Originally Posted: December 1, 2011
Last Updated: March 23, 2012
The Canon PowerShot S100 ($429) is a premium compact camera with a fast lens and "high sensitivity" CMOS sensor. It's the replacement to the PowerShot S95, a camera I liked enough to buy for myself. So what's new with the S100? This table should help with that:
As you can see, the PowerShot S100 got a bump in resolution, zoom power, and continuous shooting performance -- plus it now has a GPS receiver. The S100 retains the compact metal body and customizable lens ring of its predecessor, plus full manual controls (with RAW support), an HDR mode, and larger-than-average sensor.
The PowerShot S95 was one of my favorite cameras from last year. Will the same be true for the S100? Find out now in our review!
What's in the Box?
The PowerShot S100's bundle is typical of what you'll find from Canon. Inside the box, you'll find the following:
- The 12.1 effective Megapixel PowerShot S100 digital camera
- NB-5L lithium-ion rechargeable battery
- Battery charger
- Wrist strap
- USB cable
- CD-ROM featuring Canon Digital Camera Solution and camera/software manuals
- 34 page Quick Start Guide (printed) + full manual on CD-ROM
Unlike nearly all camera manufacturers, Canon does not build internal memory into their cameras. Therefore, you'll need to buy a memory card right away, unless you have one sitting around already. The PowerShot S100 supports SD, SDHC, and SDXC cards, and I'd recommend picking up a 4GB card for use with the camera (and perhaps larger, if you'll be taking a lot of movies). A high speed card (Class 6 or above) is recommended for best camera performance.
Canon switched batteries on the S100, now using the NB-5L instead of the NB-6L. That's a good thing, since the NB-5L is more powerful. The battery packs 4.1 Wh of energy into its plastic shell, which is about average for a compact camera. Here's a look at how the S100 compares against the competition in terms of battery life:
As you can see, the PowerShot S100's battery life is the worst in the group. And that's with the GPS off, too. If you're using the GPS, especially the logging function, expect to get at least a third less than what's listed above. I'd definitely recommend picking up a spare battery, which will set you back about $44 (generics are less).
When it runs out of juice, just pop the NB-5L into the included charger. This charger plugs directly into the wall (at least in the U.S.) and takes just over two hours to fully charge the battery.
There are a couple of accessories available for the PowerShot S100, which include:
Pretty standard set of accessories for a compact camera!
Canon has one of the nicest software bundles out there. You'll first encounter CameraWindow, which will download photos from the camera onto your Mac or PC. The main photo organizing suite is called ZoomBrowser in Windows and ImageBrowser on Macs. The software lets you e-mail or print photos, upload videos to YouTube, and do some editing, as well. Available photo editing features include trimming, redeye removal, level/tone curve adjustment, and color tuning. While the Browser software can view RAW files, it cannot edit them -- see below for another option. Movie editing tools in Image/ZoomBrowser include trimming and frame grabs.
For editing RAW images you'll need to use Digital Photography Professional, which is a very capable product. Here you can adjust exposure, highlight and shadow detail, the tone curve, noise reduction, and white balance. There are also tools for reducing lens distortion, vignetting, and purple fringing. If you'd rather use Adobe Photoshop instead, just make sure that you have version 6.6 or newer of their Camera Raw plug-in.
Two other products you'll find in the box with the PowerShot S100 are PhotoStitch and Map Utility. PhotoStitch can take photos that you've lined up using the Stitch Assist feature on the camera, and combine them into a single panoramic image. Map Utility will show you where photos with embedded location information appear on a Google Map.
Canon certainly is keeping up with the current trends regarding documentation, by providing as little printed material as possible. Inside the box is a leaflet that'll teach you basic camera operation. If you want more details, you'll have to load up the full manual, which is in PDF format on an included CD-ROM. The quality of the manuals is average: they explain everything well enough, but they could be a lot more user-friendly. Instructions for the bundled software are found on the same disc.
Design & Features
The PowerShot S100 has a refined version of the design used by the PowerShot S90 and S95. That makes it compact and made mostly of metal, with a matte black body that likes to scratch very easily (thankfully you can just rub the scratches away with your finger in most cases). The camera is sturdy (heck, my S95 is still working after a 5 foot fall onto asphalt) and the important controls can be reached with ease.
Here are some comparison photos of the S95 and S100:
|The old PowerShot S95 on the left, new PowerShot S100 on the right|
As you can see, the bodies are mostly the same, but there are a few important changes. On the front you've got a small grip, which makes the camera a lot less slippery. On the back there's now a thumb rest, as well as a dedicated button for movie recording. The ring function button that was on the top of the S95 has been relocated to the back of the S100.
Images courtesy of Canon USA
While the S90 and S95 only came in black, you can now get the S100 in silver, as well.
The photo above shows you how compact the S100 is in the hand. Now let's see how it compares against other cameras in its class in terms of size and weight:
The PowerShot S100 is the second smallest "high sensitivity" camera in the bunch, though that Sony has a slower lens and no GPS. Despite coming in second, the S100 is still very compact, and can fit in your jeans pocket with ease.
It's tour time! Please use the tabs to flip through the different views of the PowerShot S100.
Here you can see one of the biggest changes on the PowerShot S100: its new 5X optical zoom lens. This F2.0-5.9 lens is quite fast at the wide end of things, but the opposite is true at the telephoto position. In other words, while the camera lets in more light than most compact cameras at wide-angle, it's average (at best) as you use more of the zoom. The focal range is 5.2 - 26.0 mm, which is equivalent to 24 - 120 mm (up from 28 - 105 mm on the S90/S95).
As with nearly all of Canon's cameras, the PowerShot S100 has lens-shift image stabilization built right in. This must-have feature reduces the risk of blurry photos, and can smooth out your movies, as well. Two new features on the S100 are Intelligent and Powered IS. The former, used in Auto mode, will select an IS mode (standard, dynamic, panning, etc) based on the scene. Powered IS is for shooting movies at full telephoto, and provides extra shake reduction.
Behind that lens is an 1/1.7", 12.1 Megapixel CMOS sensor. Canon has done two things here: switched from CCD to CMOS, and boosted the resolution (the S90 and S95 were 10MP cameras). The sensor used by all of the recent S-series models is a bit larger than what you'd find on a typical compact camera (0.59 vs. 0.43 inches), which allows it to capture more light, and thus have better performance at high sensitivities (at least in theory).
Around the lens is a customizable ring, which can adjust the ISO, zoom, aperture, shutter speed, and more. This feature has been around since the S90, and while I don't use it very often myself, some folks really like it.
At the top-right of the photo is the camera's pop-up flash, which is released electronically. The working range of the flash is 0.5 - 7.0 m at wide-angle and 0.5 - 2.3 m at telephoto (both at auto ISO). If you want more flash power (and a reduced likelihood of redeye), then you can attach the external slave flash that I mentioned earlier.
The last thing to see here is the S100's AF-assist lamp, which is located just to the right of the Canon logo.
On the back of the camera you're first greeted by the S100's 3-inch LCD display, which is the same as on the S90 and S95 (as far as I know). The screen has 461,000 pixels -- so it's nice and sharp -- and I found it easy to see both outdoors and in low light situations.
Over at the upper-right of the photo you can see the new thumb rest, which is much appreciated. Under that we have buttons for setting the Ring Function (more on that later) or deleting a photo, and for recording a video.
Beneath those we have the combination scroll wheel / four-way controller, which is used for adjusting manual settings, flipping through photos, navigating menus, and more. The dial is nice and "notchy", which makes adjustments a snap. The four-way controller is also used for adjusting exposure compensation, flash and focus settings, and toggling the information shown on the LCD.
Under the four-way controller are buttons for entering playback mode or the menu system.
The first things to see on the top of the camera are the flash (closed here), the probable location of the GPS receiver (more on that after the tour), and the power button.
Right next door to those is the zoom controller / shutter release button and the mode dial (details below). The zoom controller moves the lens from wide-angle to telephoto in just 1.2 seconds. I counted fourteen steps in the camera's 5X zoom range -- I would've preferred a bit more precision.
There's nothing to see here, aside from the popped-up flash. The lens is at the full wide-angle position here.
You'll find the PowerShot S100's I/O ports on its right side. The ports, which are kept behind a plastic cover, are for USB + A/V output and HDMI. Do note that Canon does not include any kind of A/V output cable with the camera -- even a composite one.
The S100's 24 - 120 mm lens is at its full telephoto position in this photo.
On the bottom of the PowerShot S100 you'll find a metal tripod mount and the battery/memory card compartment. The door that covers this compartment is of average quality, though it could really use a lock, as it's easy to open accidentally when you remove it from your pocket.
The included NB-5L lithium-ion battery can be seen at right.
|Selecting a ring function||Use the custom option to set the dial function in the P/A/S/M modes|
Before I talk about the S100's mode dial, I want to tell you more about the unique Function Ring that's around the the lens. The ring has several default functions, which will vary depending on the shooting mode you're in. In Auto mode, it controls the zoom (in steps: 24, 28, 35, 50, 85, 100, 120 mm). In Program mode it handles ISO, while in the "priority" modes it will adjust the aperture or shutter speed. By using the Ring Function on the back of the camera, you can have the Ring do something else entirely, like fine-tune white balance, manually focus, or change the aspect ratio.
Okay, now we can talk about the mode dial, which has these options:
As you can see, the PowerShot S100 has a large collection of point-and-shoot features, as well as the manual exposure controls that you'd come to expect on a camera in this class. If you want a true point-and-shoot experience, just pop the camera into Smart Auto mode, and it'll take care of the rest.
I want to talk about a few of the Creative Filters and Scene Modes, and will begin with HDR, which stands for high dynamic range. In this mode, the S100 will take three shots in a row, each with a different exposure value (which you cannot set). Those three shots are combined into one, with the end result being a photo with better shadow detail and fewer clipped highlights. Here's a real world example:
|HDR off||HDR on|
What a difference some HDR makes! I don't think anyone would argue that the regular photo looks better. Do note that you'll probably need to use a tripod for best results, as the delay between each shot may cause the image to be a bit blurry.
Here's a quick rundown of the other point-and-shoot features that don't need examples:
- Movie Digest: in this mode, the camera will record 2-4 seconds worth of video before every still; the results are compiled into a single video comprised of the days "events"; to be honest, I don't see the point of this feature.
- Smart Shutter: choose from smile detection, or cool wink and face self-timers; smile detection waits until someone in your photo smiles, and then it'll start taking photos; the wink self-timer takes a photo two seconds after someone in the frame winks at the camera; face self-timer takes a photo 2 seconds after a new person (presumably the photographer) enters the frame
- High-speed Burst HQ: the camera takes eight photos in a row at 9.6 frames/second (Canon's numbers -- mine were a bit lower); do note that the LCD goes black while shooting is in-progress
- Handheld Night Scene: the camera takes several exposures and combines them into a single photo, which is hopefully sharp
- Stitch Assist: helps you line up photos side-by-side for later stitching into a single panorama (using the bundled software)
White balance fine-tuning
Manual controls include those for shutter speed and aperture, as well as white balance and focus. The S100 can bracket for both exposure and focus, but not for white balance (you can fine-tune it, though). Something that bugged me about the S100 is that the ISO is fixed at 80 as soon as the shutter speed drops below 1 second. While that makes sense from a certain point-of-view (as it minimizes noise), it seems overly restrictive on an enthusiast camera. This restriction also prevented me from completing my night test shots, as you'll see later.
Moving onto menus now, I want to start with the S100's function (shortcut) menu, which is activated by pressing the center button on the four-way controller. Here are the most interesting options you'll find there:
- DR correction: improves overall dynamic range (contrast); choose from off (default), auto, 200%, or 400%; ISO will be boosted as high as 320 in order to make this feature work
- Shadow correction: brighten the dark areas of a photo, with off or auto being the options here
- My Colors: enhance colors or skin tones, take B&W or sepia photos, or manually adjust contrast/sharpness/saturation
- Self-timer: choose from the usual 2 or 10 second times, or use the custom setting and choose the number of shots and delay that you want
- AF frame: choose from face detection (9 faces max), tracking AF, FlexiZone, or center; the FlexiZone feature lets you pick any area in the frame on which you'd like to focus; you can adjust the size of the AF point in the shooting menu
- ND (neutral density) filter: reduces the amount of light coming through the lens by three stops, allowing you to use slower shutter speeds or larger apertures than you could otherwise
- Still image aspect ratio: choose from 4:3, 16:9, 3:2, 1:1, or 4:5
I'd like to show you the DR Correction feature in action. There are four settings: off (default), auto, 200%, and 400%. As I mentioned, the camera needs to boost the sensitivity in order for this feature to work, so you'll want to have Auto ISO on if you use this feature. Here's what you can expect from this feature, using our purple fringing tunnel as the subject:
|DR correction off
View Full Size
|Auto DR correction
View Full Size
|200% DR correction
View Full Size
|400% DR correction
View Full Size
Looking at the photo taken at the default settings, you can see lots of clipped highlights, especially on the left and right sides. Going to the "auto" setting dramatically improves things. As you can see, the camera is using something closer to 400% when set to Auto, as the 200% option isn't that great. I'd say this is a feature well worth using when highlight clipping might be an issue -- even with the slight increase in noise.
Shooting menu, with help info at bottom
The rest of the shooting-related options that I want to talk about can be found in the PowerShot S100's main menu. The menus are attractive, easy-to-navigate, and feature "hints & tips" that describe each option. The notable features here are:
- Digital zoom: normally I tell people to turn this off, but if you're willing to lower the resolution, you can use it without a reduction in image quality; for example, dropping down to 6 Megapixel gives you 6.1X of total zoom power
- Servo AF: the camera keeps focusing with the shutter release halfway-pressed, which is helpful for moving subjects
- Redeye correction: buried in the flash settings submenu, this option will digitally remove redeye from photos, as they are taken; look for the redeye test later in the review
- ISO auto settings: choose the highest sensitivity that you want the camera to use, as well as how quickly it'll boost it (rate of change = how slow of a shutter speed you it'll use)
- Hg lamp correction: here's a new one -- this removes a greenish tint that may occur when shooting scenes lit by mercury lamps
- Blink detection: the camera will warn you if someone in the frame had their eyes closed
- IS settings: choose from continuous or "shoot only" stabilization, or turn it off entirely; a Powered IS mode is for shooting at full telephoto, and should be turned off when panning or walking
- Set Ring Func button: don't want this button to let you choose what the lens ring does? Then assign it another camera function here!
Something else that needs mentioning is one of the S100's biggest feature: its GPS. It's a simple implementation, recording your location and altitude -- no maps or database of landmarks here! The GPS did not locate satellites while I was in downtown San Francisco, but in more open spaces it did so in about thirty seconds, which isn't bad by camera standards. The only other GPS option (aside from on/off) is logging, which lets you see the path that you took while out shooting (and it may reduce satellite acquisition times, as well). The problem with GPS logging is that it puts a major strain on your battery.
Now I'd like to tell you about the PowerShot S100's movie mode, which is now capable of Full HD recording. You can record video at 1920 x 1080 at 24 frames/second with stereo sound, until the file size reaches 4GB (which takes about 14 minutes). While filmmakers like the 24 fps frame rate, regular folks may find it a bit choppy. If you don't mind dropping down to 1280 x 720, you can record at 30 frames/second for about 20 minutes. A VGA resolution is also available, with a recording time limit of 30 minutes.
The S100 also supports Apple's poorly marketed iFrame codec, which is supposed to be easier to edit on Apple computers (not that H.264 is that challenging to work with).
The camera lets you use the optical zoom while you're recording a movie, though it moves very slowly. The camera focuses continuously, so everything stays in focus. The image stabilizer is also available, which keeps things shake-free.
Most of the camera's special effects are available while recording movies, including miniature effect. There's also a "super slow motion" mode which records at 120 or 240 fps (though the resolution is lowered to 640 x 120 and 320 x 240, respectively) and plays them back at 30 fps, creating a slow motion effect. Manual controls are not available in movie mode, though a wind filter is available for recording outdoors.
Here's a sample movie for you, taken at the highest quality setting:
Aside from the choppiness, the video quality is pretty good!
The PowerShot S100 has a pretty nice playback mode. Some of the notable features here include:
- Movie Digest playback: I told you about this feature earlier; here's how you view the day's events
- Smart Shuffle: a bizarre feature which shows four photos similar to the one you're viewing
- My Category: assign a category to a photo, which is then transferred over to the "Browser" software; in some cases, the camera has done this automatically
- i-Contrast: brightens dark areas of your photo
- Redeye correction: digitally remove this annoyance from a photo
- Jump: move through photos by date, category, file type, whether they're tagged as a favorite, or in groups of 10 or 100
- Erase range of photos: I normally don't mention image deletion features, but the ability to select a range of photos without having to click your way through thumbnails is very handy
Photo editing functions include the ability to rotate, resize, and crop. Movies can have unwanted footage trimmed off of the beginning or end of a clip.
The PowerShot S100 shows just basic information about your photo by default. Pressing "up" on the four-way controller reveals more (including location data), and if you press "up" again, you'll get an RGB histogram.
The S100 moves through photos without delay, even with the fancy transitions between each image. If you want to really go fast, just spin the dial on the back of the camera. Using the dial also allows you to jump to photos taken on a certain date.
Performance & Photo Quality
Performance on the PowerShot S100 is average in most respects (save for its poor battery life). As I mentioned earlier, GPS acquisition times are decent (assuming that you're out of the city), and the zoom controller movies quickly. The chart below summarizes what you can expect from the S100 in other areas:
Despite its price and enthusiast target audience, the PowerShot S100 is definitely an average performer.
Something else that I want to go over is the camera's burst mode performance. There are three modes to choose from: continuous, continuous AF, and high-speed burst HQ (mentioned earlier). The difference between the first two can be found in the name: one locks focus on the first shot, while the other refocuses every time. The high-speed mode is only for JPEGs, with the ISO fixed to the Auto setting. The LCD is blacked out while shooting, as well. Here's the PowerShot S100's real world burst mode performance:
The PowerShot S100 won't win any awards for its burst mode, that's for sure. The only real bright spot is that you can keep shooting (albeit slowly) until your memory card is filled up -- even for RAW images.
So how does the S100's photo quality shape up? Let's take a trip through our standard tests and find out.
Our standard macro test subject looks great. The white background looks a tiny bit brown, though the camera's white balance fine-tuning feature should help with that. Our subject is tack sharp, with accurate color. I see no evidence of noise or noise reduction artifacting, and that's a good thing.
The minimum focus distance in macro mode is 3 cm at wide-angle and 30 cm at telephoto.
I won't soon forget my night photo experience with the PowerShot S100, mainly due to the 15 minutes of wondering why I couldn't adjust the ISO. As I mentioned earlier, the sensitivity is locked at 80 whenever the shutter speed drops below 1 second. This makes sense from a noise point-of-view, but I think there should be no restrictions on an enthusiast camera like this. The PowerShot S100 turned in a pretty good performance here, with accurate exposure and no funny color casts. The buildings are sharp across the frame, and noise levels are relatively low. Both highlight clipping and purple (as well as cyan) fringing make an appearance here, though neither is horrible.
Since I cannot adjust the ISO at slow shutter speeds, I do not have a way to show you how the PowerShot S100 performs at high sensitivities in low light.
Straight out of the camera
After redeye removal in playback mode
The PowerShot S100 tries to eliminate redeye in two ways. First, it'll fire the AF-assist lamp a second or two before the photo is taken, with the goal of shrinking your subject's pupils. I've found that this rarely works. The second part of the removal system is a digital system (which needs to be turned on in the Flash Settings menu), which tries to get rid of whatever shows up in a photo. Even with both of those turned on, I still got pretty strong redeye. I went into playback mode and used the removal tool there to get rid of the red. While your results may vary, odds are that redeye will be an issue on the PowerShot S100.
The S100 has mild-to-moderate barrel distortion at its wide-angle position. You can see what this looks like in the real world by looking at the building on the right side of this photo. Corner blurring wasn't an issue, and while there may be some vignetting in your photos, it's very mild.
Okay, now it's time to see how the PowerShot S100 performed across its ISO range. As usual, I'm using our standard test scene, which means that you can compare the results with other cameras I've tested over the years (PowerShot S95, anyone?). Remember that the crops below only show a small area of the total scene, so view the full size images too!
Everything looks great all the way through ISO 800. Yes, I said ISO 800, where there's a tiny bit of noise, but nothing to keep you from making large prints at that sensitivity. Noise becomes a bit more visible at ISO 1600, but still, totally usable. Things start to go downhill at ISO 3200, so I'd save this for small prints only, and use RAW if possible. The ISO 6400 setting is probably worth passing on.
Can we improve on things by shooting RAW? Let's take a look:
While I still don't think the ISO 6400 setting is usable (except perhaps in desperate circumstances), shooting RAW and doing some easy post-processing produces photos with less detail smudging and more vibrant colors. If you're shooting at ISO 1600 and above, then it's probably worth doing, unless you're sticking to small prints.
A lot of people are probably wondering how the PowerShot S100's image quality compares to that of its predecessor. Here's the ISO 1600 test scene crop from each camera, with the S100 image downsized to 10 Megapixel to match the resolution of the S95.
I don't think there's any question that the PowerShot S100, with its new 12 Megapixel CMOS sensor, performs a lot better than its predecessor. Looks like Canon is finally getting noise under control on their CMOS-based cameras!
There's very little to complain about when discussing the PowerShot S100's photo quality. Images are well-exposed, though highlight clipping can be strong at times. The solution to that problem is to turn on DR Correction, as long as you understand that noise levels will rise slightly. Colors look good, and the camera's custom white balance feature handled the crazy lighting of the LA Auto Show with aplomb. Sharpness is very nice in most situations, with just occasional softness on some subjects. As the previous test illustrated, the S100 keeps noise under control all the way through ISO 800, which is impressive for a compact camera. That doesn't mean that low ISO shots are noise-free: look in the shadows and you'll probably spot a little. Canon goes easy on noise reduction here, so detail smudging isn't an issue, as it is on other cameras in this class. Purple fringing was not a major issue.
I have not one but two photo galleries for the PowerShot S100. Check out our standard photo gallery, or look at the cars I dream about (well, some of them anyway) in our special LA Auto Show gallery! Then you should be able to decide whether the S100's photo quality meets your needs.
The Canon PowerShot S100 is a premium ultra-compact camera that offers a lot more than your typical point-and-shoot. It has a solid, well-built metal body that looks good in black (and okay in silver), and well-placed controls. One of its unique features is a customizable ring around the lens, which can be used to adjust exposure, ISO, the zoom, and much more. Speaking of lenses, the one on the S100 is an upgrade over what was found on previous models, now offering a 24 - 120 mm (5X) zoom range. The lens remains very fast at wide-angle (F2.0), but drops off quickly as you near the telephoto end of things (F5.9). Naturally, the S100 has optical image stabilization, with a new "Intelligent" function that selects the correct IS mode for the scene. The sensor on the S100 remains larger-than-average at 1/1.7", but now it's CMOS-based instead of a CCD. Unlike many cases where this switch has reduced image quality, the opposite is true on the PowerShot S100. One of the other big features on the camera is a built-in GPS, which doesn't do anything fancy, but gets the job done (unless you're in the middle of a major city). You'll compose your photos on a sharp 3-inch LCD with 461,000 pixels and good outdoor/low light visibility.
The PowerShot S100 has a nice mix of point-and-shoot features as well as manual controls. On the P&S side, there's a Smart Auto mode with scene selection, tons of special effects, and more than enough scene modes. Manual controls are available for exposure, white balance (including fine-tuning), and focus. As I mentioned, the ring around the lens is customizable, as is the Ring Func button on the back of the camera. The S100 can shoot RAW images, and Canon includes a capable editing product in the box. Some other features I liked include DR Correction (reduces highlight clipping), HDR (improves image contrast, but bring your tripod), and Smart Shutter mode (which offers smile detection and face/wink self-timers). When it comes to video, the S100 can record movies at 1920 x 1080 (24 frames/second) with stereo sound, using the H.264 codec. The frame rate is popular for cinema work, but the average person may find it to be too choppy. You can use the optical zoom while you're recording a movie, and the image stabilizer is available, as well.
Camera performance is average in most areas. The S100 starts up relatively quickly (1.2 seconds), but autofocus and shot-to-shot speeds are average (and below average with the flash). The camera can shoot a burst of eight JPEGs in a row at 9.3 frames/second, though the ISO is fixed at Auto and the LCD blacks out while shooting. A more traditional burst mode is also available, with frame rates ranging from 1 - 2 frames/sec, which is nothing to write home about. Battery life was a problem on the S90 and S95, and it's just as bad here (and that's without using the GPS), so do yourself a favor and buy a spare.
I must admit that I was a bit skeptical about how the image quality would be on this CMOS-based camera, but the PowerShot S100 delivers excellent results. Exposures were nearly always accurate, though the camera loves to clip highlights (use the DR correction feature to reduce that). Colors looked good, even under the artificial lights at the LA Convention Center. Sharpness was good in most cases, with photos sporting the traditional Canon "smooth" appearance. The camera keeps noise in check through ISO 800 in good light, which is at least a full stop better than your typical compact camera. By shooting RAW, even ISO 3200 is usable for small and midsize prints. Purple fringing levels were quite low in most situations. As with the S90 and S95, redeye was a problem, though you can remove it using the tool in playback mode.
There are a few other things I want to mention before wrapping things up. First, I was a bit annoyed that you can't adjust the ISO when the shutter speed drops below 1 second on this enthusiast camera. You can't get at the memory card or battery compartment while the camera is on a tripod. And finally, from the bundle department, the full manual is on a CD-ROM disc, and no video output cable is included.
Overall, the PowerShot S100 is a well-designed camera whose best attribute is its image quality. It obviously can't compete with a digital SLR (or mirrorless camera), but it is way better than your typical compact camera. Add in the enthusiast features, special effects, and scene modes, and it's a camera that's well worth considering. The only folks I might sway toward other cameras would be those for whom speed is a priority -- the S100 is not the snappiest camera out there. For most folks, however, the PowerShot S100 fits the bill just fine, which is why it earns my recommendation.
What I liked:
- Very good photo quality, with at least a full stop advantage over typical compact cameras
- Compact metal body, comes in silver and black
- Fast F2.0-5.9, 24 - 120 mm zoom lens (well, it's fast at one end, at least)
- Optical image stabilization
- High resolution 3-inch LCD with very good outdoor and low light visibility
- Built-in GPS doesn't have bells and whistles, but gets the job done
- Full manual controls, including RAW support
- Smart Auto mode picks a scene mode (and the proper IS setting) for you
- Tons of scene modes and Creative Filters
- Dynamic range correction and HDR features improve image contrast
- Lots of customizable stuff: lens ring and Ring Func button, self-timer, and custom spot on mode dial
- Cool face, smile, and wink self-timers
- Records Full HD (1080/24p) video with stereo sound, use of optical zoom
- Optional underwater case
What I didn't care for:
- Tends to clip highlights (hint: use DR correction)
- Redeye can be a problem, even with digital reduction turned on
- Videos are a bit choppy due to 24 fps frame rate
- Below average battery life
- Lens on the slow side at telephoto end
- ISO fixed at 80 when shutter speed drops below 1 second
- Unremarkable burst mode
- Flash a bit slow to charge
- Can't access memory card slot while using a tripod
- Full manual on CD-ROM; no video cable included
As always, I recommend heading to your local camera or electronics store to try out the PowerShot S100 and its competitors before you buy!