Originally Posted: August 7, 2011
Last Updated: March 10, 2012
The PowerShot ELPH 100 HS ($199) is the entry-level model in Canon's stylish and compact ELPH lineup. It's the follow-up to the PowerShot SD1300 IS, which came out on top in our 2010 Budget Camera Shootout. It features a 12.1 Megapixel CMOS sensor, a 4X optical zoom lens (28 - 112 mm equivalent), optical image stabilization, a 3-inch LCD display, plenty of point-and-shoot features, and Full HD video recording.
The ELPH 100 HS has a very different name than its predecessor, and here's why. First, Canon dropped the "SD" from the name, since everyone knows that the camera uses SD cards (early ELPHs used CompactFlash). The HS stands for high sensitivity, a feature which Canon has been touting quite a bit in 2011. The "high sensitivity system" on the ELPH 100 really has to do with its CMOS sensor and DIGIC 4 processor which, according to Canon, allow the camera to take better quality photos in low light. You'll find out if the ELPH 100's photo quality lives up the marketing hype later in the review. Finally, Canon doesn't put "IS" in the product name, probably because nearly all of their cameras feature onboard image stabilization.
And speaking of reviews, it's time to start this one, so let's get going!
The ELPH 100 HS is known as the IXUS 115 HS in some countries.
What's in the Box?
The PowerShot ELPH 100 HS has a pretty standard bundle for a compact camera in 2011, which isn't necessarily a good thing. Here's what you'll find inside the box:
- The 12.1 effective Megapixel PowerShot ELPH 100 HS digital camera
- NB-4L lithium-ion battery
- Battery charger
- Wrist strap
- USB cable
- A/V cable
- CD-ROM featuring Canon Digital Camera Solution
- 35 page "Getting Started" guide + full manual on CD-ROM
Canon seems to be the only manufacturer that neither builds memory into their cameras, nor provides a memory card in the box. So, unless you have one already, you'll need to pick up an SD, SDHC, or SDXC card right away. For most folks, a 2GB card is fine, though if you'll be taking a lot of movies, you'll want something like 4GB or 8GB. Buying a high speed (Class 6 or higher) card is recommended for best performance.
The ELPH 100 HS uses the same NB-4L lithium-ion battery that has been found on many Canon cameras over the years. This battery holds just 2.8 Wh of energy, which is on the lower end of the spectrum for cameras in this class. How does that translate into battery life? Have a look:
First things first -- the PowerShot ELPH 100 HS has better-than-average battery life, thanks to lackluster performances from just about every other camera on the list. Another thing to point out is that the ELPH 100 is one of only two cameras in this to feature Full HD (1080p) video recording -- everyone else is 720p.
As with all of the cameras in the previous table, the ELPH 100 HS' battery is proprietary. These batteries tend to be pricey, with a Canon-branded spare setting you back a whopping $60 (generics are available for less). In addition, should your battery run out of juice, you can't pull something off the shelf to get you through the day. But seeing how you can't fit AA batteries into a camera this size, that's just the way it is!
When it's time to charge the battery, just pop it into the included charger. The charger plugs directly into the wall, and takes just ninety minutes to fully charge the NB-4L.
As with all ultra-compact cameras, the PowerShot ELPH 100 HS has a built-in lens cover, so there's no clunky lens cap to deal with.
There are a just a few accessories available for the ELPH 100 HS. They include:
Alright, that's all for accessories -- let's talk about software now.
Camera Window in Mac OS X
Canon includes version 82 of their Digital Camera Solution Disk with the PowerShot ELPH 100 HS. The first part of the software suite that you'll probably encounter is Camera Window (pictured above), which you'll use to transfer images to your computer, organize photos on the camera (meaning delete or protect), upload videos to YouTube, and adjust a few camera settings (startup screen, sounds, theme).
ImageBrowser in Mac OS X
After you've transferred photos to your computer, you'll find yourself in either ImageBrowser or ZoomBrowser, which are for Mac and Windows respectively. The Browser software lets you view, organize, e-mail, and print your photos. If you categorized any photos on the camera (more on this later), then this information is transferred into the Browser software.
Editing in ImageBrowser
Double-click on a thumbnail and you'll bring up the edit window. Editing functions include trimming, redeye removal, plus the ability to adjust levels, color, brightness, sharpness, and the tone curve. There's also an auto adjustment option for those who want a quick fix.
A movie editing tool is also available, though about all it can do is trim unwanted footage from a clip, or save a frame as a still image.
PhotoStitch in Mac OS X
The last part of the Canon software suite that I want to mention is PhotoStitch. As you can see, this allows you to combine multiple photos into a single panoramic image. It's super easy to use, and the results can be impressive. While using the ELPH 100's Stitch Assist feature isn't required to make panoramas, it does help you line things up correctly, so there are no "seams" in the final product.
Look and Feel
In most respects, the PowerShot ELPH 100 HS looks identical to its predecessor. That makes it a stylish, ultra-compact camera made mostly of metal. Build quality is solid, save for a very flimsy door over the battery/memory card compartment. The cosmetic differences between the 100 HS and the SD1300 include a larger LCD (2.7 -> 3.0 inch) and a few relocated buttons and switches.
Ergonomics are generally good, though I'm not a huge fan of the "flush" controls on the back of the camera, as it can be hard to discern one button from another. The four-way controller is a bit small, and also happens to be placed right where my thumb likes to sit.
|Images courtesy of Canon USA|
As you'd expect from a camera in this class, the ELPH 100 HS comes in a multitude of colors, including silver, blue, orange, pink, and gray.
Now let's take a look at how the PowerShot ELPH 100 HS compares in terms of size and weight to the same group of cameras that I listed back in the battery life comparison:
The PowerShot ELPH 100 HS is right in the middle of the group when it comes to both size and weight. It's definitely what I'd call a "jeans pocket" camera, and it can easily go wherever you do.
Let's start our tour of the camera now, shall we?
The PowerShot ELPH 100 HS has the same F2.8-5.9, 4X optical zoom lens as its predecessors. This lens has a focal range of 5 - 20 mm, which is equivalent to 28 - 112 mm -- number which are fairly common on compact cameras these days. As you'd expect, the lens is not threaded, so conversion lenses and filters aren't supported.
Despite the lack of "IS" in its model na,e the ELPH 100 features optical image stabilization. Sensors inside the camera detect the tiny movements of your hands which can blur your photos. The camera then shifts one of the lens elements to compensate for this motion, which greatly increases the probability of a sharp photo. Image stabilizers won't work miracles, though; they can't freeze a moving subject, nor will they allow for multi-second, handheld exposures (though the camera does have a feature that will try). But they're a lot better than nothing at all, as the example below illustrates:
Image stabilization off
Image stabilization on
Both of the photos above were taken at 1/6th of a second. As you can see, without image stabilization, things look pretty blurry. With the IS system set to "shoot only" (ideal for best shake reduction), the blur is gone! You can also use the image stabilization system in movie mode, and you can see how well it works in this brief video clip.
To the upper-right of the lens is the camera's built-in flash. It has a working range of 0.3 - 4.0 m at wide-angle and 0.5 - 2.0 m at telephoto. That's not bad for a camera in this class, but don't expect it to light up a room, either. If you need more flash power, you an try attaching the external slave flash that I mentioned in the accessory discussion.
Just to the left of the flash is the camera's AF-assist lamp. This is used as a focus aid in low light situations, and it also serves as an indicator for the self-timer and Smart Shutter features.
The last thing to see on the front of the camera is its monaural microphone, located to the upper-left of the lens.
The most visible difference between the PowerShot SD1300 and the ELPH 100 HS is the LCD size. Where the SD1300 had a 2.7" display, the ELPH 100 is up to 3 inches. The resolution remains the same at 230,000 pixels, which isn't fantastic, especially as 460,000 pixel displays are becoming more common. Outdoor visibility was about average, meaning good, but not great. Low light visibility has always been one of Canon's strong suits, and that remains the case on the ELPH 100, with the screen brightening up nicely in those situations.
The ELPH 100 HS lacks an optical viewfinder, as did its predecessor. The last ELPH to feature one was the SD1200, and while I miss having such a feature, evidently the target audience does not.
Under that is the rather small four-way controller, which is used for menu navigation and reviewing photos, as well as:
- Up - Exposure compensation (-2EV to +2EV, 1/3EV increments)
- Down - Display (toggles info on screen)
- Left - Focus (Normal, macro, infinity)
- Right - Flash (Auto, on, slow synchro, off)
- Center - Function menu (see below) + Set
Before I tell you about the Function menu, I have to bemoan the loss of the dedicated Self-timer / Delete Photo button, which was assigned to the "down" direction on the SD1300. Now you have to access the Function menu to do either of those things, which is a shame.
So what's in the aforementioned Function menu? Here's the full list:
- Metering (Evaluative, center-weighted, spot)
- My Colors (Off, vivid, neutral, sepia, black & white, positive film, lighter skin tone, darker skin tone, vivid blue, vivid green, vivid red, custom color) - see below
- White balance (Auto, daylight, cloudy, tungsten, fluorescent, fluorescent H, custom) - see below
- Underwater white balance compensation - fine-tune the white balance in the amber/blue direction when the underwater scene mode is in use
- ISO speed (Auto, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600, 3200)
- Rec mode (Program, Movie Digest, portrait, kids & pets, Smart Shutter, Hi-speed Burst, Best Image Selection, Handheld Night Scene, low light, fisheye, miniature effect, toy camera effect, monochrome, super vivid, poster effect, Color Accent, Color Swap, beach, underwater, foliage, snow, fireworks, long shutter, Stitch Assist, Super Slow Motion Movie) - see below
- Self-timer (Off, 2 or 10 sec, custom) - see below
- Drive mode (Single-shot, continuous) - see below
- Aspect ratio (16:9, 3:2, 4:3, 1:1) - these are new to the ELPH 100 HS
- Image size/quality - see chart later in review
- Movie quality - covered later
The ELPH 100 has the usual set of My Colors features. The only thing that really requires an explanation is the Custom Color option, where you can adjust the level of contrast, sharpness, color saturation, and skin tone levels (whatever that is).
White balance options are fairly standard. You've got the usual presets, plus a custom option that allows you to use a white or gray card, for accurate color in any lighting. You can't bracket for or fine-tune the white balance, with one exception. If you are using the underwater scene mode, then you'll be able to tweak the color in either the amber or blue direction.
There are a ton of recording modes on the camera, several of which deserve a mention. They include:
- Movie Digest: every time you take a picture, a 2 - 4 second video clip will be recorded. At the end of the day, these are combined into a single VGA movie.
- Smart Shutter: Combines face, smile, and "wink" detection to easily take photos of people. By default the camera will take photos (up to a limit you set) whenever someone in the frame is smiling. The wink self-timer takes a photo two seconds after a person winks at the camera. Face self-timer waits until a new person enters the frame before taking the photo.
- High-Speed burst: shoots at up to 8.2 frames/second (officially), albeit at the medium (3 Megapixel) resolution
- Best Image Selection: takes five photos in a row, and then selects the best one (based on things like facial expression). Resolution is set to Medium.
- Handheld Night Scene: combines several exposures into one to reduce blur and noise in low light. Don't expect miracles.
- Low Light: Lowers the resolution to 3 Megapixel and boosts the ISO as high as 6400 for blur-free low light photos. Features like this are best avoided.
- Color Accent: Select a color to keep, while the rest of the image is turned to black & white
- Color Swap: Swap one color in a photo for another
- Long shutter: Allows you to set the shutter speed manually, with a range of 1 - 15 seconds
- Stitch Assist: helps you line up photos side-by-side from later stitching on your Mac or PC
- Super Slow Motion Movie: Records silent movies at up to 240 fps and then plays them back at normal speed, giving them a slow motion effect. More on this later.
The ELPH 100 HS doesn't just have the clever wink and face self-timers -- it also has a custom self-timer that allows you to set both the delay and total number of shots taken.
So now let's talk about the camera's two burst modes. The regular burst mode, which shoots at full resolution, is supposed to support speeds as fast as 3.4 frames/second. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to get even close to that -- 2.3 fps was more like it (even at normal quality). Things were a lot better in the high-speed burst mode, with an impressive frame rate of 8.9 fps, but note that the ISO is fixed at Auto and the resolution set to 3 Megapixel.
Completing our look at the back of the camera, you'll find buttons for entering the Menu system or Playback mode.
The first thing to see on the top of the camera is the mode switch, which switches the camera between auto and "manual" mode. In auto mode you can take advantage of Canon's Smart Auto system, which will select a scene mode automatically. Do note that a good portion of the menu items on the ELPH 100 are unavailable when in Auto mode, though.
Next door do that switch is the power button, followed by the shutter release button / zoom controller combo. The zoom controller moves the lens from wide-angle to telephoto in about 1.5 seconds. I counted ten steps in the camera's 4X zoom range.
The last thing to see here is the camera's speaker, which is at the far right of the photo.
There's nothing to see on this side of the camera, other than to mention that the lens is at the wide-angle position in this photo.
On the opposite side of the ELPH 100 HS you'll find it's I/O ports, which are kept behind a plastic cover. The ports here include mini-HDMI and USB + A/V output.
The lens is at the full telephoto position in this photo.
Our tour ends with a look at the bottom of the camera. Here you'll find the battery/memory card compartment, which is protected by a rather flimsy plastic door. As you can tell from the photo, you won't be able to access the contents of this compartment while the camera is on a tripod -- a common issue on compact cameras.
The good old NB-4L li-ion battery can be seen at right.
Using the Canon PowerShot ELPH 100 HS
It takes the PowerShot ELPH 100 HS around one second to extend its lens and prepare for shooting. That's pretty darn quick.
There's no live histogram to be found on the ELPH 100 HS
Autofocus performance on the ELPH 100 is about average. It's accurate, but not very quick. Expect wide-angle focus times of 0.3 - 0.5 seconds, with telephoto delays of 0.5 - 1.0 seconds. While the AF system locks focus reliably in low light, expect focus times hovering around the one second mark.
I did not find shutter lag to be an issue here, even at the slower shutter speeds where it sometimes occurs.
Shot-to-shot speeds range from two seconds without using the flash, to around three seconds with it.
Since Canon removed the dedicated delete photo button, you can no longer do that after taking a photo -- you need to enter playback mode first.
Now, here's a look at the image size and quality choices available on the camera. To keep things simple, I'm only listing the sizes for the default 4:3 aspect ratio.
As you can see, you can stuff a ton of photos on 2GB memory card.
The PowerShot ELPH 100 HS does not support the RAW format, nor would I expect it to.
When "Hints & Tips" is turned on in the setup menu, the ELPH 100 HS will show a brief description of the highlighted menu option
The menu system on the PowerShot ELPH 100 HS looks exactly like that of its predecessor. It's attractive, easy to navigate, and features "hints & tips" that describe each option. When you're taking pictures, the menu is divided into two tabs, one for shooting, the other for setup. Keeping in mind that not all of these are available in each shooting mode, here's the full list:
The ELPH 100 HS' jumpy face detection system located three faces here
There are three AF modes on the PowerShot ELPH 100 HS. Face AiAF combines multi-point autofocus with face detection. If the camera detects any faces, it will give them focus priority, making sure white balance and exposure are accurate. If there aren't any faces, it'll switch to 9-point autofocus. The camera's face detection system can locate up to nine faces in the frame, and you can select one of them to track as they move around the scene (note that you must assign this function to the shortcut button first). Recent Canon cameras haven't fared well with my test scene -- it seems to jump from person-to-person, usually locking onto three or maybe four faces at one time. I have a feeling that it will perform just fine in the real world. There's also a blink detection feature that warns you if one of your subjects had their eyes closed in the photo you just took.
Tracking AF does just as it sounds. Select the subject with the four-way controller and the camera will keep them in focus as they move around the frame. The third and final AF option -- Center AF -- does just as it sounds.
The camera has a number of digital zoom options, all of which can reduce the quality of your photo if you use too much of it. However, if you're willing to lower the resolution a bit, you can safely use the standard digital zoom setting without reducing image quality, as long as you stop at the right time (the zoom position indicator becomes yellow). At the Medium 1 (6MP) setting you can get 4.9X of total zoom, with that number increasing to 10X if you're willing to drop to the Medium 2 (2 Megapixel) resolution.
The i-Contrast features is designed to improve overall image contrast, which isn't surprising, given the name of the feature. This feature is on by default in Smart Auto mode, and you can choose to turn it on in "manual" mode, as well. Below is an example of the i-Contrast feature in action:
View Full Size Image
View Full Size Image
As you can see, the i-Contrast feature does a nice job of increasing the brightness of the scene. There's a slight increase in noise, but not enough to concern me. One thing it does not do is reduce highlight clipping. By the way, you can also apply i-Contrast in playback mode, to brighten photos that you've already taken.
What are those three IS modes all about? Continuous mode activates the OIS system as soon as you halfway press the shutter release, which helps you compose the photo without camera shake. The "shoot only" option doesn't turn it on until the photo is actually taken, which improves the performance of the OIS system. The panning mode only stabilizes up and down motion, and you'll want to use this while tracking a moving subject horizontally. You can also turn the whole thing off, which is advisable if you're using a tripod. Speaking of which, if you're in Smart Auto mode, the camera is able to detect when the camera is on a tripod, allowing it to select a scene mode that uses a longer shutter speed.
Okay, that does it for menus, let's talk about photo quality now.
The ELPH 100 HS did a nice job with our usual macro test subject. Colors are nice and saturated, though there's a very slight yellowish color cast if you pay close enough attention. The photo is both smooth and sharp at the same time, which sounds like a contradiction, but the bottom line is that the figurine looks pretty good. I don't see any noise and other artifacts here, and I'd be pretty unhappy if there were any.
The minimum focus distance in macro mode on the ELPH 100 is 3 cm at the wide end of the lens. As you move closer to the telephoto end that number increases, but to what I don't know. Once you get past around 3X, the macro functionality is disabled.
The night shot turned out a bit noisy, but is otherwise okay. In order to take in enough light for shots like this you'll need to use a slow shutter speed (or the handheld night shot feature, but it won't look as good). You can let the camera handle it (via Smart Auto), or you can use the Long Shutter speed mode, where you can select a shutter speed between 1 and 15 seconds. I did the latter, and noticed the ISO is fixed to "Auto". Thankfully the camera used ISO 100, but you still see a moderate amount of noise in the photo. Still, details are well maintained, highlight clipping is kept to a relative minimum, and purple fringing wasn't an issue.
Since I can't control the ISO and shutter speed at the same time, I am unable to provide a low light ISO test. Don't worry -- our usual studio ISO test is just a few paragraphs below.
|Night test shot added 8/10/11|
There's mild-to-moderate barrel distortion at the wide end of the ELPH 100's 28 - 112 mm lens. You can see what this distortion means in the real world by checking out the building on the right side of this photo. The camera does not have a problem with corner blurriness (always a nice surprise), and vignetting (dark corners) should not be an issue, either.
The ELPH 100 HS uses both the AF-assist lamp to shrink your subject's pupils, plus a digital removal system to try to get rid of this annoyance. As you can see, the combination of the two worked perfectly, which is great news, as compact cameras are almost always redeye disasters. Should any redeye get past these two systems, there is a tool in playback mode that you can try using, as well.
Above you can see our studio test scene, which can be used to compare the ELPH 100's image quality against other cameras I've reviewed over the years. The crops below only cover a small area of the total test scene, so be sure to view the full size images as well! And with that, let's see how the ELPH's photo quality looks across its ISO range.
The first two crops, at ISO 100 and 200, look pretty clean to me. Noise starts to pick up at ISO 400, but it's still usable for midsize and large prints. Noise becomes more visible at ISO 800, as does detail loss. Thus, I'd make this your stopping point, and save it for small prints only. The ISO 1600 and 320 images are quite soft and noisy, and are best left untouched.
So is the "high sensitivity" ELPH 100 actually better than its predecessors in low light? I'm thinking yes, and I'm submitting our church interior photo (ELPH 100 HS, SD1300) as evidence. In good light, I found that noise levels were about the same on both cameras.
Overall, the PowerShot ELPH 100 HS produces very good photos for a compact camera. Like other CMOS-based compacts, things are a bit noisy, even at the base ISO of 100. That said, the ELPH's problem is more grain-style noise than excessive detail smudging, and the ELPH's target audience isn't one to be "pixel peeping" in the first place, so I'm not overly concerned. Exposure was generally spot-on, though the camera will clip highlights at times (here's a particularly bad example). Colors look good -- no complaints there -- and images are generally nice and sharp. As the previous test illustrated, noise levels are reasonable through ISO 400, with ISO 800 still being usable. While it doesn't show up often, purple fringing can be strong at times.
Now, I invite you to have a look at our ELPH 100 HS photo gallery. View the full size images, maybe print a few of the photos if you can, and then decide if the ELPH 100 HS' photo quality meets your expectations!
One of the biggest changes to the PowerShot ELPH 100 HS is in the movie mode department. The camera can now record at Full HD (1920 x 1080), courtesy of its CMOS sensor. The only real downsides are the frame rate (24 fps, which can be choppy when recording fast action) and the monaural sound recording. The camera will stop recording after about ten minutes at this resolution.
Three lower resolutions are also available: 1280 x 720, 640 x 480, and 320 x 240 -- all at 30 fps. Recording time limits are 10 minutes, 46 minutes, and 1 hour, respectively.
You cannot use the optical zoom while you're recording a video on the ELPH 100 HS. The digital zoom is available, though it may degrade the quality of the video. You can use the image stabilizer without issue. There aren't any manual controls in movie mode -- not even a wind filter.
You can use most of the special effects in movie mode, including Color Swap, Color Accent, and poster effect. You can also create miniature effect movies, which are recorded at the VGA resolution without sound. You can choose the speed at which these movies are played back, ranging from 5X to 20X. The ELPH 100 HS also has a super slow motion mode, which records at 120 or 240 fps (without sound), at resolution of 640 x 480 and 320 x 240, respectively. When these movies are played back at normal speed, everything appears to be moving in slow motion -- a cool effect.
Movies are saved in QuickTime format, using the H.264 codec.
Here's a sample movie for you, taken at the 1080/24p setting. As you can see, it's a bit choppy, due to the 24 fps frame rate used. I'm including the original movie (nearly 74MB in size), as well as a smaller 720p version that's an easier download.
The PowerShot ELPH 100 HS has a fairly nice playback mode. Basic features include slideshows (complete with transitions), image protection, favorite-tagging, DPOF print marking, thumbnail view, and playback zoom. When zoomed into a photo you can switch photos while maintaining your current position by pressing the Func/Set button. There's also a Focus Check feature that will enlarge the focus point or the faces that were detected in the photo.
Filtering photos by date
There are several ways to move through photos on the camera. Naturally, you can just press left or right on the four-way controller. Another option is to use the filtered playback feature, which lets you show photos by date, category, file type, whether they're a favorite. There's also a Smart Shuffle feature (hidden in the Function menu), which shows four photos related to the one currently selected. Photos taken in the high-speed burst mode are grouped into a "stack", which helps keep things a bit less cluttered.
Photos can be rotated, resized, and cropped right on the camera. You can apply most of the My Colors feature to your photos, as well. If there's any redeye in your photos, you'll find a tool to remove it here. You can also use the i-Contrast feature to brighten up the dark areas of your photos, with a choice of Auto, Low, Medium, or High settings. The ELPH 100 HS has the ability to assign a category to a photo, and in many cases, it's done automatically, based on the scene mode that was used.
The only video editing feature is a useful one -- a trimming tool to remove unwanted footage from the beginning or end of a clip.
By default, you won't get much information about your photo while in playback mode. But press the Display button (down on the four-way controller) and you'll get a lot more, including a histogram.
The PowerShot ELPH 100 HS moves from one photo to another without delay.
How Does it Compare?
The entry level Canon ELPH models have always been favorites of mine, and the new PowerShot ELPH 100 HS continues that tradition. While it doesn't do anything radical (unless you count the switch from CCD to CMOS), the ELPH offers a solid design, plenty of point-and-shoot features, good photo quality, and Full HD video capability. Downsides include slightly noisy photos (even at ISO 100), some movie mode annoyances (no optical zoom use, monaural sound), and the lack of a direct button for deleting photos or turning on the self-timer (which all of this cameras predecessors had). All things considered, the PowerShot ELPH 100 HS is a solid choice for those looking for an entry-level point-and-shoot camera.
The PowerShot ELPH 100 HS isn't a huge departure from the SD1200 and SD1300 that came before it. It retains the ultra-compact and stylish design that made those cameras so successful. The body is made mostly out of metal, though the flimsy plastic door over the battery/memory card compartment remains a weak point. Ergonomics are decent, though I'm not a fan of how the buttons on the back of the camera are flush with the body (they're hard to pick out). In addition, the four-way controller is a bit small, and Canon has removed the direct button for deleting a photo or turning on the self-timer, which means that those functions are now handled by the Function menu. Something that hasn't changed on the ELPH 100 is its lens -- it's the same 4X, 28 - 112 mm model that's been around for several years. Along with the lens comes Canon's effective optical image stabilization system, which does a good job at reducing blurring photos (and smoothing out movies). On the back of the camera you'll find a 3-inch LCD with 230,000 pixels. The screen won't win any awards for sharpness, but it does offer average outdoor visibility and very good viewing in low light situations. About the only other design-related thing I should mention is that the camera's flash is on the weak side, though that's par for the course on ultra-compact cameras.
As with all of Canon's ELPH models, the 100 HS is purely a point-and-shoot camera. Most people will survive just fine using the Smart Auto mode, which will select one of *32* scene modes for you. If you want more control, flip into "manual mode", where you'll have full menu access, and a lot more shooting modes. Some of these shooting modes include Smart Shutter (which takes photos based on smiles, winks, or an extra face entering the scene), high-speed burst (shoots continuously at over 8 frames/sec, albeit at a low resolution), handheld night scene (combines several exposures into one for sharp low light photos), and numerous special effects. If it's manual controls you're after, the only ones you'll find are for white balance and slow shutter speeds. One of the big upgrades on the ELPH 100 HS is the ability to record video at 1080p. You can record roughly 10 minutes of video at 1920 x 1080, though sound is monaural and the 24 fps frame rate isn't great for videos with lots of action. The optical zoom cannot be operated while recording a movie.
The ELPH 100 HS is pretty much average when it comes to performance. It does start up quickly, taking just one second to extend its lens and preparing for shooting. Focusing performance is right down the middle, with times of 0.3 - 0.5 seconds at wide-angle and around twice that at telephoto. Low light focusing is accurate, with focus times hovering around the one second mark in most cases. I didn't find shutter lag to be an issue, and shot-to-shot delays ranged from 2 to 3 seconds, depending on whether you're using the flash. The ELPH 100 HS has two continuous shooting modes: regular and high speed. The regular mode is supposed to shoot as fast as 3.4 fps, but I never got above 2.3 fps for some reason (and that was with a Class 10 SDHC card, too). The high speed mode was blazing, taking photos at 8.9 frames/second. The downside to the high-speed mode is that the resolution is set to 3 Megapixel and the ISO to auto, so you can end up with small, noisy images. The ELPH's battery life was above average for its class.
That brings us to photo quality. Overall, the ELPH 100 HS produced good quality photos for a compact camera, with the main issues being noise and highlight clipping. I found exposure to be consistently accurate, but as I mentioned, the camera will blow out the highlights pretty badly in certain situations. Colors were pleasing, and photos were a nice blend of sharp and smooth. In terms of noise, you will spot some mild grainy noise at the base sensitivity (ISO 100), though things stay reasonable through ISO 400. At ISO 800 you probably want to stick to small prints only, and I'd avoid anything higher than that. Noise levels are comparable to the old PowerShot SD1300 at low ISOs, and lower at ISO 400, so that whole "high sensitivity system" isn't just slick marketing talk. Purple fringing can be a problem at times. Thankfully, redeye was not, due to the camera's dual reduction systems.
There are just a few other things to mention before I wrap up this conclusion. First, you won't be able to access the memory card (or the battery) while the camera is on a tripod. In the bundle department, Canon does not build any memory into the ELPH 100 HS, nor is a memory card included. Finally, the full camera manual is on an included CD-ROM, which is unfortunately becoming more and more common these days.
The Canon PowerShot ELPH 100 HS remains a very good choice for consumers looking for a compact and stylish camera that won't break the bank. It offers a solid design, tons of fun features, good photo quality, and Full HD movie recording. There are some downsides, but most of them could be applied to any camera in this class. I can definitely recommended checking out Canon's latest entry-level ELPH, and don't forget that the ELPH 300 and 500 have the same sensor, so photo quality will be similar on those models, as well.
What I liked:
- Good photo quality, with slightly better low light performance than CCD-based predecessor
- Compact, stylish metal body, comes in five colors
- Optical image stabilization
- 3-inch LCD has average outdoor, very good low light visibility
- Smart Auto mode picks one of 32 scene modes for you
- Tons of fun features, including special effects and slo-mo movie mode
- Redeye not a problem
- Cool face, smile, and wink self-timers
- Records Full HD video (1080/24p) with monaural sound
- Above average battery life
- Optional underwater case
- HDMI output
What I didn't care for:
- Images are slightly noisy at low ISOs
- Some highlight clipping and purple fringing at times
- Movie mode issues: optical zoom cannot be used, sound is monaural, and 24 fps frame rate isn't great for capturing fast-moving subjects
- Full resolution burst mode didn't perform at advertised speeds (low resolution high-speed mode was just the opposite, though)
- Flash is on the weak side
- Flush controls make it hard to find the button you're looking for; four-way controller a bit small
- Lack of direct buttons for self-timer and photo deletion mean a trip to the menu
- Flimsy plastic door over memory card/battery compartment; can't access contents while camera is on a tripod
- Full manual on CD-ROM; no memory card or internal memory included
The ELPH 100's closest competitors include the Nikon Coolpix S5100, Panasonic Lumix DMC-FH5, Pentax Optio S1, and Sony Cyber-shot DSC-WX9. The Fuji FinePix JX300, Kodak EasyShare M532, Olympus VG-120, and Samsung ST65 are also worth a look, though they do not have optical image stabilization.
As always, I recommend a trip down to your local camera or electronics store to try out the PowerShot ELPH 100 HS and its competitors before you buy.
See how the photos turned out in our gallery!