Canon PowerShot S70
At a Glance
Canon's easy-to-use PowerShot S70 feels like a brick compared to the majority of today's lightweight point-and-shoots, and at $500 it's expensive for its class. For the premium, however, you get outstanding picture quality and a built-in wide-angle lens.
The S70, which weighs just over 10 ounces with its battery and CompactFlash card, is the successor to the silver PowerShot S60, but it reverts to the black case of previous versions. The most important new feature of the S70 is a 7.1-megapixel CCD (up from 5 megapixels in the S60) for making big, high-quality prints. Both the S60 and S70 have a 3.6X optical zoom and have a built-in wide-angle lens with a 35mm equivalent focal range of 28mm to 100mm. (Most other point-and-shoots have an equivalent focal range starting at 35mm or higher.) But the S70 has a slightly redesigned control panel. Our test unit's shooting-mode dial, four-way directional pad, and other backside feature buttons were easy to reach. Sliding the brushed metal lens cover open and closed powers the camera on and off in a quick two to three seconds.
The S70 offers a wide range of automatic and manual settings. As with the S60, it has six traditional scene modes--Portrait, Landscape, Night Scene, Fast Shutter, Slow Shutter, and Stitch Assist (for panoramas). That's fewer than what is in some other point-and-shoots. It also has a few semi-advanced modes such as shutter priority and aperture priority; a fully automatic mode, which gives you very few settings to adjust; and a more flexible automatic mode, which lets you choose some settings such as photo effects (vivid, black-and-white, sepia, and so forth), white balance, and ISO speed. As with the S60, there is a movie mode and a good range of the manual settings that you'd expect to find on more advanced cameras.
The S70 generally took vivid, sharp pictures. Our test unit earned a score of Outstanding in our output tests, coming in second among the 11 currently tested point-and-shoots. It ranked number one among point-and-shoots in our sharpness tests. Letters on a candy box package popped in our still-life test as did small font sizes in our black-and-white line-art test. One area of relative weakness was exposure. The S70 earned a fifth-place rank (out of 11) in our exposure tests; in particular, I was disappointed with the skin tones in our indoor test shot using flash. Also, I thought the outdoor test shot looked a little low-contrast.
I was also hoping for better battery life. Our test unit's battery lasted 242 shots, far below the average of 350 photos for point-and-shoots.
Nevertheless, this sturdy camera has a great range of options and sharp picture quality. It's a good buy for an advanced beginner looking for a camera with room to grow.
The PowerShot S70 costs more than many point-and-shoots, but the payoff of a wide-angle lens, 7.1 megapixels, and superior picture quality will be worth it for advanced hobbyists.
Canon PowerShot S70
7.1 megapixels, 3072 by 2304 maximum resolution, 28mm to 100mm focal range (35mm equivalent), f2.8 to f8.0 maximum aperture range, shutter speeds from 15 seconds to 1/2000 second, optical and LCD viewfinders, USB connection, CompactFlash slot, rechargeable lithium ion batteries, 8.1 ounces with battery, Canon Camera Solutions Disk (Zoom Browser EX, PhotoRecord, and PhotoStitch) and ArcSoft Camera Suite. One-year parts and labor warranty, 11-hour weekday, 8-hour weekend toll-free support.