When I wrote about my Kodak EasyShare Z730 in late 2009, I mentioned that its 33mm lens was useful for the roadscapes I photograph so often. But I wished for an even wider lens. Longtime reader Lone Primate commented that I should consider the Canon PowerShot S80, which has a 28mm f/2.8 lens. He sang its praises, saying, “Ounce for ounce, the S80 might be the best camera I ever owned. It’s certainly the one I’ve taken the most shots with.” We chatted back and forth about it in the comments for a while. Then he e-mailed me saying that he had a spare S80 lying around that he just didn’t use, and wondered if I’d like to have it, gratis.
Does a wino want a case of Thunderbird?
And so I came into possession of this camera.
The Canon PowerShot S80 was the zenith of Canon’s point-and-shoot digital camera line when it was introduced in 2005. Its eight-megapixel sensor yields images of up to 3264 by 2448 pixels. Its 3.6x zoom yields effective focal lengths up to 100mm. It saves images as JPEGs but does not shoot RAW, not that I ever particularly need that. It has a gob of pre-programmed shooting modes, all of which I tried, and most of which I never used again. I took most indoor shots in Auto mode without flash, as the f/2.8 lens did great work with available light. I took most outdoor shots in Program mode so I could fiddle with exposure and white balance. The 2.5-inch LCD was adequate, washing out in direct sunlight as most of them do. I wasn’t impressed with the viewfinder, which was dim and showed more than the LCD, making framing challenging. My other complaint about the S80 is that it’s a bit too thick to fit comfortably into my pants pocket.
I have used the living tar out of this camera – so far, I’ve taken 3,600 photographs with it! I have been impressed with the color it yields. You may remember this photo from my visit to the Potawatomi pow wow.
Last May’s Mecum muscle car auction was a playground of color. The peach car is a 1954 Ford Crestliner, and the lavender car is a 1956 Lincoln Premiere.
Chicago’s Millenium Park was full of tulips last April when I visited with my older son. I’m pleased with how their colors pop in this photo.
The S80 does a decent job when you move in close. I did have some early frustrations in macro mode as the S80 sometimes wanted to focus on anything but my intended subject. I eventually learned that backing off a little bit helped. You might recall this shot from last year’s annual Roadside Flowers post.
Macro mode also yielded this photo of my Argus A-Four. At larger sizes the writing on the lens barrel isn’t as sharp as I’d like; the S80 focused on the leather case’s stitching. But I liked the way the light played across the camera’s face.
I played with the S80’s macro mode a lot. I found my first name engraved into the exterior of the federal courthouse in South Bend, so I moved in close.
Naturally, I took plenty of shots from the road with the S80. This is my favorite, from an old alignment of US 50 in Lawrence County that I wrote about last summer.
I spent a lot of time just noodling around with my S80, trying to improve my compositions. I really liked how this shot turned out. This leaf was minding its own business on the wooden deck of the 1891 Cooper Iron Bridge in Putnam County.
Also from my US 50 excursions last summer, this is from the garrison house at Fort Vallonia, or at least from the recreation of Fort Vallonia you’ll find in the tiny town of Vallonia.
The S80 loves to take photos of lights at night. Fountain Square is a neighborhood just southeast of downtown in Indianapolis. It has a few hip joints for hanging out and most of them have great neon signs, including a bar called the Brass Ring that my brother really likes. He invited me down there for drinks one night last January, so I took my S80 along and wandered the main drag. This is my favorite photo from the night.
I’ve had a lot of fun with my S80, so much so that when Canon began shipping its successor, the PowerShot S90, I began to lust mightily after it. Then Canon released a slightly improved version, the PowerShot S95. Before I could buy one, my family bought me one for Christmas. It is an even greater pleasure to use than my S80, and I’m looking forward to the road-trip season to really put it through its paces. But that doesn’t mean my S80 is relegated to some dusty corner never to be used again. My habit is to take two cameras on my road trips just in case. And I plan to buy a suction-cup mount so I can attach the S80 to the inside of my windshield for hands-free video while driving.
I’ve thanked Lone Primate privately for his gift, but now I thank him publicly. LP, as you can see, I’ve gotten excellent use out of this camera!
If you’ve been reading this blog any time at all you probably know I collect vintage film cameras. Check out my collection.