Canon PowerShot S110 review:

Canon PowerShot S110

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Typical Price: £240.00
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The Good Wide maximum aperture; Built-in Wi-Fi; Raw shooting; Plenty of manual controls; Very small.

The Bad Wind noise on movies; Undercut by competitors.

The Bottom Line The Canon PowerShot S110 is a really versatile, very small camera that would be a great carry-anywhere option for the more ambitious photographer and anyone looking for a point-and-shoot to supplement their dSLR.

Visit manufacturer site for details.

CNET Editors' Rating

8.3 Overall

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 LX7 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.

Canon PowerShot S110 test photo
The front-mounted control wheel is used to control aperture, shutter speed and other settings.

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.

Photo mechanics

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.

Canon PowerShot S110 test photo
There's some degradation in image quality at high sensitivities, but colours remain accurate and grain is kept under control.

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.

Stills performance

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.

Canon PowerShot S110 test photo
The minimum focusing distance is 3cm, and the S110 can decide for itself when to switch to macro mode (click image to enlarge).

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.

Canon PowerShot S110 test photo
Shooting directly into the sun posed no problems for the S110, which maintained crisp edges and a high level of detail (click image to enlarge).

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.

Canon PowerShot S110 test photo
There transitions in the sky are subtle, and there's a high level of detail in the rigging in this boatyard shot (click image to enlarge).

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.

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