Review: Canon PowerShot SD100 Digital ELPH
Keller, DCRP Founder/Editor
Originally posted: July 14, 2003
July 14, 2003
PowerShot SD100 Digital ELPH ($499) is an updated version
of Canon's popular S230 model (see
our review). The big change between the two models is in
the memory card department. The SD100 is the first Canon camera
to use Secure Digital cards, as opposed to CompactFlash. This
smaller card allowed Canon to shrink the S230's body even further
-- and that became the SD100.
SD100 is 3.2 Megapixel camera with a 2X optical zoom lens. It's
not the smallest camera anymore, but it's still very portable.
How does it fare in our tests? Find out now!
SD100 is known as the Digital IXUS II in some countries.
in the Box?
PowerShot SD100 has a very good bundle. Inside the box, you'll
3.2 (effective) Mpixel Canon PowerShot SD100 camera
Secure Digital card
rechargeable Li-ion battery
featuring Canon Digital Camera Solutions and ArcSoft Camera
page camera manual + add'l software manual (both printed)
includes a 16MB Secure Digital card with the camera. That's enough
to get started with, but you'll want a bigger one right away.
SD cards come as large as 512MB as of this writing. You can use
MultiMediaCards as well, though they are not supported by Canon.
SD100 uses a smaller, lower capacity battery than its predecessor
(the S230). The NB-3L has 2.9 Wh of power, versus 3.1 Wh on the
old NB-1LH battery.
this battery has less power, it actually lasts longer, thanks
to better power management in the SD100. Canon estimates that
you'll be able to take about 330 shots with 50% LCD usage, or
spend 150 minutes in playback mode. That's up from 295 and 130
mins, respectively, on the S230.
time readers of this site know that I'm not a big fan of proprietary
batteries, but it's unavoidable with these ultra-small cameras.
Battery charger + battery
thing I love about these little PowerShots is the battery charger.
It plugs right into the wall, with no cables to worry about.
The SD100 has a new charger, which fills up the NB-3L in 95 minutes.
SD100 has a built-in lens cover, so there is no lens cap to worry
about. It's a pretty small camera, too!
are just a few accessories available for the SD100. My favorite
is the WP-DC10 waterproof case ($240), which lets you take your
camera up to 130 feet underwater. Other accessories include an
AC adapter and a soft case.
includes version 12 of their excellent Digital Camera Solutions
software, as well as ArcSoft's very capable Camera Suite, with
the SD100. The main programs in the DCS software package are
ImageBrowser/ZoomBrowser (Mac/PC names), PhotoStitch (a great
panorama creation product), and RemoteCapture (which lets your
Mac or PC control the camera over the USB connection). Canon's
software continues to be head and shoulders over the competition.
Best of all (for us Mac users, at least), all the software is
Mac OS X native.
has always had nice camera manuals, and the SD100's is newly
redesigned and even better. Kudos to Canon for throwing something
together that makes sense, as opposed to most of the "VCR
manuals" from other manufacturers.
you've seen the PowerShot S230, you've seen the SD100. They look
very much alike. That means that the SD100 has an all-metal body,
which gives it a very solid feel. Do note that these metal cameras
scratch easily, and also show fingerprints (like stainless steel
SD100 is very easy to use with one hand or two, and it fits inside
any pocket. The official dimensions of the camera are 3.3 x 2.2
x 0.9 inches (W x H x D, without protrusions), and it weights
just 165 grams. Compare that with 3.4 x 2.2 x 1.1 inches and
180 grams on the PowerShot S230.
begin our 360 degree tour of the SD100 now!
SD100 uses familiar 2X optical zoom lens that has been seen on
other Digital ELPHs. The focal range of this F2.8 lens is 5.4
- 10.8 mm, which is equivalent to 35 - 70 mm. This small zoom
range is one of the SD100's disadvantages as well -- 2X isn't
surprisingly, the lens isn't threaded, so don't expect any lens
attachments. A 3.2X digital zoom can be used for additional zoom
power, but using it will lower the quality of your photos.
little hole to the upper-right of the lens is the microphone.
above that is the built-in flash. The working range of the flash
is 0.47 - 3.0 m at wide-angle, and 0.47 - 2.0 m at telephoto.
That's about the same as on the S230.
item to the left of the flash is an autofocus-assist lamp. This
bright orange light is used to light up a subject, to assist
the camera's AF system in focusing when lighting is dim.
SD100 has a bright and fluid 1.5" LCD display. The resolution
(118k pixels) is a little lower than on the S230's LCD, but you
probably won't notice -- it's still high resolution. LCD brightness
is adjustable via the setup menu.
above the LCD is a large (for a compact camera) optical viewfinder.
It does lack diopter correction, so if your vision isn't perfect,
you may not be able to see clearly.
The function menu
are four buttons below the LCD, including one which does a whole
lot of things. From left to right:
- the "ok" button for the menus
- turns LCD on and off, plus info shown on it
compensation (+2EV to -2EV in 1/3EV increments)
balance (Auto, daylight, cloudy, tungsten, fluorescent,
fluorescent H, custom)
(Auto, 50, 100, 200, 400)
effect (Off, vivid, neutral, low sharpening, sepia, black & white)
(Superfine, fine, normal)
size (Large, medium 1, medium 2, small) - more on both
of these later
function button is also used to delete a photo while in playback
SD100 has some nice manual features, as you can see. This includes
manual white balance, and a photo effect feature which lets you
change the color between regular, vivid,and neutral. You can
use photo effects in movie mode, as well.
the right of those buttons is the four-way controller, which
is used for menu navigation and more. This includes:
- Metering (Evaluative, center-weighted, spot)
- Flash (Auto, auto w/redeye reduction, flash on, flash off,
- Drive (Single-shot, continuous shooting, self-timer) - continuous
shooting is at 2.2 frames/second
- Focus (Macro, infinity)
the four-way controller is the speaker.
the top-left you'll find the mode switch. This moves the SD100
between playback, auto record, manual record, and movie modes.
The manual record doesn't give you full aperture and shutter
speed control. Rather, it unlocks all the menus which are not
available in auto record mode.
isn't a whole lot on the top of the camera. The on/off switch
is nice, because you have to hold it down for a second before
the camera turns on. I like this since it's easy to accidentally
turn on some cameras I've looked at.
to the right of that is the shutter release button, with the
zoom control wrapped around it. The controller moves the lens
from wide-angle to telephoto in a little over a second.
this side of the camera, you'll find the SD100's I/O ports. These
includes digital (USB) and A/V out. They are protected by a rubber
SD100 does not support USB 2.0.
to see here!
here's the bottom of the SD100. Here's where you'll find the
metal tripod mount, battery compartment, and SD memory card slot.
The tripod mount is located all the way at one end of the camera.
The plastic door that covers the battery and SD slots feels very
included battery and 16MB SD card are also shown.
the Canon PowerShot SD100
SD100 starts up very quickly -- it takes just under 2.5 seconds
to extend the lens and prepare for shooting.
lag is about average, with the camera taking under a second to
lock focus in most cases, and slightly longer if the camera has
to "hunt", or use the AF illuminator. Speaking of which,
the camera did a good job focusing in dim light.
terms of shutter lag, the SD100 does a great job -- there's very
little at all.
speed is excellent as well: about 1.5 seconds pass before you
can take another shot, assuming you turned off the post-shot
review feature. If you have the review feature turned on, half-pressing
the shutter release will ready the camera for another shot.
a shot is taken, you can press the function button to quickly
delete the photo.
a look at the image size and quality choices available on the
shots on 16MB card
(included with camera)
2048 x 1536
1600 x 1200
1024 x 768
640 x 480
you can see, you may want a larger memory card.
no TIFF or RAW mode available on this camera. The camera names
files as IMG_####.JPG, where # = 0001 - 9900. The camera maintains
the numbering even if you erase or format the card.
SD100 has the same, easy to use menus as the S230. Items in bold are
only available in manual mode. Here's a look:
(on/off) - turns multi-point autofocus on and off
(2, 10 sec)
(Off, 2-10 sec) - for showing image on LCD after it is taken
shutter (on/off) - see below
Assist - camera assists you with panoramic photos
long shutter feature lets you use long exposure times, a must
for low-light shooting. Just don't forget your tripod. The shutter
speed range is 1 - 15 sec, with many points in between. You set
the shutter speed in the function menu, in the spot where exposure
compensation normally is. You cannot, unfortunately, manually
set the shutter speed to something fast, like when you want to
freeze action scenes.
SD100 also has a setup menu, with the following options:
brightness (-7 to +7, increments of 1)
power down (on/off)
volume - set the volume for the various sound effects the SD100
number reset (on/off) - maintain file numbering
rotate (on/off) - camera will automatically rotate portrait
photos on the LCD
(English, Deutsch, Français, Nederlands, Dansk, Suomi,
Italiano, Norsk, Svenska, Español, Chinese, Japanese)
system (NTSC, PAL)
is also a "My Camera" menu, which allows you to customize
the startup screen and various noises that the camera makes.
You can also turn them all off, thankfully.
enough about menus, let's do photo tests now.
SD100 produces a macro shot with accurate color and smooth detail,
though the subject is softer than I'd like. The camera has a
focal range of 10 - 47 cm at wide-angle, and 23 - 47 cm at telephoto,
which isn't very close. The recordable area is 100 x 75 mm at
wide-angle and 115 x 86 mm at telephoto.
SD100 did a very nice job with the night test shot. This 5 second
exposure has low noise and good detail, though it's a little
on the soft side. The only way to get a shot like this is to
use the long shutter speed mode.
smokes -- no redeye! Well there's a little flash reflection,
but I don't see any red. This is a marked improvement over the
S230, and I'm very pleased to see this. The SD100 uses the AF
illuminator to get the subject's pupils to contract, and it appears
to do a great job.
distortion test shows mild barrel distortion and a little bit
of vignetting (darkened corners). I didn't notice any vignetting
in any of my sample photos, though.
most cases, the SD100 produces high quality images with good
exposure and color. Images were on the soft side, especially
at the edges and corners, and there's no way to turn up the in-camera
problem that seemed worse than normal was purple fringing. I
noticed it in regular shots, as well as in my two "torture
tests", where it was pretty bad. There's not a whole lot
you can do about it either, as you cannot close down the aperture
on the camera, which usually reduces it.
just take my word about all this, though -- have a look at the photo
gallery and let your own eyes be the judge!
SD100 has a pretty nice movie mode, though it's not the best
SD100 can record at three resolutions: 640 x 480 (VGA), 320 x
240, and 160 x 120. You can record for up to 30 seconds per clip
at 640 x 480, or 3 minutes at the lower resolutions. I should
add that the included 16MB SD card can't actually hold that much
is recorded with the movies. That also means that you cannot
use the optical zoom during filming. Movies are saved in AVI
format, using the M-JPEG codec.
got a hefty 640 x 480 sample for you. I don't know why it sounds
windy, because it wasn't that day.
to play movie (8MB, 640 x 480, AVI format)
Can't view it? Download QuickTime.
SD100 has the same, excellent playback mode as seen on other
Canon cameras. The thing that sticks out the most about the playback
mode is the speed: everything is very responsive.
SD100 has all the basic playback features that you'd expect.
That includes slide shows, DPOF print marking, image protection,
thumbnail mode, and zoom and scroll.
zoom and scroll feature (my term) lets you blow up the picture
up to 10X, and then scroll around in the zoomed-in area. It's
very well implemented.
Sound Memo feature lets you add a 60 second sound clip to an
nice feature is the ability to rotate photos. You can also mark
photos for transfer to your e-mail program, assuming that you
use Canon's software.
you've got a movie, you can trim frames from the beginning or
end very easily.
SD100 provides a decent amount of info about your photos, including
a histogram. It moves through images fairly quickly as well --
about one second elapses between high res photos.
Does it Compare?
still a very nice camera, the Canon PowerShot SD100 isn't as
much of a standout as earlier models. It's not because Canon
has slipped, either -- the competition has just gotten better.
The SD100's two trademark features are its size/design, and performance.
The camera is small, all-metal, and easy to carry. The performance
is excellent, from startup to shutter lag to shot-to-shot speed.
The SD100 is a point-and-shoot camera with a few manual controls,
but don't expect to be manually setting the aperture or the focus.
Image quality was very good in most situations, though I was
displeased with the amount of purple fringing. The camera is
easy-to-use, and the movie and playback modes are excellent.
I'd definitely put the SD100 on my shopping list for a small
3.2MP camera, though I'd check out the competition carefully.
If you like the Digital ELPH and can afford another $100, I'd
highly recommend going for the PowerShot
S400 instead, with its improved zoom range and image quality.
good photo quality in most situations
elegant metal body
movie, playback modes
an AF illuminator lamp
average battery life for a small camera
I didn't care for:
much purple fringing
plastic door over battery/memory card compartment
like more shutter speed + aperture controls
scratches and show fingerprints easily
it had a 3X zoom lens
other compact 3 Megapixel cameras to check out include the Canon
PowerShot A70, Casio Exilim
EX-Z3 and QV-R3, HP
Photosmart 735, Kyocera Finecam L3v and S3x, Minolta
DiMAGE Xt, Nikon Coolpix 3100, 3500,
and SQ, Olympus
Stylus 300, Panasonic Lumix DMC-F1 and DMC-LC33,
33L and Optio
Digimax V3, Sony Cyber-shot DSC-P52, DSC-P72,
and the Toshiba
PDR-3310. A long list, I know, but there's lots of other
stuff worth looking at in this price range!
always, I recommend a trip down to your local reseller to try
out the PowerShot SD100 and it's competitors before you buy!
how the photo quality stacks up in our photo
another viewpoint on the SD100 at Digital
welcomes your comments or questions. Send them to firstname.lastname@example.org. Due
to my limited resources, please do not send me requests for
personal camera recommendations.