Review of the Canon Powershot S100
Truth be told, I don’t get a heckuva lot of use from a point and shoot. My readers out there might know that I have been using a Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS7 as my back up point-and-shoot digital camera for a couple of years. It comes in handy on the golf course or on the gun range when I don’t want to drag DSLR equipment along and I’m not concerned about producing top quality images…but frankly my iPhone 4 (and my just purchased iPhone 4s) can produce better quality images in some situations. Friends of mine who are on the Admin Team of my other site WATCH TALK FORUMS have positively raved about the Canon Powershot S95 for a couple of years now – the combination of quasi-manual controls, fantastic image quality and it’s pocketable size has made it a big winner with many. I always held out because the video features I’d want in a P&S digicam weren’t there, and I found the focal length range a bit too limiting on the long end with the S95. Then along comes the recently released Canon Powershot S100 featuring the new DIGIC 5 Image Processor, a fast f/2.0 lens, a 12.1 Megapixel sensor, and a 5x optical zoom providing a 35mm equivalent focal length of 24-120. On the video side, HD video resolution is up from 720P to full 1080P with the ability to zoom focus in video mode (a key feature I was interested in). Did I mention the S100 can save images in RAW file format? I was intrigued to say the least.
I had heard that Best Buy was getting the Powershot S100 in extremely limited quantities, so I sort of wondered into a Best Buy on a trip to Grand Rapids to see if I might find one to check out. As luck would have it, they had gotten only two in on their initial shipment, and had already sold one of them. so I decided I’d give the other one a try and see how I liked it:
Keep in mind I’m not going to use this camera as would the typical consumer. I’m a professional photographer, and my first choice is and always will be to use my DSLR equipment for optimal image quality. A point-and-shoot digital camera like the Canon Powershot S100 is a backup camera for me. But it does have many features I really like, and I already find myself using it more than I do my previously mentioned Panasonic. Because I’m a DSLR user, I’m used to having a lot of control over the camera. The S100 has a nifty adjustment dial at the base of the lens (see photo below) which, depending on the setting you’re in, can give you control over the camera’s aperture (f-stop) and shutter speed. That, combined with the ability to shoot in RAW file format (which provides more flexibility in post-photo image processing than cameras which simply store .jpg files) makes the S100 a far less compromised option for me when I don’t want to bring along my DSLR gear.
The focal range of the S100’s lens isn’t tremendous, but it is decidedly improved on both ends over the S100’s predecessor the Powershot S95 having gone from 28-105mm equivalent in the S95 to 24-120mm equivalent. It’s just wide enough and long enough to be a nice “walk around” camera. The lens is also quite speedy on the wide end (f2.0 at 24mm), and while it does drop to f5.9 at the long end, it is optically stabilized. Thanks to the great lens, the S100 is a great indoor shooter – another big improvement over my old Panasonic. The S100’s low light performance is reasonably good as well – it reminds me of my old Canon 40D DSLR in that it works well up to about 800 ISO before noise starts to become a problem. Canon’s CMOS sensor and DIGIC 5 image processor work together to do an admirable job of managing noise and maximizing detail.
I’m also pretty impressed with the layout of the controls – this is a camera I can hand to my wife or anyone on the street without them getting overwhelmed as they might handing them my DSLR. At the same time, the controls are similar enough to my Canon DSLRs that it’s not disorienting for me to use either. When handling the diminutive S100, I also appreciate the textured coating on the camera body which makes it easier to keep your grip on the camera.
The S100 is the first in the S line of Canon’s PowerShot compacts that is capable of recording video in full 1080 resolution and does so at 24 FPS. that’s not particularly fast, but is fine for most of the action-less video I shoot (like product reviews). Unlike the S95 and my DSLRs, AF while recording is possible, and the S100’s lens can be zoomed during movie recording (yeah!!). This makes the S100 a preferable choice for me in many situations to my DSLRs for video recording. The S100’s built in microphone is pretty darn impressive (though I wish it did have a “mic out” plug to use an external microphone) and even sports a built in ‘wind cut’ feature for reducing wind noise out doors.
The Canon S100 retails for $429.00 which about $100.00 more than I paid for my last point & shoot digital, but the S100 brings some serious capability and image quality to the table. It stays in my “every day carry” gear back and has already seen some good use since I purchased it in October. If you’d like to see some sample images, you can check out the comparison images I posted in my review of the iPhone 4s. I probably use the S100 less for images (only because the iPhone takes such great images) and more for video. But it works great for what I want and need from a digital P&S camera. Here’s a link to the Canon S100 on Amazon.com for more information:
Canon PowerShot S100 12.1 MP Digital Camera with 5x Wide Angle Optical Image Stabilized Zoom (Black)
John B. Holbrook, II
John B. Holbrook, II is a freelance writer, photographer, and author of ThruMyLens.org, as well as LuxuryTyme.com and TheSeamasterReferencePage.com. *All text and images contained in this web site are the original work of the author, John B. Holbrook, II and are copyright protected. Use of any of the information or images without the permission of the author is prohibited.