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Canon PowerShot ELPH 100 HS review: Canon PowerShot ELPH 100 HS

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MSRP: $229.99

The Good The Canon PowerShot Elph 100 HS is a very good value, offering good photo and video quality outside and indoors, lots of fun shooting modes, and decent shooting performance for its class.

The Bad The 100 HS' photos look soft, even at lower ISOs, and its autofocus is regularly inaccurate.

The Bottom Line If you're after an inexpensive ultracompact with good low-light photos, the Canon PowerShot Elph 100 HS is one to get. But you'd better act fast.

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7.4 Overall
  • Design 8
  • Features 7
  • Performance 7
  • Image quality 7

With so many cameras announced last year, I sort of overlooked reviewing the Canon PowerShot Elph 100 HS. And that's kind of a shame.

When it was released in the first half of 2011, it was Canon's least expensive camera with a backside-illuminated CMOS sensor, which gives better low-light photos and shooting performance than the CCD sensors Canon used previously for its Elphs. It was priced at $199.99, which was a great deal at the time for a BSI CMOS camera. Now, almost a year later, it's nearly $100 less, making it an outstanding bargain for its features and performance.

If you're unhappy with your smartphone camera or just want a simple point-and-shoot to jam in your pocket for a day trip, the Elph 100 HS is a very good choice--even with its issues. Canon tells me it won't be around much longer, though, so if you're interested, you might want to pick one up soon. (And in case you're curious how it stacks up against the iPhone 4S, check out our head-to-head shootout.)

Key specs Canon PowerShot Elph 100 HS
Price (MSRP) $179.99
Dimensions (WHD) 3.7 inches by 2.2 inches by 0.8 inch
Weight (with battery and media) 4.9 ounces
Megapixels, image sensor size, type 12 megapixels, 1/2.3-inch backside-illuminated CMOS
LCD size, resolution/viewfinder 3-inch LCD, 230K dots/None
Lens (zoom, aperture, focal length) 4x, f2.8-5.9, 28-112mm (35mm equivalent)
File format (still/video) JPEG/H.264 AAC (.MOV)
Highest resolution size (still/video) 4,000x3,000 pixels/ 1,920x1,080 pixels at 24fps
Image stabilization type Optical and digital
Battery type, CIPA rated life Li-ion rechargeable, 230 shots
Battery charged in camera No; external charger supplied
Storage media SD/SDHC/SDXC
Bundled software ZoomBrowser EX 6.7/PhotoStitch 3.1 (Windows); ImageBrowser 6.7/PhotoStitch 3.2 (Mac); Map Utility 1.0 (Windows/Mac)

I thought the photo quality from the Canon Elph 300 HS and 100 HS might be about the same, considering both have a 12-megapixel BSI CMOS sensor and Canon's Digic 4 processor. But while they have the same pluses and minuses, the 100 HS for some reason just isn't as good as the 300 HS.

Photos from the 100 HS look soft even at its lowest ISOs, but get noticeably softer at ISO 400 and higher. However, if you're using them at small sizes, you can safely use up to ISO 800. Colors desaturate some at ISO 1600 and 3200, subjects look very soft, and detail is greatly diminished. While you might not want to view them at larger sizes or enlarge and heavily crop them, the high-ISO results should be satisfactory for Web use. They are about as good as you're going to get for this price and a little post-shoot sharpening with basic editing software will improve things.

The 100 HS' color performance is excellent: bright, vivid, and accurate. Exposure is also very good, though highlights will blow out on occasion. There is a slight amount of barrel distortion at the wide end of the lens (top), but no pincushioning when the lens is extended. Fringing around high-contrast subjects was minimal and only really visible when photos were viewed onscreen and at 100 percent. The lens is fairly sharp at the center and consistent edge to edge--something I usually can't say about cameras at this price.

Video quality is on par with a good HD pocket video camera, good enough for Web use and nondiscriminating TV viewing. The full HD video records at 24 frames per second, and though panning the camera will create judder and there is visible trailing on moving subjects, the video is watchable. Those things are typical of the video from most compact cameras, too. The zoom lens does not work while recording; digital zoom is available, but I don't recommend using it as the results are terrible.

General shooting options Canon PowerShot Elph 100 HS
ISO sensitivity (full resolution) Auto, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600, 3200
White balance Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Tungsten, Fluorescent, Fluorescent H, Custom
Recording modes Auto, Program, Portrait, Kids & Pets, Smart Shutter, High-speed Burst, Best Image Selection, Handheld Night Scene, Low Light, Fish-eye Effect, Miniature Effect, Toy Camera Effect, Monochrome, Super Vivid, Poster Effect, Color Accent, Color Swap, Beach, Underwater, Foliage, Snow, Fireworks, Long Shutter, Stitch Assist, Movie Digest, Movie (Standard, Super Slow Motion, Miniature Effect)
Focus modes Face Detection AF, Center AF, Tracking AF
Macro 1.2 inches to 1.6 feet (Wide)
Metering modes Evaluative, Center-weighted average, Spot
Color effects Vivid, Neutral, Sepia, Black & White, Positive Film, Lighter Skin, Darker Skin, Vivid Blue, Vivid Green, Vivid Red, Custom Color (sharpness, contrast, saturation, red, green, blue, skin tone)
Burst mode shot limit (full resolution) Unlimited continuous

The 100 HS has a fairly large assortment of shooting options, but almost all of them are automatic modes, meaning there's no full control over shutter speed and aperture. The shooting-mode switch on the camera's top has two options: one for Auto and one for a mode designated by a picture of a camera, which I'll call camera mode. -The camera mode gives you access to a Program Auto mode as well as all the scene modes, creative effects modes, and miniature effect and slow-motion video recording. However, they're laid out in one long list, so if you're the type to change modes frequently, this can be a pain. Canon's Smart Shutter option is there, too, which includes a smile-activated shutter release and Wink and Face Detection self-timers. Wink allows you to set off the shutter simply by winking at the camera, and the Face Detection option will wait till the camera detects a new face in front of the camera before it fires off a shot. Both work well.

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