Canon S2 IS First Impressions "Review"

First impressions. Those two words seems quite funny considering how old this camera now is. But I have recently purchased an S2, so they are relevant. This is certainly not an in-depth review on the Canon Powershot S2 IS, but more of a quick review / first impressions of what I like and dislike about this camera. First I'll cover what I don't like about this camera. Straight shooting: All images in this post (there's not many), except the ones of the camera itself, were taken with the S2 and have not been edited / enhanced in any way what so ever other than resized (made smaller).

What's not so good


Well, the two errors consisting of the memory card error issue and "change battery pack" message have been slightly annoying (now fixed). Although neither of them have been difficult to fix and don't present a serious problem really, so they are more of an annoyance than anything else.

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The electronic view finder (EVF). while it is an old camera in 2019 / 2020, and in its day was a top-of-the-range model, by today's standards the view finder on the S2 IS is fairly poor quality. The EVF screen makes it quite difficult to confirm if the picture being taken is in full focus and of good quality. Sometimes its easier to confirm depending on the shooting situation, but a lot of the time it seems a bit hit and miss. Overall the EVF is very usable (some situations make me really appreciate having it) and actually not too bad considering the age of the camera.

The S2 uses the Digic II processor. Image processing seems quite slow and it can take a while to save an image and be ready to take another one. Auto focus is also rather slow at times, and can sometimes completely lose itself when zoomed out and needs to be reset back to zero zoom to correct itself. However, that can be the case for many bridge cameras, some of which are much more up-to-date than the Canon S2, so it kind of gets a pass for this.

Worth noting is that the S2's maximum SD card size is 2GB. Not an issue for me, as 2GB is more than enough for several hundred photos, but could be an issue for some people, particularly those who don't regularly move their images / video footage off SD cards and on to another device, such as a laptop, desktop or stand-alone external hard drive.

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As others have mentioned online, the viewing display LCD screen is small, but adequate. I actually quite like it. Yes, it is on the small side, but it soon becomes the norm and is easy to use. The screen also flips around and can be turned inward when the camera is not in use so its protected from potential damage. This is one of the features I like. One last thing that's not good, though only a minor niggle, is the loose lens protector cap. It's constantly falling off. Oh, and one last thing. There's no sports mode.

What I like about Powershot S2 IS


Start up is fast. Has great weight and feel. Sits great in the hand. I love getting those close up shots of things, so as you might have guessed, the standout feature for me is most definitely Super Macro mode. This feature allows the lens to be so close to the subject, that it can basically be touching it. Zero centimetres.

For an old, 5 mega pixel camera, its really impressive. Also, normal macro mode. Again, very good. I was doing some macro testing recently between the Canon S2 IS and the Panasonic TZ3. A friendly Vs type test on the same subject being shot under the exact same conditions. While the TZ3 did well, when compared to the S2 there was no competition. I know that super macro isn't the TZ3's forte, but it was quite surprising to see how much difference there was when both examples were inspected more closely.

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Willow bud using super macro. Click to enlarge

Auto mode on the S2 is also excellent. If you want to use the Super Macro setting you must be in certain modes on the dial. "P" being one of them. It can't be activated in Auto. Normal macro can be selected in Auto. Some of the images the Canon S2 is capable of capturing in auto mode really are excellent considering the age of the technology incorporated within this camera.

Zoom and image stabilization are equally impressive. Far zooming needs a steady hand, and as usual, digital more so. But closer zooming is very forgiving. I was recently taking some macro shots of a tree's flowers which were blowing in the wind, and the image stabilizer was still able to capture a sharp, non-blurred image. See that picture below.

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Blowing in the wind but still captures a steady shot

The cameras menu is easy to use, and browsing through the image library and viewing a single image is so simple, and very nice when combined with the zooming in / out controller when wanting to look closely at a taken image. I haven't really tested the video capabilities yet but looking at some of the sample videos on YouTube, it appears to be very good.

Even by today's standards the video quality is totally acceptable. When the batteries don't have enough power left to fully operate the camera (take pictures), you can still view images that have already been taken. There's also hacks available for many of the older Powershot models, including this one.

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Zooming in on pegs sample - Blurred background

Once applied, they open up a whole host of super features usually only found on DSLR's and more expensive cameras, including RAW, live histogram, time-lapse, motion detection and much more. It's called the Canon Hack Development Kit (CHDK), and you can find out more information about that here.

There are still many features that I'm yet to play with, and in time I will discover more likes and dislikes, but all things considered so far, the Canon S2 IS is an excellent early model bridge camera. And for the low price the S2 can now be purchased for second hand online, it really is a sensible option for people who want a great, versatile camera at a cheap price.

When I say cheap price I really mean it. I bought an S2 from eBay about a month ago. It came with the original box, all leads, manuals and guides, 16MB memory card, 4 rechargeable batteries and charger. I paid £10. That £10 is including postage costs. Like I said, for the price this camera can now be found for sale online, its such a bargain purchase. A fantastic camera. Buy one.

What's the difference between the slightly newer S3 IS (6 mega pixels) and this one. The quick answer is, not much. It wasn't a big upgrade. So don't buy the S3 unless you can find one very cheap, as it isn't much different to the previous model. Other than a few minor upgrades, the only real difference when compared to the S2 is the price. It's usually a bit more expensive. Either one at the right money will serve you well.
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