Canon PowerShot S100: Build and Design

December 22, 2011 by Jim Keenan Reads (6,512)
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


The S100 has the look of a classic compact digital – a rectangular metal body about the size of a deck of cards with gently rounded edges and external controls arrayed about the camera top and back. The camera measures about 3.75 x 2.37 x 1 inch with the lens retracted and weighs about 6.9 ounces with battery, memory card and wrist strap onboard. The camera appears well-built.

Canon PowerShot S100

Ergonomics and Controls
The flat black paint finish on the S100 has a slightly rough texture to it, almost like fine sandpaper, which helps maintain a grip on the camera. There’s about a 1.25 inch depression with a slightly raised rubberized ridge on the right front of the camera body to facilitate grip as well, along with a small patch of rubberized material which serves as a thumb rest on the upper right rear of the camera body. The tip of my right index finger fell naturally to the shutter button and my right thumb centered itself on the thumb rest at the rear; the rest of the thumb overlays camera controls on the right rear of the body but the design and array of these controls did not cause any difficulties with inadvertent activation.

The power button, shutter button/zoom ring and mode dial take up the top right half of the camera body; a pop-up flash can deploy from the top left corner. The right rear of the camera back features ring function, video capture, playback and menu buttons along with a typical control dial incorporating left, right, up and down buttons. The control dial is also equipped with a central function set button. The rest of the camera back is devoted to the 3.0-inch monitor.

Canon PowerShot S100

Around the base of the lens is a control ring that may be used to adjust certain camera functions depending on the particular shooting mode the camera is in: it changes lens focal length in automatic, scene and movie modes; adjusts ISO in program auto and custom modes; changes aperture in manual and aperture priority modes and sets shutter speed in shutter priority. The feature is disabled when shooting in HDR, and may be customized by the user to perform functions other than the defaults including but not limited to ISO, exposure compensation, manual focus, white balance, and zoom.

Canon S100 Sample Image

Menus and Modes
Internal menus in the S100 consist of shooting, set up, playback, print and “my menu” options; these menus are fairly simple and intuitive, and should be familiar and easily navigable by anyone who has had a compact digital in their hands before. Here’s a look at the first pages of the shooting menu and playback menu, respectively.

Canon PowerShot S100
Shooting Menu
Canon PowerShot S100
Playback Menu

There is also a function menu displayed directly on the monitor via the function set button on the camera back that will display and permit changes to various shooting parameters depending on the particular shooting mode in effect. Automatic and scene modes have a fairly restricted menu while the manual modes offer a wide variety of access to settings such as ISO, white balance, my colors, bracketing, single or continuous rate shooting, self-timer, autofocus and metering choices, a neutral density filter, still image aspect ratio, image type and size. Here are function menus for manual and automatic control.

Canon PowerShot S100
Function Menu, Manual
Canon PowerShot S100
Function Menu, Auto

Shooting modes encompass the automatic and manual exposure modes one would expect from a high-end, performance-oriented compact digital:

  • Auto: An automatic mode with the camera determining the type of scene and choosing appropriate settings; user inputs are limited primarily to the self-timer, aspect ratio, image size and video quality.
  • Scene: Automatic mode with camera establishing settings based on the scene option selected; user inputs may vary depending on particular scene.
  • Creative filters: Automatic mode with the camera offering a variety of special effects such as HDR, nostalgia, fisheye effect, miniature effect, the camera effect, monochrome, super vivid, poster effect, color accent or color swap. User inputs are limited and may vary depending on the effect chosen
  • Program auto: Camera sets aperture and shutter speed, but user retains a wide range of camera setting inputs.
  • Aperture priority: User sets aperture, camera sets shutter speed and the user has a wide range of camera inputs.
  • Shutter priority: User sets shutter speed, camera sets aperture and the user has a wide range of camera inputs. 
  • Manual: User sets shutter speed, aperture and has a wide range of camera inputs.
  • Custom: Allows user to save a specific shooting mode and selection of camera settings – P, A, S, or M modes along with any user inputs associated with the mode, items in the shooting menu, zoom position, manual focus position and “my menu” items.
  • Movie: Capture full HD 1920 x 1080 resolution video at 24 frames per second (fps); 1280 x 720 or 640 x 480, both at 30 fps. Capture slow motion video with 320 x 240 resolution at 240 fps or 640 x 120 at 120 fps.

The 3.0-inch LCD monitor on the S100 has a 461,000 dot composition, offers 100% coverage and is adjustable for five levels of brightness. Peak brightness registered 503 nits with a contrast ratio of 785:1 in our studio measurements; both figures are above the 500 nit/500:1 threshold levels that tend to identify monitors with better outdoor performance. In practice the S100 monitor was fairly good outdoors but could still be overwhelmed by the right conditions of lighting and subject contrast. There is no viewfinder.

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