The S110 has some stiff competition including the Sony RX100, the amazingly good Samsung EX2F and the $800.00 Leica D-Luxe 6, but the S110 is not only the cheapest option available on the premium P&S digicam roster, it is competitive with those other cameras.
The S110 features the same TTL Contrast Detection AF system as its predecessor. In all exposure modes, the camera analyzes the scene in front of the lens and then calculates camera-to-subject distance to determine which of the multiple AF point is closest to the primary subject (closest subject priority) and then locks focus on that AF point. The S110's face detection AF mode is linked to the camera's exposure and WB systems. The S110 automatically finds, locks focus, tracks and then optimizes exposure for up to 12 faces or shooters can lock on a single face and track it through a crowd. The S110's Center AF option is good for traditional landscapes and even better for street shooting, because serious shooters don't want the camera deciding which face in the crowd to focus on. AF is dependably fast and almost unerringly accurate -- in good lighting.
The S110's tiny multi mode pop-up flash provides an acceptable selection of artificial lighting options, including auto, flash on (fill flash), flash off, and slow synchro plus menu flash options including flash exposure compensation (+/- 2EV in 1/3 EV increments), first and second curtain synch, red-eye correction, red-eye lamp, and Safety FE. According to Canon, the maximum flash range is about 16 feet, which seems very optimistic given the tiny size of the unit. Based on my very limited flash use, the S110's flash recycle time is between 3 and 4 seconds.
According to Canon, the S110 is good for about 200 exposures (without flash) or 300 minutes of video on a freshly charged NB-5L Lithium-ion power pack. That's fewer exposures than average for cameras of this type. The S110 supports SD, SDHC, SDXC memory formats.
Like its predecessor, the little S110 is built around a fast f/2.0-f5.9/ 5.2mm-26.0 mm (35 mm equivalent is 24mm-120 mm) 5x zoom lens. Construction consists of 7 elements in 6 groups (1 double-sided aspherical element, 1 double-sided aspherical UA element and 1 single-sided aspherical element). Most point-and-shoot digicams offer zooms with maximum apertures of f/2.8 or slower--the S110's f/2.0 maximum aperture lets in twice as much light. This allows for faster shutter speeds (in dim light) and slightly shallower depth of field for less distracting backgrounds.
When the S110 is powered up, the zoom extends from the camera body automatically, and when the camera is powered down, the lens retracts into the camera body and a built-in iris-style lens cover closes to protect the front element. Zooming is smooth and relatively quiet.
The S110's zoom is surprisingly good even though it does produce some very minor corner softness. Barrel distortion (straight lines bow out from the center of the frame) at the wide-angle end of the zoom range is about average at the wide-angle end of the zoom range.
Pincushion distortion (straight lines bow in toward the center of the frame) is virtually invisible at the telephoto end of the zoom. Chromatic aberration (purple fringing) is remarkably well controlled - essentially absent at both ends of the zoom range. It takes the S110 about three seconds to move its 5x zoom from wide-angle to telephoto. The zoom can used during video capture, but lens motor noise may be recorded as well. The S110 features the same lens shift 4-stop Intelligent IS optical Image Stabilization (with 6 IS modes) featured on its predecessor.
S95/S100 image files were (like those from most Canon P&S digicams) optimized for bold bright colors and hard-edged but slightly flat contrast. Once I started using the S110 I noticed that the colors seemed slightly less saturated (intense) and that contrast was a bit harder than what I had seen on earlier Canon point and shoots. Overall, reds are warm, but not wet paint red. Blues are a tiny bit brighter than they are in real life, and greens are impressively vibrant, but not garish. The S110's images are highly-detailed and surprisingly sharp, at least in bright outdoor lighting with highlight detail only rarely blown-out. The bottom line here is that potential S110 purchasers are going to have to spend substantially more money to get better image quality from a point and shoot camera and those images are only going to be subtly (not substantially) better.
The S110 provides users with an acceptable selection of WB options, including Daylight, Cloudy, Tungsten, Fluorescent, Fluorescent H, Flash, Underwater, Custom 1, and Custom 2. The S110's auto WB mode does an excellent job under outdoor lighting and a provides better than average performance indoors and in poor/dim lighting. The S110 features Canon's Multi-area White Balance system that makes images look more natural by detecting situations where there are two different light sources in the frame and then automatically applying area-specific white balance correction.
The S110 provides a comprehensive range of sensitivity options, including auto and user-set options for 80, 100, 125, 160, 200, 250, 320, 400, 500, 640, 800, 1000, 1250, 1600, 2000, 2500, 3200, 4000, 5000, 6400, 8000, 10000, and 12800 ISO. ISO 80/100/125 images are remarkably similar and show bright saturated colors, somewhat flat contrast, and very low noise levels. ISO 200 images were also very good. ISO 400 images look like ISO 200 images from other cameras -- noise levels are marginally higher and there's a barely perceptible loss of minor detail (hair, grass, etc) from lower ISO images.
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