Canon PowerShot S100 review: Canon PowerShot S100

The S100's design improves on some of the flaws of the S95. It now has a tiny grip in front and a rubberized thumb rest in the back which makes it much easier to hold and shoot. It retains the control ring around the lens that distinguishes the camera from competitors, except for the XZ-1, which copied it. The ring can be set to control shutter speed, ISO sensitivity, exposure compensation, manual focus, white balance, stepped zoom, i-Contrast, aspect ratio, or its function when in Custom mode. The functions can be set independently of shooting mode, so that, for example, it can control focus in Manual mode or shutter speed while in aperture-priority mode. The stepped zoom can also be a surprisingly useful feature for some; it jumps to popular preset focal lengths (24mm, 28mm, 35mm, 50mm, 85mm, 120mm), which is quite convenient if you need repeatable shots. You can quickly access the ring control assignments via a dedicated button on the back of the camera. If you don't plan to change the ring function that often, you can even reassign the button to a host of other options, including some important ones like metering, raw+JPEG override or the built-in neutral density filter.


Although you might think you want a really compact camera, people with big hands might find the S100 a little too small for comfort.

On top is a more prominent shutter button plus the mode dial, which has the usual PASM, auto, movie and scene modes , as well as a custom settings slot and special effects mode. The custom settings that save include a manual focus position and/or zoom position and My Menu items in addition tot the relevant shooting settings. The back has the typical set of controls, including focus mode, flash, and exposure compensation plus a quick function access button and dedicated movie record button. While the menus are structured into three seemingly short screens, you nevertheless have a lot of control and customization over the camera's behavior and the options. For instance, on the surface it seems like there are just the requisite flash options you'd expect, including flash compensation and first- or second-curtain sync, but if you dive a little deeper in the menus you'll find a manual setting where you choose from three levels of output intensity. That said, it would be nice if the flash were a little more intelligent on auto.

The most notable new addition to the camera is a GPS receiver for geotagging photos. The implementation is pretty basic--you can turn it on or off, and there's a GPS Logger feature that continuously records your location between shots to deliver a complete route of your travels. (To use the latter data, however, I think you have to use the bundled software.) The GPS logger operates while the camera is off, which is bound to drain the power, especially if it has a hard time getting a signal in places.

  Canon PowerShot S95 Canon PowerShot S100 Fujifilm FinePix X10 Olympus XZ-1 Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX5
Sensor (effective resolution) 10-megapixel CCD 12-megapixel CMOS 12-megapixel EXR CMOS 10-megapixel CCD 10-megapixel CCD 10-megapixel CCD
1/1.7-inch 1/1.7-inch 2/3-inch 1/1.63-inch 1/1.63-inch 1/1.7-inch
Sensitivity range ISO 80 - ISO 3200 ISO 80 - 6400 ISO 100 - ISO 3200 ISO 100 - ISO 6,400 ISO 80 - ISO 3200 ISO 80 - ISO 3200
Lens 28-105mm
f2-4.9
3.8x
24-120mm
f2-5.9
5x
28-112mm
f2-2.8
4x
28-112mm
f1.8-2.5
4x
24-90mm
f2-3.3
3.8x
24-72mm
f1.8-2.4
3x
Closest focus (inches) 2.0 1.2 0.4 0.4 0.4 2.0
Continuous shooting 1.9fps
frames n/a
2.3fps
n/a
7fps
8 JPEG
2fps
23 JPEG/8 raw
2.5fps
3 JPEG/n/a raw
1.1fps
n/a
Viewfinder None None Optical Optional EVF Optional OVF or EVF Optical
Autofocus n/a
Contrast AF
n/a
Contrast AF
n/a
Contrast AF
11-area
Contrast AF
23-area
Contrast AF
n/a
Contrast AF
Metering n/a n/a 256 zones 324 area n/a
n/a
Shutter 15-1/1600 sec n/a 30 - 1/4000 sec 60-1/2000 sec; bulb to 16 min 60-1/4000 sec 16-1/5000 sec
Flash Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Hot shoe No No Yes Yes Yes Yes
LCD 3-inch fixed
461,000 dots
3-inch fixed
461,000 dots
2.8-inch fixed
460,000 dots
3-inch fixed OLED
610,000 dots
3-inch fixed
460,000 dots
3-inch articulated AMOLED
920,000 dots
Image stabilization Optical Optical Optical Sensor shift Optical Optical
Video (best quality) 720/24p
H.264 QuickTime MOV
Stereo
1080/24p
H.264 QuickTime MOV
Stereo
1080/30p H.264 QuickTime MOV Stereo 720/30p Motion JPEG AVI
Mono
720/30p AVCHD Lite
Monaural
30fps VGA H.264 MP4
Monaural
Manual iris and shutter in video No Yes n/a No Yes No
Optical zoom while recording No Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Mic input No No n/a Yes No No
Battery life (CIPA rating) 220 shots 200 shots 270 shots 320 shots 400 shots 350 shots
Dimensions (WHD, inches) 3.9 x 2.3 x 1.2 3.9 x 2.3 x 1.1 4.6 x 2.7 x 2.2 4.4 x 2.6 x 1.7 4.3 x 2.6 x 1.7 4.5 x 2.5 x 1.2
Weight (ounces) 6.8 7.0 12.3 (est) 9.3 9.2 13.1
Mfr. Price $399.99 $429.99 $599.99 $499.99 $449.99 $449.99
Availability August 2010 November 2011 November 2011 January 2011 August 2010 July 2010

There are some less interesting but novel new features. Movie Digest mode automatically captures a few seconds of video before you snap a photo, which sounds good, except in that mode the movies and video are stuck at 640x480 pixels. A High-speed Burst HQ mode shoots 8 shots at 9.6fps--that's less than a full second capture--with completely automatic settings. You then have to wait about 4 seconds while it saves before you shoot again. It does operate at full resolution, however. In addition, there's the typical complement of scene modes and special-effects filters. For a complete guide to the S100's features and operation you can download the PDF manual.

Conclusion
Canon's PowerShot S100 is still the smallest camera you can buy that delivers good photo quality with a full set of manual capabilities and a wide-aperture lens. And it's a great little camera--well designed and comfortable to shoot, albeit with a couple of caveats. The lens may start out with a wide aperture, but it gets narrow pretty fast as you start to zoom, so make sure that's not going to drive you nuts; if it will you may want to check out a slightly more expensive model like the Olympus XZ-1 or Fujifilm FinePix X10. It's also not terribly fast--probably fine for street shooting, but it'll never keep up with unpredictable kids or animals.

Shooting speed (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Time to first shot  
Raw shot-to-shot time  
Typical shot-to-shot time  
Shutter lag (dim)  
Shutter lag (typical)  
Canon PowerShot G12
2.1 
2.5 
2.2 
0.6 
0.4 
Canon Powershot S100
1.6 
2.6 
2.4 
0.6 
0.4 
Olympus XZ-1
1 
1.4 
1.1 
0.7 
0.4 
Samsung TL500
1.8 
2.5 
1.8 
0.7 
0.4 
Canon PowerShot S95
2 
2.6 
2.3 
0.7 
0.4 
Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX5
1.6 
1.7 
1.4 
0.8 
0.4 

Typical continuous-shooting speed (in frames per second)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)

Editors' Top PicksSee All

 

Join the discussion

Conversation powered by Livefyre

Where to Buy See all prices

Canon PowerShot S100 (Black)

Part Number: 5244B001 Released: Nov 30, 2011
MSRP: $429.00 Low Price: $302.99 See all prices

Quick Specifications See All

  • Release date Nov 30, 2011
  • Digital camera type Compact
  • Optical Zoom 5 x
  • Optical Sensor Type CMOS
  • Sensor Resolution 12.1 Megapixel
  • Image Stabilizer optical
  • Optical Sensor Size 1/1.7"