Canon S100

Canon S100: To buy or not to buy?

Written by Gail Bjork

Some bad studio test shots have a lot of photo enthusiasts scratching their heads. So should you buy the Canon S100?

Every time a new camera comes out, photography forums are abuzz with discussions about whether or not a camera is better than its predecessor or another camera in its class.

So there is nothing new about all the scrutiny the new Canon S100 is currently receiving…except one area: some bad studio test shots viewed at 100%.* The studio test shot have a some photo enthusiasts grumbling.

Early S100 tests: the good and not so good

There have been a number of very positive, if not glowing, reviews of the S100. Some, like reviews posted at Digicamhelp, are given from a user perspective. In other words, we report what we find after extensive use of a camera, taking photos with it in a similar manner as most camera owners.

Studio tests raise questions

Two respected digital photography review sites, dpreview and Imaging Resource posted studio test shots that indicate unusual softness in the lower right-hand corner of images. dpreview posted their “best” results after using two copies of the S100. As of this writing, they plan to test a third copy!

Hmmm, this does not engender much confidence for those whose expectations where heightened by the Canon press release for the S100. Neither does the belief held by some that image quality of a new camera should be better than its predecessor.

User reports conflict with studio tests

Many S100 owners, including those who are experienced digital camera users, are very pleased with the image quality of the S100. We’ve posted images and testimony in photography forums that support our experience with the camera.

Why our cameras don’t exhibit the same problems as the two test sites, no one really knows. The most notable difference is that we take photos in the real world rather than in controlled studio conditions.

It’s understandable, though, that some potential buyers may give more weight to a review site than the testimony and images shared by individual camera owners.

Where have all the S100’s gone?

The S100 was announced mid-September with a stated release date of early November. Most camera manufacturers would have had their camera on the shelves by now, in advance of the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays.

Though some of us bought the S100 in late October, it is now listed as “temporarily out of stock” or “temporarily unavailable” at websites of major camera sellers such as Amazon, Best Buy and B&H Photo.

Many suspect there were production problems with some batches of cameras and that Canon has ceased distribution of the S100 until they get them worked out.

So, should you buy the S100?

When the camera becomes available, should you buy it?

If the S100 is the type of camera you’re looking for, yes! But only buy from a reputable dealer that offers a return policy, one long enough to give you time to check if the camera produces images to your satisfaction.

You don’t have to take photographs in a studio-like setting. Take shots at wide and telephoto angles, and everything in between. Use the various modes on the camera to take pictures (and video) in various lighting conditions. Test the flash, test the continuous shooting, anything you regularly use on a camera. Remember too, that many cameras show some corner softness but it is rarely, if ever, visible they way most use photos.

If you’re pleased with what you see, forget the studio tests!

*Note: viewing photos at 100% (full resolution) on a computer monitor is known as “pixel peeping,” something most camera users never do.

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.


  • Thank you, Marc. Regarding flash over exposure, use a mode such as P Mode so you can decrease the amount of flash using flash compensation (page 107 in the manual). Using FE Lock can also be very helpful (page 104).

  • I really appreciate your informative summary of S100 issues. Personally, I have not experienced lower-right softness, but will run a few more tests to see if I’ve missed something. The only weak spot with my S100 has been the high levels of flash over-exposure achieved in snapshot situations. Other than that, I’m very satisfied with the camera.