As you can see from the accompanying photos, the overall design and control layout is basically the same as the S3, although in fact the new camera is slightly larger, measuring 117.0 × 80.0 × 77.7mm against the S3’s 113.4 x 78 x 75.5mm. It is also significantly heavier, weighing a hefty 450g, not including the batteries. Since it runs on four AA cells these can add another 100g to the weight, so this in not a light camera by any means. The body is still high-impact plastic over a metal chassis, and is very solidly put together. The large and comfortable handgrip and generally SLR-like shape mean that the handling is as good as ever, and although the numerous and diverse array of controls may look cluttered and bewildering at first, in fact they are all sensibly placed for quick operation. One thing that isn’t so sensible however is the placement of the memory card slot. On the S3 this was a separate hatch on the side of the camera, but it has now been moved into the battery compartment. The battery hatch has a sliding latch, but it is a bit fiddly to open, and there is no separate latch holding the batteries in place. If you open the hatch to change the card, you have to take care that your batteries don’t fall out while you’re doing it. Also the hatch cannot be opened when the camera is mounted on a tripod.
Like the S3 IS, the S5 is an amazingly versatile camera, and exploring all of its features would take more pages than I have here, so I’ll just mention a few of the highlights. Like the previous Canon super-zoom IS models, the S5 has a full range of manual exposure controls, with a shutter speed range of 15 seconds to 1/3200th of a second, and aperture values adjustable in 1/3EV increments to the minimum aperture of f/8.0. The maximum ISO setting has been increased from 800 to 1600, although as we’ll see this isn’t necessarily a good thing. Another addition to the features list is face detection, which it seems that no modern camera can manage without, and as usual it works well under ideal circumstances.
Another new feature that is useful for portraits is automatic red-eye correction in playback mode, which is a much better idea than the annoying pre-flash. As with other high-end Canon cameras the function button reveals an on-screen shooting menu that includes a wide range of pre-set colour adjustment options, plus a custom setting in which contrast, sharpness, saturation, colour balance and skin tone can all be adjusted. Colours can also be adjusted in playback mode. In shooting mode there is exposure bracketing, which is always useful, but also focus bracketing, which is both useful and unique.
The S5 is also a highly capable video camera, with 640 x 480 resolution at 30 frames a second, or 320 x 240 at 60fps, and high quality stereo audio provided by two microphones mounted above the lens. The zoom lens can be used during video shooting, and is so whisper-quiet that it cannot be heard on the soundtrack.