Canon PowerShot S100 Review

by Jeff Keller, DCRP Founder/Editor

Originally Posted: December 1, 2011

Last Updated: March 23, 2012

The Canon PowerShot S100 ($429) is a premium compact camera with a fast lens and "high sensitivity" CMOS sensor. It's the replacement to the PowerShot S95, a camera I liked enough to buy for myself. So what's new with the S100? This table should help with that:

  PowerShot S95 PowerShot S100
Sensor size / type 1/1.7" CCD 1/1.7" CMOS
Sensor resolution (effective) 10.0 MP 12.1 MP
Processor DIGIC 4 DIGIC 5
Lens max aperture range F2.0 - F4.9 F2.0 - F5.9
Lens focal range (35mm equiv.) 28 - 105 mm (3.8X) 24 - 120 mm (5X)
Intelligent IS No Yes
Built-in GPS No Yes
Burst rate (full res) 1.9 frames/sec 9.6 frames/sec *
ISO range (full res) 80 - 3200 80 - 6400
Shutter speed range 15 - 1/1600 sec 15 - 1/2000 sec
Flash working range (Auto ISO) 0.5 - 6.5 m (W)
0.9 - 3.0 m (T)
0.5 - 7.0 m (W)
0.5 - 2.3 m (T)
Creative Filters No Yes
Max movie resolution (frame rate) 1280 x 720 (24 fps) 1920 x 1080 (24 fps)
High speed movies No Yes
Movie Digest mode No Yes
Dedicated movie rec button No Yes
Memory card support SD/SDHC SD/SDHC/SDXC
Battery used NB-6L NB-5L
Battery life (CIPA) 200 shots 200 shots
Dimensions 3.9 x 2.3 x 1.2 3.9 x 2.3 x 1.1
Weight (body only, empty) 170 g 173 g
* For up to eight shots; unlimited shooting is at 2 fps

As you can see, the PowerShot S100 got a bump in resolution, zoom power, and continuous shooting performance -- plus it now has a GPS receiver. The S100 retains the compact metal body and customizable lens ring of its predecessor, plus full manual controls (with RAW support), an HDR mode, and larger-than-average sensor.

The PowerShot S95 was one of my favorite cameras from last year. Will the same be true for the S100? Find out now in our review!

What's in the Box?

The PowerShot S100's bundle is typical of what you'll find from Canon. Inside the box, you'll find the following:

  • The 12.1 effective Megapixel PowerShot S100 digital camera
  • NB-5L lithium-ion rechargeable battery
  • Battery charger
  • Wrist strap
  • USB cable
  • CD-ROM featuring Canon Digital Camera Solution and camera/software manuals
  • 34 page Quick Start Guide (printed) + full manual on CD-ROM

Unlike nearly all camera manufacturers, Canon does not build internal memory into their cameras. Therefore, you'll need to buy a memory card right away, unless you have one sitting around already. The PowerShot S100 supports SD, SDHC, and SDXC cards, and I'd recommend picking up a 4GB card for use with the camera (and perhaps larger, if you'll be taking a lot of movies). A high speed card (Class 6 or above) is recommended for best camera performance.

Canon switched batteries on the S100, now using the NB-5L instead of the NB-6L. That's a good thing, since the NB-5L is more powerful. The battery packs 4.1 Wh of energy into its plastic shell, which is about average for a compact camera. Here's a look at how the S100 compares against the competition in terms of battery life:

Camera Battery life
(CIPA standard)
Battery used
Canon PowerShot S100 */** 200 shots NB-5L
Fuji FinePix X10 * 270 shots NP-50
Nikon Coolpix P300 * 240 shots EN-EL12
Olympus XZ-1 320 shots LI-50B
Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX5 400 shots DMW-BCJ13
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-WX10 * 360 shots NP-BG1

* Full HD video recording
** Built-in GPS

Battery life numbers are provided by the manufacturer

As you can see, the PowerShot S100's battery life is the worst in the group. And that's with the GPS off, too. If you're using the GPS, especially the logging function, expect to get at least a third less than what's listed above. I'd definitely recommend picking up a spare battery, which will set you back about $44 (generics are less).

When it runs out of juice, just pop the NB-5L into the included charger. This charger plugs directly into the wall (at least in the U.S.) and takes just over two hours to fully charge the battery.

There are a couple of accessories available for the PowerShot S100, which include:

Accessory Model # Price Description
External flash HF-DC2 $149 Attaches via the hot shoe and fires when the onboard flash does. Boosts overall flash range and may reduce redeye. The old HF-DC1 works, as well.
Underwater case WP-DC43 From $249 Take the S100 up to 130 feet under the sea.
Stereo A/V cable AVC-DC400ST $25 Connect the camera to a TV using these composite video cables. Should've been bundled with the camera!
AC adapter ACK-DC30 $50 Power the camera without draining your battery.
Prices were accurate at time of publication

Pretty standard set of accessories for a compact camera!

Canon has one of the nicest software bundles out there. You'll first encounter CameraWindow, which will download photos from the camera onto your Mac or PC. The main photo organizing suite is called ZoomBrowser in Windows and ImageBrowser on Macs. The software lets you e-mail or print photos, upload videos to YouTube, and do some editing, as well. Available photo editing features include trimming, redeye removal, level/tone curve adjustment, and color tuning. While the Browser software can view RAW files, it cannot edit them -- see below for another option. Movie editing tools in Image/ZoomBrowser include trimming and frame grabs.

For editing RAW images you'll need to use Digital Photography Professional, which is a very capable product. Here you can adjust exposure, highlight and shadow detail, the tone curve, noise reduction, and white balance. There are also tools for reducing lens distortion, vignetting, and purple fringing. If you'd rather use Adobe Photoshop instead, just make sure that you have version 6.6 or newer of their Camera Raw plug-in.

Two other products you'll find in the box with the PowerShot S100 are PhotoStitch and Map Utility. PhotoStitch can take photos that you've lined up using the Stitch Assist feature on the camera, and combine them into a single panoramic image. Map Utility will show you where photos with embedded location information appear on a Google Map.

Canon certainly is keeping up with the current trends regarding documentation, by providing as little printed material as possible. Inside the box is a leaflet that'll teach you basic camera operation. If you want more details, you'll have to load up the full manual, which is in PDF format on an included CD-ROM. The quality of the manuals is average: they explain everything well enough, but they could be a lot more user-friendly. Instructions for the bundled software are found on the same disc.