DCRP Review: Canon PowerShot S110 Digital ELPH
by Jeff Keller, DCRP Founder/Editor
Originally posted: Saturday, June 23, 2001
Last Updated: Wednesday, January 23, 2002

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Canon's Digital ELPH cameras (would you call them ELVES in plural?) are very popular as you might guess. Their tiny size makes them great for vacations, and they have an attractive feature set to boot. The new PowerShot S110 ($599 list) is a slightly upgraded version of the S100 (see last year's review), adding movie mode, better color reproduction, faster shutter speeds, and a few other new features. There's also the PowerShot S300 ($699 list, see our review), which has a 3X optical zoom lens, instead of the S110's 2X. Read on to find out more about this small and sexy camera.

The PowerShot S110 is known as the Digital IXUS V in some regions.

What's in the Box?

The PowerShot S110 has an excellent bundle. Inside the box, you'll find:

  • The 2.1 Mpixel PowerShot S110 camera
  • 8MB CompactFlash card
  • NB-1L Li-ion battery and charger
  • Wrist strap
  • USB cable
  • A/V cable
  • CD-ROM featuring Canon Digital Solutions, ArcSoft Camera Suite, and drivers
  • 106 page manual

Everything you need is right in the box, with perhaps the exception of an AC adapter (that's optional).

The NB-1L battery has a small, portable charger that plugs right into the wall socket. The battery is only 680 mAh, and Canon says it will last around 85 minutes. Of course, this all depends on how much you use the LCD.

The camera supports direct connection to Canon's CP-10 card photo printer (see our review), but doesn't support serial connections to your computer.

Both Canon's software and manuals have always been better than what's included with most other digital cameras. That's still the case with the PowerShot S110.

This is similar to the all weather case for the S110

One of the coolest accessories for the S110 is the AW-PS200 all weather case. For about $180, you can take your S110 down as deep as 10 ft (3 m). You can use all of the important controls through this case. [Updated 6/25/01 with correct depth information]

Look and Feel

By now, you're probably familiar with the look of the Digital ELPH. There's only one physical difference between the S100 and S110 and I'll get to that in a few paragraphs.

The S110 is very, very small - it's the size of a pack of cigarettes, or a bit thicker than a deck of cards. The body is made entirely of metal and it looks really slick. It's also easy to scratch so take care of it. The physical dimensions of the S110 are 3.4 x 2.4 1.1 (W x H x D) and it weighs just 190 grams empty.

The S110 is a one-handed camera if there ever was one. It fits in any pocket and is great for "on the go" shooting. Let's start our usual tour now.

Here's the front of the PowerShot S110. The F2.8 lens has a 2X optical zoom, with a range of 5.4 - 10.8 mm (equivalent to 35 - 70 mm). The lens has a handy built-in cover, so no lens cap is needed.

Directly above the lens is the AF illuminator, used for focusing in low light situations. To the left of that is the optical viewfinder, while the flash is to the right. The flash has an effective range of 1.9 - 9.8 ft. in wide-angle, and 1.9 - 6.6 ft. in telephoto.

Just below the flash is the only physical change between the S100 and S110: a microphone.

The back of the S110 is where most of the action is.

The 1.5" LCD is a bit smaller than most, but the quality is just as good as the larger ones. It also seems to do a good job at preventing nose/finger smudges.

Just above the LCD is the optical viewfinder. It's on the small side, but so is the camera. There is no diopter correction for those of us with glasses.

Below the LCD you'll find five buttons, some with multiple functions:

  • Set [menu] / Flash [rec]
  • Left [menu] / Drive [rec]
  • Right [menu] / Focus [rec]
  • Menu
  • Display

Hitting the drive button can put the S110 into continuous shooting mode. Here, you can take shots at 2.5 frames/sec until the memory card fills up.

Pressing the menu button once gets you to the mode selection menu (this camera has no mode wheel), where you can choose between Auto Record, Manual Record, Panorama Mode (called Stitch Assist), and Movie Mode. I'll have more details on these a bit later in the review.

You can see the release to the door covering the CompactFlash slot towards the right. Just above that is a switch that moves between Record and Playback mode.

On top of the camera there are just a few buttons. There's no mode wheel, nor is there an LCD info display (not surprising -- there's just no room for them). You will find an on/off button and the shutter release button, which has the zoom control around it. The zoom control can also be used to zoom into your photos in playback mode.

On one side of the S110, under a rubber cover, you'll find the "Digital" port. This port does triple duty: video out, USB out, and Direct Print (to the CP-10) out.

Here's the other side of the S110, with the CompactFlash slot open. This is a Type I slot, so no Microdrive supported. The slot is spring-loaded and really send that card flying when you eject it. You can also see the 8MB card which is included with the camera.

Finally, the bottom of the camera. Down here is the battery compartment and a metal tripod mount. You can see the NB-1L Li-ion battery to the right.

Using the Canon PowerShot S110

Record Mode

The S110 is quick at almost everything. It starts up and is ready to go in just under three seconds. The LCD is on by default. There's a bit of focus and shutter lag, but nothing major. The zoom is a fast, but a bit on the unresponsive side. Shot-to-shot speed is about 3 seconds, which is competitive with most other two megapixel cameras.

One thing to note about taking pictures on the S110: in order to see the shot you just took, you'll want to hold down the shutter release button to keep that image on the LCD!

The menu system on the PowerShot S110 is very simple and fairly easy-to-use. There aren't too many choices either, which is perfect for the "point and shoot" lover. Here's what you'll find:

  • Exposure compensation (-2.0EV to +2.0EV in 1/3EV increments)
  • White Balance (Auto, Sunlight, Cloudy, Tungsten, Fluorescent, Black & White)
  • Resolution (L/M/S) - more below
  • Compression (Superfine, Fine, Normal) - more below
  • Review (Off, 2 sec, 10 sec) - how long the photo is shown on the LCD after it's taken -- you must keep the shutter release held down though
  • File Number Reset (On/off)
  • Beep (On/off)
  • Card Format
  • Setup (basic stuff like date, language)

In addition to the main menu, you can also change some addition options by using the buttons below the LCD. Continuous shooting mode will capture images at around 2.5 frames/second. There's also a self-timer (10 sacs), and macro/infinity modes as well.

Record Mode

These items are only available in manual mode. That's the extent of the manual controls on the PowerShot S110, which is fine for the point and shoot crowd.

As, promised here's some more information about the resolution and compression choices, so here they are:

Quality Compression Approx. File Size # photos on included 8MB card
1600 x 1200
Superfine 957 KB 7
Fine 611 KB 11
Normal 302 KB 24
1024 x 768
Superfine 450 KB 16
Fine 294 KB 24
Normal 155 KB 46
640 x 480
Superfine 208 KB 35
Fine 141 KB 50
Normal 79 KB 87

Let's take a look at some test photos, shall we?

The PowerShot S110 did a very good job with our macro test shot, nailing both color and detail. The shot is taken under some pretty bizarre lights, and it's always nice when it comes out with the correct coloration. You can get as close as 3.9" at full wide-angle, and 10.6" at full telephoto in macro mode.

I've got two nightshots for you this time, and both exhibit the result found on most point-and-shoot cameras: they're too dark. And since you can't set the shutter speed or aperture manually, there's not much you can do about it. On the bright side (no pun intended), there aren't any "hot pixels" noticeable, which usually look like colored dots in the dark sky.

Overall, I was pleased with the photo quality of the PowerShot S110. Take a look at the photo gallery and judge for yourself.

Panorama Helper

I wanted to briefly mention the Panorama Helper feature found on the PowerShot S110. When you take a shot (usually from left to right), the camera takes what was on the right, and moves it over to the left, and helps you align things for the next shot. It's hard to explain in words, but easier in practice. Once you've completed your panorama, you use Canon's excellent PhotoStitch software to merge it into one image. You'll get the best results if you use a tripod, of course -- good panoramas are rarely handheld.

Movie Mode

The PowerShot S110 can record movies (with sound) at a resolution of 640 x 480. Unfortunately, you can only record four seconds at that size, so it's almost useless. You can't use the zoom during recording, either. The chart below describes the movie mode options:

Movie Size Max Clip Length # of seconds 8MB CF Card can hold
640 x 480 4 sec 6 sec
320 x 240 10 sec 18 sec
160 x 112 30 sec 48 sec

Keeping with tradition lately, here's an unexciting sample movie:

Click to view movie (AVI format, 320 x 240, 7 sec, 2.4MB)

Playback Mode

The PowerShot S110 continues Canon's leadership in playback mode. Moving between photos seems to be instantaneous, and the zoom & scroll feature is the best of any digital camera (it's smooth and fast). My only complaint is that it's hard to scroll around in an image without the usual four-way switch (which they couldn't fit on this model).

All the other playback mode stuff is here too - protection, rotation, slideshows, and DPOF print marking. You can also print directly to Canon's CP-10 printer, as I've already mentioned.

In playback mode, the S110 shows some basic information about each photo, but omits any exposure data. I suppose since there's no manual controls, they figure most people won't care. You can get to this information with the included software (just "Get Info" on a picture), or with any EXIF Tag Viewer.

You can play back movies on the S110, but since there is no speaker, there is no sound.

How Does it Compare?

The PowerShot S110 Digital ELPH isn't going to make current S100 owners run out and upgrade. But if you're shopping for a very small and capable point-and-shoot digital camera, take a close look at the S110. The biggest selling point for the S110 is its small size, but don't pass up its good photo quality, excellent software, and new movie mode. If you want a little more zoom range for $100 more, check out the PowerShot S300 Digital ELPH, which has a 3X optical zoom lens.

What I liked:

  • Looks good and very portable
  • Good photo quality
  • Super-fast processing speeds
  • Movie mode with sound, as large as 640 x 480
  • Good bundle included with camera (including software)
  • Available underwater case

What I didn't care for:

  • On the pricey side for a 2 Megapixel camera
  • Movie recording times too short, zoom cannot be used
  • No manual controls

Other small 2 Megapixel cameras worth checking out include the Canon PowerShot A20 and S300 Digital ELPH, Fuji FinePix 2400, Kodak DX3600, Nikon Coolpix 775, Olympus D-510Z, and Sony's DSC-P50.

As always, I recommend a trip to your local camera store to try out the Digital ELPH and its competitors (if there are any when you're there) before you buy!

Photo Gallery

So how does the photo quality stand up? Check out the sample photos in our photo gallery!

Want a second opinion? How about a third?

Check out Steve's Digicams review of the PowerShot S110. If that's still not enough, Imaging Resource has one too.

Jeff welcomes your comments or questions. Send them to jakeller@pair.com. Due to my limited resources, please do not ask for personal camera recommendations.

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