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The older Canon S70 had a Digic I processor and the new S80 has a Digic II image processor. The second generation processor has done good things for other Canon digital cameras, so colors are expected to be accurate on the S80 too. To test this theory, we took several photographs of the GretagMacbeth color chart, which the majority of the imaging industry uses to standardize colors. The chart consists of 24 color tiles, which are then modified in Imatest Imaging Software to show us a better comparison between the ideal and the S80’s produced colors. Below is the modified chart with the camera’s color in the outer square, the ideal color in the inner vertical rectangle, and the corrected ideal (for luminance) in the inner square.
For a more quantitative view of the S80's color accuracy by tone, Imatest also output the following chart with the same information. This time the 24 ideal colors from the original GretagMacbeth chart are represented as squares and the Canon S80’s colors are depicted as circles. Obviously the farther these two shapes are from each other the more inaccurate that particular color is.
The Canon PowerShot S80 received an overall score of 7.6 and had a mean color error of 7.89. We tested the colors at each ISO rating and unsurprisingly, the best results came from the lowest ISO rating, which is what we’ve reported. So if color accuracy is a major factor in a particular situation, stick to the ISO 50 setting. The camera over-saturated colors by 12.1 percent, which is fairly normal for compact models that tend to exaggerate slightly for richer colors, but still quite a but of embellishment.
**Still Life Scene
**Below is a shot of our still life scene captured with the Canon PowerShot S80.
Equipped with 8 megapixels on its 1/1.8-inch CCD, the Canon S80 markets enough resolution to make enormous prints. We tested the S80’s resolution by taking photos of the industry standard resolution chart and uploading them into Imatest for analysis. The results are described as line widths per picture height (lw/ph), which is a theoretical measurement of how many alternating black and whit lines of equal thickness could fit in the S80’s frame – without blurring them, of course.
We tried several focal lengths and apertures and determined that the sharpest image at a focal length of 20.7 mm was recorded using an aperture of f/7.1. This is somewhat strange because most compact models with smaller image sensors typically have the sharpest images from larger apertures (around f/4).
The Canon PowerShot S80 read 1633 lw/ph horizontally on its frame and 1809 vertically. This is in the same ballpark as the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-H1, which read 1723 lw/ph horizontally and 1835 vertically. Unfortunately this doesn’t look great for the Canon though – as the S80 advertises 8 megapixels and the Sony H1 advertises only 5 megapixels. The Canon S80 over-sharpened its images 7.99 percent horizontally and 3.42 vertically. For these results, the Canon S80 earned a 3.56 overall mark.
Noise - Auto ISO*(3.22)*
The Canon PowerShot S80 keeps the noise down in its images when the automatic ISO setting is used. When tested in our well-lit studio, the camera produced about as much noise as an ISO 90 setting. For that performance, this PowerShot received an overall automatic ISO noise score of 3.22. The S80 has accurate metering, but there is a lot of noise even at the low end of the ISO range.
Noise - Manual ISO*(3.38)*
With only four manual ISO settings to test, we measured the noise levels at each. Below is a chart showing the ISO ratings on the horizontal axis and the corresponding noise levels on the vertical axis.
As expected, the higher ISO settings result in more noise. There is a steady climb from the ISO 50-400 settings that is fairly normal, but because there is a substantial amount of noise in the low end, the overall numbers don’t turn out favorably. As the ISO setting is increased, the picture suffers from noise and increasingly inaccurate colors. Overall, the Canon S80 scored a 3.38 manual ISO noise score for its sub-par performance.
Low Light Performance*(5.25)*
More and more photographers are opting to use longer shutter speeds and higher ISO sensitivities rather than use the in-camera flash because of its harsh and seemingly unnatural lighting. Some cameras do better than others. To see where the PowerShot S80 falls, we tested it at 60, 30, 15, and 5 lux. Most living rooms with two soft lamps are around 60 lux after dusk. A single 40-watt bulb emits 30 lux. The 15 and 5 lux tests are done mainly to see how the image sensor reacts to lengthy exposures and minimal light.
The colors become more and more inaccurate as the light dims. Colors dull and noise generally increases. Below is a chart showing the shutter speeds on the horizontal axis and the noise levels on the vertical axis.
Throughout the testing, the camera automatically activated its Long Exposure Noise Reduction system. Still, noise is an issue in low light – as it is in many compact cameras. At 60 lux, the S80 used a half-second exposure and produced quite a bit of noise. The noise increased at 30 lux, where the picture was taken with a 0.8-second exposure. At 15 lux, a 2-second exposure was chosen and at 5 lux, there was a 6-second-long exposure. The climb in noise was steady and consistent, but the rise was quite steep. Overall, noise remained fairly constant and images looked decent although a bit discolored. With long shutter speeds available, the S80 is a decent available light alternative for a point-and-shoot camera.
**Dynamic Range ***(5.0)*
Dynamic range describes how well a camera does in recording detail in both very bright parts and very dark parts of a scene. It's important for taking pictures in very contrasty lighting, such as mid-day sunshine. We tested the PowerShot S80's dynamic range by shooting a Stouffer 4110 test target on a light box, and analyzing the resulting JPEGs in Imatest software. The test target shows a row of rectangles, running from pure white on the left to nearly black on the right.
Imatest measures how many of the rectangles show up in the JPEG, and how much image noise is present in each. We pay special attention to two results from Imatest – the range at Low Quality, and the range at High Quality. Low Quality measures the range of brightness the camera can record with 1 stop of noise, and High Quality measures the range with 0.1 stop of noise. Less noise is better, and a longer range is better.
As other testing has shown, the S80 performs best at ISO 50, with declining quality at ISOs 100, 200 and 400. The S80 is notable because the quality drop between 50 and 100 is pretty big – in some other cameras we've tested, results stay more consistent at the low ISOs, and then drop off faster at the high end.
We have just started to test dynamic range, so we can't compare the S80 to competing cameras. We also note that this dynamic range test is built for comparisons, not as a guide to the number of stops of dynamic range real-world shots will show. Even so, there are conclusions to make from looking at these results. First, the S80 is not a good performer at ISO 400 – image noise will be a big problem at that setting. Second, throughout the ISO range, there is a big advantage in the amount of visible information that is recordable when using the lowest setting possible.
**Speed / Timing
**We tested the Canon PowerShot S80's speed with a freshly-recharged battery, and a SanDisk 128MB SD card.
*Start-up to First Shot (6.84)
*The S80's power switch is integrated into the sliding lens cover, which slows down startup, because the camera hesitates briefly before extending the lens assembly – presumably so that the lens won't crash into the cover. In our best trial, it took 3.16 seconds from the moment we slid back the cover to the first shot. When the camera goes into energy-saving mode, it retracts its lens. A tap of the shutter will wake it up, and though the lens takes a bit more than a second to extend, wake-up is faster than a regular startup by about a second.
*Shot to Shot (9.46)
*Set to manual exposure and maximum size and quality JPEG, the S80 shot 9 frames in 4.8 seconds, for 1.875 frames per second. It finished writing the images in 8 more seconds. The S80 will continue to shoot slowly after it finishes a nine-shot burst.
*Shutter to Shot (8.2)
*The PowerShot S80 shows almost no shutter delay when it is pre-focused. If the user holds down the shutter release halfway until the image is sharp, pressing the shutter the rest of the way results in a shot within 0.01 seconds – as fast as we can measure. Focus takes a while, though. When the S80 is not pre-focused, our average shutter to shot time was 0.4 seconds, too slow for action shots.
When the sliding lens cover of the S80 is closed, it doesn’t really resemble a digital camera, so much as a small shiny black box. To make sure that there is no question of this black box’s identity, however, the sliding cover is labeled with the Canon PowerShot S80 title. On the left edge of the sliding cover is a vertical band of soft plastic that is etched to look like leather. This sticks out just enough for a shooter’s right fingers to grip it from behind and use it to slide the cover open.
When the door is open, the right half of the front is crowded with features. The 3.6x optical zoom lens sits at the bottom. It has three black rims with silver piping that extend the zoom lens when powered up. The circular lens glass sits in a square-shaped window. To the top left of the lens is a square-shaped window with the optical zoom viewfinder inside of it. The viewfinder is slightly recessed. To its right is the flash, which is an oddly shaped rectangle with a rounded top right corner that mimics the curve of the camera body corner. Below that – but still northeast of the lens – is a large round LED with the "AiAF" logo above it. This doubles as the auto focus assist beam and the self-timer indicator. The left portion of the camera’s front face, seen when the sliding door is closed over the lens, is a glossy black and completely plain surface in which reflections can be seen.
Around the outer edge of the front is a matte silver casing. The Canon logo and lens rims are constructed from a shinier silver metal. All in all, the front of the S80 looks like a refrigerator for a doll house, unless the sliding cover is open.
The back of the S80, on the other hand, is busy. There are about a dozen interestingly placed controls, a large viewing screen, the optical viewfinder, and various curves and contours for comfort. The 2.5-inch LCD screen is on the left side; it sits in a slightly raised frame. Connected to the raised frame in the top right corner of the screen is a dormer containing the S80’s optical viewfinder. In it is the optical viewfinder punctuated to its right with a colon - two tiny LEDs. The viewfinder is quite small and its placement is near the center of the camera, so there is no way to avoid rubbing one’s nose on the LCD if the viewfinder is being used.
To the left of the viewfinder and above the LCD are two circular buttons. The circular button to the immediate left of the viewfinder is surrounded by icons: a microphone for voice memos, a self-timer icon, and a burst mode icon. The button on the far left has an LED in its center and two icons right of it: one icon is the standard print and transfer icon, and the other icon has a capital ‘S’ in a box with an arrow pointed to it. This is the Shortcut button; users can program the button to call up the white balance, image sizes, or other options.
Several control buttons lay to the right of the LCD monitor. The mode dial sticks out from the right side of the camera, rather than the top. To the left of the dial, on the upper back corner of the S80, is the zoom toggle, which resembles a thin light switch. Pushing it upward zooms in on a subject; pushing downward accesses the wide angle of the lens. To the left of the toggle is an LED that lights up when the playback mode is activated. The activation is made possible by the button just below it, labeled with the typical green playback symbol.
Below the playback button is a set of buttons that look related. There is a central Func./Set button surrounded by a unique black rotary dial. Above and below the dial are two buttons on each end. The buttons are half-moon shaped and black, so they are quite distinctive. The top left button can erase images and also select the auto focus frame. The top right button adjusts the exposure compensation and acts as a Jump button. The bottom left button is the Disp. Button and the lower right accesses the Menu. The rotary dial sits in the middle and is surrounded by icons. The dial is unique in that it can be turned around in a circle, but it can also be pushed in the four navigational directions for menu item selection. Pushing the top changes the ISO and tapping the bottom accesses the manual focus. The right sets flash settings and the left puts the camera into macro shooting mode.
The left side of the PowerShot S80 is quite plain. It has two silver colored panels with a central black panel, mainly for looks. On the central black panel are six holes that expose the built-in speaker.
The right side of the Canon S80 also has a black band down its middle, but it is thicker than the one on the left. It is also made of a more rubbery gripping material. In the center of this black band is a bulbous wrist strap eyelet. At the bottom is the cover to the battery and memory card compartment, which opens to the bottom. The back edge of the right side has a thumb grip that pushes outward; this opens the cover to the A/V / USB and power input jacks. Above the cover at the top right corner is the mode dial with its many icons.
A black band runs from the right side of the S80 to the left and across the top. On the left side of the black band is a silver PowerShot S80 logo in white. On the right is a thicker rubbery surface for gripping with a black glossy shutter release button in its middle. In front of the shutter release button and black rubbery surface on the silver area is the built-in microphone, which works well enough to pick up handling noise.
The bottom of the Canon S80 has a wide door on its left that opens to reveal the battery compartment and memory card slot. Slightly right of center is the tripod socket. To the right of this is the required label with serial numbers and such.
The Canon PowerShot S80 has an optical zoom viewfinder, which is more and more becoming a rare artifact on a digital camera. Perhaps Canon included it to somehow highlight the camera’s hybrid capabilities. Either way, they didn't include it for its great quality because it really isn’t that effective. It is only 80 percent accurate, so the view doesn’t really show what is being captured in the picture. In the wide angle, photographers can see the lens in the bottom of the frame. The viewfinder crops the picture from the bottom and left edges, so carefully centering your subjects will be for naught. In the telephoto angle, the top of the view is cut off so your human portrait subjects will appear from the nose on down.
This horribly inaccurate viewfinder is protected by the sliding door on the front of the camera and is located to the top left of the lens when viewing the S80 from the front. The S80’s viewfinder can be used in dire emergencies when battery power is running low – and this may very well happen as the S80’s battery only gets 200 shots per charge. In such situations, users can turn off the LCD using the Disp. button. The viewfinder is located above the LCD on a little raised platform and it has two LEDs next to it. These light and flash various colors to indicate several different things that can only be translated with the help of the user manual.
The Canon PowerShot S80 has a 2.5-inch LCD screen that is framed on a raised platform on the back of the camera. The size of the screen is great, but its resolution is not. The screen is made up of only 115,000 pixels, which is half of what many competing models offer. Users can actually perceive individual green, blue and red dots as if they were looking at a Lichtenstein painting.
Still, the screen itself is pretty decent. It has wide viewing angles in both the horizontal and vertical directions, so users can take pictures above their heads, or at their hips, and still see the image being captured. It also has a 100 percent view of the captured image, far superior to the optical viewfinder’s 80 percent.
At the bottom right corner of the LCD monitor is a moon-shaped button labeled Disp. This button switches the view on the screen from plain view to a view with shooting info to a view with a histogram and to off. Canon’s older S70 had a 1.8-inch LCD screen, so the S80’s is definitely larger but its resolution isn’t as good. The S70 had 118,000 pixels on a smaller area and the S80 spreads 115,000 pixels over 2.5 inches. The surface of the screen is great, but not its resolution or imagery.
The sliding lens cover protects the odd-shaped flash of the Canon S80. When opened, users can see the rectangular flash that has a rounded edge in the top right corner. The built-in flash has a decent range for its size. It can reach from 1.8-13.8 ft. in wide and 1.8-6.6 ft. in telephoto. The flash modes can be changed with the right portion of the multi-selector. Auto, On, Off and Slow Synchro modes are available.
There are plenty of other flash adjustments that can be made. The red-eye reduction can be turned on and off in the recording menu. There is a flash sync option in the recording menu that has 1st and 2nd curtain choices. The 1st curtain option is the default and fires the flash just after the shutter is opened. The 2nd curtain fires the flash just before the shutter closes. The Canon S80’s tiny flash can be adjusted in three steps when the Manual flash adjust setting is chosen. The lowest setting is good for macro shots because the automatic setting blows subjects out.
The S80 flash recharge time depends on the flash adjustment setting. When the flash is on full power, it takes a long ten seconds to recharge and fire for its next shot. Just one step down though, and it only takes about 3 seconds; a significant difference when time is of the essence. The lowest setting captures a shot about every two seconds.
The Canon PowerShot S80’s built-in flash is quite powerful for such a compact digital camera, but its power needs to be considered when shooting subjects that are nearby. As long as users remember to push the Func./Set button to adjust the flash setting, pictures should be well lit without blowing out. The flash lights subjects evenly, although the edges of the frame are a bit darker than the rest.
The Canon S80 has a 3.6x optical zoom lens that uses UA lens technology to provide a 28-100mm range. The 28mm wide end of the lens is a wider view than what most cameras offer. A sacrifice is made, however, at the 100mm telephoto end, as most cameras reach to 114mm or so. The lens extends from the camera body in three segments – and does so noisily. The lens is humorously loud when starting up and zooming.
The zoom toggle looks like a light switch and is fairly sensitive. When tapped upward, there are eight steps from the widest to the most telephoto end of the zoom range. Tapping between these stops is a noisy process. As for the quality of the glass, there is some barrel distortion. This is common for compact digital cameras, but this is a bit much for a $549 model. The zoom lens has an aperture of f/2.8 in wide, which is great. However, the aperture shrinks to f/5.3 in telephoto – making tightly framed low light shots quite difficult.
Model Design / Appearance*(6.0)*
The Canon PowerShot S80 looks a bit strange when the lens cover is closed. The shiny black front face makes the camera look like a miniature kitchen appliance instead of a digital camera. Once the cover is opened, though, the extending lens makes the S80 look much more traditional. The back of the camera has a large LCD screen that is surrounded on two sides by various buttons and more icons than one can easily remember. The design should emulate a hybrid device, but instead the S80 just looks like a thick digital camera. The body doesn’t have any major protrusions with the cover closed, so it could slide into a tight space, but it is not thin. Despite the black gloss, this Canon isn’t very suave. It isn’t sleek or sexy or showy.
Size / Portability*(6.5)*
This PowerShot is not slim by any measurement. At 4.1 x 2.2 x 1.5 inches, the S80 is a little smaller than the S70 but is still too thick for a pocket. The Canon S80 is bulky, but doesn’t have any major protrusions. The camera is just as heavy as it looks. It weighs 7.9 ounces without the card and battery; the hefty battery adds almost 2 ounces to the total. The Canon S80 is still a portable size and weight, but could cause some strain on the wrists with continuous shooting. There is an eyelet on the right side for the wrist strap, but the strap isn’t very comfortable because of the S80’s weight.
The Canon PowerShot S80 has an overall flat compact shape, but the body is contoured for better handling. There is no chunky right-hand grip, but the sliding lens cover protrudes ever so slightly and has a finger grip on it that works quite well. Also on the right side is a black rubbery band that surrounds the glossy shutter release button; this is also helpful. The zoom toggle is located on the crest of a sloped portion of the camera body and the bumps next to it make finding the toggle by feel simple. While the Canon S80 can be handled with one hand, two hands are definitely recommended – especially with its relatively hefty nature.
Control Button / Dial Positioning / Size*(6.5)*
There are so many controls on the Canon S80 that they’ll probably scare any beginner away at first glance. The back of the camera is plagued by buttons of all colors, sizes, and shapes – all of which are surrounded by multiple icons. Most of the icons are intuitive, but there are a few that are quite puzzling. For example, the moon-shaped button to the top right of the navigational dial has an exposure compensation icon and an icon next to it that looks like a box with an arrow over it. This is the Jump button, but most users wouldn’t know that until breezing through the manual.
There are two unique features that relate to the S80’s control buttons and dials. First, the mode dial protrudes from the right side of the camera instead of sitting on top. This placement isn’t conducive to handling with the thumb, which has to cramp into an awkward position to turn the dial, but can be easily turned between thumb and pointer. The other unique feature is the navigational dial, which has a Func./Set button in the middle of a rotary wheel. The wheel can be pushed in the four directions like a traditional multi-selector or it can be turned iPod-style. The wheel is sensitive, so it doesn’t take much to rotate. This system took a little getting used to, but was actually quite fun. It definitely makes scrolling through pictures a quick process. Overall, there are more buttons than necessary and way more icons than the eye can handle, but most of the physical placement is decent.
The Canon PowerShot S80 improved upon its predecessor with redesigned menus and a larger screen upon which to view them. With all of the control buttons on the body, however, there is no need for users to go digging in the menus often. Yet, on certain occasions, users may have trouble finding what they need. While there is a recording menu available when the Menu button is pushed, many of the shooting options are found with the push of the Func./Set button. The manual mode has the most shooting options in the recording menu; some options, like the flash sync and spot AE point, are not available in the auto mode. The following menu options are available in the manual recording menu.
The menus are fairly easy to navigate. In every mode, there are three tabs at the top of the menu system. The rotary wheel rotates through the three tabs. The red tab with a camera icon brings up the previous menu. The middle yellow tab has a tool on it and represents the setup menu, which is available from every mode. The third tab is purple and has a person’s head for an icon; this represents the custom settings that make the camera unique to the user. Users can select a theme for their camera, from a Canon logo, sky scene, or yellow nature bird. These images are also the available start-up screen images. The theme can be carried over with the start-up sounds that range from electronic wind chimes to chirping birds. The S80’s operation sound can be chosen to be a little more traditional with the standard beep – or users can choose a bouncing sound or single bird chirp (perhaps this is the nature lover’s setting). The self-timer and shutter sounds can chirp, bark or beep like standard models. These sounds are the same that are found in the Canon A510 – sorry guys, no upgraded bark.
Pushing on the multi-selector directions on the rotary wheel scrolls through the menu options. The only problem is that users may tend to forget which control does what; I found myself using the rotary wheel when I should have used the multi-selector. While the menus are easy to navigate, the options aren’t necessarily easy to find. When the Func./Set button is pushed, menus appear along the left and bottom edges of the LCD screen.
The following options are included on the setup menu.
The following options can be found in the Func. menu. In the playback mode, the three tabbed system still exists but instead of the camera recording menu there is a playback menu. The following options can be found there. Overall, there are a too many menus that aren’t intuitively organized. For instance, the flash sync and red-eye reduction options can only be changed when the Menu button is pushed, the flash modes can be changed with a push of the right side of the multi-selector dial, and the flash output can be adjusted only when the Func./Set button is pressed. This could be a bit confusing for beginners or people with poor memories.
Ease of Use*(5.0)*
The split menu system sure doesn’t aid the ease of use; neither does the crowded button back or the tons of icons surrounding them. The handling is even a little complicated by the mode dial placement, which sticks out for easy but not comfortable rotation. The thumb can get a bit cramped when switching modes. The Canon PowerShot S80 was not designed for beginning point-and-shooters with its complicated menus, handling, and abundance of somewhat randomly placed manual controls.
The Canon S80 isn’t made for beginners, but it does include an automatic mode that can be easily located on the mode dial by its green ‘A’ icon. The recording menu is truncated quite a bit, as it omits such options as Flash Sync, Spot AE Point, MF-Point Zoom, Histogram and Intervalometer. In the Func./Set menu, users can only choose the image size and compression. The ISO and manual focus are unavailable, but the flash modes and macro shooting can be accessed on the multi-selector.
The Auto mode is the easiest mode to access and use on the S80. However, after shooting in several different lighting situations, the Auto mode appears to be optimized more for bright lights or daylight. It took horribly underexposed pictures when the flash was turned off and the lighting was low (about 60 lux or so). So if venturing into the darkness, either use the flash and/or opt for more manual control.
The movie mode is one of the most marketed features of the Canon PowerShot S80, as it is intended to be a hybrid imager. The movie mode is easily accessed on the mode dial through the movie camera icon. In this mode, users have more options than found in many other digital camera movie modes. Users can select the white balance mode, add color effects, and select the image size and frame rate. The image sizes vary by which shooting mode is selected.
By rotating the multi-selector dial, the camera scrolls through the following modes: Compact, My Colors, Standard and High Resolution. The Compact option shoots 160 x 120 pixels at a rate of 15 frames per second and is meant to be used for email. My Colors mode can shoot in 640 x 480 and 320 x 240 at either 15 or 30 fps. Movies can be shot in the following settings: Positive Film, Lighter Skin Tone, Darker Skin Tone, Vivid Blue, Vivid Green, Vivid Red, Color Accent, Color Swap, and Custom Color. The Standard movie mode shoots at the same resolutions as the My Colors mode, but doesn’t have all the fancy effects.
The High Resolution option is the flagship feature of the S80. It records video at 1024 x 768 pixels at 15 fps. This is about 2.5x more data per frame than the standard VGA size. The Canon S80’s XGA movie mode does record a lot of pixels, which makes the actual image look smooth – but its 15 fps rate makes movement look a bit choppy. The older Canon S70 had a sub-par Movie mode that recorded 640 x 480 pixels at 10 fps for up to 30 seconds, so the S80’s Movie mode surpasses it by far. Still, as a hybrid device it should at least have some optical zoom in Movie mode. However, users cannot use the optical zoom, probably because of the awful motor noise from the lens.
The Canon S80 can record monaural audio from the built-in microphone on the top of the camera. The audio is clear, but so is the unintended noise. Shifting a finger on the front of the camera creates more noise than desired. Movies can be edited in the playback mode and still images can be extracted from the high resolution video with the included software. The Canon PowerShot S80 has lots of features and options in its movie mode but the lack of optical zoom is disappointing on a hybrid device.
Drive / Burst Mode*(6.5)*
The Canon PowerShot S80 has a continuous shooting mode that can be activated with the circular button directly to the left of the viewfinder. Once activated, the S80 can shoot at a rate of 1.8 frames per second. It does so for about 6 shots at full resolution, then stutters and takes pictures a bit slower. Still, it doesn’t have an exceptionally long pause for reading and writing to the memory card. The old Canon S70’s burst mode was a bit faster at 2 fps, even with its DIGIC I processor.
The same button that accesses the burst mode also calls up the self-timer. The S80’s self-timer is one of the more elaborate timers I’ve seen. Users can select a dog howl for the self-timer noise – or they can opt for the traditional beeping. It can be set to capture the shot after 2 or 10 seconds and also has a custom setting. This takes 1-10 pictures in intervals ranging from 1-30 seconds. This could be good for nature photography – users could snap pictures of a flower opening or a caterpillar crawling up a branch. Just be sure to turn off the dog howl before attempting such shots.
In the playback mode, turning the rotary dial automatically displays three thumbnails vertically aligned and scrolls through the pictures. The date the pictures were taken appears to the right of the thumbnails. This system makes finding a particular photo quite simple. Once users stop turning the dial, the selected image enlarges to fill the whole frame. Pushing the zoom toggle upward further zooms into the image from 2x - 10x. When the zoom toggle is pushed the other way, it zooms out and eventually shows nine thumbnails on a frame like an index print.
Navigating through pictures in playback is quite easy. When users aren’t turning the rotary dial, they can use the Jump button that is to the top right of the dial. This button allows users to jump 10 images ahead. Between the rotary dial and the jump button, the S80 is well equipped to navigate through large, full memory cards.
Users can protect, rotate, and erase all the pictures from the playback menu. They can also play slide shows with transitions and even select how long the pictures are displayed and if the loop should repeat. Users can create print orders and transfer from this menu, although it is probably easier with the button in the top left of the camera. Within the setup menu, the auto rotate function can be activated.
When individual pictures are viewed, histograms and shooting information can be displayed. Sound memos can also be added by pushing the burst mode button and following the on-screen directions to record a voice memo. Up to 60 seconds of audio can be saved. When movies are played back, there are plenty of options. They can be played back in slow motion or scrolled through frame by frame. Parts of movies can be erased, so users don’t have to save the clip of three balls before the home run if they don’t want to.
Overall, the playback mode is very thorough for both still and video files. The only feature that is missing is a delete function that users can implement when scrolling through pictures. Users can navigate through many pictures, but can only delete either individual pictures or delete them all. There is no way to delete a batch of photos all at once without deleting the entire memory.
Custom Image Presets* (7.5)*
Once the mode dial on the PowerShot S80 is set to the SCN position, users must turn the rotary dial to select a scene mode. Icons appear in the top right corner of the LCD screen while the text title of the scene mode appears in the center of the frame. The following custom image presets are available: Portrait, Landscape, Night Scene, Foliage, Snow, Beach, Fireworks, Underwater, Indoor, Kids & Pets, Night Snapshot and Digital Macro. The older S70 had hardly any scene modes. This selection seems to be plenty in that it doesn’t go overboard, but provides decent basics. This is somewhat refreshing after the perplexing interface and menu setup.
Manual Control Options
The Canon PowerShot S80 has plenty of manual controls, including the traditional aperture and shutter speed adjustments. Focus, white balance, ISO, and metering can also be manually set. If this is too intimidating for users, there are semi-automatic functions. There are shutter speed priority and aperture priority modes and an exposure compensation setting. Most of the exposure settings have live views; making the right selection a lot easier with live views to help. The S80 has lots of manual control but finding where it’s all located could take awhile.
*Auto Focus (6.5)
*The Canon PowerShot S80 has a slow zoom lens with a slow auto focus system. It works decently in low light, especially when it shoots out its orange AF assist beam. The through-the-lens AF system can operate for a single picture or continuously. The S80 can focus from 1.6 inches in the wide macro mode and 11.8 inches in the telephoto macro mode. In either macro setting, it can only focus to 1.4 ft. At that point, the normal auto focus system takes over and can focus to infinity. The camera focuses in the center of the frame as its default, but by selecting the Spot AE Point option in the shooting menu users can change the focus area. With this, users can scroll around the frame in 242 different areas and the camera will focus in the selected area.
The manual focus can be used by pushing the bottom of the multi-selector. A bar with distances (metric can be turned on or off in the setup menu) appears at the right side of the LCD screen and users move up and down the bar – and thus focus – using the rotary dial. In the setup menu, users can select the MF-Point Zoom feature that zooms in upon the center of the image. The good thing about this is that users can theoretically see a little better, although the screen resolution doesn’t complement this very well. Unfortunately, this limits users to focusing on subjects only in the center of the frame.
In the manual, priority and programmed modes, users can select the metering mode. Evaluative, center weighted average and spot options are available. There is a live view when users scroll through the options, so choosing the correct mode isn’t difficult. In spot mode there are brackets to show exactly where the camera is measuring light from; the area is linked to the AF frame.
There are plenty of exposure modes on the Canon PowerShot S80. The following modes are located directly on the mode dial: Manual, Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority, Programmed AE, Auto, Scene, My Colors, Stitch Assist, Movie and Custom. There are modes within modes as well. There are 12 scene modes within the Scene position on the mode dial. There are nine modes within the My Colors menu.
The exposure can be controlled manually with the shutter speed and aperture, or semi-automatically with the exposure compensation setting. This can be adjusted by the button to the top right of the multi-selector. The typical +/- 2 range is available in 1/3 step increments. When the adjustments are made, there is a live view. To further aid users, a live histogram is displayed when the Disp. button is pushed.
The white balance is quite easy to find with its location at the top of the Func./Set menu. Users then have access to the following options: Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Tungsten, Fluorescent, Fluorescent H, Flash, Underwater and Custom. The automatic white balance seemed to work okay except in low light, where it made pictures and videos with a slight warm hue. The custom setting works even better. The camera has on-screen prompts that make setting the white balance quite easy. The underwater white balance mode is intriguing but not especially useful in most shooting situations. When users scroll through the options, there is a live view here as well, which, again, makes selecting the right setting simple.
The Canon PowerShot S80 has a standard ISO range of 50-400 that is very typical of compact models. There is also an automatic ISO setting available. The ISO cannot be changed in the recording menu or by pushing the Func./Set button. Instead, it can be accessed by pushing the top portion of the multi-selector. Doing this shows a live view of the selected ISO setting, which is very helpful.
The Canon PowerShot S80 has a fairly standard shutter speed range from 15-1/2000th of a second. In the slower shutter speeds from 1.3-15 seconds, the camera automatically activates its noise reduction system. When users scroll through the shutter speeds with the rotary dial, there is a live view. Once the shutter speed is set, a push of the Jump button makes the dial rotate through aperture settings. Just a note: the fastest shutter speed is 1/1250th of a second, when the aperture is set at f/3.5 or wider.
The S80 has a Canon lens that offers a wide maximum aperture of f/2.8. This is at its widest focal length, though. Once the camera is zoomed to its telephoto end, the aperture shrinks to a disappointingly small f/5.3. Many compact lenses do much better than this. The minimum aperture throughout the entire range is f/8. The S80’s aperture is set with the rotary dial and the jump button and live views are available. The tiny aperture in telephoto means users will want to avoid zooming in low light.
Picture Quality / Size Options*(7.5)*
‘Options’ is the key word here. There are many on the Canon PowerShot S80. For still shots, the following sizes are available in SuperFine, Fine, or Normal JPEG compression: 3264 x 2448, 2592 x 1944, 2048 x 1536, 1600 x 1200 and 640 x 480. The older S70 had RAW shooting, but the new S80 only offers JPEG files. The camera’s movie mode has almost as many size options: 1024 x 768 at 15 fps, 640 x 480 and 320 x 240 at 30 or 15 fps, and 160 x 120 at 15 fps for 3 minutes. The Canon S80 comes with a 32MB SD card, which is much too small for 8 megapixel pictures and video. For a camera that flaunts its hybrid abilities, it should include a larger card. The included memory card can hold only 8 images.
Picture Effects Mode*(8.0)*
The S80 excels in picture effects. It has all sorts of bells and whistles. There is a My Colors mode on the mode dial that accesses all sorts of interesting features. Users can play with the following modes: Positive Film, Lighter Skin Tone, Darker Skin Tone, Vivid Blue, Vivid Green, Vivid Red, Color Accent, Color Swap, and Custom Color. The color accent mode is pretty cool. It makes most things in frame look rather bland and dreary, then accents the bright colors. Unfortunately, users cannot pick what items are accented. That’s why there are vivid blue, red, and green modes to enhance only certain colors.
The color swap option is very interesting too. Using the arrows and tiny boxes on the LCD screen, users can change the color of, say, their subjects’ shirts, if desired. The custom color option lets users enhance red, green and blue colors on a sliding scale, as well as skin tones. This can make subjects much more tan in vacation shots, without the cancerous effect. (The illusion might be spoiled, though, when your friends notice your current pallor in comparison to last week’s vacation photos.)
When the camera is not in the My Colors mode, it does have a few picture effects available: Vivid, Neutral, Low Sharpening, Sepia, Black & White and Custom. The sepia looks a little too orange and unnatural, but the rest of the modes look decent. The custom effects include contrast, sharpness, and saturation with +, - and 0 choices. All of these picture effects can be found in the Func./Set menu.
The Canon PowerShot S80 comes with Canon’s Digital Camera Solution Disk version 26.0. The CD-ROM takes about ten minutes to load several software programs. The main viewing program is the Canon ZoomBrowser EX, which has good viewing capabilities and extremely simplified editing options. PhotoStitch software is included to merge photographs together from the camera’s Stitch Assist mode. PhotoRecord software lets users create and print scrapbook-type photo albums with templates.
The ZoomBrowser EX program lets users view photos and video from three different screens. There is a Zoom mode that displays small thumbnails and then displays larger images when thumbnails are rolled over with the mouse. The Scroll mode has larger thumbnails and does the same roll-over enlargement that the Zoom mode does. The Preview mode displays thumbnails along the bottom of the screen and a selected larger image on top. Its image file info sits to the right, where users can add keywords, captions, and three-star ratings. In all of the viewing modes, users can rotate, delete, search or play slide shows.
In any of these views, users can double-click on an image or press the View Image button on top and open a new window with just the selected picture or video. Movies can be played, but not really edited. Still images can be taken from video with the Export button on the left side of the screen. Pictures have few editing options: Red Eye Correction, Auto Adjustment, Color/Brightness Adjustment, Sharpness, Trim and Insert Text. Overall, Canon’s ZoomBrowser EX is very easy to use, but doesn’t let users do much. Oddly enough, there are actually more editing features within the camera itself!
The PhotoStitch software is very simple, though. It lays out a three-step process that makes it easy to understand and perform. Users simply select images, click a button that automatically merges them, and then save them. There is no way to manually tweak the panoramas, so users must rely on the accuracy of the program.
The included PhotoRecord software is yet another very simplified program, but it is for creating and printing albums. It has an easy step-by-step process. First, users "Fetch Photos." Then they select the printer and album type, followed by paper selection. Users can decorate the album with templates and backgrounds, then add titles and captions. The print button is the final stage of the process.
Overall, the included software doesn’t really match the capabilities of the S80. For a hybrid device, I’d expect at least simple movie editing software. Users can export stills from the video, but can’t even delete unwanted footage. Even the still image editing options aren’t very thorough. Users can rotate and do some automatic corrections, but can’t color balance.
*Jacks, Ports, Plugs (6.5)
*Most compact digital cameras merge the USB and A/V ports into a single jack, but the S80 has two separate jacks. This PowerShot has a door on its right side that opens to reveal both a USB and an A/V port. The S80 supports USB 2.0 cables and has options for NTSC and PAL video signals. There is no port for a power adaptor, which is unfortunate because the battery fades quickly; this could be a problem when viewing long slide shows on a television.
*Direct Print Options (7.5)
*Printing from the Canon S80 is not as difficult as engaging other processes of this camera. It can create print orders in the playback menu and choose how many of each picture to print. It can produce index prints as well. This PowerShot has a designated Print button in the top left corner of the back. It also has an LED that lights up when transferring images to a printer or computer. The S80 is compatible with any PictBridge printer, but Canon markets it with its CP, Selphy, and Pixma photo printers. The S80 comes with a 72-page Direct Print User Guide, which could give users the wrong impression that printing is difficult. The manual is quite unnecessary: users must merely create a print order from the playback menu, connect the camera to the printer with the USB cable, and push the Print button.
The Canon PowerShot S80 has an NB-2LH rechargeable lithium-ion battery that gets about 700 still shots per charge with the LCD screen off. But since no one wants to use an optical viewfinder that has only 80 percent coverage, the LCD screen will definitely be powered up more often. It must be inefficient, because the battery only lasts 200 shots when the screen is powered up. Overall, the battery is horribly inefficient and will spend lots of time sitting in its included wall-mount charger.
**The old Canon S70 used a CompactFlash card to store its images and video, but the S80 uses the smaller SD/MMC cards. The camera comes with a 32MB SD card, which is enough to hold 8 still images. For a camera that touts hybrid functionality, 32 MB seems a bit stingy. The Canon S80 is designed to navigate through lots and lots of files, but its included memory won’t hold that much. Definitely factor in the cost of purchasing more memory when deciding on this model.
**Other Features ***(6.0)*
Accessories – The Canon PowerShot S80 claims to have compatibility with the WC-DC10 wide converter lens and TC-DC10 telephoto converter lens, although it is unclear how these fit on without a threaded lens. The Canon S70 was also supposedly compatible and the Canon S70 web page linked to the lenses in the accessories section, but there was no info or option to buy the lenses. The Canon S80 is also compatible with the WP-DC1 underwater housing, which lets the camera function at depths of up to 130 ft. The camera is equipped with an underwater scene mode and even an underwater white balance mode to facilitate shooting in this environment. As of this review, there are no prices available on any of these accessories.
Stitch Assist Mode – The older Canon S70 had this feature, and it must have been popular because it is included on its successor. The PowerShot S80 has the stitch assist mode located on the mode dial, making it much easier to find than other competitors’ stitch assist modes. There is a live view on the LCD screen that lets users line up the last shot with the next one. This makes it easier on the PhotoStitch software, which merges them together later (they cannot be viewed as a panorama in the camera). There is no limit to the number of pictures the S80 will take in the Stitch Assist mode.
The Canon PowerShot S80 is a hybrid digital camera, so theoretically consumers won’t have to purchase a $400 digital camera and a $600 camcorder. The all-in-one S80 doesn’t have all the features of two quality imaging devices, though. It does have manual, priority and scene modes, so most photographers should be comfortable with its control at some level. Still, the camera isn’t exactly user friendly. The Canon S80’s movie mode is highly marketed, but it has some flaws as well. The XGA movies can only be recorded at a slow rate of 15 fps. There is no optical zoom available in any movie mode. The Canon PowerShot S80 comes with a tiny 32MB SD card, so users will need to purchase a lot more memory to really take advantage of the movie modes and the 8 megapixel still images. The included software package is also quite limited, which could spell another extra investment. The Canon S80 retails for $549, but could end up costing a lot more with the necessary memory and accessories. In the end, it just isn’t worth it.
**Canon PowerShot S70 – This digital camera was the flagship off the S-series until the S80 came along. The old S70 had less resolution with 7.1 megapixels and had a $599 retail price when announced in August 2004. The cameras both have the same lens with a wide 28-100mm focal length. The S70’s camera body is slightly longer, but its other measurements are identical. Both models have optical viewfinders and LCDs, but the S70’s is much smaller at only 1.8 inches. Surprisingly though, it fits more resolution onto the tiny screen with 118,000 pixels. The cameras have the same shutter speeds and metering options and manual functionality, but the S70 has fewer scene modes. The S70 used a CompactFlash memory card and recorded both JPEG and RAW image files. Its movie mode shot VGA video but only at 10 frames per second – and it certainly doesn’t have the XGA movie mode. The Canon PowerShot S70 was improved on in many ways, but the S70 does win the speed contest; it can shoot 2 frames a second.
Sony Cyber-Shot DSC-M2 – The recently released M2 has a completely different body design that is vertically oriented; the camera looks similar to a cell phone when closed. The LCD monitor flips to the side of the camera, making the device look like an upside down ‘L’. This 5 megapixel Sony Cyber-shot is also touted as a hybrid digital camera and it does indeed have some features that reflect this. It has a Hybrid Record mode that shoots 5 seconds of video, then takes a full resolution still image, then records another 3 seconds of video. The M2 has a 3x optical zoom lens that doesn’t extend from the camera body and has maximum apertures of f/3.5 in wide and f/4.3 in telephoto. The camera omits an optical viewfinder, but uses its 2.5-inch LCD monitor to display images. With 123,000 pixels, it has a little more resolution than the S80’s. The Sony M2 is very automatically oriented and does not have the manual and priority modes that the S80 has. The M2 does have an interesting Favorites playback mode that saves images to its 57 MB of internal memory, and can play imported soundtracks in the background. The movie mode offers optical zoom functionality and stereo audio, both of which are not present on the Canon S80’s system. The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-M2 comes with a camera dock and retails for $499.
Casio Exilim EX-P505 – This 5 megapixel digital camera is extremely compact, although not slim enough for a pocket. The tiny camera boasts hybrid functionality with its manual, priority, auto and scene modes as well as its four movie modes. One of its more interesting features is the Past Movie Mode, which records 5 seconds of video before the shutter release button is pushed so users never miss a moment. The Casio P505 has a 5x zoom lens that is functional in movie recording and a 2-inch LCD monitor that folds out from the camera and rotates. Unfortunately, the screen solarizes easily and has less than 85,000 pixels, so the view isn’t very good. The P505 has a wide shutter speed range from 60-1/2000th of a second, but has many of the same features otherwise. Its menu system is equally as complicated as the Canon S80’s with a split system that causes users to search for features. The hybrid Casio Exilim EX-P505 retails for $399, but came out in early 2005 and can now be found for much less.
Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX1 – This digital camera has just a bit more resolution at 8.4 megapixels, but it also has a different sized image sensor altogether. The LX1’s native format is 16:9, which gives the camera the ability to offer a true widescreen movie mode. So while the LX1 doesn’t have an XGA movie mode, it does shoot video at 848 x 480 pixels. It can do so at 30 or 10 frames per second, so the view can always be smooth. The Panasonic LX1 has a 4x zoom lens that doesn’t offer optical zoom while recording movies, but there is an optical image stabilization system to keep movies from appearing shaky. This Lumix has manual, priority, auto and 14 scene modes for still image recording. It also has the widescreen movie mode and the normal gamut of VGA and QVGA movie modes. This user friendly camera has a standard ISO range of 80-400, but also has two custom white balance modes and fine tuning options for its presets. The Panasonic LX1 has a 2.5-inch LCD screen with 207,000 pixels. While it can shoot 3 frames per second in its burst mode, its images overall are quite noisy. The LX1 includes a decent software package and retails for $599.
Who It’s For
Point-and-Shooters – Beginners will be completely baffled by the split menu system, the confusing icons, and the host of buttons and dials. Point-and-shooters should avoid the S80 as it could turn them off from digital photography completely.
Budget Consumers – At $549, the S80 is a bit steep. Sure, it is supposedly a camcorder and a digital camera all in one, but it doesn’t have all the fancy features of either of those two devices. It doesn’t have optical zoom while recording movies and it doesn’t have a great burst mode. In a competitive digital camera market, users can spend their $549 more wisely.
Gadget Freaks – This segment of consumers may be attracted to the Canon PowerShot S80 simply because it has an XGA high resolution movie mode and is the first digital camera to do so. Other than that, though, the Canon S80 is fairly bland.
Manual Control Freaks – This digital camera does have a full range of automatic and manual modes. Manual, Priority, Auto and even Custom modes are available. Manual control freaks will appreciate the control over aperture, shutter speed and white balance, and the less conventional will even appreciate control over what noise the camera makes when powered up.
Pros / Serious Hobbyists – The unusual XGA movie resolution may mildly pique the curiosity of serious hobbyists, but they will shun the camera upon further inspection. The Canon S80 doesn’t have the optical zoom needed to produce a great high-resolution video.
The Canon PowerShot S80 is a hybrid digital camera with 8 megapixels for shooting still images, and several modes and resolutions for recording movie clips. The S80 is the first camera to have a movie mode that can shoot in 1024 x 768 pixels. While this is great resolution, it only captures 15 frames per second so the high resolution isn’t complemented by a smooth frame rate. The S80 has other movie modes as well that are more typical of an average compact camera’s offerings. VGA and QVGA sizes are available in a video mail option. Unfortunately, the S80 lacks some features that would make it a good camcorder. The Canon S80 cannot use its 3.6x optical zoom lens while recording movies and there is no image stabilization to keep telephoto movie shots from looking like they were filmed during an earthquake.
As far as still images go, the S80 scores a little better. It has manual, priority, auto and scene modes – a nice range for many users. There are plenty of manual and automatic functions as well as some cool features like the My Colors mode. Photographers can bypass basic editing software by swapping colors, increasing the contrast, and enhancing certain colors. The in-camera editing is necessary too because the included software is quite paltry. The Canon PowerShot S80’s menu system isn’t very intuitive, but using the unusual rotary dial to navigate through stacks of pictures is fun.
Overall, the S80 is an okay digital camera, but not a very good camcorder. It has a basic burst mode that shoots 1.8 fps. Its zoom lens makes a loud motor noise and its 2.5-inch LCD screen has poor resolution. The Canon S80 is marketed as a great hybrid device, but it lacks optical zoom functionality in movie mode and even more basic features like sufficient memory, battery power, and decent software. The Canon PowerShot S80 retails for $549, but isn’t worth quite that much.
**Specs Table **
Meet the testers
Steve Kelley is a valued contributor to the Reviewed.com family of sites.
We use standardized and scientific testing methods to scrutinize every product and provide you with objectively accurate results. If you’ve found different results in your own research, email us and we’ll compare notes. If it looks substantial, we’ll gladly re-test a product to try and reproduce these results. After all, peer reviews are a critical part of any scientific process.