At the New York photo show in November, Canon introduced its latest entry in the digital imaging sweepstakes, the Canon Powershot S10. I was able to take one home for review, little imagining that in less than two weeks, I would be calling on that little "toy" to bail me and Time Magazine out of a big hole on a breaking international story. The camera is about the size of a pack of cigarettes (remember those?) and not much heavier, yet it is capable of delivering a 2.1 megapixel image, with the same sort of quality that we could previously expect from only costly professional digital cameras. How costly? Well, like $15,000. Yet this little wonder bears a street price of only $700.
The camera has a 2x optical zoom, which approximates a 35mm-70mm range. With its digital zoom feature, you can double that range on the long side. You can either use its standard viewfinder or an LCD panel on the back of the camera to compose photos. Once the photos have been acquired, there is a nifty image zoom device that allows you to enlarge and reframe a portion of the picture. I found that while covering the President, I was able to use this feature to give me the range of using my 70-200 zoom. The camera comes with an 8mb compact flash card, however, I loaded it with a 48mb card, which gave me the equivalent of a couple of rolls of film, at high resolution.
Like most consumer priced digital cameras, it is slow to respond to the photographer's finger on the button. However, in continuous mode, it is possible to shoot at 1.7 images per second. Using the manual mode, you are able to control exposure, resolution, compression, and white balance. There is a great stitch mode for doing 3-D panoramas. The camera comes bundled with a video cable to connect to a TV, USB and serial cables for PCs or Macs, Adobe Photo Deluxe 3.0 (a watered down version of Photoshop), Canon PowerStitch, and a zoom browser for organizing your images. It can also produce a slide show for display on a TV, of over 100 images.
I figured this would be a nifty camera to add to my pack (which already now carries not only my professional complement of Canon EOS 3s, but a GL1 video camera as well). It would be perfect to do "happy snaps" on my Presidential trips. However, half way through Clinton's ten day marathon trip to Italy, Greece, Turkey, and Kosovo, I found myself in Istanbul, with an important meeting looming between the President and Boris Yeltsin. Tension was running very high between the two Presidents, following what the Russian leader considered to be a "lecture" delivered to him in front of other world leaders. The meeting was to take place on a Thursday morning, one day before TIME's deadline.
The normal shipping procedures we used to get our films to New York had totally broken down, due to Turkish customs. So how to get my photos to the magazine in time? Well, there in my pocket was the S10. I did some quick tests. Unfortunately my powerbook was acting up, crashing, and not booting (it seems this always happens on foreign trips), and the software I had loaded to run the Powershot went totally screwy. Frantic calls to Canon resulted in the advice to delete the supplied Adobe software, which seemed to be butting heads with my regular Photoshop, and simply load the browser. This helped, and I was ready to shoot and transmit my photos to New York within minutes of the meeting, while my colleagues from Newsweek and US News fretted.
As it turned out, after we all stood in a driving cold rain for more than three hours in front of the palace in which the leaders were meeting, Boris came to the door with Bill, took one look out at the shivering press, and a red carpet that was being blown over the porch, and said "no thanks", turned around and left...so no picture. However, if it had happened, I could have saved the day with my little S10. So, if you are working for a publication that hasn't already supplied its photographers with high-end digital gear, you can now have a digital backup for only $700. And it does make great "happy snaps."
To find out more about the Canon Powershot S10, visit Canon's website.
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