DPInterface Canon PowerShot S80 Review
Brad Soo -May 7th, 2006

The Canon PowerShot S80 is a compact digital camera. You probably could call this a multi-function high-end camera as while it's compact in size, it packs 8 megapixels, full manual controls and a wide-angle lens. If video attracts you as much as stills, consider using the S80's XGA movie mode. Find out more about the S80 in the review.

Size and Weight

It's a "just me and you" condition here with no other compact wide-angle cameras with full manual controls except these two:

(199.8)  104.0 x 57.0 x 38.8 mm (225 g) - Canon PowerShot S80
(187.1)  105.7 x 55.8 x 25.6 mm (185 g) - Panasonic Lumix LX1

The S80 is bigger and heavier here but the Panasonic LX1 has a lens protrusion not covered in the measurement.

Open up the Box

Open up that box and in it you'll find these with the S80:

  • 32 MB Secure Digital Card
  • Rechargeable NB-2LH lithium-ion battery
  • Battery charger
  • Wrist strap
  • USB cable
  • A/V cable
  • CD-ROM
  • User's manual

Storage and Power

As usual, you'd want to get at least a 512 MB high-speed SD card with this camera and you can probably throw that included memory card away (I'm not joking).

200 shots - Canon PowerShot S80
240 shots - Panasonic Lumix LX1

The Canon PowerShot S80 uses the NB-2LH lithium-ion battery which gives it a below average 200 shots (CIPA Standard). The Panasonic Lumix LX1 doesn't any better either.

Extras

The S80 continues the tradition of being compatible with a ton of accessories:

  • Conversion lens adapter
  • Wide-angle conversion lens (0.8x, 22 - 80 mm)
  • Telephoto conversion lens (2x, 56 - 200 mm)
  • Close-up conversion lens
  • Filters
  • Waterproof case
  • External slave flash
  • AC adapter

 

Camera Tour

The Canon PowerShot S80 has a 28 - 100 mm wide-angle lens with an aperture range of f2.8 - f5.3. While I wouldn't mind a 5x lens with that range, f5.3 just too slow for 100 mm. For comparison purposes, the Panasonic LX1 has a 4x (vs 3.6x here) lens with an optical image stabilizer covering 28 - 112 mm and f2.8 - f4.9 - you're sacrificing the built-in lens cover though. What I'm trying to say here is that it's time for a 5x lens covering 28 - 140 mm and f2.8 - f5.6 (I'm sure that's possible by dumping the viewfinder and using longer lens barrels)!

The Canon S80's built-in flash has a range of 55 cm - 4.2 m at wide-angle and 55 cm - 2.0 m at telephoto which is above average. Nearby, there's a viewfinder window and AF-assist beam/self-timer lamp below "AiAF". Finally, there's a big sliding cover on the left since there's no space for an automatic lens barrier on the lens. There's a distinctive "click" when the door reaches the power on trigger.

The Canon PowerShot S80 has a 2.5 inch LCD with only 115,000 pixels. The Panasonic Lumix LX1 has lots more pixels than this! The LCD is visible outdoors and indoors but is not very sharp.

To the top left are two buttons: shortcut/print and drive/sound memo. The shortcut button allows any one of these functions to be assigned to it: image resolution, white balance, photo effects, AF lock, AE lock, create folder, My Colors or metering. The other button puts you in single-shot, continuous or self-timer and also records a sound clip with your photos.

The viewfinder next to those buttons is just too small and useless. Frankly, I'd rather Canon do away with the viewfinder and spread the buttons around.

Speaking of buttons, the right of the S80 is too cluttered. There's a zoom controller, power status light and playback button. The playback button is extremely tiny and hard to press. Next up is a AF mode/delete photo button and exposure compensation/jump button.

The new rotary dial attempts (but fails) to mimic the quick control dial on Canon's EOS digital SLR cameras. It should be stiffer so it can't be turned accidentally. Anyway, the 5-way controller does this:

  • Up - ISO speed (Auto, 50, 100, 200, 400)
  • Down - Manual focus
  • Left - Macro
  • Right - Flash setting (Auto, flash on, slow-sync, off)

Spinning the dial will change focus, aperture and shutter speed, depending on mode. The FUNCtion button brings up/down a list of customizable options which allows you to set:

  • White balance (Auto, daylight, cloudy, tungsten, fluorescent, fluorescent H, flash, underwater, custom)
  • Photo effects (Off, vivid, neutral, low sharpening, sepia, black-and-white, My Colors)
  • Exposure/focus bracketing
  • Flash output/compensation
  • Metering method (Evaluative, center weighted, spot)
  • Quality (Superfine, fine, normal)
  • Resolution (8 MP, 5 MP, 3 MP, 2 MP, VGA, postcard)

The FUNCtion button also doubles as a SET button (A "okay" or confirmation button). As you all know, the "Postcard resolution" is essentially a photo 2 MP in size at Fine quality. You can choose to imprint the date or date and time, or turn imprinting off. The custom white balance allows you to take photos which look natural and is especially useful when none of the 7 preset WB options are suitable.

The DISPlay button toggles the amount of info displayed on the LCD: No info, general info or all info (Playback) and display on, display info or LCD off (Shooting). Pressing the DISPlay button for longer than 1 second boosts the LCD brightness till the max (Unless, of course, it's already at the brightest setting). It's nice that Canon FINALLY included a live histogram on the S80.

 

One side of the S80 has a speaker while the other has a mode dial:

  • Auto
  • Program
  • Shutter priority (15 seconds to 1/2000th sec)
  • Aperture priority (f2.8 or f5.3 to f8.0)
  • Manual mode
  • Custom (Configurable to register a set of manual settings - it even registers the zoom position!)
  • Movie mode
  • Stitch assist
  • My Colors
  • Scene mode

Before I continue, I'd like to voice out that the S80 would be better off having wider shutter speed and aperture ranges (like 30 seconds to 1/3200th sec and up to f11).

Up here, there's a speaker and shutter button - and that's it. I don't know why Canon couldn't have spread some of those buttons up here.

Here, there's a battery/SD compartment with a door and tripod mount. The tripod mount is not inline with the lens and I'm wondering why.

Shooting

The Canon PowerShot S80 offers full manual controls and a live histogram plus a custom spot on the mode dial and shortcut button yet it has dropped the RAW image mode found on the S70.

Recording

The Canon PowerShot S80 has a one-of-a-kind XGA (1024 x 768) movie mode with sound. The frame rate is a choppy 15 FPS though. You can choose another combination if you want (sacrificing the large resolution though):

Size - VGA (640 x 480) or QVGA (320 x 240)
Frame rate - 30 FPS (Smooth) or 15 FPS (Choppy)

Another option, the "Fast Frame Rate" mode, can take QVGA movies at 60 FPS up to 1 minute. I wonder why the 1 minute barrier is still there since it was removed on the Canon S3 IS. A Compact movie option records movies at QQVGA (That's 160 x 120) and 15 FPS up to 3 minutes so you can attach them to e-mails.

Movies are recorded in AVI format, thus the large movie sizes and the reason movies always reach the 1 GB per clip limit! That means the S80 can only record 8 minutes worth of XGA 15 FPS or VGA 30 FPS movie on a 1 GB card. Time for MPEG4 - hello, Canon, are you listening?!

The S80 can use digital zoom while recording a movie. Digital zoom can cause loss of quality but it's not that obvious in a movie. So it's a personal decision whether or not to turn digital zoom off in movie mode. Focus is fixed.

The Canon S80's XGA movie mode was excellent in quality but the frame rate is not very exciting! Audio was clear.

Performance

The S80 starts up in a slow 2 seconds - but the Panasonic LX1 starts up in 4! Focusing takes roughly 1 second. While the Panasonic LX1 lags behind when starting up, it's extremely fast when it comes to focusing. Shot-to-shot interval is about 1 shot per 2 seconds. The flash charges up in a quick 3 seconds.

The Canon PowerShot S80 can fill up any high-speed memory card with photos at 1.6 FPS in continuous shooting drive. While not many digital cameras can do that, this one can. The Panasonic LX1 does the same at 2 FPS.

Image Quality

The Panasonic LX1 didn't do that good in terms of image quality. Will the Canon PowerShot S80 do better?:


ISO 50 (f2.8, 1/50 sec)


ISO 100 (f3.5, 1/60 sec)


ISO 200 (f4.0, 1/100 sec)


ISO 400 (f4.0, 1/200 sec)

The Canon S80 produces fairly sharp photos. At ISO 50 and ISO 100, noise is not a problem. Step up to ISO 200, and things are getting noisy. At ISO 400, it gets worse but still acceptable. Chromatic aberration (Color fringing) was visible throughout the ISO range.

There is some barrel distortion at wide-angle due to the nature of a 28 mm lens but pincushion distortion was not a problem. The Canon PowerShot S80 obviously outperforms the Panasonic LX1 in terms of image quality - Overall image quality is good.

Photo gallery

Check out the Canon PowerShot S80 photo gallery.

Playback

In playback, the Canon PowerShot S80 can playback stills and movies. Sound recorded in movies or using the sound memo function can be played back as well thanks to the built-in speaker. The S80 can also perform these functions: Protect image, rotate, record sound memos (Up to 1 minute), slideshow, print marking, direct printing (The Canon PowerShot S80 is PictBridge enabled), transfer marking and transition effects.

While we're at this, I mind as well tell you about the slideshow display option. Choose to play all images in a slideshow or play them by date, folder, movies, stills or print-marked photos only. You can also zoom up to 10x into still photos taken and take a look around using the 4 directional buttons.

 

Conclusion

The Canon PowerShot S80 has 8 megapixels, a 2.5 inch LCD, a wide 28 mm lens and full manual controls in a compact shell. It is compatible with a ton of accessories; including conversion lenses and filters.

The few pros of the S80 include unlimited continuous shooting mode and good movie mode plus image quality. Though the movies are large in size and are limited to 1 GB per clip. A large (but low-resolution) LCD and the S80's inefficient power consumption caused battery life to be below average. Overall camera performance was slightly below average as well. The S80 has dropped the RAW option available on the S70 and by the looks of it, Canon isn't (ever) going to put it back for quite a while.

The S80 has a fairly slow 3.6x zoom lens with no optical image stabilization. So that's it, the S80's features (excluding the manual controls) practically stink. I wouldn't recommend the Panasonic LX1 either (below average image quality). If the S90 had OIS, more zoom, better battery life, a larger, higher resolution LCD and MPEG4 movies, I would personally rush out to buy it! So, for those waiting for a compact camera with high-resolution, a wide-angle lens and full manual controls (including yours truly), your wait goes on... hopefully till August though.

What's hot:

  • Compact with manual controls
  • Lots of accessories
  • Unlimited continuous shooting
  • Good movie mode
  • Good photo quality

What's not:

  • Battery life is below average
  • Shutter speed and aperture range could be wider; no RAW
  • No image stabilization
  • Not much zoom, slow lens
  • LCD has low resolution and is not sharp
  • Red-eye
  • XGA movie mode limited to 15 FPS; Large movie file sizes and cannot optical zoom or focus when recording
  • Startup and autofocus needs to be faster

Recommended accessories:

  • Extra NB-2LH battery
  • 512 MB high-speed SD card
  • LCD protector

Content ©2005 - 2006 Digital Photography Interface. All rights reserved.
All trademarks and images are property of their respective owners.
No part of this website may be copied, posted or used anywhere
without the written permission of the website owner.

.