Ultra Zoom Cameras – Canon S2 IS vs. Panasonic FZ5

UPDATE:

2/22/06 Dpreview has posted information on the newly announced Canon S3 IS Camera which will be replacing the S2. The biggest difference is that it now has a 6 megapixel sensor but there are many other new features as well. You can read more at the site by clicking here

12/12/05 BoingBoing put up a blurb on the FZ5 today here with great praise. I’m surprised there was no mention of the Canon.

I ended up getting the Canon S2. You can get more info on it HERE. The dealmaker for me was the video mode of the Canon. The interesting thing is that my brother ended up getting the Panasonic FZ5.

I am about to buy a new ultra zoom digital camera and have been doing research on the current crop of contenders.

Here are the four current choices as I see it. There are other Ultra zooms, but only these provide what I believe is a required feature…Image Stabilization

I personally have limited my decision to either the Canon or Panasonic. The Panasonic has been out for a little while and has gotten great reviews. All of these cameras are priced similarly in the ~400-500 range. I was just about to pull the trigger on the Panny and then heard about the Canon. I’m waiting to see some reviews before I make my final decision.

Here’s a great side by side comparison of the Canon, Panasonic, Sony, and Konica
Link Here

I believe that the difference in picture quality between the Canon & Panny will be negligible and what’s important to me is the quality of the image stabilization (the Panny has this as well), the autofocus in ultra-zoom modes, and the shutter speed.

Some key advantages of the Canon over the Panny are:
* External Flash capability
* Manual Focus
* Slightly higher resolution (5.0 vs. 4.9)
* Much better movie clip ability (640×480 vs. 320×240)
* Batteries (4 AA’s vs. custom lithion rechargeable) a positive due to price but could be considered a negative as well due to additional weight (Canon 17.8 vs. Panny 11.5 oz) and shorter lifespan

Another thing to keep in mind is that Panasonic also has the FZ20 model which has the external flash and manual focus ability, but is somewhat larger than the FZ5 and should be dropping in price right now.

I’ve been watching these closely and hope this is helpful to anyone else considering an ultra-zoom camera.

Resources for top Ultra Zoom Digital Cameras
ItemCanon Powershot S2 IS 5MP Digital Camera with 12x Optical Image Stabilized Zoom
Canon S2 IS
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ5 5MP Digital Camera with 12x Image Stabilized Optical Zoom (Black)
Panasonic FZ5
Sony Cybershot DSCH1 5.1MP Digital Camera with 12x \

Sony DSC-H1
Konica Minolta Dimage Z5 5MP Digital Camera with 12x Anti-Shake Zoom
Minolta Z5
Reviewsdpreview.com
steves-digicams.com
Dpreview.com
Stevesdigicams.com
Dcresource.com
Steve’s Digicamscoming
PricingPricegrabber.comPricegrabber.comPricegrabber.comcoming
Product PageCanon SitePanasonic Sitecomingcoming
ManualCanon Manualscomingcomingcoming

More Panasonic FZ5 Info
coming soon

Canon S2 IS Info
Quote from dpreview: “For fast action (where the focus system still isn’t fast enough), I’d go for the Panasonic FZ5”
Steve’s Digicams compares the S2 to the Sony H1 and neglects to mention the Panasonic which I find very strange.

Sony DSC-H1 Info
coming soon

Minolta Dimage Z5
coming soon

Update 6/21/05
I ventured to my local Circuit City today and they had the Canon S2 sitting right next to the Panasonic FZ5. After handling both for about 10 minutes I can easily say that the FZ5 is much nicer to the handle. The S2 is very big and bulky in comparison and weighs more. Between this and the quote I list from dpreview, I am starting to lean towards the Panny.

This Post Has 18 Comments

  1. Hi!

    Interesting piece, especially for me as I’m considering an ultrazoom and I’ve narrowed it down to these models as well. Well, didn’t really consider the Z5 that much and all the raves about the FZ20 have me leaning twoards that one.

    But really, what is the objective information that you’ve managed to collect between FZ20 vs S2IS vs DSC-H1? I mean, after weighing all the pros and cons, reading all the reviews, which one do you think is the best option? I haven’t found a single objective comparison of these 4 zooms that helps the consumer!

    Do let me know your opinion – and also what you ended up buying finally!

    Good luck,
    Ace

  2. Hi! I struggled with this same decision for a long time. I was torn between the FZ20 & FZ5, and then came the S2 and H1…. I finally broke down & bought an S2 last week & I love it. I think the H1 overall probably does produce slightly better photos & I would love to have the manual focus ring & hotshoe like the FZ20, but the manual focus is decent on the S2 & I doubt I’ll use it much anyway. The S2 is supposed to be better indoors than the others, which was something I was worried about. I haven’t seen a problem with redeye yet. I like all the “extras” the S2 has too. When you’re zooming far out, it does seem to hunt for the focus, but if you go ahead & push the shutter halfway down, it starts finding its focus faster. It also seems to do a lot better indoors even without a flash than my last digital camera. And I LOVE the articulating screen. The way I see it:
    H1 = slightly less noise than S2, colors more saturated & possibly slightly better quality photos
    S2 = articulating screen, can zoom in movie mode, lots of gadgets, better indoors
    FZ5 = faster & slightly better quality photos
    FZ20 = manual focus ring, hotshoe, bigger

    Too bad you can’t choose which of those features from each camera you want! :) I think that in the end, they are all really good cameras with only slight differences, and it just comes down to which of the differing features you need. I think I would have been just as happy had I bought the H1. I’m sure this didn’t help any, but thought I’d share my opinion/findings! Have a good day!

  3. Hi! I struggled with this same decision for a long time. I was torn between the FZ20 & FZ5, and then came the S2 and H1…. I finally broke down & bought an S2 last week & I love it. I think the H1 overall probably does produce slightly better photos & I would love to have the manual focus ring & hotshoe like the FZ20, but the manual focus is decent on the S2 & I doubt I’ll use it much anyway. The S2 is supposed to be better indoors than the others, which was something I was worried about. I haven’t seen a problem with redeye yet. I like all the “extras” the S2 has too. When you’re zooming far out, it does seem to hunt for the focus, but if you go ahead & push the shutter halfway down, it starts finding its focus faster. It also seems to do a lot better indoors even without a flash than my last digital camera. And I LOVE the articulating screen. The way I see it:
    H1 = slightly less noise than S2, colors more saturated & possibly slightly better quality photos
    S2 = articulating screen, can zoom in movie mode, lots of gadgets, better indoors
    FZ5 = faster & slightly better quality photos
    FZ20 = manual focus ring, hotshoe, bigger

    Too bad you can’t choose which of those features from each camera you want! :) I think that in the end, they are all really good cameras with only slight differences, and it just comes down to which of the differing features you need. I think I would have been just as happy had I bought the H1. I’m sure this didn’t help any, but thought I’d share my opinion/findings! Have a good day!

  4. I also have been debating between the FZ5 and the S2 and went with the FZ5 because it was cheaper and lighter. We recently broke our Canon S45 and were looking for something new that had more zoom.

    We’ve had the FZ5 for almost 2 weeks now and I have some concerns with it. It does take wonderful pictures outdoors in bright light situations but our old Canon S45 took much better pictures indoors. I’ve played around with various settings and have tried to recreate some of the photos we previously took indoors with our S45 and am unable to get the same results. In general, the FZ5 pictures are more grainy and more likely to be blury. The S45 colors seemed better to me too. This is all difficult for me to understand because the FZ5 has a more powerful flash, brighter lens, higher resolution, etc. Looking at various review sites, they only seem to show outdoor pictures in their sample galleries…I wonder if this is a general issue with ultra-zoom cameras or not.

    Although I’m an engineer and generally tech savvy, it may be that I just haven’t mastered the FZ5’s settings yet, but in any event our old S45 was pretty much point and shoot. A previous reviewer mentioned that the S2 is better indoors – can you point me to where you heard this?

    Thanks,
    Tom

  5. I also have been debating between the FZ5 and the S2 and went with the FZ5 because it was cheaper and lighter. We recently broke our Canon S45 and were looking for something new that had more zoom.

    We’ve had the FZ5 for almost 2 weeks now and I have some concerns with it. It does take wonderful pictures outdoors in bright light situations but our old Canon S45 took much better pictures indoors. I’ve played around with various settings and have tried to recreate some of the photos we previously took indoors with our S45 and am unable to get the same results. In general, the FZ5 pictures are more grainy and more likely to be blury. The S45 colors seemed better to me too. This is all difficult for me to understand because the FZ5 has a more powerful flash, brighter lens, higher resolution, etc. Looking at various review sites, they only seem to show outdoor pictures in their sample galleries…I wonder if this is a general issue with ultra-zoom cameras or not.

    Although I’m an engineer and generally tech savvy, it may be that I just haven’t mastered the FZ5’s settings yet, but in any event our old S45 was pretty much point and shoot. A previous reviewer mentioned that the S2 is better indoors – can you point me to where you heard this?

    Thanks,
    Tom

  6. I have to agree that the S@ has the most fantastic indoor shots that i have seen in a LONG time. However, with that said, I have yet to have a bad outdoor pic too. I was “playing” around with the zoom and took a pic of a plant at 12x and then added the full 4x digital zoom to that and i was absolutely amazed by the quality of this full 48x (effective) zoom. It was not pixelated at all and was more than I require for print quality shots in terms of “acceptable” imperfections.

    I would recomend this camera to anyone loking for a great camera deal.

    I haven’t, yet, experienced focusing problems as previous and other reviews have mentioned. Perhaps I am one of the lucky ones! I am a Minolta fan but I can honestly say I made a great choice!!

  7. I have to agree that the S@ has the most fantastic indoor shots that i have seen in a LONG time. However, with that said, I have yet to have a bad outdoor pic too. I was “playing” around with the zoom and took a pic of a plant at 12x and then added the full 4x digital zoom to that and i was absolutely amazed by the quality of this full 48x (effective) zoom. It was not pixelated at all and was more than I require for print quality shots in terms of “acceptable” imperfections.

    I would recomend this camera to anyone loking for a great camera deal.

    I haven’t, yet, experienced focusing problems as previous and other reviews have mentioned. Perhaps I am one of the lucky ones! I am a Minolta fan but I can honestly say I made a great choice!!

  8. I just want to thank you and all the other commentors! I’m about to purchase my first digital camera and have been debating the Canon S2 and Pana Fz5. For months now, my decision has been flip-flopping between the two. Thanks to everyone’s comments, I’ve finally decided to go with the S2.

    :)

  9. I just want to thank you and all the other commentors! I’m about to purchase my first digital camera and have been debating the Canon S2 and Pana Fz5. For months now, my decision has been flip-flopping between the two. Thanks to everyone’s comments, I’ve finally decided to go with the S2.

    :)

  10. Thank you for all you expience for use,does anybody tell me which is better betweeen H1 and S2 IS(I am from china)

  11. Thank you for all you expience for use,does anybody tell me which is better betweeen H1 and S2 IS(I am from china)

  12. Thanks all for sharing your real experiences. I am also struggling between the S2 and FZ5. I am gonna buy my first DC and take pictures for my first baby (May 2006). Now it looks S2 wins my choice since it takes better indoor pictures.

    Thanks again. (I am from China too. ;-)

  13. Thanks all for sharing your real experiences. I am also struggling between the S2 and FZ5. I am gonna buy my first DC and take pictures for my first baby (May 2006). Now it looks S2 wins my choice since it takes better indoor pictures.

    Thanks again. (I am from China too. ;-)

  14. Hi all, we came here when i did an quick yahoo search. Nice blog you got here! Keep it up!

  15. Hi all, we came here when i did an quick yahoo search. Nice blog you got here! Keep it up!

  16. Panasonic was originally established in 1928 and was called Matsushita Electric Industrial. Since then it has become one of the world’s biggest electronic companies and a global name.  It also includes the subsidiary company Sanyo.

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