Forget everything you know about digital point-and-shoot cameras. The Canon PowerShot S100 will make you rethink digital picture making and the convenience of capturing your world with the ease of using a pocket camera. And with more tricks in store than Houdini had in his prime, such as impressive HD video recording (24 and 30 frames per second with stereo sound!), myriad pre- and post-production editing features, and a retractable, versatile zoom that brings your subject up to 20 times closer, you’ll be the one whose the master illusionist.
If you’re a DSLR elitist, get ready for an intervention. The PowerShot S100 is a sleek, sophisticated machine that performs extremely well in either fully automated or manual modes, has a retractable lens that ranges from a 24-mm wide angle to a 20X zoom, and saves images as RAW and/or JPEG files. When you’re ready, it also delivers more post-production editing features than many pricier DSLRs and let’s you completely customize all your favorite functions with the push of a few buttons, including automated exposure bracketing. It’s the camera you’ll joyfully marry for its elegance without fearing a short-lived honeymoon due to poor performance. In more concise terms, Canon’s S100 packs a lot of punch for a consumer-ready lightweight that can be worn around the wrist and easily operated with one hand.
Those accustomed to framing images through a viewfinder must instead use the PowerShot S100’s LCD screen to compose photos. Shooting in this way is typically reserved for amateurs, but it can have a positive affect on your shooting style because it forces you to more actively see constant changes in the 3-inch live-viewing area/frame. (One drawback to shooting with live view, however, is that the LCD screen can be difficult to see clearly in bright sunlight — a challenge with all digitals that have no viewfinder). Otherwise, it’s an inviting change from lifting the camera directly to your eye each time you take a shot. Many photographers feel that change in operation (much like using a cell phone to take photos) opens them up to new picture-taking opportunities. Because you don’t need to hold the camera to your face to shoot, subjects may be less aware of your presence and therefore you may capture more candid shots.
Despite its similar appearance to the earlier PowerShot S95, many users cite the S100 as a step up, both in design aesthetic and overall feel — it has a new thumb grip and a more user-friendly interface. Other changes include the addition of a GPS system that enables users to geo-tag their images, yet another upgrade.
In terms of image quality, the PowerShot S100 is consistently impressive. For starters, this little pocket gem contains the same high-end image processor as Canon’s more expensive professional models, which makes for better quality images in all light conditions, including low-light environments where using the flash is not possible. Reduced noise and better white balance features combine with its 12-megapixel CMOS digital sensor to provide a foundation for accurate color, rich skin tones, and incredible details. The enhanced contrast features (not available in earlier models) found in the S100’s DIGIC 5 image processor help the camera judge between several areas of black and white tones ensuring a nice gradation in overall tonality, even when shooting at higher ISO speeds up to 6400. And the automated facial recognition also helps users tell the camera where to concentrate its focus ensuring fewer missing shots.
The PowerShot S100’s automatic retractable lens enables tremendous possibilities and is quickly and easily extended with the shift of one finger on a button next to the shutter release. We were able to get clean, crisp images from more than a city block away from our subject! Obviously you might not need such a range, but when you’re caught in the cheap seats, such long-range access is more than welcomed; it’s necessary. Extreme close-ups, often problematic even in more expensive models, are also easily accomplished with this camera’s macro lens option. And the image stabilization features are top notch, especially since you’re getting the range in wide angle to zoom without the heaviness (and potential clumsiness) that comes with attaching a bulky long lens. Of course, all the automated extras are draining to the power supply, so you’ll want to buy an extra lithium battery as a back up — you’ll be having so much fun you’ll need it. We came close to burning through initial battery power after just 50 or 60 shots since we switched between video and stills and had engaged the motorized zoom lens for every shot searching for the perfect metered framing.
There are few complaints about the PowerShot S100 and it’s easy to see why critics, amateurs, and even professionals alike praise this camera. It was made with quality materials, is extremely compact and lightweight and easy to use (even without reading the manual or quick start guide), and it makes professional-looking images for a lot less money that you’d pay for the same digital sensor and processor. Better still, few people are going to guess that you’re packing such a sophisticated machine, enabling you picture making access in typically no-access areas: backstage, on the red carpet, and anywhere in between where professional-looking DSLR cameras are never permitted. The fact that you also have the option of recording HD video with stereo sound is not only remarkable at this pocket size — it’s unexpected. The video/sound recording quality supercedes that of smart phone video recording by miles, making this an excellent choice for recording any video where the sound is as important, such as concert performances, school plays, lectures, and more.
In short, we love this camera. It is smart, unexpectedly delightful, and it produced consistently attractive images. For the average retail price of $400 it gives first-time users all the major advantages of fancy DSLR ownership without all the fuss of spending hours learning how to operate it, changing lenses, or carrying around something heavy and challenging. It may look small, but the PowerShot S100’s image making ability and versatility are vast and powerful.