In many respects, it's at the smaller end of the camera market where it's all happening right now. The S110 is a case in point. It's not much bigger than an IXUS, yet it's actually a full-blown PowerShot with plenty of manual controls and Canon's HS system for improved low-light performance. You can pick it up for around £240 online.
Design and build
By far the most exciting feature is the lens arrangement. Here it sports a maximum aperture of f/2. Admittedly it's not the brightest lens we've seen on a compact, with both Samsung and Panasonic producing rivals that stretch as far as f/1.4 in the shape of the EX2F and respectively, but it's a very tempting feature nonetheless. At full telephoto, the widest aperture stands at f/5.9, and in any position you can narrow it as far as f/8.
As with the LX7, the aperture is controlled by a ring on the front of the chassis surrounding the lens, which brings a dSLR feel to this truly compact camera. If you've switched to shutter priority mode, the wheel handles that instead. Either way, it's intuitive, and you quickly learn to head for the wheel first when you need to control any mode's primary function.
The lens itself offers a 5x zoom, equivalent to 24-120mm on a regular 35mm camera. Behind it sits a 12.1-megapixel sensor producing 4,000x3,000 images.
Those stats already make for a fairly high-end compact, but Canon's gone further. As well as regular JPEG shooting, you can save raw files to maximise your options for creative editing when you get back to base, and it also has built-in Wi-Fi so you can connect to a home network to share images or print wirelessly to a compatible Canon printer.
The default shutter speed ranges from 1/2,000 to 1 second, but you can push it as far as 15 seconds in some modes. This will be sufficient to capture streaking headlights and illuminated buildings in city night shots.
Sensitivity kicks off at ISO 80 and runs through to ISO 12,800 with compensation of three stops in either direction in 1/3 stop increments.
Naturally, at higher sensitivities the image was slightly degraded, and at ISO 1,600 it became difficult to read finer print on the spirit miniature used in the standard still-life test setup. This didn't adversely affect the colours within the frame however, and without zooming in to 100 per cent it wouldn't be possible to make out the grain with the naked eye.
The 3-inch rear LCD is touch sensitive, allowing you to change mode settings, navigate the menus and make some neat adjustments, such as setting the focal point with a single tap and then using the front control wheel to change the size of the focus area.
The S110's minimum focusing distance is 3cm in both regular wide-angle and macro modes, which allows it to produce attractive shallow depth-of-field images with a sharp subject and defocussed surroundings.
The oyster shell below was shot with the S110's macro mode active, and the bladderwrack surrounding it quickly falls out of focus, helping draw the eye to the subject matter. If you're shooting in auto mode rather than one of the priority modes, you can rely on the camera itself to switch to macro whenever it feels it's appropriate. Otherwise, pressing left on the multi-function controller lets you switch between auto and manual focusing, or macro.
The lens did an excellent job of focusing each wavelength of incoming light in sync, and thus avoided introducing unwanted colour fringing along the edge of sharp, fine detail.
It did a good job of accurately exposing my shots when shooting directly towards the sun, too. In the image below, both the rocks and the marker have strong, well-defined edges, despite the fact that the image could have become overwhelmed by the brighter background.
When shooting in more conventional setups, such as the boatyard below, it kept up the good performance, with the rigging clearly defined, and the subtle transitions in the sky sky accurately reproduced.
Detail was sharp right across the frame, with little discernible fall-off as you moved towards the edges. This is a sign of a good lens, as it's trickier for the glass in a camera to focus the light encroaching on the edges as it does in the centre, where it's not necessary to bend it to such an extreme degree.