Canon PowerShot S110 review
Compact system cameras such as the Sony Alpha NEX-6 may hog the limelight, but there’s still life in conventional premium compact designs. These cameras’ sensors are smaller than those used in CSCs, and they don’t have interchangeable lenses, but they make up for it by packing in a lot of flexibility.
The Canon S110’s lens can focus on subjects only 3cm away, and combines a 5x zoom with a wide f/2 maximum aperture. The latter counterbalances the smaller sensor to give comparable image quality in low light to a CSC with a 3x zoom kit lens and an f/3.5 maximum aperture.
The S110’s aperture is only this bright at the wide end of the zoom range, though. For telephoto shots it only manages f/5.9, which is slightly darker than usual. So, while this camera performs well in low light for wide-angle photography, it isn’t as competitive when you zoom in.
Other premium compact cameras maintain a wide aperture throughout their zoom range, but in the S110’s defence, it’s much slimmer and lighter than those models, at 27mm deep compared to the Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX7 (50mm), Samsung EX2F (51mm) and Canon PowerShot G15 (40mm).
Photographic control is unusually comprehensive for such a petite camera, with priority and manual exposure, HDR shooting and manual focus. The navigation pad doubles as a wheel for fast operation, and a ring encircling the lens can be assigned to various functions, from zoom to ISO speed.
The 3in screen at the rear is touch-sensitive, so moving the autofocus point is a breeze. The menus aren’t optimised for touch operation, but we found navigating them straightforward.
The S110 isn’t particularly quick at taking photos. We measured an average of 2.4 seconds between shots in normal use, while continuous mode ran at 1.9fps, or only 1fps for raw.
There’s a 10fps mode among the scene presets, but it only lasts for 10 frames, offers minimal control over other settings and the screen is blank during capture. The 200-shot battery life is disappointing, too.
For features, though, the S110 is right up there. Wi-Fi is built in, giving drag-and-drop access to the card contents from a networked PC. You can also pair the camera with an iOS or Android smartphone/tablet for connection when you’re out and about.
We had difficulty connecting to our third generation iPad, but our test Android handset worked flawlessly, and we were able to browse the card contents, either as thumbnails or full screen, and transfer images at a choice of resolutions.
Leave the app running, and it will also keep a GPS log, enabling it to retrospectively geotag photos on the camera. This proved a debilitating drain the phone’s battery, however.
The 1/1.7in sensor is smaller than CSC sensors but it’s 50% bigger by surface area than the 1/2.3in sensors used in cheaper compact cameras. This has a marked effect on image quality.
Photos taken in bright light are crisp and detailed, with only the subtlest hint of noise in shadows. Noise reduction takes its toll on subtle details in low light, but the results are much better than from cheaper compacts. As long as you keep to the wide-angle end of the zoom, night-time shots under street lighting look fine when resized for sharing online.
Video quality impressed, too, with smooth autofocus and exceptional detail in 1080p clips, but the soundtrack was a little noisy and muffled.
Shot-to-shot performance is the S110’s weakest area, but while it might frustrate those who are used to SLR speeds, it won’t bother more casual photographers who want high image quality in pocket-sized dimensions. In these terms, the Canon PowerShot S110 fits the bill perfectly. It’s our new A-List compact.
Canon PowerShot S110 sample shots:
Click this link for the full resolution version of the above photo
Author: Ben Pitt
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