One week with the Canon Powershot S5 IS CCD camera from 2007

One week with the Canon Powershot S5 IS CCD camera from 2007

The Canon Powershot S5 IS from 2007 utilises a CCD sensor to give film-like results without the hassle and cost.

My growing collection of CCD cameras means that I now have access to and use on a fairly regular basis, eight extremly good CCD sensor cameras as well as two Live MOS sensor cameras which I love just as much.

The problem with collecting old CCD cameras is, well, getting to spend enough time with each one to fully understand and appreciate it’s quirks, strengths and weaknesses! That means that I am not spending as much time as I should with each one to better understand it’s pro’s and con’s. Time to redress that problem.

In this series of articles I am going to be using and writing about my experiences of using a particular camera for one week. I have decided to start with the Canon S5 IS which is actually one of my newest purchases. By the time you’ve finshed reading this article I would hope that you know enough about it in order to make an informed decision about whether it’s a good buy in 2023 and whether it’s right for you.

Canon Powershot S5 IS – The Basics

In May, 2007, Canon announced the launch of the 12x optical zoom, 8.0 Megapixel PowerShot S5 IS. The new (for that time) compact utilised optical Image Stabilizer (IS) technology and professional-grade optics to help photographers nail the perfect shot.

The key features of this camera are:

  • 12x optical zoom lens with Ultrasonic Motor (USM) and UD lens
  • Optical Image Stabilizer
  • 8.0 Megapixel CCD
  • DIGIC III with advanced Noise Reduction technology and Face Detection for stills and movies
  • Red-Eye Correction in playback
  • 2.5” high-resolution vari-angle LCD
  • Long-play VGA movies with stereo sound and Photo in Movie
  • 22 shooting modes including full manual control and 0cm Super Macro
  • High ISO 1600 and Auto ISO Shift
  • Compatible with Wide/Tele/Close-up converter lenses and Canon EX Speedlite flashes

As the Canon Powershot S5 IS uses standard AA batteries, there’s no need for an expensive proprietory battery for this camera. You can find AA batteries everywhere. I did actually buy some rechargeable Metal Hybrid batteries from Amazon – a pack of 8 high capacity Ni-MH cost me just £10 GBP. I also use these in the Nikon Coolpix E7600 and one or two others so a good purchase.

Why I bought the Canon Powershot S5 IS?

You don’t just buy these old cameras on a whim. Generally you have a particular use in mind or  perhaps a project that will enable you to explore just what these old cameras can do. In my case I am trying to replicate the look of film without the cost. I still shoot film and that will continue because I enjoy the whole process of working with film. That being said, I am not adverse to getting the look of film in other ways.

Back in 2007 the Canon Powershot S5 IS would have cost you around £400 GBP. I recently bought mine on Ebay (in July 2023) for £25 GBP and to be honest, the seller would have gone down to £20 GBP. However, she did throw in a 32GB SD card so I thought what the hell, let’s settle on £25 GBP which I think was very fair. In truth, most of the Canon S5 IS cameras I watched during this period sold for more than this so I think I did OK.

All this being said, I don’t buy old cameras because they are cheap, I buy them because they produce results very different to newer CMOS based sensors. In fact I buy them because I want to get as close to film as I can without shooting film. If you want to know a little more about the peculiarities of CCD sensors I touch on this in my article Can a CCD sensor be as good as film? Let’s find out!

I have to admit that in the case of the Canon Powershot S5 IS I was swayed by a video I saw on Youtube which suggested that the Canon S5 IS could produce B&W images close to the quality of the Leica Q2 (a long shot I know) so I was intrigued.

Look, Feel & Operation

The Canon Powershot S5 IS looks and feels like a premium DSLR albeit it is much smaller than many such cameras, save perhaps for the Nikon D40 and D60 which are also quite small in DSLR terms. It fits the hand beautifully and is very comfortable to use with everything close at hand. Easy to navigate menu settings get you where you want to be fast and well positioned buttons provide simple one touch operation.

For all this easy of use and access, the very first things you notice when holding the Canon Powershot S5 IS for the first time are the 12x optical zoom lens and the small but beautifully designed flip out screen. The lens, optically stablised throughout its range, results in reasonably sharp results even at the long end of the zoom. This is in-part due to the fact that it offers a fast lens that is just f2.7 at the wide and and only marginally smaller at f3.5 at the long end.

Quite exceptional really for a camera of this age and price point.

Other features I really like include the ability to quickly change the colour science using the FUNC button from say Vivid to B&W, Sepia, Positive Film etc in seconds. You can also change the look of the resulting JPEG simply by choosing a different colour optio. For example, if you shot in Vivid mode but later want to process that image as Neutral, Positive Film or B&W, you can do this in-camera at the click of a button. Very nice.

Modifying ISO and EV are equally easy to do, both one-touch buttons and you can also move the focal point on screen using the curser if needed. All things to be honest that you can do easily on most cameras today but this is a camera from 2007 so very nice to see.

The Canon S5 IS in real-world use

Being small, although not particularly light because of the (relatively heavy NiMH) batteries, the Canon S5 IS will slip easily into a coat pocket rather than into the pocket of your jeans or jacket. This is not a slimline compact camera like my Casio Exilim ex-z850 which is about as pockatable as them come. No, this is a serious lump of plastic that is going to stand out in use.

Of course the flippy screen helps enormously here as you can position the camera such that it is a little less obvious in use, for example at waist height much like an old medium format Rollei. That’ll get you shots pretty much unnoticed if that is what you are looking for. The flippy screen will also allow you to get shots over the head of other photographers, walls and fences so again, quite useful in that respect.

One of the reasons I bought the Canon S5 IS is for it’s handling of monochrome. I think that here it does a great job.

Out of camera monochrome image from the Canon Powershot S5 IS
Out of camera monochrome image from the Canon Powershot S5 IS
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