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If you're looking for a good super-zoom camera - that is, one with a zoom lens capable of more than 10x magnification - your choice is fairly limited, but that doesn't mean it's an easy decision. There are a couple of models that are worth avoiding, such as the disappointing Nikon CoolPix S10, and the Olympus SP-550UZ, but there are also several extremely good cameras, including the brilliant Fujifilm FinePix S9600 and the expensive but superb Panasonic Lumix FZ18. However one that should definitely be on your shortlist, and a camera about which I have answered more readers' emails than any other, is the new Canon S5 IS.
Canon has been on a bit of a winning streak lately. Not content with nearly half of the world's digital SLR sales, it has recently updated virtually its entire compact camera range with outstanding new models, including this long-awaited replacement for the excellent and extremely popular S3 IS. Anyway, that's quite enough superlatives already, so let's take a look at the specifics.
At first glance the S5 IS appears to be little changed from the design of its predecessor, and indeed this impression is not altogether misleading. This is not so much a new model as an update of the previous one, but while there are few changes they are not insignificant. The most important is a resolution boost from 6.0 megapixels to 8.0, although it still has the compact-sized 1/2.5-in CCD sensor. In addition to this it features Canon's highly-regarded DIGIC III image processor and lens-based optical image stabilisation system. The lens itself is unchanged, but then the excellent f/2.7-3.5 36-432mm equivalent 12x zoom lens was a strong point of the S3. On the back of the camera the S3's 2.0-in 115k flip-and-twist monitor has been replaced with a 2.5-in 207k screen which appears to be brighter and with higher contrast. Another significant change is the addition of a flash hot shoe, which will appeal to more advanced users, although these same users will no doubt be disappointed that there is still no RAW support, perhaps not that surprising considering the small sensor.
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