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First Look: Canon PowerShot S100

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First Look: Canon PowerShot S100

4:29 /

The Canon PowerShot S100 is a generally great little camera for advanced shooters who don't mind slowing down a bit from a dSLR.

-Hi, I'm Lori Grunin, senior editor for CNET, and this is the Canon Powershot S100. The S95 is a very good popular camera, which some commonly complained about flaws. They include the poor flash design, lack of a grip, narrow maximum aperture at the telephoto end of the zoom range, short battery life, slow performance and relatively expensive price. With the S100, Canon addresses a few of these plus it adds some desirable new features including a wider angle 24-mm start 24mm start to the zoom range, manual controls, zooming during video, and a built-in GPS. It also comes in a stuffy new silvery-champagne color as well as the basic matte black. Despite a slight bump in resolution up to 12-megapixels. The S-100 maintains the excellent photo quality that contributed to the S95's popularity. Exposure and metering, color accuracy and tonal range are all very good, and the lens is relatively sharp. There are some distortions, but less than you would expect the give in its minimum focal length of 24-mm equivalent. Given its size and its relatively small sensor, it delivers excellent JPEG quality up to ISO 200, and photos remain quite good up to ISO 800. High ISO sensitivity performance that's especially important for this camera though because the aperture of the lens narrow so quickly as you zoom through even its limited 5X zoom range that you run out of available light pretty fast. S100 does a pretty nice job shooting video as well, and the enhancements of the S95 is the ability to use the zoom range shooting, which does quietly in unobtrusively. The video is sharp if bit of over saturated. You can set it to neutral color setting if that bothers you. The audio sounds good too, and there's a slow motion recording mode, which lets you capture normally and play it back at 240 or 120 frames per seconds. It saves out a standard MP4 file of the slow motion playback and disappointingly, Canon didn't improve the S100s performance over the S95. It's little bit slow overall and it can't keep up the class performance leaders like the XZ-1 or the LX5. It also has the shortest battery life in its class. That's one of the trade offs she make for size, smaller camera, smaller battery. The S100's design improves on some of the flaws of the S95 of the flash. 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 keeps the control ring around the lens, and the ring can be set to control adjustments like shutter speed, ISO sensitivity exposure compensation and so on. Functions can be set independently of shooting mode so that for example, it control focus and 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 lens, which is quite convenient if you need repeatable shots. The most notable new addition is the GPS receiver for geotagging photos. The implementation is pretty basic. You can turn it on or off, and there is a GPS Logger feature that continuously records your location between shots to deliver a complete route of your travels. The GPS logger operates even while the camera is off, and that's bound to drain the power especially if it has a hard time getting a signal in places. 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 high quality mode shoots 8 shots at 9.6fps--that's less than a full second capture and it has completely automatic settings. Then, you have to wait about 4 seconds while it saves before you shoot again. It does operate at full resolution, however. There's the typical complement of scene modes and special-effects filters. The 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--. It's 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. It's also not terribly fast. It's probably fine for street shooting, but it will never keep up with unpredictable kids or animals. I'm Lori Grunin and this is the Canon Powershot S100.

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