific theme. Everything from the startup image to operating sounds can be assigned to a theme, either one of the pre-programmed themes or one downloaded from the camera software or stored on the memory card. The PowerShot S80 also lets you record short sound clips in WAV format to accompany captured images, via the Sound Memo option, great for lively captions to vacation photos or party shots.

The Canon PowerShot S80 stores images on SD memory cards. A 32MB card accompanies the camera, but I highlyrecommend picking up a larger capacity card, so you don’t miss any shots. This camera’s high quality video and 8 megapixel images will really demand a 512MB or 1GB card. Each 8 megapixel image takes up more than 3MB at max resolution and minimum compression. The camera uses a rechargeable lithium-ion battery pack for power, which accompanies the camera, along with a compact battery charger. Because the Canon S80 does not accommodate AA-type or any other off-the-shelf battery format, I strongly advise picking up an additional battery pack and keeping it freshly charged. An AC adapter, available as an option, uses a dummy battery to connect to the camera. A USB cable is included to connect directly to a computer and the included A/V cable connects the S80 to a television set for reviewing and composing images.

A software CD accompanies the camera, providing any necessary drivers and editing software for both Windows and Macintosh platforms. The CD holds Canon’s Digital Camera Solution Disk version 26.0 and also features ArcSoft’s PhotoStudio. The Canon S80 is Digital Print Order Format (DPOF) and PictBridge compatible, with detailed print settings in the Playback menu. Canon offers a selection of direct-connect printers as well, which simplifies printing even more. And Exif Print optimizes print settings when images are captured.

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Posted by on July 5, 2011 in Uncategorized


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