Canon PowerShot ELPH 100 HS Review

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.

Photo Gallery

See how the photos turned out in our gallery!

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If you have a question about this review, please send them to Jeff. Due to my limited resources, please do not e-mail me asking for a personal recommendation.