Review: Canon PowerShot S300 Digital ELPH
Keller, DCRP Founder/Editor
Originally posted: Monday, April 2, 2001
Thursday, June 21, 2001
back at my review
of one of 2000's coolest cameras, the PowerShot S100 Digital ELPH,
there wasn't much to complain about. I wished it had manual controls,
and it was a little cheaper. Well, neither of those things happened
with the new PowerShot
S300 Digital ELPH ($699), also known as the Digital IXUS 300
abroad, but some other very nice improvements were made.
to the S300 is a 3X optical zoom, up from 2X on the S100. There's
also a new movie mode, with sound recording, which can record as
large as 640 x 480. All this in the very small, metal camera that
won a lot of people over last year. Is the latest Digital ELPH as
good as its predecessor? Read on...
in the Box?
PowerShot S300 has a very good bundle. Inside the box, you'll find:
2.1 Mpixel Canon PowerShot S300 Digital ELPH camera
Li-ion battery pack and charger
featuring Canon Digital Camera Solutions and ArcSoft Camera Suite
got very little to comment on here, since Canon covers all the bases.
My only wish would be for a larger CompactFlash card.
S300 is a great travel camera, not only thanks to it's diminutive
body, but also it's handy battery charger (shown above). You just
pop the battery (shown in the middle here) into the slot, and plug
the whole charger right into the wall socket (on the US model at
least-- your mileage may vary). The battery takes 130 minutes to
fully charge, and Canon claims that it can last between 120 and
270 shots, depending on LCD usage.
the lens retracts and safely closes, there's no lens cap worries
on the S300.
Canon's software and manuals are top notch. I've covered the software
previously in the PowerShot
S10 review, and it hasn't changed significantly since then.
Digital ELPH is one of the few cameras that I'd consider "sexy".
When the S100 transformed into the S300 reviewed here, it put on
a little weight:
x 2.2 x 1.1
x 2.5 x 1.2
doesn't mean the S300 is big or bulky -- not at all. It remains
one of the smallest cameras out there, and almost certainly the
smallest 3X zoom camera. The S300's metal body is what gives it
the weight, but it also feels very sturdy. One downside to metal
bodied cameras is that they scratch quite easily. My S300 review
unit never fell or hit any walls but still managed to get a scratch.
Digital ELPH is the same size as a deck of cards.
the camera is very small, it's not too hard to get both hands on
it. You can try to use it with one hand, but it's hard to get to
the zoom controls safely if you do.
S300 has an all-new lens, as I mentioned. This F2.7-4.7 lens has
a zoom range of 35-105mm (in 35mm terms), which is a nice improvement
over the 2X zoom of the S100.
our tour now with the back of the camera. This is almost identical
to the S100 with just minor changes. The 1.5" is bright and
fluid. There is no way to adjust the LCD brightness on the Digital
the LCD are five buttons:
(Menu) / Flash (Rec)
(Rec) / Left (Play)
& Landscape (Rec) / Right (Play)
compensation, white balance (Manual Rec)
the LCD you'll find a button for turning the LCD on and off.
right of that is the optical viewfinder. I found it to be a bit
on the small side, and it lacks diopter correction for those of
us with glasses. Nose (and likely finger) smudges are likely on
this camera due to it's compact size.
the far right, you can see the latch for the CompactFlash slot,
as well as the zoom controls just above that. Several people who
used the S300 wondered where the zoom controls were, and I had to
point them out-- it's not that obvious unless you look at the top
of the camera. The zoom mechanism, though noisy, is smooth and precise.
top of the Digital ELPH is missing the LCD info display found on
almost every camera (I guess there's no room for it). Thankfully,
all that information can be found on the main LCD display on the
back of the camera.
items of note up here include the mode wheel / power switch, shutter
release, and microphone. The choices on the mode wheel include:
describe these more in the next section. Right in the middle of
the mode wheel is the power button. You have to hold it down for
a few seconds before the camera will turn on.
one side of the camera, with the I/O ports. Under the rubber cover,
you'll find the A/V out port as well as the "digital out"
for USB. Serial connections are not supported on the S300. You may
have noticed there's no place to plug in the optional AC adapter.
If you purchase the adapter, you get a "battery" that
plugs into the AC adapter through a hole on the bottom of the camera.
here's the other side of the camera, featuring the CompactFlash
slot, and the included 8MB card. This is a Type I slot, so no Microdrive.
but not least, the bottom of the camera. That's a metal tripod mount
on the left of the above photo, and the battery compartment on the
right. When you use the AC adapter, you remove that rubber cover
over the battery compartment.
the Canon PowerShot S300
S300 is exceptionally fast at almost everything. It starts up and
is ready to go in just under three seconds. There's a bit of focus
and shutter lag, but nothing major. Shot-to-shot speed is about
3 seconds in "Superfine" mode, which is competitive with
other two megapixel cameras.
menu system on the S300 is very simple and intuitive. There aren't
too many choices either, which is perfect for the "point and
shooter". Here's what you'll find:
(L/M/S) - more below
(Superfine, Fine, Normal) - more below
(Off, 2 sec, 10 sec) - how long the photo is shown on the LCD
after it's taken -- you must keep the shutter release held down
Number Reset (On/off)
(basic stuff like date, language)
addition to the main menu, you can also change some addition options
by using the buttons below the LCD. For
exposure compensation, you can go between -2.0EV and +2.0EV in 1/3EV
increments. In the white balance menu, you can choose between Auto,
Daylight, Clouds, Tungsten, Fluorescent, and Black & White (seems
like a strange place for this). Continuous shooting mode will capture
images at around 2.5 frames/second. There's also a self-timer (10
sacs), and macro/infinity modes as well.
items are only available in manual mode. Yep, that's the
extend of the manual controls on the S300, which is fine for the
point and shoot crowd.
promised some more information about the resolution and compression
choices, so here they are, in this handy chart:
photos on included 8MB card
(1600 x 1200)
(1024 x 768)
(640 x 480)
onto the photo tests!
macro test came out quite well, especially once I put set the white
balance to Tungsten. There's almost no "grain" in this
shot, and the colors are spot-on.
night shot test did not fare as well as the macro test. While the
objects in this photo are sharp enough, the camera just doesn't
let enough light in to really show off this view (compare it with
other reviews to see what I mean). If you could control the aperture
or shutter speed, you might be able to do better, but unfortunately,
you can't control either on the S300.
I was very pleased with the photos from the S300. There were a few
cases when photos seemed a bit washed out. Check the gallery
and decide for yourself.
wanted to briefly mention the Panorama Helper feature found on the
S300. When you take a shot (usually from left to right), the camera
takes what was on the right, and moves it over to the left, and
helps you align things for the next shot. It's hard to explain in
words, but easier in practice. Once you've completed your panorama,
you use Canon's excellent PhotoStitch software to merge it into
one image. You'll get the best results if you use a tripod, of course
-- good panoramas are rarely handheld.
PowerShot S300 is the second camera in a row I've tested that can
record movies (with sound) at a resolution of 640 x 480. Unfortunately,
you can only record four seconds at that size, so it's almost useless.
You can do a lot better in 320 x 240 (10 sec) and 160 x 120 (30
sec) modes instead. All three sizes are recorded at a nice 20 frames/sec.
You cannot use the zoom during filming (groan). Below is a very
unexciting sample movie:
to play movie
(AVI format, 320 x 240, 6 seconds, 1.1MB)
always been a big fan of the playback mode on the PowerShot cameras,
and the S300 is no exception. Moving between photos seems to be
instant, and the zoom & scroll feature is the best of any digital
camera (it's smooth and fast). My only complaint is that it's hard
to scroll around in an image without the usual four-way switch (which
they couldn't fit on this model).
the other playback mode stuff is here too - protection, rotation
(which is rarely seen and very useful), slideshows, and DPOF print
playback mode, the S300 shows some basic information about each
photo, but omits any exposure data. I suppose since there's no manual
controls, they figure most people won't care. Thankfully, you can
get to this information with the included software (just "Get
Info" on a picture), or with any EXIF Tag Viewer.
can play back movies on the S300, but there's no speaker, hence
Does it Compare?
latest revision of the Digital ELPH continues to impress. While
it's still essentially a point-and-shoot camera (and an expensive
one at that), the S300 is small on size, big on style, and really
easy to use. And that makes it a winner in my book.
someone say it was small and stylish?
good photo quality
mode with sound, as large as 640 x 480
bundle included with camera
I didn't care for:
for a 2 Megapixel camera
recording times too short
are a few other cameras worth looking at before you buy: First,
there's the original PowerShot
S100 - it's got a 2X zoom and no movie mode, but otherwise it's
the same. There's also the zoom-less Casio
QV-3EX, which can use the IBM Microdrive. Slightly larger cameras
include the PowerShot S10
and the Fuji FinePix 4700,
always, I recommend a trip to your local reseller to try the PowerShot
S300 and its competitors before you buy!
how does the photo quality stand up? Check out the sample photos
in our photo gallery!
a second opinion? How about a third?
sure to read Steve's
Digicams review of the PowerShot S300. Digital
Photography Review took a look at the Digital IXUS 300 (the
European name) as well.
welcomes your comments or questions. Send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.