Canon PowerShot S60
If your number one priority for a digital camera is that it doesn't pull your shirt pocket down to belly button level, you'll want to skip the Canon PowerShot S60. Though it has the typical oblong shape of a point-and-shoot and weighs less than its predecessor, the PowerShot S50, it comes in at 10 ounces--on the heavy side for this class of camera. On the other hand, if you're looking for a rugged camera that has extensive controls but can still easily fit a large coat pocket or small bag, the S60 is a great choice.
The most obvious change between the S50 and S60 is the color: With this model Canon abandons the S50's black body treatment and returns to the brushed-silver tone of its other point-and-shoot PowerShots. The S60 retains the 5-megapixel CCD from the S50 but has a longer zoom lens (3.6X, up from 3X) that starts out at 28mm, rather than 35mm. (Focal lengths are in 35mm equivalents.) A novel feature added to the S60 is an underwater white-balance setting, handy if you want to surround your S60 with Canon's $240 waterproof case.
The S60 also carries on its predecessor's ability to capture beautiful photos. In our image-quality tests, the S60 ranked fifth overall out of the 14 cameras in the batch, earning a rating of Very Good. It did a particularly fine job on our outdoor shot, displaying excellent color and contrast; and on a shot of our lovely mannequin, it accurately discerned red from orange in a scarf.
Like its predecessor, the S60 has the extensive controls you'd likely expect from high-end cameras such as its much larger cousin, the PowerShot G5. In addition to manual white-balance calibration, full manual exposure control, and shutter- and aperture-priority modes (none of which are uncommon, even on point-and-shoots these days) the S60 offers image bracketing, allows you to adjust flash output level manually, and can capture images in RAW format. It also has a great panorama mode and an illuminator to aid focusing in low light; though neither of those is unique either, the S60's overall breadth of features permits it to address many photographic situations that other point-and-shoots can't.
The S60 comes with a slightly higher-capacity battery than the S50, which fared poorly in our previous battery tests. The new camera took 233 shots, providing slightly more than 2 hours of life and earning a Good rating.
Canon replaced the S50's clumsy main navigation button with more-traditional four-way directional buttons and a center "set" button. The old mechanism rocked back and forth, so making your selection was difficult; the new setup is much easier to use. The new camera starts up much more quickly than the earlier model, too.
Though the updates found in the S60 make it a significantly better camera than the S50, they don't constitute a dramatic improvement. That may come with Canon's 7-megapixel version, the PowerShot S70, which is due in late August.
Much lighter and smaller point-and-shoot cameras are available, but the S60 is a great choice for people seeking a camera that has powerful creative controls yet is still easy to stash away.