Canon S100

S100 Image Quality & Samples

Written by Digicamhelp Editor

The overall image quality of the Canon S100 is impressive considering that this diminutive camera has a relatively small sensor.

Reading the press releases about the Canon PowerShot S100 might give one the impression that the image quality for every shot taken with the camera will be on par with a DSLR. Well it’s not.

But the really good news is that the images are quite remarkable considering that they come from a small camera with a relatively small sensor.

As of this writing, I know of no other digital camera that slips into your pocket that is capable of producing such high quality photos in a wide variety of lighting conditions.

Click images to view larger size and details. Images open in new window.

High quality images from the S100

Good light

The S100 is capable of taking high quality photos under most lighting conditions. In bright light, colors are pleasing, accurate and vibrant. Color fringing, if present at all, is minimal. There is a slight, but welcome, increase in dynamic range compared to its predecessors. Click the thumbnail on the left and note that there are no blown highlights on the white areas of boat where blown might typically be present.

Many outside photos compare favorably to those taken with a quality entry-level DSLR and kit lens.

Low light/High ISO performance

The low-light capabilities of the S100 surpasses many compact cameras. Images are relatively noise-free up to ISO 800 and are a quite usable at ISO 1600. Even some ISO 3200 shots may surprise you. High ISO images are not  on par with bulky cameras with large sensors but, hey, the S100 only weighs 6.98 ounces (198 grams).

Some in-camera noise reduction (which can be lowered by changing a camera setting) may cause a lack of detail when viewing images at 100% on a computer monitor. Most images can effectively be sharpened when editing. The photo of the football helmets on the left was taken at ISO 640.

Automatic White Balance is generally accurate. White Balance can be adjusted when needed using presets or by doing a custom white balance.

S100 image sharpness

According to PC Magazine, “among cameras currently on the market, the S100 is the sharpest high-end compact that we’ve tested.” Though some quibble about the sharpness of the S100 when viewing images at 100%, I’ve found the sharpness to be just fine. You can adjust the amount of in-camera sharpening via the My Colors > Custom Color menu but don’t overdo it or you’ll have sharpening artifacts. I keep my sharpening setting to the default, preferring to sharpen images when editing.

Sharpening settings compared. ISO 320. Click for larger view.

Sharpness settings – ISO 800

Getting the best IQ from the S100

To get the very best image quality out of the S100, be willing to move away from some of the factory default camera settings [suggested camera settings]. If you prefer to shoot in an automatic mode, switch to P Mode so you can tweak a few settings when needed. It’s well worth the effort and it’s relatively easy to learn to adjust important settings such as Exposure Compensation.

Minimal photo editing will greatly enhance images when using steps similar to those outlined in this article.

Sample S100 images

Below are samples that showcase the quality images you can expect from the S100. They were shot as JPEG files.

Macro mode: 1/500 sec; f/4; ISO 80


100 % crop: 1/50 sec; f/4; ISO 80; Exposure Bias -1/3


Taken on a slightly overcast day; f/5.9; 1/640 sec; ISO 80; Exposure Bias: – 2/3


Macro Mode: 1/2000 sec;  f/2;  ISO 80;  Exposure Bias -2/3


Wide angle (24mm equiv); 1/50 sec, f/2; ISO 1600. No noise reduction used when editing.


Wide angle (24mm equiv); 1/60 sec, f/2.5; ISO 3200. No noise reduction used when editing.

More S100 images (slideshow):

For best view of photos, click slideshow icon for full screen mode.

[slideshow id=78]

See more photos taken with the S100 at my pBase gallery, including unedited, full resolution images.


  • Belle, if you’re a newbie you may want to use the S100 intelligent auto mode (switch to Auto mode). It’s quite good. For some shots, switch to the appropriate scene mode (SCN) on the dial. In our How To section of the site, there are a number of articles that may help you in the How To Photograph section. Click the links in the right hand column for a broad range of subjects.

  • im a really newbie to s100 i want to capture the best shot for:
    1. NY times square, how to capture those amazing lights at night
    2. Central park’s postcard looking trees, daytime
    3. How do make my background blurry-ish?

    Hope u do reply. Thanks!

  • What would be the best option for sunrise/sunset shots? Looking for something simple (one of the pre-set scenes?) I am not educated with the manual set-ups though so “quick and easy” solution is what I am after. Thanks.

  • Erdem, check page 92 of the S100 manual. It explains how to adjust settings such as color saturation and individual colors via the My Custom Colors menu. Page 88 explains how to adjust the noise reduction level.