Canon PowerShot ELPH 100 HS Review

Using the Canon PowerShot ELPH 100 HS

Record Mode

It takes the PowerShot ELPH 100 HS around one second to extend its lens and prepare for shooting. That's pretty darn quick.

There's no live histogram to be found on the ELPH 100 HS

Autofocus performance on the ELPH 100 is about average. It's accurate, but not very quick. Expect wide-angle focus times of 0.3 - 0.5 seconds, with telephoto delays of 0.5 - 1.0 seconds. While the AF system locks focus reliably in low light, expect focus times hovering around the one second mark.

I did not find shutter lag to be an issue here, even at the slower shutter speeds where it sometimes occurs.

Shot-to-shot speeds range from two seconds without using the flash, to around three seconds with it.

Since Canon removed the dedicated delete photo button, you can no longer do that after taking a photo -- you need to enter playback mode first.

Now, here's a look at the image size and quality choices available on the camera. To keep things simple, I'm only listing the sizes for the default 4:3 aspect ratio.

Resolution Quality Approx. file size # images on 2GB card (optional)
4000 x 3000
Fine 3.0 MB 616
Normal 1.4 MB 1257
Medium 1
2816 x 2112
Fine 1.6 MB 1160
Normal 780 KB 2321
Medium 2
1600 x 1200
Fine 558 KB 3176
Normal 278 KB 6035
640 x 480
Fine 150 KB 10058
Normal 84 KB 15087

As you can see, you can stuff a ton of photos on 2GB memory card.

The PowerShot ELPH 100 HS does not support the RAW format, nor would I expect it to.

When "Hints & Tips" is turned on in the setup menu, the ELPH 100 HS will show a brief description of the highlighted menu option

The menu system on the PowerShot ELPH 100 HS looks exactly like that of its predecessor. It's attractive, easy to navigate, and features "hints & tips" that describe each option. When you're taking pictures, the menu is divided into two tabs, one for shooting, the other for setup. Keeping in mind that not all of these are available in each shooting mode, here's the full list:

Shooting Menu

  • AF frame (Face AiAF, tracking AF, center) - see below
  • AF frame size (Normal, small) - see below
  • Digital zoom (Standard, off, 1.5X, 2.0X) - see below
  • AF-point zoom (on/off) - enlarges the focus point or the detected faces when you halfway press the shutter release
  • Servo AF (on/off) - camera focuses even with shutter release halfway-pressed, useful for tracking a moving subject
  • AF-assist beam (on/off)
  • Flash settings
    • Redeye correction (on/off) - digital redeye removal, as the photo is taken
    • Redeye reduction lamp (on/off) - uses the AF-assist lamp to shrink your subject's pupils to reduce the risk of redeye
  • i-Contrast (Off, auto) - see below
  • Review (Off, 2-10 seconds, hold) - post-shot review
  • Review info (Off, detailed, focus check) - detailed shows you shooting data and a histogram; focus check enlarges the focus point or faces
  • Blink detection (on/off) - puts up a warning screen if someone in your photo had their eyes closed
  • Grid lines (on/off)
  • IS mode (Continuous, shoot only, panning, off) - see below
  • Date stamp (Off, date, date & time)

Setup Menu

  • Mute (on/off) - quickly turn off the camera's beeps and blips
  • Volume
    • Startup volume (Off, 1-5)
    • Operation volume (Off, 1-5)
    • Self-timer volume (Off, 1-5)
    • Shutter volume (Off, 1-5)
  • Sound options
    • Startup sound (1, 2)
    • Operation sound (1, 2)
    • Self-timer sound (1, 2)
    • Shutter sound (1, 2)
  • Hints & Tips (on/off) - gives you a description the selected menu item, as shown above
  • LCD brightness (1-5)
  • Startup image (Off, 1, 2)
  • Card format
  • File numbering (Continuous, auto reset)
  • Create folder (Monthly, daily)
  • Lens retract (0 sec, 1 min) - how quickly the lens retracts when you enter playback mode
  • Power saving
    • Auto power down (on/off)
    • Display off (10, 20, 30 sec, 1-3 min)
  • Time zone (Home, world)
  • Date/time
  • Video system (NTSC, PAL)
  • Control via HDMI (Enable/disable) - whether you can control the camera from the remote of a compatible HDTV
  • Eye-Fi Settings - only shown when an Eye-Fi card is inserted
    • Eye-Fi Transfer (on/off)
    • Connection info
  • Language
  • Reset all - back to defaults

The ELPH 100 HS' jumpy face detection system located three faces here

There are three AF modes on the PowerShot ELPH 100 HS. Face AiAF combines multi-point autofocus with face detection. If the camera detects any faces, it will give them focus priority, making sure white balance and exposure are accurate. If there aren't any faces, it'll switch to 9-point autofocus. The camera's face detection system can locate up to nine faces in the frame, and you can select one of them to track as they move around the scene (note that you must assign this function to the shortcut button first). Recent Canon cameras haven't fared well with my test scene -- it seems to jump from person-to-person, usually locking onto three or maybe four faces at one time. I have a feeling that it will perform just fine in the real world. There's also a blink detection feature that warns you if one of your subjects had their eyes closed in the photo you just took.

Tracking AF does just as it sounds. Select the subject with the four-way controller and the camera will keep them in focus as they move around the frame. The third and final AF option -- Center AF -- does just as it sounds.

The camera has a number of digital zoom options, all of which can reduce the quality of your photo if you use too much of it. However, if you're willing to lower the resolution a bit, you can safely use the standard digital zoom setting without reducing image quality, as long as you stop at the right time (the zoom position indicator becomes yellow). At the Medium 1 (6MP) setting you can get 4.9X of total zoom, with that number increasing to 10X if you're willing to drop to the Medium 2 (2 Megapixel) resolution.

The i-Contrast features is designed to improve overall image contrast, which isn't surprising, given the name of the feature. This feature is on by default in Smart Auto mode, and you can choose to turn it on in "manual" mode, as well. Below is an example of the i-Contrast feature in action:

i-Contrast Off
View Full Size Image
i-Contrast Auto
View Full Size Image

As you can see, the i-Contrast feature does a nice job of increasing the brightness of the scene. There's a slight increase in noise, but not enough to concern me. One thing it does not do is reduce highlight clipping. By the way, you can also apply i-Contrast in playback mode, to brighten photos that you've already taken.

What are those three IS modes all about? Continuous mode activates the OIS system as soon as you halfway press the shutter release, which helps you compose the photo without camera shake. The "shoot only" option doesn't turn it on until the photo is actually taken, which improves the performance of the OIS system. The panning mode only stabilizes up and down motion, and you'll want to use this while tracking a moving subject horizontally. You can also turn the whole thing off, which is advisable if you're using a tripod. Speaking of which, if you're in Smart Auto mode, the camera is able to detect when the camera is on a tripod, allowing it to select a scene mode that uses a longer shutter speed.

Okay, that does it for menus, let's talk about photo quality now.

The ELPH 100 HS did a nice job with our usual macro test subject. Colors are nice and saturated, though there's a very slight yellowish color cast if you pay close enough attention. The photo is both smooth and sharp at the same time, which sounds like a contradiction, but the bottom line is that the figurine looks pretty good. I don't see any noise and other artifacts here, and I'd be pretty unhappy if there were any.

The minimum focus distance in macro mode on the ELPH 100 is 3 cm at the wide end of the lens. As you move closer to the telephoto end that number increases, but to what I don't know. Once you get past around 3X, the macro functionality is disabled.

The night shot turned out a bit noisy, but is otherwise okay. In order to take in enough light for shots like this you'll need to use a slow shutter speed (or the handheld night shot feature, but it won't look as good). You can let the camera handle it (via Smart Auto), or you can use the Long Shutter speed mode, where you can select a shutter speed between 1 and 15 seconds. I did the latter, and noticed the ISO is fixed to "Auto". Thankfully the camera used ISO 100, but you still see a moderate amount of noise in the photo. Still, details are well maintained, highlight clipping is kept to a relative minimum, and purple fringing wasn't an issue.

Since I can't control the ISO and shutter speed at the same time, I am unable to provide a low light ISO test. Don't worry -- our usual studio ISO test is just a few paragraphs below.

Night test shot added 8/10/11

There's mild-to-moderate barrel distortion at the wide end of the ELPH 100's 28 - 112 mm lens. You can see what this distortion means in the real world by checking out the building on the right side of this photo. The camera does not have a problem with corner blurriness (always a nice surprise), and vignetting (dark corners) should not be an issue, either.

The ELPH 100 HS uses both the AF-assist lamp to shrink your subject's pupils, plus a digital removal system to try to get rid of this annoyance. As you can see, the combination of the two worked perfectly, which is great news, as compact cameras are almost always redeye disasters. Should any redeye get past these two systems, there is a tool in playback mode that you can try using, as well.

Above you can see our studio test scene, which can be used to compare the ELPH 100's image quality against other cameras I've reviewed over the years. The crops below only cover a small area of the total test scene, so be sure to view the full size images as well! And with that, let's see how the ELPH's photo quality looks across its ISO range.

ISO 100

ISO 200

ISO 400

ISO 800

ISO 1600

ISO 3200

The first two crops, at ISO 100 and 200, look pretty clean to me. Noise starts to pick up at ISO 400, but it's still usable for midsize and large prints. Noise becomes more visible at ISO 800, as does detail loss. Thus, I'd make this your stopping point, and save it for small prints only. The ISO 1600 and 320 images are quite soft and noisy, and are best left untouched.

So is the "high sensitivity" ELPH 100 actually better than its predecessors in low light? I'm thinking yes, and I'm submitting our church interior photo (ELPH 100 HS, SD1300) as evidence. In good light, I found that noise levels were about the same on both cameras.

Overall, the PowerShot ELPH 100 HS produces very good photos for a compact camera. Like other CMOS-based compacts, things are a bit noisy, even at the base ISO of 100. That said, the ELPH's problem is more grain-style noise than excessive detail smudging, and the ELPH's target audience isn't one to be "pixel peeping" in the first place, so I'm not overly concerned. Exposure was generally spot-on, though the camera will clip highlights at times (here's a particularly bad example). Colors look good -- no complaints there -- and images are generally nice and sharp. As the previous test illustrated, noise levels are reasonable through ISO 400, with ISO 800 still being usable. While it doesn't show up often, purple fringing can be strong at times.

Now, I invite you to have a look at our ELPH 100 HS photo gallery. View the full size images, maybe print a few of the photos if you can, and then decide if the ELPH 100 HS' photo quality meets your expectations!

Movie Mode

One of the biggest changes to the PowerShot ELPH 100 HS is in the movie mode department. The camera can now record at Full HD (1920 x 1080), courtesy of its CMOS sensor. The only real downsides are the frame rate (24 fps, which can be choppy when recording fast action) and the monaural sound recording. The camera will stop recording after about ten minutes at this resolution.

Three lower resolutions are also available: 1280 x 720, 640 x 480, and 320 x 240 -- all at 30 fps. Recording time limits are 10 minutes, 46 minutes, and 1 hour, respectively.

You cannot use the optical zoom while you're recording a video on the ELPH 100 HS. The digital zoom is available, though it may degrade the quality of the video. You can use the image stabilizer without issue. There aren't any manual controls in movie mode -- not even a wind filter.

You can use most of the special effects in movie mode, including Color Swap, Color Accent, and poster effect. You can also create miniature effect movies, which are recorded at the VGA resolution without sound. You can choose the speed at which these movies are played back, ranging from 5X to 20X. The ELPH 100 HS also has a super slow motion mode, which records at 120 or 240 fps (without sound), at resolution of 640 x 480 and 320 x 240, respectively. When these movies are played back at normal speed, everything appears to be moving in slow motion -- a cool effect.

Movies are saved in QuickTime format, using the H.264 codec.

Here's a sample movie for you, taken at the 1080/24p setting. As you can see, it's a bit choppy, due to the 24 fps frame rate used. I'm including the original movie (nearly 74MB in size), as well as a smaller 720p version that's an easier download.

Click to play original movie (73.9 MB, 1920 x 1080, 24 fps, QuickTime/H.264 format)
Click to play downsized movie (15.9 MB, 1280 x 720, 24 fps, QuickTime/H.264 format)

Playback Mode

The PowerShot ELPH 100 HS has a fairly nice playback mode. Basic features include slideshows (complete with transitions), image protection, favorite-tagging, DPOF print marking, thumbnail view, and playback zoom. When zoomed into a photo you can switch photos while maintaining your current position by pressing the Func/Set button. There's also a Focus Check feature that will enlarge the focus point or the faces that were detected in the photo.

Filtering photos by date

There are several ways to move through photos on the camera. Naturally, you can just press left or right on the four-way controller. Another option is to use the filtered playback feature, which lets you show photos by date, category, file type, whether they're a favorite. There's also a Smart Shuffle feature (hidden in the Function menu), which shows four photos related to the one currently selected. Photos taken in the high-speed burst mode are grouped into a "stack", which helps keep things a bit less cluttered.

Photos can be rotated, resized, and cropped right on the camera. You can apply most of the My Colors feature to your photos, as well. If there's any redeye in your photos, you'll find a tool to remove it here. You can also use the i-Contrast feature to brighten up the dark areas of your photos, with a choice of Auto, Low, Medium, or High settings. The ELPH 100 HS has the ability to assign a category to a photo, and in many cases, it's done automatically, based on the scene mode that was used.

The only video editing feature is a useful one -- a trimming tool to remove unwanted footage from the beginning or end of a clip.

By default, you won't get much information about your photo while in playback mode. But press the Display button (down on the four-way controller) and you'll get a lot more, including a histogram.

The PowerShot ELPH 100 HS moves from one photo to another without delay.