The 8-megapixel Canon PowerShot S5 IS bridge camera boasts a 12x zoom lens and full manual control.
The Bridge Camera Market
Despite a decline in the sales of bridge cameras, a few manufacturers are still updating and replacing their lines with new models. Canon is continuing to keep the faith with the arrival of the S5 IS. It may cost the same as an entry-level DSLR, but it offers a pocket-friendly 12x optical zoom with the bonus of optical Image Stabilisation and a top ISO of 1600.
With its latest DIGIC III processor, Canon claims to have minimised image noise at higher sensitivities allowing for better image quality in low light, which is aided by the threefold IS function offering continuous and one-shot IS as well as a panning mode. The lens also features an Ultrasonic Motor (USM) for quick and quiet focusing, along with an Ultra Low Dispersion (UD) glass element to aid in chromatic aberration reduction.
The processing engine features iSAPS technology: a database of thousands of images that the processor can use to recognise the subject matter being shot, and so automatically enhance the photo’s white balance, exposure and so on. Canon also claims this improves focusing speed and accuracy. Autofocusing is further complemented by a nine-point face detection system that can focus on faces.
As it’s a bridge camera there’s a host of exposure features including in-camera effects and a macro mode that can focus to 0cm.
Despite its long lens the S5 is compact and easy to carry, either in a bag or over your shoulder. This is thanks to the small sensor, which reduces the size of the optic needed to achieve the focal lengths offered. However, the plethora of controls can take some getting used to as not all are clearly labelled, so it’s worth reading the handbook. Incidentally, the advanced manual is a PDF file stored on a CD, so is hardly portable. The hand grip has a comfortable depth, and both the electronic viewfinder and LCD are bright enough and easy enough to use.
The camera is quick and responsive enough for average use, the zoom moves swiftly and shutter lag is minimal. Writing to the card is OK too, though the frame rate could be quicker if you want to use it for sport or wildlife.
One of the problems with small sensors is the increase in image noise, and this is often true as the pixel count is raised. Despite Canon’s claims of ISO 1600, I’d not recommend using it, or even going beyond ISO 400 if it can be helped. In low light, the increase in shadow noise is not only intrusive but also unpleasant. This is compounded by the occasional occurrence of fringing in certain conditions.
In the right light with the right subject, the camera can produce sharp images with low noise and good colour. In slightly more challenging conditions, it can’t. Furthermore at maximum aperture, the lens’s sharpness falls off at the corners slightly. Overall, we found more to complain about than to rave about in terms of image quality.
Value For Money
You might be getting a lot of zoom for your money, which would be more costly on a DSLR, but the image quality lets it down.
The term ‘Jack of all trades’ was invented for this camera, and the rest of the cliché also rings true. Bridge cameras should be all-rounders, but the Canon PowerShot S5 IS performs inconsistently in different situations.