Latest Update: Rewritten page to fit in with new style, and added lots more reviews.
What Is It?
- Megapixels: 8
- Optical Zoom: 3.6x
- Size: Chunky – pocketable in fairly large pockets.
Compared to the S70 it’s replacing, the S80 has more megapixels, is much faster, but doesn’t have RAW mode any more. On the whole, though, it’s still a good feature set in a nice body.
I had chance to try out the S70 when a friend brought it for me to play with (thanks, Steve!) and liked it a lot – apart from the speed. I found it really quite slow in use. Slow to power on, slow to focus, slow to take pics.
It did have some real plus points, though…
- Handling was good, as Canons pretty much always are.
- Build quality – it felt really solid.
- Lens cover – I loved the sliding lens cover arrangement – as you slide the cover open, the lens opens out, and as you push it back shut, the lens retracts itself ahead of you.
It’s not a pocketable camera, unless you have pretty big pockets, but it’s certainly quite portable. If you have a pouch for it, it would clip fairly unobtusively to a belt, or drop into a small bag neatly enough. It’s only really the depth that makes it feel a bit ‘chunky’. The S80 is smaller than the S70 was.
Anyway, from the Timings and Sizes page of DPReview’s review, it’s clear that Canon have sped things up a lot. DPReview say…
Where the S70 could feel sluggish, overall impressions of the S80 are much better – it feels very ‘snappy’ in everyday use, rarely – if ever – keeping you waiting. Focus speed isn’t the best in its class, but it isn’t far off, and is a lot better than most previous ‘S’ models. Importantly, it seems noticeably (and measurably) faster than the S70, and it rarely struggles even in low light. Continuous shooting performance is perfectly acceptable for a camera of this class, and there are none of the buffer-related limitations seen on so many competitor models.
This should make the S80 feel much better in use.
New Look and Controls
The new look is pretty interesting – a mix of shiny metal and polished black. I think on balance, I prefer the old all-black look, but it still looks good.
There’s new controls too – check the Body and Design page (from DPReview again). Rather than a dial that faces you, there’s a dial that faces the right-hand end of the camera, with extra labels printed on the edge that faces you. Easier to see the pictures than explain.
The zoom control has been moved around to the back, on a little rocker switch, which I don’t like so much. If you’re trying to use the camera one-handed, your thumb needs to be doing the gripping, not the zooming.
The most interesting change, though, is the new version of the 5-way switch. Where this used to be a four-way rocker switch with a button in the middle, now the whole thing turns too – so you can ‘click’ to the left, right, top or bottom to select different things, then just spin the same control around to make a selection from the menu, rather than pushing it up and down. If you’ve used an iPod, you’ll know the idea, but in this case, the wheel actually turns.
Like the S70 before it, the S80’s key selling points are the 28-100mm lens range (which is much wider than most zoom compacts), full photographic control and a build quality and design that oozes quality. The addition of dedicated ISO and AE-compensation buttons on the body make the photographic process a lot more fluid, and the results are superb.
I recently took the S80 and several other cameras, including dSLR’s, on a fall foliage trip. I found myself always grabbing the S80 first because of its ease of use, terrific image quality and the ability to play back an image enlarged 10x on its high-quality LCD; I would capture the same scene with the other cameras only if they were pleasing on the S80’s LCD.
This is an exceptionally full-featured digital camera, with all the bells and whistles apart from a flash hot shoe, a tilt/swivel LCD, and perhaps an internal neutral density filter. Everything else about the camera fits the needs, desires, and interests of “enthusiast” shooters, while at the same time remaining very approachable for rank beginners, thanks to a full Auto mode and a healthy assortment of Scene modes.
Even with its flaws, the S80 still offers a compelling package with its wide-angle lens, manual controls, and sleek design. It gets my recommendation, but it’s worth checking out the competition as well, as they’re also very good cameras.
Some time ago, a reader of this site suggested that we were taking bribes from Canon, because every single review of a Canon camera was full of glowing praise. I can assure you that we are utterly incorruptible, but Iâ€™m afraid this is going to be another good review for Canon. The reason is very simple. With only one or two rare exceptions, Canonâ€™s digital cameras are all excellent, although they do tend to be a bit pricey. Unfortunately it makes for a pretty boring review, but what am I going to do?
Overall, the S80 is an okay digital camera, but not a very good camcorder. It has a basic burst mode that shoots 1.8 fps. Its zoom lens makes a loud motor noise and its 2.5-inch LCD screen has poor resolution. The Canon S80 is marketed as a great hybrid device, but it lacks optical zoom functionality in movie mode and even more basic features like sufficient memory, battery power, and decent software. The Canon PowerShot S80 retails for $549, but isnâ€™t worth quite that much.
The Canon PowerShot S80 is without a doubt the most complex camera of the S-series to date, and in particular, its ergonomic design is the most advanced yet.