Canon Powershot S5 IS

S2 vs S5

I am pretty excited about my new Canon Powershot S5 IS. Since it is so new and there are few reviews of it around I thought I should post my “review.” If you skipped the S3 waiting for a big improvement like I did, this might be what you have waited for. But it is still not a huge improvement. If you have an S3, it might not be worth it at least till the price drops a bunch.

Major updates since I originally posted are in blue. Last updated November 24.

I was very happy with my Canon Powershot S2 IS and it still works fine (except for some grinding noises sometimes). So I was having trouble deciding whether to get the S5 or not and a lot of the early information about it was killing my excitement for it. I had been looking at alternatives in case I decided not to get the S5, but I didn’t see any that really stood out. And after finally getting to look at some of the other SLR-like cameras in person I decided just to go for the S5. There is always eBay or the 15% restocking fee if I just can’t stand it.

You can see a growing number of samples of my shots with the S5 here. Hopefully they can help you make your own decision on image quality.

The S5 is available now at Best Buy where I over paid for mine. I normally would only buy a camera online since you can find it cheaper, usually pay no tax, and likely get free shipping. But I was impatient this time and I had a gift card I was tired of carrying around.

Circuit City’s website has the camera with an unadvertised low price ($25.00 off). I don’t know how long that price is good or if it will be good in store. But the camera isn’t available yet in the store anyway and the employee I talked to said it isn’t in the computer yet and usually things show up in there about a week before they get them. Best Buy seems to have got an exclusive release date. I called Circuit City and asked about the camera, they said they are shipping them now if you order online, but he didn’t know when they would be available in stores. Checking again on June 23 on their website, Circuit City now says it is available in stores and that lower price is still listed.

Image quality seems to be a slight improvement over the S2. It may be a tiny bit softer, but not by much (if any) and more small detail is visible. You can see noise reduction effects sometimes when “pixel peeping,” but for regular viewing and printing it isn’t an issue. The noise reduction isn’t horrible and I have seen much worse samples from other cameras. Without moving up to an SLR, you aren’t really going to improve much no matter what. The sensor size and lens of the S5 are the same as the S2 but the megapixels keep going up since most people believe megapixels are everything. Canon had to increase it or it wouldn’t sell, and they seem to have done a decent job getting a bit more detail from this small sensor. I took a set of images comparing noise at different ISOs between the cameras. In those well lit indoor shots, the S5 always appear a little better. Outdoor shots are harder to determine. I have seen a small bit of purple fringing in a few of my outdoor max zoom shots especially around overexposed areas but not enough that it bothers me. Indoor zoom shots, even not so well lit, show the same minor improvement over the S2.

The feel is good, though I don’t like the minor changes with button placement. They moved the customizable button to the left side of the camera where it is basically useless. If the LCD panel is out, getting to the button with your left hand is not convenient. Since they moved that button they moved all the others down. The buttons are slightly less easily pressed compared to the S2. I guess that could be a good thing or a bad thing. You are less likely to accidentally press a button, but you will have to get used to pressing harder.

Color saturation is a bit better than my S2. Low light focusing appears slightly better but still can be trouble. Focusing in regular light on even a moving target seems improved. The view finder is brighter (and bigger too I think) though the resolution still isn’t great. And the larger LCD screen is brighter and amazing. I can’t believe I have been happy with the S2′s panel before now that I have used this giant.

ISO 400 seems ok. Some people will claim it is still unusable. Others will say it’s decent. Going higher than ISO 200 is still something to avoid if possible but I would rather have a noisy image than a blurry one or none at all. Noise reduction software can do an amazing job even on ISO 1600 images.

I really like the hot shoe for using an external flash even though I probably won’t use it that often. I have an old 1980’s Canon flash that isn’t able to talk to the camera so I had to set things manually on the camera and flash, but it is nice to have a very powerful flash. There is an annoying delay between hitting the shutter and the flash firing though. If you are shooting a fast moving target, you have to track it or won’t be in the shot by the time the flash fires. Before you use an old flash you should read this and check this chart, certain old flashes have very high trigger voltage which will over time burn out your hot shoe.

The old flash stopped working with my camera after a few months (it’s connector was nearly broken when I started using it) and I liked having the extra flash power so I bought a Sunpak flash which should have worked fine, but for some reason didn’t so I exchanged it for a real Canon flash, the Speedlight 430EX. Much more expensive, but now that I have it I am glad I didn’t stick with a cheap flash. The refresh rate of the 430EX (until the batteries are low) keeps up with the speed of the camera’s continuous shooting mode (compared to several seconds between shots with the other). So far I use it mostly for macros which it is not well suited for (the 530EX is). But a home made diffuser/reflector helps a lot. So it turns out, I do use the hot shoe a lot. Since I got the new flash, I hardly shoot macros without it.

The S5 has several new features that I like in theory, Face Detection, Continuous Shooting AF, and Safety Manual Focus, but I will have to wait and see how useful they really are.

I have not yet tried Face Detection much but it sounds like it works well for other people. It is on by default for the more automatic modes, but it must be activated manually for P mode and higher. Unless you turn off FlexiZone, face detect is not very useful. Once detected, the auto focus box would stay on the position the face was when detected. If you turn off FlexiZone, Face Detect can be activated all the time with the set button and is just like in the automatic modes.

Continuous Shooting Auto Focus seemed to work ok but is not perfect. The speed isn’t too much lower than the regular continuous shooting. But there is no focus box to aim to help keep focus on your subject so some shots may be focusing on the subject and some on the background but it will be nicely in focus. It is not hidden away in a menu option so is easy to activate, it is right there as a choice next to regular continuous shooting when you hit the button.

Safety Manual Focus is a feature I think might be extremely useful. I have a Raynox DCR-250 macro adapter and at its maximum magnification, focusing is extremely difficult so manual focus is almost a must. But even then I miss a lot of shots just slightly due to the very narrow DOF so I hope safety focus help. I haven’t yet really put this feature to the test.

The lens cap does seem like it will stay on better than the S2, it is now a sort of clip on lens. But it still pops off so it doesn’t put any pressure on the lens motor if you forget to remove it. So it may still not stay on all the time, but I have not knocked it off accidentally yet.

The plastic tripod mount threads on the S2 have been replaced by metal. That was a common complaint with reviewers but I didn’t find it that bad. But now that it can have an external flash it does need the better thread.

There is now an ISO Speed field in the EXIF that Picasa and Flickr both read now so you don’t have to look in the Maker Notes fields to find it.

Canon got rid of the intervalometer and the high speed continuous shooting mode, but I suspect the majority of users never even knew either of those features existed. I will miss the high speed mode’s 2.4 fps. Regular continuous mode is the same as the S2 and S3’s 1.5 fps.

Actually comparing regular continuous shooting on the S2 with the S5, both cameras do seem about equal though not exactly the same. The S2 seemed to start off faster I think but over a minute slowed down slightly a few times in my first test. It was on an older smaller card but both were SanDisk. Neither had been formated recently and both had images already on them.

shotssizetimefps
S28966 mb1 min1.483
S591102 mb1 min1.517


I did some further tests comparing the speed of the two cameras. The S5 is a tiny bit (one shot per minute) faster than the S2′s normal continuous shooting mode. I used the same memory card in both cameras this time and included low level formatting it as a test for each camera which made no difference. Having the LCD panel open or closed also made no difference. I set the cameras to manual on ISO 80 and the fastest shutter speed I could at F2.7, 1/1600s. I also tried shooting with the S5 in lower resolutions, which slows it down slightly because it must resize.


shotssizetimefpsresolution
S29240 mb1 min1.5332592×1944
S59336 mb1 min1.5543264×2448
S58922 mb1 min1.4832592×1944
S5911.8 mb1 min1.517640×480

In regular shooting there is a longer black out moment right after you hit the shutter. On the S2 it was so short I didn’t even realize it was there until now. The S5 seems to double the length of the blackout which is still extremely short and certainly not measurable by me, but seemed odd until I realized the S2 did it also.

The memory card slot is now under the battery door which is probably good for retail marketing since they can leave a card in there now and not have it stolen. That is good for trying the camera in the store which used to be difficult with no memory, but it is annoying for owners. I prefer to use a card reader so I take the memory card out frequently. Now I have to worry about not turning the camera over or I have to close the door so the batteries stay in. I found that if I left the door open on the S2 I was less likely to forget to put the memory back in. Going out to shoot with no memory card sucks. The door now opens different, instead of front to back like the S2, it opens to the side. And thanks to the extra strong springs on the batteries, closing the door is difficult. I wonder if I will download images less frequently to avoid using that door. Maybe it will improve with use as the springs get softer, but closing the door is my biggest complaint about the camera.

I have read some places that claim that the focusing on the background problem has been improved. If it is, its still far from gone. Just ask the blurry bird I shot tofday. The camera liked the leaves behind him better since they were lit better and higher contrast even though the bird took up more than 90% of the focus box on the screen. Five out of nine shots focused on the background or at least tried to. Some of those the whole shot was blurry but the leaves were less blurry. I finally had to go into Digital Zoom so there was very little background visible to get the shot. It doesn’t actually look too bad. Even with the S2, the background focusing problem was never a big issue. It is annoying when it happens, but it isn’t common and can usually be worked around by adjusting your angle or focusing on a nearby object.

Even though the flash is a tiny bit higher than the S2, it is still partially blocked by the lens when in Super Macro mode. But that can be easily overcome with a home made ring flash diffuser. It is made out of a Styrofoam bowl and called the CCRRFD. Once I learned about it, I have used it for most of my macros.

DCResource.com has up sample photos from the S5. He says the review probably won’t be up till July though. These aren’t completely controlled studio shots so it is difficult to compare them, but his S3 gallery has three very similar shots between the two cameras.

CNet has a review up. I prefer DCResource and DPReview‘s more in depth reviews but since they aren’t out, you have to decide without them if you can’t wait.

DCRecource and DPReview posted their reviews. Here are a couple other informative reviews that have popped up recently: dpinterface.com, photoreview.com.au, mycanong7.com.

There is also a Flickr group for the camera and you can view photos taken with the S5 in Flickr’s Camera Finder. When I first posted, the group only had four photos and they were all mine. Now we are nearing 200 photos. In the group, I started a discussion of things that annoy users about the camera.

Overall I like the camera. It’s not perfect, but no camera is. I would recommend it. But I also recommend you find it online for less than $500. It isn’t hard if you can stand to not have it right away. If you aren’t already an S series user, you should look at the S3 too though. You can find it for about half the S5 price online. If the new S5 features don’t interest you, the S3 is a much better deal and there is likely less difference in image quality than there was from the S2. Don’t focus on the megapixels, six is plenty for most people.

I will keep this post updated as I learn more about the camera. I have had it for less than 24 hours so far so I am sure there is a lot more to learn. I bet reading the instruction book would help. I have now read some of it. It did help.

Jedi vs. Sith Squirrels

'those' jedi squirrels

Not too long ago, digg had a post linking to a Flickr photo of squirrels with lightsabers. The post probably had something to do with having just passed the 30th Anniversary of Star Wars. But the image was not new, according to another Flickr user, DaveBr, who had just signed up to point it out, he created the image in June 2004 for a satirical site, b3ta.com. The image was so popular it went viral and is now posted all over the internet uncredited. It doesn’t seem to bother Dave that much since there is nothing he can do at this point, but I think he should get the recognition for creating such an awesome image. Dave’s version is a bit higher resolution and he has other Star Wars related photo manipulations with his signature on them and seems believable. His off Flickr gallery holding more photo manipulations is here.

Anyway, it looks like Sith Squirrels get around, this squirrel with a double ended saber like Darth Maul’s was trying to scare me away. His name is Darth Hoard.

Darth Hoard

Remove Flickr Comment Image Invites

On Flickr, a common thing to do is invite or award images you like to groups you belong to. Some people don’t like these images cluttering up their photo’s comments. I don’t particularly like lots of image invites and awards either, but if you don’t submit your photos to the aggressive award/invite groups you don’t get flooded with images. A few small images aren’t that bad, its when they get huge and blinking that is annoying.

I read someone who didn’t like these tried to hide them with Adblock but it wasn’t working well. It wasn’t the first time someone has found this problem. I had an idea. There is another Firefox extension that with the right rules can hide any image posted in comments. It is called RIP or Remove it Permanently.

Once you install the extension, here are three rules to import depending on where you want to remove image comments from. If you plan to delete them on your own photos I suggest only hiding them on the Comments You’ve Made page so you don’t miss deleting any.

Firefox’s Tools menu should now have a RIP Options choice. Select that and at the bottom left of the next screen there will be a button for Import Rip. Import the file you just downloaded and three new RIPs should show up that are named as Flickr {page name} Invite Image. Try them out and disable the ones you don’t need.

If you have problems using these I won’t be able to help much. I plan to remove RIP since I am not that worried about removing the images and I don’t like having unused extensions. I just wanted to see if it was possible.

Download Flickr RIP Comment Images

Update June 19: Its been several days and I haven’t removed it from on of my computers and I hardly even notice it. It is kind of refreshing not to see all the image comments. Mostly I only notice something odd when I use my laptop and all the image comments are still there.

Firefox Tip: Paste Multiple Lines in Input Box

If you’ve ever tried copying and pasting more than one line at a time into a text input box on a website you probably noticed it is a pain. You have to copy it one line at a time because only the first line gets pasted. I kept thinking it would be so simple just for Firefox to remove the line endings and insert the whole thing as a single line. Well, it seems I am not the only one who realized this was an incredibly good idea. Lifehacker just blogged the simple Firefox tweak that will solve the problem, you just have to enable change editor.singleLine.pasteNewlines. Check out their page for details.

Flickr Hosting Email Image Spams

flickrspam

I found a Flickr user’s photostream full of those odd text images that have been popular in spam lately. At first I thought it was some project to collect the images for some antispam purpose. Then I thought it must be a spammer hosting his images on Flickr. Then I realized what had happened.

Flickr allows you to setup a special email address to mail images to that are automatically posted. That is a very useful feature. That allows you to post directly from your camera phone or Google’s Picasa. For security they choose pretty good random unique email addresses (similar to hyper91bat at photos.flickr.com) to prevent spam or people posting to unauthorized accounts.

But there are ways spammers might get these secret addresses. Random luck is unlikely but could happen. They could also get them from compromised computers. Anyway, it seems to me that Flickr is posting images from spam emails being sent to this secret address. If you check out the oldest page you will see this guy hasn’t been active on Flickr since October 2006 and the spam started in February 2007 so he probably has no idea this is happening. Currently he has 92 photos, of those only 11 are not spam.

These photos contain the text and subjects from the spam so I did some more searching to see if I could find any other signs of this, but it was futile. Image spam is designed to get around spam filters by including random or stolen text that is not full of the usual spammy words. Those go in the image. So having nothing to search for means there is no way of knowing how wide spread this problem is.

If this happens to you, go to your Uploading by email settings page under Your Account, Email and hit the Reset button. This will give you a new unique address and should stop the spam. I would also be sure to check your computer for spyware and viruses since the spammers had to have found your address somehow.

Update May 22: By searching spam and flickr I was able to find two more users who have experienced this problem. Spygirl got hit by this, though only two image spams were posted before she stopped it. And thegentlemanfarmer got several of them. Both changed their upload address and don’t seem to be getting surprises in their photostream anymore.

Update June 7: It took a while, but the spam on baxter.1002′s photostream is all gone. I wonder if Flickr cleaned it up or if baxter came back. Either way, I am glad it is gone now.

Canon PowerShot SD800

In addition to my Canon S2 IS, I have been using the Canon PowerShot SD800 since October. Carrying around a pocket sized camera is so much more convenient. I never thought I would buy a camera with less than 6x zoom, the SD800 has 3.8x. It also starts at 28mm instead of the usual so it gives me a nice wide angle but means that 3.8x zoom gets even less up up close. Even though I give up the huge 12x zoom when using it, I don’t miss it too often. I usually know when I will need the good zoom. And in those cases I usually carry both cameras.

There are several reasons for still using this camera when I carry the S2. It is wider angle, can shoot in lower light, and seems to have better colors. The colors thing may be in my head, but I think for at least the wide angle shots the colors are much nicer out of this camera. Zoomed in you loose some of that and a bit more sharpness than I like.

Reading some user settings recommendations from similar SD models on Flickr, they say to turn AI Auto Focus option off. That is partially for speed but also gives you control over what is in focus. I turned it off because then it matches my S2 and I like choosing what I focus on. I turn multi point focus off in any camera I use including a couple of film SLRs. I rather focus in the center and reframe. That way I know what is in focus and don’t have to worry about the camera cycling through the focus points while I loose the shot. Maybe I just haven’t used the right camera, but so far I don’t like AI Auto Focus.

Compared to my Canon S2 IS this camera produces slightly softer images. But I think that is just due to the much smaller lens and squeezing an extra two megapixels out of the same size sensor. Looking at some other shots in the pool, it certainly isn’t only my camera. DCResource has a really thorough review and says, “Sharpness was where I prefer it: not too sharp, not too soft.” I would like it to be a bit sharper, but its not bad. I am very happy with this camera.

I shoot a lot of macros of bugs and anything else small I can find. Mostly I use the S2, but the SD800 does a good job too. It can’t get nearly as close as the S2′s super macro, but does produce nice macros from a few inches away.

I always thought I wouldn’t like such a small camera since working the controls and just holding it would be awkward with my long fingers. But that hasn’t been a problem at all. When I bought it, I had no idea I would like it so much.

Last week my SD800 took a dive onto a hard floor and didn’t survive. I got a Lens Error message and grinding noise when trying to turn the camera off and the lens is stuck in the extended position. So I sent it in for repair. It is still under warranty, but drops aren’t covered and they were able to tell from the internal damage to the lens that it was dropped so it is costing me $115 for non-warranty repair. Not bad since a new one would cost $300. Hopefully it will be back soon. I miss it.

Irish Up Your Desktop

St. Patrick’s Day is coming up and everyone knows you are supposed to wear green. So here are some green shamrock and light painting wallpapers so your computer doesn’t feel left out.

IMG_8672 IMG_1029 IMG_8618
IMG_8333 IMG_8345 IMG_8372

Free Christmas Gifts for Kids

If you haven’t got around to shopping for gifts for kids at this point you are probably in trouble. Most of the good stuff is probably gone. But there is still some free stuff online that you might be able to get away with. I guess it would be hard to wrap, but face it, your choices are limited at this point.

LEGO Digital Designer is free official LEGO software that lets you design models, find out how much they would cost to build, and even order the pieces to make it. Obviously that last part is why it makes sense to offer a free Digital Designer, but up till then its just fun.

ArtRage 2 Free Edition is really fun for playing around with making art. The interface is pretty unusual, but kids should adapt easy. Making art on the computer is a lot less messy than in real life and kids can get some exposure to the different types of brushes and other art supplies they probably would not get otherwise.

Paint.NET is pretty good too for those a bit older who want to mess around with photos or drawing or those who just want to make squiggles and scribbles. I didn’t go into it very deep, but it looks pretty good. I used to use paint programs with about that level of features when I was in middle school.

Sebran’s ABC wasn’t my favorite of what I found, but I am not really the target audience. It doesn’t seem as polished as the others but is more educational and aimed at younger kids.

Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory looks great if you aren’t worried about top of the line graphics and stuff. I tried it a few years ago and didn’t like it much, but I have never been much of a gamer. I want something that is easy and fun rather than something where I get killed over and over again.

Rockstar Games has three classic games updated to run on modern PCs available if you give them your email address including the first two Grand Theft Autos.

Scorched 3D is based on the classic DOS game Scorched Earth that we played in computer class almost daily in high school. I have not tried this update, but it looks a whole lot nicer.

If you are really geeky, you might setup Tyrian 2000, and official remake of the original Tyrian which I loved years ago. It was released by the author as freeware. The site says it might require DOSBox. Without any effort it ran for me in Windows XP, but it was choppy and had no sound.

And finally, Railroad Tycoon. I have never played it, but it seems to have lots of fans. It looks a lot like the first SimCity.