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Canon S5 IS Digital Camera Review
A photography enthusiast's opinion of the Canon S5 IS digital camera and 430EX external flash with sample images.

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Brand New Canon S5 IS
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Free A-Data 1GB SD Card
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What's In The Box?

When the Canon S5 was first announced, the addition of an external flash hot shoe and the larger screen really piqued my interest. Although my S3 was an excellent camera, I knew that a powerful external flash could dramatically improve many aspects of the photographic experience.

For a brief time I had owned a Nikon D100 dSLR with a Speedlight SB-800 and a few lenses. It was a powerful collection of equipment that produced superb images but because of the weight, size, cost, and lack of video capabilities it began to collect dust while my compact Canon Powershot SD series camera went everywhere.

So I sold the D100, SB-800, Tamron 28-300mm and the other lenses on eBay. With the freed up capital I purchased the newly released Canon SD700 IS and the S3 IS super zoom.

With these two cameras at my disposal, I hardly missed the dSLR during most events or outings.

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Front View
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Speaker On Side
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Rear & 2.5" LCD Screen
But every time I went to a poorly lit birthday party, wedding, or night time street parade, I would become frustrated with the S3's built in pop up flash. Don't get me wrong, the S3 has an adequate flash, but I dreamed of having the power, quick recycle time, and bounce ability that I used to enjoy with the D100 / SB800 combination. I quickly realized that the S5 seemed to be my best opportunity to have a "Jack of All Trades" (master of none ) mini super zoom dSLR camera & camcorder hybrid device. So I lovingly wiped clean my trusty S3 which had captured 1000's of pictures and hours of digital video over the past year, snapped some product shots, put it on eBay and sold it for surprisingly close to the original price. I also did what I like to call an "eBay Round Up" and ransacked my house for other items that I no longer use or need to help pay for the additional cost of the S5 & 430EX flash.
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Top of S5, Flash Hot Shoe
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Front, 12X 36-432mm F2.7-3.5
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430EX Flash Rear

Every few days the price was gradually dropping down from the original $499 MSRP, but I couldn't wait any longer. After one more session of comparison shopping using PriceGrabber.com and MySimon.com, I placed my order. The 430EX flash was $229 with free shipping from BuyDig.com and the S5 cost $410 plus $7 shipping with a free A Data 1GB SD card from NewEgg.com. My eBay sales of the S3, watched-only-once DVDs, DSL filters, Sunglass Hut coupons, and Halloween novelty hats really paid off because my wallet hardly felt the hit for this new big boy toy acquisition.

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Canon S5 & 430EX Flash
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Watch Macro - Bounced Flash
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ISO 80, 430EX 90 Degrees
If you're already familiar with the specifications and features of the Canon S5 IS then skip this paragraph. Some of the S5's features are the 12X optical zoom 36-432mm F2.7-3.5 lens, 1/2.5 inch CCD sensor, 2.5 inch twist & swivel lcd, 30 FPS 640x480 VGA movie mode, USM (ultrasonic zoom motor), face detection technology, in camera red eye correction, macro & super-macro ability, flash hot shoe, 1.5 FPS burst photo mode, continuous auto focus, focus & exposure bracketing, panoramic "stitch assist" shooting mode, in camera photo organizing & movie editing, sound recorder / picture audio memo and many more manual controls or creative photography options. If you're like me, you've probably read all the professional reviews (several times over) and you want to hear what actual owners think of the S5.
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Bounced Flash Zoomed In
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Since it was raining outside here in 'Sunny' South Florida, I attached the Canon 430EX to the S5 and went around the house shooting test images with both wall or ceiling bounced flash and direct flash. I also tested out the cheap flash diffusion dome and white/silver bounce card that I bought on eBay from sellers in Hong Kong. I wasn't about to spend $30-50 on name brand flash diffuser products from LumiQuest or Gary Fong when these generic "Made In China" items would work just as well. All of these images were shot at ISO 80 with -1/3 exposure compensation on the "Vivid" My Colors setting. For you pixel peepers out there, the original full size images with full EXIF data are available for download or viewing on each picture's page.
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60 Degrees Diffusion Dome
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Bounced With Diffuser Cap
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Full Digital Zoom
The neighbors must have thought that I was having a Techno music dance party or maybe a high fashion photo shoot with all the flashes of light popping out of my windows. It was a great way to really get to know how the S5 & 430EX work together. I tried bouncing the flash at the 40, 65, 75 and 90 degree angles, with and without the diffuser dome & bounce card, and the entire range of -2 to 2+ flash exposure compensation in 1/3 increments.
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Toothpaste Macro, Bounced
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Santa Barbara Framed Picture
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430EX -1 Flash Compensation
Before UPS delivered my S5 I had received the 430EX a few days in advance. After reading the manual and confirming it online at several different photography forums, I was disappointed to learn that the red focus assist light on the 430EX would not illuminate when used with the S5. Apparently the limitation has something to do with the small size of the Powershot sensors versus the larger sensors in the EOS dSLR cameras. Once I wore out a few sets of NiMH rechargeable batteries testing the S5 & 430EX combination, I concluded that it achieves focus quickly (slightly quicker than the S3) with just the camera's discrete green "laser" on board AF assist light.
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430EX 0 Flash Compensation
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Direct Flash, No Diffuser Cap
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Watch Macro Bounced Flash
I think the S5 is a perfect fit for the kind of shooting situations that I most commonly find myself in. Like every camera, it has it's limitations and disadvantages but if you need a lightweight mini-dSLR with high quality video mode and the ability to use an external flash, you can't go wrong with the S5. I'm sure that my SD700IS "go everywhere" camera will still be used the most often but I foresee the S5 easily racking up 1000's of pictures over the next few months. In the end, the camera that makes it out the door with you is always the "best" camera whether it be a 10MP dSLR or my raggedy old 3.2MP SD110.

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Ceiling Bounced

For more sample images and a video clip taken with the Canon S5 check out my new update from the PBOC Motorsports Club Race Event @ Homestead-Miami Speedway. I used the S5's full 12X optical zoom to capture the sports cars zipping around the track and then I attached the powerful 430EX flash when I went into the covered pit garage area.

The S5's reduced rate of 1.5 FPS versus the S3's 2.3 Frames Per Second didn't bother me much. I just had to adjust my timing as I panned down the track while keeping the vehicle centered in the viewfinder. With my Nikon D100 I found that the high rate of FPS just resulted in many images that had to be deleted but it was easier to get that A+ image.


If you're looking for a camera case to protect and store the Canon S5 and 430EX external flash, check out my review of the Lowepro EX 140 Photo / Video Bag. I also created a separate page for my more detailed Canon Speedlite 430EX Review.

I've also just added a Canon S5 Vs. SD700 ISO Noise Level Comparison Test to my site for those of you who want to see how this camera performs at higher ISO settings.

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