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Canon Powershot S100 Serious Compact Review

Joshua Waller reviews the new Canon Powershot S100. An update to the S95, it features a new wide angle 5x optical zoom lens and built in GPS.

| Canon PowerShot S100 in Compact Cameras
BUY NOW CANON PowerShot S100

Canon Powershot S100 Serious Compact Review: Canon PowerShot S100 Front
Canon PowerShot S100 Front

The Canon Powershot S100 is the latest "serious compact" from Canon and includes a slightly larger than normal 12 megapixel backlit CMOS sensor, 10fps shooting, a new wide angle 5x optical zoom lens and built in GPS.

Canon Powershot S100 Features

Canon Powershot S100 Serious Compact Review: Canon PowerShot S100 Lens Extended
Canon PowerShot S100 Lens Extended

The Canon Powershot S100 introduces a wide and longer zoom than the model it replaces and instead of the 28mm - 105mm equivalent 3.8x optical zoom lens on the S95, it now features a a 25mm - 120mm equivalent 5x optical zoom lens. Despite the addition of more zoom and a GPS unit, the S100 is actually thinner than the S95 and should therefore fit into even tighter pockets.

Canon Powershot S100 Serious Compact Review: Canon PowerShot S100 Top
Canon PowerShot S100 Top

Key Features

  • 12mp CMOS Backlit Sensor, 1/1.7inch
  • 5x optical zoom lens - 24mm - 120mm, f/2.0-f/5.9
  • 3 inch screen, 460k dots
  • Optical (Lens based) Image Stabilisation
  • i-Contrast and HDR modes built in
  • Burst Mode: 10fps at full resolution
  • Built in GPS
  • Manual Control, RAW support
  • Lens control ring
  • ISO 80 - 6400
  • 3cm Macro mode

Canon Powershot S100 Handling

Canon Powershot S100 Serious Compact Review: Canon Powershot S100 and Canon Powershot S95
Canon Powershot S100 and Canon Powershot S95

Handling - The S100 addresses one of the biggest complaints about the previous models and adds a front and rear grip, with a small rubber bar at the front and a small rubber grip at the back. The textured black body feels more grippy than the previous model, although the S95 I have for comparison may have just aged over time. However, the top of the camera is also textured compared to the previous model which was smooth and the shutter release and on/off button has been enlarged slightly. Overall this makes the camera much more easy to hold.

Canon Powershot S100 Serious Compact Review: Canon PowerShot S100 Screen
Canon PowerShot S100 Screen

The camera also adds a dedicated video button and moves the display button to the bottom of the 4-way controller, removing quick access to the self-timer function. The buttons have a texture to them and the mode dial has been updated and feels easier to turn, with the S95 being quite stiff, not that it's really an issue. On the front of the camera is a lens control ring that can be customised to set various options.

Canon Powershot S100 Serious Compact Review: Canon Powershot S100 and Canon Powershot S95 Back
Canon Powershot S100 and Canon Powershot S95 Back

Menus: There are additional menu options on the S100 compared to the S95, with the addition of High ISO NR settings (Low, Standard, High), Sport AE Point, Wind Filter (on/off), Power IS for movies, and with the removal of the shortcut button, the Ring function button can now be customised.

As the camera now features GPS, there are a few GPS options: On/Off, and GPS Logger (On/Off). Switch GPS on and the camera warns you to monitor battery life. There is also the option to update the camera's time from GPS. Included in the box is Map Utility software so that you can track where you've been.

In playback, there is a new Movie Digest Playback function, Auto rotate and group image options.

Canon Powershot S100 Serious Compact Review: Canon PowerShot S100 Battery
Canon PowerShot S100 Battery

Battery life - The battery life is rated at 200 shots according to CIPA standards, and the camera uses a slightly larger battery, with a higher power rating of 1120mAh (typ) compared to 1000mAh on the S95. We were able to take 280 shots before the battery went flat, although a number of these were shot using the 10fps shooting mode. The use of GPS will also drain the camera's battery life, and the camera will very quickly go from showing 3 bars of battery life (full) to a nearly empty 1 bar (red) battery.

Canon Powershot S100 Serious Compact Review: Canon Powershot S100 and Canon Powershot S95 Top
Canon Powershot S100 and Canon Powershot S95 Top

Speed - We tested each camera's performance at focusing, shutter response, shot to shot time, continuous shooting etc, and have posted the results below. To test this we took 6 or more shots and calculated the average, so that consistent results were produced, we also made sure to test all the cameras at the same time to ensure the cameras were being tested under the same conditions.

Canon S100
Panasonic LX5  Canon S95
Shutter Reponse 0.05 <0.1 <0.1
Wide - Focus / Shutter Response
0.35 0.3 0.4
Full zoom - Focus / Shutter Response 0.40 0.3 0.45
Switch on Time to Taking a Photo 2.1
1.8 1.9
Shot to Shot (without flash) 1.8 0.9 (2 shots) 2.1
Shot to Shot with Flash 3.0 1.6 (2 shots) 3.0 (2 shots)
Continuous Shooting (JPEG) Norm: 2fps
10fps (8shots)
2.5fps (3 shots) 2fps (~)
Continuous Shooting (with Flash) 1.8s - 1.5s
Continuous Shooting (RAW) 0.8s - 0.9s

The Canon Powershot S100 offers 10fps shooting for 8 shots when in the High Speed scene mode, but in normal shooting is generally a very similar speed to the S95, shooting at just 2fps which is slightly slower than the Panasonic Lumix LX5. The S100 also has an HDR mode, that will take 3 shots and combine them, however this too is shot at the slower 2fps speed, which seems odd considering the high speed shooting available.

Canon Powershot S100 Performance

We've taken a number of sample photos in a variety of settings to show you the image quality produced by this camera, you can view them full size by clicking the "High-Res" link. Additional sample photos can be seen here in the equipment database, where you can add your own review.

Canon PowerShot S100 Sample Photos

Sample photos show great colour, with good levels of detail. The portrait shot has come out well, although there is a slight hint of red eye.

Canon PowerShot S100 Lens test images

At the wide end of the zoom there is slight corner softness. The camera gives good detail at both wide and telephoto ends of the zoom. Purple fringing is quite low except in corners. Macro performance is good with the lens able to focus on subjects 3cm away from the lens.

Canon PowerShot S100 Scene modes

Handheld nightscene mode records 4 photos and combines them into one shot, if anything is moving such as cars in the shot shown then you will get an image with ghosting. HDR is similar in that it will take a number of shots (3 shots) and combine them for increased dynamic range, however the camera doesn't appear to use the high speed (10fps) shooting mode and shoots much slower, meaning a tripod is recommended.

Canon PowerShot S100 ISO test images

ISO Noise Performance - These shots show very low noise levels at ISO100 - 200, and even low noise at ISO400 - 800. At ISO1600 noise begins to have a more noticeable negative effect on image quality. ISO3200 shows another increase in noise levels, with grain appearing over the image. ISO6400 shows the highest levels of noise and would be best used for resized images.

Canon PowerShot S100 White-balance test images

White Balance - The camera gives warm images with auto white balance on under tungsten lighting. Using the tungsten preset gives much better results. Auto white balance performs well under fluorescent light, with the fluorescent preset giving a slight yellow tint.

Canon PowerShot S100 Digital filters

Digital Filters - A huge amount of creative effects are available, as well as options to use iContrast for increased dynamic range. The colour can be altered using the presets such as vivid, neutral, sepia etc, as well as customised with contrast, sharpness, saturation, red, green, blue and skin tone options.

Video Example - The S100 recored full HD video with stereo sound and optical zoom. The camera can also record iFrame video for use with Apple devices. High speed recording is available with 240/120fps at reduced resolution. Quality is good, and the camera includes a wind filter to help cutdown background noise.

Value For Money

The Canon Powershot S100 will be available for around £379, this puts it at the mid to high end of the market, although it is one of few cameras with built in GPS. The majority of alternatives are cheaper, including some mirrorless cameras, although there are few serious compacts as small as this. Alternatives include the Nikon Coolpix P300, Panasonic Lumix LX5, Nikon Coolpix P7100, Olympus XZ-1, Canon Powershot G12, and others.

Canon Powershot S100 Verdict

The Canon Powershot S100 is the long awaited update to the original S90/S95 and with a front and rear grip the camera now addresses one of the original complaints about the camera. The addition of a 12 megapixel back lit CMOS sensor means lower noise, and 10fps shooting, however it's a shame that other aspects of the camera aren't as quick, with similar speed focus, and performance as the camera it replaces, the S95. Although the camera now has a larger battery, the inclusion of GPS means that if you use GPS, then the battery life will suffer. The price of the camera is also higher than the model it replaces.

However, saying all of this, the camera provides great image quality, a longer and wider zoom than the S95, and with a slimmer body it should fit even more easily into pockets. I can see this camera, like the S95, being very popular with anyone who wants to travel light, yet still take good quality photos. Recommended.
Canon Powershot S100 Serious Compact Review:
The Canon Powershot S100 is a compact shooter with great image quality, high speed shooting and built in GPS.

Canon Powershot S100 Pros

Great image quality
Extra wide-angle and zoom
Quicker continuous shooting
Grips provided
Slimmer camera
Larger battery (see below)
GPS built in (although beware of battery drain)

Canon Powershot S100 Cons

Panoramic stitching not performed in camera
Battery warning poor, will go from 3 bars straight to red battery
Less buttons than the S95
Despite larger battery, it is still only rated for 200 shots
Aperture quickly closes / drops down when you use the zoom


Canon PowerShot S100 Specifications

Max Aperturef/2 - f/5.9
35mm equivalent24mm - 120mm
Optical Zoom5x
Image Sensor
Pixels12.1Mp (Megapixels)
Pixels (W)4000
Pixels (H)3000
Sensor TypeCMOS
Sensor Size1/1.7 inch
Sensor Size (width)7.6mm
Sensor Size (height)5.7mm
Aspect Ratio
  • 4:3
  • 16:9
LCD Monitor
LCD Monitor3in
Screen resolution1024 x 768
Touch ScreenNo
Min Focus3cm
Focusing modes
  • Autofocus
  • Fixed
  • Face Detection
  • AF Tracking
Exposure Control
Shutter speeds shortest1/2000sec
Shutter speeds longest15sec
Bulb modeNo
Exp modes
  • Program
  • Aperture-Priority
  • Shutter-Priority
  • Manual
  • Scene modes
  • Centre-weighted - Average
  • Spot
ISO sensitivity80 - 6400
White balance
  • Auto
  • Manual
  • Outdoors/Daylight
  • Cloudy
  • Incandescent
  • Fluorescent
  • Flash
Exposure Comp+/-3
Shooting Options
Continuous shooting9.6fps
Movie modeYes
Video Resolution
  • 1920x1080 FullHD
  • 1280x720 HD 720p
  • 640x480 VGA
  • 320x240 QVGA
Video FPS24
Stereo SoundYes
Optical Zoom with VideoYes
Other Features
Image StabilisationYes
Card Type
  • SD
  • SDHC
  • SDXC
File Type
  • JPG
  • RAW
  • RAW + JPG
Power Source
Battery TypeRechargeable Li-ion Battery NB-5L
Battery Life (CIPA rating)200shots
Box Contents
Box ContentsNo Data

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Photographs taken using the Canon PowerShot S100

The DrivewayBearded Male GoatRainy Day in LondonGoddess of WaterTall Ships at DawnFinal StrikeI wanna to be Free.jpgInsects #20Insects #8Breakfast TimeInsects #5Passenger's ViewGoing Home!The Sales PitchMarylone Street, Gloucester

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mikesavage Avatar
It would be interesting to know how the image quality compares to the Fuji X10: is it worth buying the Canon & saving ~£150? They both look very good & may not be obvious competitors but they both seem impressive machines to me.
joshwa Avatar

Quote:It would be interesting to know how the image quality compares to the Fuji X10: is it worth buying the Canon & saving ~£150? They both look very good & may not be obvious competitors but they both seem impressive machines to me.

Here you go:

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