Canon S100

S100: Pros and Cons

Written by Gail Bjork

There is a lot to like about the Canon S100, an advanced premium compact camera that fits in your pocket. But there are a few things still in need of improvement.

There is a lot to like about the Canon S100!

This highly advanced pocket camera has winning combination of small size, larger sensor than found in most compacts and a fast lens at the widest aperture. But like all digital cameras, it’s not quite perfect.

What I like about the S100:

  • Image quality – on par with my S90 which had excellent image quality. The S100 has the edge on high ISO performance.
  • Size – a lot of advanced features and controls packed into a camera that weighs just under seven ounces (198 g)
  • Longer and wider zoom range than its predecessors (24-120mm vs 28-105mm)
  • Less noise at high ISO for better low light performance and the ability to shoot at higher shutter speeds in bright light  (depends on focal length used and actual brightness of light).
  • Excellent menu system – actually, it’s the best menu system I’ve ever had on a Canon compact camera, and certainly better that all other cameras I’ve owned.
  • Much improved ergonomics – The S100 has a matte textured surface, a minimalist finger grip on the front of the camera and a nicely contoured, well-placed thumb grip on the back. Combined, these improvements make the camera easier to use and hold than its predecessors. Still, I’ve added a grip.
  • Focuses quite rapidly in many lighting conditions, though it’s slow compared to a DSLR).
  • ISO 80-6400 instead of previous 3200 max; ISO 1600 does surprisingly well considering the smaller size of the sensor.
  • Continuous shooting at 2.3 fps; High Speed scene mode captures eight frames at 9.6 fps (JPEG images only)
  • Larger shutter release button than predecessors
  • Built-in Neutral Density Filter
  • Dedicated video button – you can take movies in any shooting mode by pressing the video button. However, you can’t adjust Exposure Compensation unless you switch the dial to Video mode.
  • AutoFocus, AutoExposure and zoom during video

What I dislike about the Canon S100

  • Slow lens at the long end of the zoom
  • Battery depletes too quickly, especially if you shoot video or use the GPS features. You need a spare battery or two.
  • Lacks dedicated button to open the built-in flash. It still jolts up. I keep mine turned off and manually enable it when needed.
  • Using AE/AF Lock is awkward. You must simultaneously press the shutter button halfway and one of two arrow buttons on the four-way controller to selct AE/FE Lock or AF Lock. You can register one of the functions to the RING/FUNC Button.
  • LCD screen could have a higher resolution than 461k dots
  • Lacks bevel around the LCD
  • Panorama and High Dynamic Range modes are showing their age. For example, Sony’s Sweep Panorama is so much better and automatically stitches images in the camera. To use Canon’s HDR mode, you need a tripod.
  • Only ISO 80 can be used for exposures longer than one minute. The s90/95 do not have this limitation.
  • Chincey wrist strap – no slider to tighten the strap around your wrist.
  • No hard copy of the manual, only PDF version.
  • Expensive, though you can sometimes get it at a discount.

About the author

Gail Bjork

Gail Bjork, who is passionate about digital photography, is the owner and editor of Digicamhelp.Gail is the author of three illustrated ebooks about digital photography. A number of her photos and digital photography related articles appear at other websites.In 2006, a series of her photos, People in the Louvre, were exhibited at the Underground Photo Gallery
in Iisalmi Finland. Eight of her photos taken in the Florida scrub are on permanent exhibition at Parrish Medical Center in Titusville, Florida.Gail served twelve years as an elected member of The School Board of Palm Beach County, Florida, one of the largest school districts in the U.S. She has also been the editor of a small town newspaper and a free-lance writer. Gail and her husband owned and ran several small businesses.

6 Comments

  • Weird. I myself find the LCD resolution fantastic! Even better than my computer’s screen. Can you name a compact with a better LCD pls? I’m just weird how much better can it get.

    I own my S100 for a year now and generally agree with the other points you’ve made. It’s a great camera overall, although it just came back to me from service after the lens stuck for no obvious reason… Hffrrmmmm..@#$%

  • Frederick, a sound will be recorded whenever the zoom is used during recording. It should be barely noticeable, if noticeable at all, when there is background noise. When there is no background noise, set the focal length before you begin and avoid using the zoom during recording.

  • You’re absolutely correct about the price. I’ve added a comment that it’s expensive.

    I suppose I didn’t think about it because I used a 10% off coupon when I bought the s100. Plus the retail price is less than when I bought the s90.

    The s100 is not as slippery as its predecessors, though there is certainly no guarantee that it won’t fall out of your hand. I’m planning to get the custom grip mentioned in this article.

  • Thanks for that summary. You have pinpointed the advantages and disadvantages of S100 very well. The image quality, both resolution and low light performance, seems to be better with a large margin than any other camera in its size class. The 24mm wide angle is also a big improvement from the S95 and I like the solid metal build quality. It is a great engineering achievement of Canon to get that performance from such a small camera. However, you forgot its biggest drawback: the price. It is, e.g., twice the price of Nikon P300 which I currently use. I would be too nervous to bring the S100 on travels because it is easy to drop or lose such a small camera if one is bit clumsy and absentminded as I. So I have decided to stick to my Nikon at the moment. It has of course not as good image quality and build quality but better display resolution, battery life and useful HDR and panorama modes. When/if the price of the S100 drops 25-30% I will buy it.