Kit: Canon PowerShot S50 digicam
Contact: 0800 616417
The pace of change in digicams is showing no signs of slowing down. No sooner does Canon release the high-end G3 than it spits out the S50 - two hundred quid cheaper and with an extra megapixel of resolution. And you're not even sacrificing many features by opting for the lighter, slimmer S50. The lens is a 3x f2.8 zoom rather than a 4x f2.0, and you lose some of the fancier focusing and shutter combos, but nothing essential.
Based around a hefty 5.0MP CCD, the S50 has a fine spread of program modes, topped off with aperture and shutter priority, and manual exposure options. You can control sharpness, sensitivity, contrast and colour saturation, as well as set interval shooting of up to an hour - although I wouldn't recommend leaving anything so neat and shiny alone between shots. Canon is one of the better makers for movie modes, the S50 benefiting from smooth 15fps 320x240-pixel clips (with sound) and continuous shooting of up to eight frames at 2fps.
The effortless handling will be familiar from previous PowerShots, although a new Func control makes it a little easier to navigate the comprehensive menus, using a mini rocker switch. On the down side, the zoom controls are insubstantial for such a chunky camera and the optical viewfinder is unimpressive, being very inaccurate at telephoto settings. The generous 1.8-in colour screen is large, sharp and responsive but, like most, not really up to use in full sunlight.
The S50 has the increasingly common (and increasingly irritating) feature of auto-rotating portrait shots in playback, making them too small to view properly. Turn this feature off and you can see the S50's Digic processor is capable of delivering reliably excellent images. I couldn't fox the evaluative metering, even shooting against the light, and colours are solid and natural. The focusing let me down once or twice but most of the time it was fast and accurate, demonstrating the S50's 5MP of resolution with pin-sharp detail.
Verdict: If you need the quality edge of a 5MP CCD, the S50 offers an unbeatable marriage of style and substance.
5 stars (out of 5)
Megapixel rating: 5.0 Megapixels effective
Maximum image capture: 2592 x 1944 pixels
Zoom ratings: 3x optical zoom (35-105mm equivalent), 4.1x digital zoom
Display: 1.8-inch TFT LCD screen, 118,000 pixels
Shooting modes: auto, program, shutter priority, aperture priority, manual, custom, portrait, landscape, night scene, fast & slow shutter, stitch assist
Lens: Canon f2.8-4.9, 10cm macro
Movie: 320x240 pixels, 15fps, with sound
Memory: 16Mb CF card supplied
Dimensions: 42 x 112 x 58 mm
Weight with batteries and card: 310g