Are old digital cameras still viable in 2018? - Canon Powershot S2 IS
The Canon Powershot S2 IS is a bit of a key moment in my photography history. Despite having used SLR’s with film, my digital camera journey by 2005 had limited me in terms of versatility and creativity. I had been using my Fuji FinePix 2800 Zoom up until this point, which wasn’t the best, albeit ok for the time. Back then I was working as a graphic designer, having not yet realised that photography was my true passion. My then boss Nick, who hired me because he loved photography and I had a whole section of my design portfolio full of photos decided that for ‘work purposes’ we should take a day trip to the NEC to Focus on Imaging.
Whilst wandering around the vast halls of the NEC and marvelling at a world I knew little about, I ended up impulse buying the Canon Powershot S2 IS at some sort of discounted show price, but I forget how much I actually paid.
Once I got home, I had a whole world of possibilities opened up to me with this camera. Whilst not a DSLR, this ‘bridge' camera had full manual control, 5 megapixels and 12x optical zoom with an equivalent focal length range of a crazy 36-432mm!!! Combined with an optical image stabiliser and a macro mode with a minimum focus distance of literally 0cm, this was a huge step up in functionality from my old Fuji.
The articulating screen was amazing to me, although it’s laughably small by modern standards. Although the lens was fixed, it was possible to remove the front bezel and then attach accessories and filters to the front, which was a lot of fun.
With an f/2.7-3.5 lens, shallow depth of field was decent for a small sensor camera, and when combined with the macro mode, it was possible to get some really nice blur going on, whilst still maintaining sharpness at the focal point. It’s funny looking back at some of the early photos from when I first began taking photography seriously. I played a lot with macro, and especially flowers. I’m not even into flowers that much, but they made for a readily available subject to practice on.
Considering this was 5 years before the launch of Instagram, my cat, Spike, featured heavily. Again, a readily available subject, although not as willing at times compared to the flowers, I would often shoot her for as long as she wasn’t bored with it, making sure to focus on her eyes rather than the end of her nose.
Continuing the animal and wildlife theme, this was a great camera to take to the zoo. The zoom lens alone made it a great camera for getting right up close, and at that super long focal length, this really contributed to the shallow depth of field and blurry background.
Like most cameras of the era, it’s low light where the cracks in the technology begin to show. With a maximum ISO of 400, the Canon Powershot S2 IS often needed slow shutter speeds inside which increased the chance of blur. Additionally, when shooting at ISO 400, the noise it produced was really quite unattractive.
In bright sunshine, however, the Canon Powershot S2 IS performed really well and produced a nice amount of detail. It also seemed to reproduce bright yellows really well.
So with all that said, how does it stack up by todays standards? Pretty well actually. Colour rendition is decent, although it doesn’t have anywhere near the dynamic range of my Olympus PEN-F, as you’d expect. It’s an annoyance that the viewfinder doesn’t auto-sense you putting the camera to your eye. You have to manually select screen or viewfinder with a button.
An amusing feature is that you can select the shutter sound in the menu, so I set it to make a sci fi laser gun sound before giving it to Stylonylon to take these photos of me. She didn’t expect it to start going ‘pew pew pew’ as she was shooting.
Inside, the low light performance shows the limits of the camera, although it does maintain good levels of detail. The difference in background blur are also clearly evident, but once again, I was impressed with the colours being fairly similar to my PEN-F.
I’d equate the Canon Powershot S2 IS to a phone camera from a few years back. In ideal situations it' works really well, but how often do we have ideal situations? I had to buy an SD card especially for this feature, because the maximum the camera supports is 128MB, and anything bigger would just give an error. I also need to mention the battery life. Shooting me and a coffee used up an entire set of 4x AA batteries. That’s insane, and would prove to be quite costly in the long run.
So in summary, I don’t think the Canon Powershot S2 IS is viable in 2018. Sure it can do lots of things very well in the right circumstances, but for most things, not as well as your phone, and certainly not as well as a modern digital camera.
This camera was important in my development as photographer. It encouraged me to be creative and to start really taking my photography seriously, so will always have a special place in my heart. In reality though, the only place this camera has a place, is in history.