The new Canon Powershot S100 compact camera is quite a nice small camera with some power shooter features as well as compromises. I meant to post this at 100 hours but now it’s more like 10 days, alas.
It doesn’t take long viewing this blog to see I shoot some snapshots.
For a while, I’ve been shooting with the Canon G11, well, actually I’ve been using quite a few Canon digital cameras. Wait, back up a bit. My first SLR was a Canon TX, which I saved my allowance to buy, waaayyyy back in… probably the 1970s. Yes, a film camera!
Then an influential friend was using Nikons, and I got a job at a retail photo shop where discounts on Nikons was possible, so for years I was a Nikon guy. Then digital came along and Canon took the lead, so my first digital was a Canon and I’ve not used any other brand (oh wait, an Olympus for a weekend, but I didn’t like it and was able to return it) since. In the PowerShot series, I started with the S65 but did not buy all in between models.
From compacts to the 5D MkII, I’ve been quite satisfied with the products and documentation, which imho is at least half the picture, so to speak. Great gear with lousy documentation is no good.
As a pilot in a smallish cockpit, I like a compact, belt-pouchable camera, but I like to shoot raw format and have wide angle capability. So the G11 was the ticket for most snapshooting, but it’s too big for daily belt-wear. My compromise for many months has been the iPhone 4, which has produced a number of photos on this site. I’m happy to have seen the Powershot S100 announced, and now to market. As soon as it was available, I got one and have been exploring the camera and documentation (I’m one of those who downloads the full pdf user guide and actually reads it all!).
Canon calls the S100 as “a sophisticated pocket-friendly point-and-shoot digital camera that has the power advanced users and enthusiasts need to create standout images.”
The shipping box-quite small and light! The camera itself is certainly “pocket-friendly” in the sense of size and weight, but would I put an expensive item like this in my pocket? I’ll post on the pocket theme another day, but I somehow grew up without the desire to put everything in pockets.
I ordered the black-body, which looks good, but has a textured plastic feel, which was not quite so nice for a camera in this price range.
‘In the box’ contents are sufficient, and neatly but not elegantly packaged. Quick start booklet useful but I am one of those who reads the full manual on things so I downloaded the full pdf from Canon and read most of it.
Lack of viewfinder… I think I might get used to it and am using good elbow-tuck and hand position for steadiness, but at my age that means I might need my glasses on to read the display’s icons that close to my face.
Size and legibility of controls is fine even for my aging eyes and semi-clumsy fingers. I admire that Canon has stuck with very close to the same set of icons, colors, and controls over the years instead of moving things around and changing them frequently. It makes the transition from one model of the line to another much easier.
Number of steps to move focal/exposure point (flexizone) is too many. From the G10 days I learned to set up my favorite baseline settings as a Custom (on the rotary dial) mode, so from there, I power-on, click Function button, click down or up five times, then Menu button, then click more to get the focus/exposure box where I want. Too much work! It’s a better feature than click-n-hold, recompose, if shooting more than one shot of the same scene, where you want focus/exposure set in a fixed area.
‘Full HD video’ feature I haven’t tried much, but it should be nice to have.
I do plan to experiment with the super-slow-mo feature, which at lower resolution takes lots of images in a short time, so a quick pan or shot of action makes time appear to slow to a crawl. Maybe can be combined with the zone of focus mode for that miniature world look.
Hm. how to turn LCD display off to save battery while in shooting mode? Used to be repeated pushing of Disp would cycle the display off. Perhaps without a viewfinder they decided the user wouldn’t want to turn it off while shooting. Hm. I’d like to save battery life and sometimes street-shoot without composing.
The included wrist strap-no tightening knob, so I bought one at B&H so the wrist strap will be tighter around the wrist-the provided strap could easily slide off the hand.
Also purchased a Tamrac belt case that has double-velcro for fastening to a belt, and a big-enough pouch under the velcro flap to store a backup SD card and Whi-Bal keychain card. Got the Class 6 Lexar card since the manual suggested Class 6 speed for HD video (amazon associate purchase links below).
GPS-takes several seconds to find itself, alas. It has a feature allowing camera to GPS-track itself until the battery wears out so you can show, say, the path of a hike on a map along with the location of photos. Could be useful in some scenarios, and for security if shooting in dicey areas or going to meet shady characters (cue the suspense-scene music!).
Lack of a hot shoe, I need to experiment with. I don’t recall reading if the S100 will properly expose with other flashes that may be slaved. With the G11 I put the TTL cord on and hold the 580EXII with a small light box or umbrella and can quickly take some minimal-setup nicely-lit shots.
ISO 6400 still produces a ‘grainy’ image especially compared with higher-end cameras. For the occasional indoor shot it should be ok. Currently I’m using Auto ISO to try to understand its logic.
Zoom range is pretty good, with 24-120mm equivalency. I occasionally could use more than 120, but it’s pretty good for a tiny camera and the wide side is more important in my shooting. Again, the goal is an ez unhindering camera to take everywhere, with more capability than a smartphone and realizing it won’t suit all needs. I certainly don’t want to take extra lenses, etc.
Aperture is a nice 2.0 on the wide end but a rather slow 5.9 on the tele end. Possibly some engineering challenges there that don’t allow a faster tele. Hope for a future enhancement.
The function ring around the lens was installed I think in the S80 or 90-ish. I’m still trying to ‘get’ it. For now I’m using it as a zoom ring but it seems to rotate the wrong direction for some intuitive reason.
I’m sort of missing the flip-out LCD screen of the G11, since I shoot at high and low and reaching-over-railings and self-portraitizing fairly often. Maybe engineers can find a suitable smallish mechanism for this in future.
There are a wealth of features listed on the Canon product page, and as I use them I may post on the results, but this is pretty much it for the getting-started view.
Apple’s Aperture photo management software usually takes a long time to update for new camera raw formats, but in this case hallelujah, the update for S100 raw was available within days of the camera’s availability here in the NYC area.
The Canon Powershot S100 is well worth looking at if your shooting needs lead you to its features. For me so far it is close to the power of the G11, and I am carrying it with me every time I go out and it’s light enough I almost forget it’s there. It’s out of the way for driving and flying, and if I need a low-light, wide-angle raw image it fits the bill. For day to day shooting for this advanced amateur’s needs, it is right on.
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