Canon PowerShot S100 Review: Powerful and Pocket Friendly

by Jim Keenan Reads (984)
Editor's Rating

Ratings Breakdown (1-10)

    • Image/Video Quality
    • 8
    • Features
    • 9
    • Design / Ease of Use
    • 9
    • Performance
    • 8
    • Total Score:
    • 8.50
    • Rating 1 to 10, top score 10

Overview

  • Pros

    • Good stills and video
    • RAW/JPEG options
    • Compact and lightweight
  • Cons

    • Modest battery life
    • Pricey
    • Slightly soft default images

Quick Take

The Canon PowerShot S100, like its advanced S-series predecessors, offers advanced functionality like manual exposure modes and RAW shooting without the bulk of its G-series siblings.


Announced in September 2011, the Powershot S100 at first blush might appear to be just another compact digital: shirt pocket portable in size, with a 5x zoom lens spanning the 24 to 120mm focal range. There is a “smart” shutter, blink detection, face and advanced subject detection as well as “smart” auto featuring a 32 scene library from which the camera chooses settings. A typical scene shooting mode offers 14 specific options and a creative filter palette offers an additional 10 effects.

However, Canonistas know that in the current lineup Powershot models carrying an S or SX prefix slot into the “high-end, advanced digital camera” portion of the spectrum. The S100 is the follow-on to the S95 and closer inspection reveals some fairly serious hardware and performance features as well. The new camera abandons the CCD sensor of the earlier model in favor of a new high sensitivity CMOS sensor offering 12.1 megapixel resolution, pairing the sensor with Canon’s latest generation DIGIC 5 image processor.

Sensor size is 1/1.7 inch, larger than normal for a typical compact digital camera. The processor is credited with having increased processing speed and power along with more refined image quality and improved noise reduction. The faster processing speed also results in a faster continuous shooting capability while maintaining full image quality. The DIGIC 5 also makes possible a new, highly advanced automatic white balance system which analyzes several areas of the image to determine whether different adjustments are needed for specific areas of the frame. Native ISO range runs from 80 to 6400.
The 5x zoom lens offers a fast f/2 maximum aperture at wide-angle (albeit with a slightly slower than average f/5.9 at the telephoto end). Here’s a look at both ends of that zoom:

Canon S100 Sample Image
Wide Angle

Canon S100 Sample Image
Telephoto

There’s a full HD 1080 video capability with stereo sound and a dedicated video capture button along with an advanced intelligent IS stabilization system that automatically chooses from among six modes depending on image capture conditions. You can capture up to eight still images with a high-speed burst mode or video in super slow motion. Shooting and recording modes include JPEG, RAW, and RAW/JPEG combinations, and the camera offers full manual exposure controls for more advanced users. There’s a built-in GPS tracker and 3.0-inch LCD monitor. The camera accepts SD/SDHC/SDXC and Eye Fi memory media but Canon does not guarantee that the S100 will support Eye-Fi card functions. Canon includes a battery pack and charger, wrist strap, USB interface cable and CD-ROM software with each camera. A basic printed user’s manual is included; the full manual can be found on the CD-ROM. MSRP is $430.

The S100 was slated to have been available in early November in a black body; a silver variant is now scheduled to appear “sometime” in December. Supplies of the camera appear to have been impacted by the Thailand floods as reputable vendors such as Adorama and B&H list the camera as “temporarily unavailable” or on back order with no estimated delivery date as this review is being written. While getting an S100 for your Christmas stocking may be a little difficult at this point, we’ve got a black version in hand so let’s see what Canon’s newest Powershot has to offer.


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