With full manual controls and the ability to shoot in RAW and JPEG along with typical compact digital automatic modes, the S100 has the potential to attract a user base ranging from folks who never go beyond full auto well toward the enthusiast end of the spectrum. Let's see how well the S100 can serve both masters.
The S100 presents a shooting screen in about 1.5 seconds after power up and I was able to get off a first shot in about 2.75 seconds. Single shot-to-shot times ran about 2.75 seconds with a 16GB 95 mb/sec SDHC UHS-1 memory card. Performance was the same with a 4GB class 10 (30 mb/sec card).
There are several options for continuous rate shooting with the S100: modes with and without autofocus produce approximately 0.8 and 2.3 fps rates respectively, and in each case when the camera reached 35 shots with no sign of slowing I called off the experiment. Within the scene menu there is the "high-speed burst HQ" mode that provides a continuous rate in the vicinity of 10 fps for an eight frames capture. Canon rates the S100 for "up to" 9.6 fps in this mode while our studio test generated 10.5 fps, obviously a bit better than advertised. Write times for the eight shot burst using both the 95 and 30 mb/sec cards ran about 3.4 seconds in each case - the camera will not allow additional captures while writing.
Shutter Lag (press-to-capture, pre-focused)
|Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS10||0.01|
|Sony Cyber-shot TX100||0.01|
|Canon PowerShot S100||0.01|
|Nikon Coolpix P300||0.05|
AF Acquisition (press-to-capture, no pre-focus)
|Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS10||0.18|
|Sony Cyber-shot TX100||0.32|
|Canon PowerShot S100||0.39|
|Nikon Coolpix P300||0.43|
|Sony Cyber-shot TX100||10||11.4|
|Canon PowerShot S100||8||10.5|
|Nikon Coolpix P300||7||6.9|
|Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS10||14||5.5|
*Note: Continuous shooting framerates are based on the camera's fastest full-resolution JPEG continuous shooting mode, using the fastest media type available (300x CF, SDHC, etc.). "Frames" notes the number of captures recorded per burst before the camera stops/slows to clear the buffer.
Shutter lag was a speedy 0.01 seconds and autofocus acquisition times ran about 0.39 seconds in good conditions. Even with the focus assist lamp, the S100 took longer to acquire focus in dim conditions, a not uncommon occurrence for compact digitals.
Stabilization in the S100 is a simple matter for the user: continuous image stabilization for still captures is on by default as is powered image stabilization which improves stabilization for shooting movies with a long zoom. The user has the option to change from continuous to "shoot only" stabilization for stills or disable stabilization entirely; powered IS may be enabled or disabled independent of the settings chosen for still image stabilization.
On the other hand stabilization in the S100 is a bit more complicated for the camera, whose "intelligent IS" analyzes camera movement and applies the best shake correction method for the shooting situation. For stills, the system automatically selects among normal, panning, hybrid (macro) and tripod modes. When shooting video, the system automatically selects among dynamic, powered, hybrid and tripod modes.
Canon doesn't publish a built-in flash guide number for the S100, but lists a range of 1.6 to 23 feet at wide-angle and 1.6 to 7.5 feet at telephoto; this suggests a guide number of about 10 at ISO 80. Canon also lists a flash recycle time of 10 seconds or less; the S100 has a flash ready indicator that blinks while the flash is recycling and then goes steady when the flash is fully charged - but the catch is you have to do a half push of the shutter button to accurately check the status. If you merely take a flash photo and leave your finger off the shutter button the flash ready indicator displays an unblinking image which suggests the flash is fully recycled. It takes a half push of the shutter button following a flash discharge to accurately display the flash status - you can immediately institute a half push following a flash discharge and the S100 will reacquire focus after the camera writes the preceding image and the flash fully recycles. In my experience with the S100 flash across a range of lighting conditions recycle times ran in the 4 to 8 second range.
The GPS function on the S100 has two components: GPS and GPS logger. The former, when enabled, records the shooting location (latitude, longitude, elevation) and date for still images and movie clips. Search and Rescue folks needn't bother asking - UTM (Universal Trans Mercator) coordinates are not available. GPS logger continues to receive GPS signals after the camera is turned off and records location information for a single date into a log separate from images or movie clips. These logs can be used with software provided with the S100 to view the route traveled. As we'll see shortly, the S100 is not overly strong in terms of battery capacity and the GPS logger feature continues to use battery power once the camera switched off. Users need to weigh the need, advantages and disadvantages of enabling this feature in a camera where power management is a definite concern on all day shoots. Here's a look at the GPS data record for a particular image.
If you're shooting the S100 near the low end of the ISO range with flash, you may find images darker than you'd like due to limited flash range once you start zooming towards the telephoto end of the lens. One option is to post process the image in Photoshop or some other software, but the S100 also offers intelligent contrast (iC) as part of the replay menu so images can be processed in the camera. Here is an original underexposed flash shot of Kiwi and the same shot processed by the S100 using "high" iC - (there are auto, low and medium settings as well).
With High iContrast
One drawback to using iC either enabled in the camera or as part of the playback menu to process images is that noise generally is increased as a result of applying the process.
Canon lists a 200 image battery capacity for the S100 and users would be well advised to consider that as an absolute upper limit; while I never shot the camera to battery exhaustion my impression is 200 might be a bit generous. I never approached 200 image captures in any single shooting session but still ended up with a flashing red battery icon on a couple of occasions. The battery life indicator is an icon with three segments within the battery outline: three segments indicates a sufficient charge; two segments is slightly depleted but sufficient; one segment and flashing red is nearly depleted/charge the battery which is then followed by "charge the battery pack" just before the camera shuts down.
The 24 to 120mm (35mm equivalent) zoom lens on the S100 displays a bit of barrel distortion at the wide-angle end while telephoto proved fairly distortion free. There's a bit of softness in the corners at wide-angle but edges remain fairly sharp; telephoto is likewise a bit soft in the corners but otherwise fairly consistently sharp. Chromic aberration (purple fringing) is present at both ends of the zoom and a bit more pronounced at the wide end but is fairly well controlled and requires 300% enlargement or better to be readily visible.
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