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Canon PowerShot S5 IS


The Canon PowerShot S5 IS is an 8 Megapixel super-zoom camera with a 12x optically-stabilised lens and a 2.5in flip-out screen. Announced in May 2007, it’s the successor to the popular PowerShot S3 IS, and has since become a best-seller.

The large number of Canon cameras launched last year meant we were unable to test the PowerShot S5 IS when it was first released, but since it wasn’t replaced in the recent January 2008 announcements and remains a current model, we’re taking the opportunity to test it now – and compare it against the best of the current super-zooms.

The PowerShot S5 IS keeps the same lens range as its predecessor, and indeed the S2 IS before that. As such it sports a 12x optical zoom with an equivalent range of 36-432mm. There’s an inevitable increase in resolution from 6 to 8 megapixels along with a boost of the maximum sensitivity from 800 to 1600 ISO. The S5 IS now also features Face Detection and red-eye removal facilities.


In the more significant and welcome camp are a bigger and higher resolution 2.5in screen, which we’re pleased to report still flips out and twists for compositional flexibility. Canon’s also added a fully-functional hotshoe, so that like the PowerShot G9, you can mount one of its Speedlite flashguns or control other lighting systems.

Like its predecessor, the PowerShot S5 IS uniquely records stereo sound in its movie mode, and you can also operate the optical zoom while filming. The maximum clip size has also been increased from 1 to 4GB, making the feature even more useful. There’s also a full array of manual controls and SLR-styling which will see it appeal to enthusiasts.

Click here for the Canon PowerShot S5 IS video

All in all, the PowerShot S5 IS is certainly a feature-packed super-zoom camera, but how does it compare to the best of the rest? There’s fierce competition from Sony, Olympus and most notably Panasonic, the latter boasting the excellent Lumix FZ18 which zooms both wider and longer than the Canon. Then there’s Canon’s own range which includes the PowerShot G9. This may only have half the zoom range of the S5 IS, but shares its flash hotshoe while additionally boasting a RAW image mode. Indeed it’s currently the only non-DSLR from Canon with a RAW facility, and unlike the chunky S5 IS, will just about squeeze into larger pockets.

So read on to find out how the PowerShot S5 IS compares with its rivals and whether it truly justifies its popularity in the current super-zoom market. As always to see a demonstration of the camera’s highlights, check out our Canon S5 IS video tour.

Testing notes

Following our convention of using default factory and best quality JPEG settings to test cameras unless otherwise stated, the PowerShot S5 IS was set to its best quality Large Superfine JPEG mode, Auto White Balance, Evaluative Metering and with My Colours set to Off. The Image Stabilisation was enabled for all handheld shots, and disabled for tripod-based tests.

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