Canon PowerShot ELPH 100 HS Review

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:

Camera Dimensions (W x H x D, excluding protrusions) Volume (bulk) Mass (empty)
Canon PowerShot ELPH 100 HS 3.7 x 2.2 x 0.8 in. 6.5 cu in. 121 g
Fujifilm FinePix JX300 3.7 x 2.2 x 0.9 in. 7.3 cu in. 113 g
Kodak EasyShare M532 3.7 x 2.2 x 0.9 in. 7.3 cu in. 130 g
Nikon Coolpix S5100 3.9 x 2.3 x 0.9 in. 8.1 cu in. 115 g
Olympus VG-120 3.8 x 2.2 x 0.8 in. 6.7 cu in. 120 g
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FH5 3.7 x 2.1 x 0.7 in. 5.4 cu in. 104 g
Pentax Optio S1 3.6 x 2.1 x 0.8 in. 6 cu in. 110 g
Samsung ST65 3.6 x 2.2 x 0.9 in. 7.1 cu in. 110 g
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-WX9 3.8 x 2.2 x 0.8 in. 6.7 cu in. 123 g

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?

Front of the Canon PowerShot ELPH 100 HS

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.

Function menu

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.

Top of the Canon PowerShot ELPH 100 HS

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.

Side of the Canon PowerShot ELPH 100 HS

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.

Side of the Canon PowerShot ELPH 100 HS

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.

Bottom of the Canon PowerShot ELPH 100 HS

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.