A 5Mp camera, the Canon Powershot S50 looks like a compact digital camera, but delve a little deeper and you’ll find all the whistles and bells for advanced amateur users that you would normally find in a SLR-lookalike high end digital camera. There are over 10 buttons on the back of the camera alone, allowing you to easily change everything from white balance to reviewing images all at the touch of a button.
Housed in a mostly metal casing, the Canon Powershot S50 is activated by a sliding lens protector that in turn allows the 3x optical zoom to pop out and the large and clear 1.5 LCD monitor to fire into action. On the rear of the camera the main controls are all placed conveniently around your thumb but this can unfortunately cause some problems. The major one is that although the programme-selecting jog wheel holds 13 options the wheel itself is quite stiff to move. No problem I hear you cry, that’s so you can’t change settings mid shot, perhaps. That would be true if the switch for reviewing your images wasn’t directly underneath (see picture right) as you move the wheel with your thumb you find yourself clicking the switch on and off - backwards and forwards into the reviewing option.
However the jog wheel itself does give the following options and shows how serious this camera is when it comes to taking pictures: Auto, Portrait, Landscape, Night Scene, Fast Shutter, Slow Sync, Program, Aperture Priority, Manual, Shutter Speed Priority, Custom, Movie and Stitch Assist. Better still is the quick access function button on the rear of the camera that allows you to access White Balance, Drive Mode, ISO, Effect, Flash and image size settings all at the press of a button.
The power cell is a Lithium Ion (Li-Ion) Canon rechargeable battery pack and the camera is shipped with a 32Mb Compact Flash Card. The camera supports MicroDrive for those wanting bigger memory or who already use this other format.
A 3x optical offers 38 - 105mm equivalent for a 35mm camera and this added to the 4x digital zoom gives you a something to play with. F range is F2.8 - F4.9, and focusing is managed via a whole host of opions: 9-point AiAF, 1-point AF (any position), AF lock, Focus bracketing, AF assist beam (on/off) and Manual Focus. The manual focus option is a nice touch and once again shows the seriousness of this product as it gives you the option to do exactly what it suggests - set the manual focus.
The camera has a host of other features including a histogram feature, picture orientation for when you review the images via the LCD display or TV screen and the ability to print directly to any canon printer.
Picture quality, as with all Canon cameras, is very strong, detailed and well balanced. You would expect this from a 5mega pixel model, but everything here seems to gel. Colours are crisp, white’s well-defined and skin tones very clear. The host of focusing options only help to create better pictures and the pre-programmed settings get you out of trouble if you are not sure of what to manually select.
Overall this is a very good camera let down only by the positioning of the review button. The picture quality is very good and the functions that the camera offers are extensive. For this camera to really be treated as a high-end camera it should have a hot shoe function, but then that's what the G3 and new G5 are there for.
The only fault is that rather like the F602 from Fujifilm people will expect this camera to act like a compact, something which it clearly isn't. Therefore, if you want a good field camera and you're at the stage where you want all the functionality of a high camera without the size then this certainly does the job.