Canon PowerShot S100 review
Stunning image quality for a conventional compact camera, but shot-to-shot performance and battery life just keep it from top marks
Review Date: 16 Dec 2011
Price when reviewed: £382
Reviewed By: Ben Pitt
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The compact camera market has never been so vibrant, with compact system cameras (CSCs) from all the big manufacturers battling it out for pole position. All, that is, except Canon. It has yet to reveal its intentions in the CSC market, but judging by the PowerShot S100, it might not be in any hurry.
The S100 is part of an older school of premium compact camera design. There's no big SLR-style sensor, and no interchangeable lenses. Its 1/1.7in sensor is a little bigger than those in most compact cameras, though. We've often seen this type of sensor give a significant boost to image quality over cameras with 1/2.3in sensors.
Unlike CSCs, the S100 is genuinely pocket-sized, weighing 198g and measuring 26mm deep. It's also significantly smaller than the Nikon P7100, which uses the same sized sensor but weighs 395g and is 48mm deep.
The S100 can't match the P7100 for the sheer number of controls, but with its mode dial and two rings – one encircling the lens and the other around the navigation pad – adjusting exposure settings is quicker than on most CSCs. A button cycles the lens ring's function through various options including ISO speed, exposure compensation and zoom, and its default assignment changes depending on the selected exposure mode. A Function menu gives convenient access to various other photographic settings, while less commonly used options are in a separate menu. Manual focus and exposure are well implemented, but the option to move the spot-focus point could be quicker to access.
We'd have liked general performance to be quicker, too. It took 2.4 seconds to switch on and shoot. Subsequent shots were 2.5 seconds apart, rising to 2.7 seconds in raw mode and 7.6 seconds with the flash at full power. These aren't terrible results but they fall well short of the fastest compact cameras and even the slowest CSCs. Continuous mode was better, with a dedicated scene preset that captured eight shots at 9.1fps. The screen was blank during capture, though, and there’s limited control over other settings in this mode. Alternative continuous modes ran at 1.9fps with full control over the camera, or 0.8fps with continuous autofocus.
The Canon S95's slim, smooth body wasn't the easiest thing to hold, so it's good to see a plastic ridge to grip onto this time around. It couldn't be much smaller, though – a more substantial design would have made the camera much more comfortable to hold without compromising portability.
A GPS radio is built in, but tagging accuracy was a little erratic and the majority of our photos weren't tagged at all. We'd be tempted to leave the GPS function off, especially as it diminishes battery life. Even with GPS switched off, it’ll only last for 200 shots between charges. Recording videos really taxes the battery, too – the battery indicator often starting flashing during video recording, even though it was only recently charged up. On one occasion it ran out while recording, but we were still able to take two further minutes of videos and dozens more photos on the same charge.
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