Canon PowerShot S100 review

16 Jan 2012

An elegant compact camera with plenty of high-end features for enthusiasts and high-quality optics, producing consistently excellent photos

Price when reviewed: 
383(£383 inc VAT)
5

For Canon's newest high-end compact, understatement is the name of the game. The PowerShot S100's plain design, diminutive size and seeming paucity of controls suggest something quite basic.

Look more closely, though, and you'll notice the mode dial offers not only the familiar Auto and Scene options, but also shutter priority, aperture priority and full manual controls. Evidently, this is a compact that's aimed at enthusiasts, and if you delve into the menus you'll also find options for exposure bracketing and RAW capture – enabling those who are willing to process their own images to get the very best from the S100's large 1/1.7in sensor, and even create HDR composite pictures.

Perhaps the S100's most exciting feature for creative photographers is manual focus. Many compacts let you select a specific area on which to focus, but this is the first we’ve seen to offer a focus-ring around the lens to tweak. It works very well as an immediate and natural interface.

Canon PowerShot S100

Unfortunately, the compact format doesn't leave space for an optical viewfinder: although the S100's LCD screen is rich and colourful, its limited resolution of 460kpixels makes it possible to slightly miss your focus. As insurance against this, Canon has provided a clever focus-bracketing feature, which will automatically take three photos in quick succession, with the focus adjusted very slightly forward and back of your original manual setting.

If you prefer, the adjustment ring can also be assigned to other parameters: depending on the mode you're in, this can give you a quick way to step through settings including aperture, shutter speed, white balance and exposure compensation.

All these features would be of limited value if the image quality were lacking, but we found the Canon PowerShot S100 produced consistently excellent photographs, with good punchy contrast, well balanced colours and no shortage of detail across all of our test pictures.

Canon PowerShot S100 test photo

One particular standout was our flash-lit party scene: by opening up to its maximum f2.0 aperture, the S100 was able to give impressive warmth and clarity to the scene, while nicely softening the background. The long-distance text test was well rendered, too: some sharpening was visible from the JPEG rendering process, but letter details were among this month's more precise.

Video performance, shot at 1080p and 24fps, was just as strong, with bags of detail and rich, well-balanced colours. The zoom mechanism is just about audible over quiet moments, but should be unobtrusive under dialogue or music.

Details

Price ex VAT £319
Price inc VAT £383
Overall rating 5
Performance 3
Features & Design 6
Image quality 6
Value for Money 3

Basic specifications

Camera megapixel rating 12.0mp
Camera screen size 3.0in
Camera optical zoom range 5x
Camera maximum resolution 4,000 x 3,000

Weight and dimensions

Weight 198g
Dimensions 98 x 26 x 62mm (WDH)

Battery

Battery type included Lithium-ion
Battery life (CIPA standard) 200 shots
Charger included? yes

Other specifications

Built-in flash? yes
Aperture range f2 - f5.9
Camera minimum focus distance 0.03m
Shortest focal length (35mm equivalent) 24
Longest focal length (35mm equivalent) 120
Minimum (fastest) shutter speed 1/2,000
Maximum (slowest) shutter speed 15s
RAW recording mode? yes
Exposure compensation range +/- 3EV
ISO range 80 - 6400
Selectable white balance settings? yes
Manual/user preset white balane? yes
Progam auto mode? yes
Shutter priority mode? yes
Aperture priority mode? yes
Fully auto mode? yes
Exposure bracketing? yes
White-balance bracketing? no
Memory-card type SDXC
LCD resolution 460k
Video/TV output? yes
Body construction Metal
Tripod mounting thread? yes

Manual, software and accessories

Software supplied PhotoStitch, YouTube Upload, ZoomBrowser
Accessories supplied Wrist strap