Canon PowerShot S100: Video and Image Quality

by Jim Keenan Reads (827)
Editor's Rating
8.50

TG Ratings Breakdown

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

Video Quality
Video quality was quite good in the S100 and a dedicated one touch video capture button is always a welcome feature. The camera may be zoomed during video capture but zooming noises will be recorded, and the control ring is unavailable for lens zooming during video capture. There is a wind cut feature for audio.

Download Sample Video

The switch to a CMOS sensor brings rolling shutter effect into play and while the S100 exhibits a small amount of this defect, it is generally well controlled and requires exaggeratedly fast pans to produce some noticeable distortion. Maximum clip length is approximately 29 minutes and 59 seconds for normal video, assuming adequate memory capacity, and class 6 or faster memory is recommended. Clip length is about 30 seconds for slow motion capture at either 120 or 240 fps. Video is MOV Image: H.264; Audio data is Linear PCM (Stereo).

Image Quality
At the beginning of the performance section I mentioned that the mix of automatic and manual features in the S100 could cause it to appeal to a broad spectrum of users. For that reason I shot a portion of this review at Disneyland using the automatic mode with its default settings get an idea of what a casual user can expect from the S100.

The first problem is that the S100 outputs JPEG images at 180 dots per inch (dpi), which happens to be about the lowest pixel density that an Epson printer can make a good quality print with. If you want to maximize your print quality you’ll be resizing to 300 dpi or greater, and if you’re sending images over the Internet you’ll be downsizing to 72 dots per inch to save bandwidth.

Here’s a default image of the Snow White Castle resized to 300 dpi, and the same shot resized to 300 dpi with additional sharpening. Sharpening should be the last step you take when post processing an image to maximize quality and unfortunately the 180 dpi output of the S100 will keep everyone busy if you’re trying to produce the very best imagery for prints or send data efficient e-mails.

Canon S100 Sample Image
Original

Canon S100 Sample Image
Sharpened

Even before resizing the S100 output to 300 dpi my feeling was default images were just a tiny bit too soft for my taste. They’ll probably be acceptable to a lot of folks and in fact they’re quite good, but I just couldn’t get over thinking they looked better with some sharpening. Here are three more Disneyland default images sized to 300 dpi in the first case (left) and again to 300 dpi with sharpening in the second (right).

Canon S100 Sample Image Canon S100 Sample Image
Canon S100 Sample Image Canon S100 Sample Image
Canon S100 Sample Image Canon S100 Sample Image

You can make changes to sharpness, contrast, saturation and a number of other image color parameters in the S100, but only when shooting in custom mode. You can save these settings for the custom mode via the shooting menu; if you don’t save the settings they revert to the defaults when you switch to another shooting mode.

The S100’s “my colors” palette will be familiar to many Canon users – my colors is turned off by default but may be enabled to provide color options such as vivid, neutral, sepia, black and white, positive film, lighter skin tone, darker skin tone, vivid blue, green or red, as well as the custom color option that accepts changes to saturation, sharpness etc. Here’s a look at the default, vivid, neutral and black-and-white examples.

Canon S100 Sample Image
Default
Canon S100 Sample Image
Vivid
Canon S100 Sample Image
Neutral
Canon S100 Sample Image
Black and White

In the manual shooting modes intelligent contrast may be enabled to permit the camera to detect areas in the scene that are too bright or too dark and automatically adjust them to optimum brightness when shooting. Dynamic range correction is used to prevent highlight blowout and offers automatic, 200% and 400% settings. Shadow correct used to bring up detail in dark areas; this feature is only offered in an automatic setting. You can enable either or both correction modes simultaneously.

Auto white balance was used for all the captures in this review and did a good job with a wide variety of lighting conditions including direct sunlight, flash, cloudy, cloudy bright and incandescent. In addition to automatic the S100 offers daylight, cloudy, tungsten, fluorescent and fluorescent H (daylight fluorescent), flash and underwater presets as well is a custom setting. Somewhat surprisingly a Kelvin temperature setting is not available.

Canon S100 Sample Image
Auto White Balance, 5500k fluorescent light

Evaluative metering was used for this review and did a good job overall, although it would on occasion clip highlights in high contrast scenes, a not uncommon performance characteristic in compact digitals. Center-weighted and spot metering options are also available.

With its larger than usual 1/1.7 inch sensor, latest generation processor and relatively modest 12.1 megapixel resolution I anticipated the S100 might provide some impressive high ISO noise performance. I couldn’t tell any difference tween 80 and 100 ISO and in fact thought 100 ISO almost appeared a tiny bit sharper in a couple areas of the frame. ISO 200 was quite good as well although it began the show a few areas where fine details were softened just a bit, such as the AutoZone coin.

Canon S100 Sample Image
ISO 80
Canon S100 Sample Image
ISO 80, 100% crop
Canon S100 Sample Image
ISO 100
Canon S100 Sample Image
ISO 100, 100% crop
Canon S100 Sample Image
ISO 200
Canon S100 Sample Image
ISO 200, 100% crop
Canon S100 Sample Image
ISO 400
Canon S100 Sample Image
ISO 400, 100% crop
Canon S100 Sample Image
ISO 800
Canon S100 Sample Image
ISO 800, 100% crop
Canon S100 Sample Image
ISO 1600
Canon S100 Sample Image
ISO 1600, 100% crop
Canon S100 Sample Image
ISO 3200
Canon S100 Sample Image
ISO 3200, 100% crop
Canon S100 Sample Image
ISO 6400
Canon S100 Sample Image
ISO 6400, 100% crop

ISO 400 was fairly close to 200, again differing with just a little bit of softening in some areas of fine detail like the printing in the pen box. ISO 800 continued the general trend of S100 noise performance with differences primarily being noted in loss of fine details, however 800 shows this to a somewhat greater degree than any other step until now. There is more dramatic detail loss in the bear’s nose, the writing in the pen box and the slightest of graininess beginning to show on the pen barrel.

ISO 1600 presents a more dramatic deterioration than the 400 – 800 jump; writing in the pen box that was barely legible at 800 is now smeared and illegible and graininess in the light background is becoming more defined. ISO 3200 displays the ongoing deterioration of fine detail, notably in the vodka bottle label, the AutoZone coin (which is now virtually illegible due to smearing) and increased graininess appearing on the playing cards. Finally, 6400 takes us to a place where fine details are smeared and smudged over the entire frame and larger details are impacted by graininess across the entire frame.

The S100 ISO noise performance in general reminds me very strongly of the latest generation DSLRs (Nikon D7000, Canon 60D); that is to say as ISO sensitivities increase there is a gradual progression of loss of fine detail accompanied by a graininess that reminds me most strongly of film grain rather than sensor noise. I feel pretty comfortable shooting the S100 up through 800 for relatively large prints, 1600 for smaller prints, and while 3200 and 6400 are clearly inferior to the lower sensitivities both are usable in a pinch.

Canon S100 Sample Image Canon S100 Sample Image
Canon S100 Sample Image Canon S100 Sample Image
Canon S100 Sample Image Canon S100 Sample Image
Canon S100 Sample Image Canon S100 Sample Image


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