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Canon PowerShot 100 HS Review

by Shawn Barnett and Stephanie Boozer
Review Posted: 11/11/2011

Canon has always impressed us with its ability to produce very good quality cameras at the low end of the price spectrum. Even their very cheapest cameras are usually better than the competition at the same price point, and as such they usually get pretty high marks from us at Imaging-Resource.com. Though the Canon 100 HS isn't quite the cheapest of the line, it's the bottom of the ELPH line, with a current suggested retail price of $180; as of this writing it's selling at about the $150 range from some retailers, making it a great choice for holiday gift giving.

As owner of one of its spiritual predecessors, I always like to give this level of camera a closer look to see how well it might fit in my pocket, as I like having a small camera with me at all times. Though I say it's the bottom of the line, it still has a 28mm-equivalent lens at its widest, a 3-inch LCD, optical image stabilization, Full HD video recording, and HDMI out.

Look and Feel. The Canon 100 HS has a smooth version of Canon's classic box-and-circle design; we've seen them go back and forth between sharp and soft edges, but this is a very nice look that's both becoming and rests well in a pocket. The ELPH series is usually made of metal, and the 100 HS is no exception, sporting an anodized metal shell front and back, but with a quite obviously plastic frame sandwiched in the middle. It's probably the main disappointment to the Canon 100 HS's design, because every other aspect looks pretty high quality. The Canon logo is raised and textured, serving as a slight finger grip as you hold the 100 HS

As you can see, it's available in orange. It really stands out. Kids seem to love it. You can also get the Canon 100 HS in silver, pink, gray, and blue.

The top deck is simple, with the Mode switch, power button, and the shutter button, ringed by the zoom toggle. To the right of that are four holes for the speaker. This is just the right configuration for most pocket cameras, as more than this just causes confusion in such a small space.

On the back, the 3-inch LCD features large and in charge, with only a few controls off to the right. Canon left a little bit of space for your thumb just left of the Movie Record button. It would have been nice to have some kind of texture here, but it works well enough.

Having a dedicated Movie Record button is great, because you don't have to fiddle to find the right mode if you see a moment better captured with video than stills; just press the button!

A simple four-way disk serves as both navigator and four buttons for relatively important settings when in Record mode: Exposure compensation, Flash modes, Display options, and Focus mode. In the center you'll find the Function/Set button, which both brings up the Function menu and serves as the equivalent of an OK button. Menu and Playback buttons appear below that to round things out. Just above the Playback button is a small LED that lights when booting and writing to the card.

Lens. Ranging from 28-112mm equivalent, the zoom on the Canon 100 HS is very good for basic scenic and people shooting, though I recommend zooming in a little for most people pictures, as 28mm can distort head and body shapes more dramatically. It used to be that cameras in this space had 3x zoom lenses, but this one is a 4x, primarily because of the 28mm end of the lens.

The lens zooms fairly fast, with a slight buzzing sound as it does. While recording video, you can only zoom in digitally. Zooming starts from where the lens was set when recording started.

Battery and Storage. The Canon 100 HS uses a 760mAh NB-4L lithium-ion battery capable of capturing about 230 shots on a charge. That's just a little below average for its class.

For storage, the 100 HS is compatible with SD, SDHC, SDXC memory cards, Eye-Fi, MultiMediaCards, MMCplus cards, and HC MMCplus cards. Canon recommends using at least a Class 6 speed card for Full HD movie capture. Like most PowerShots, the Canon 100 HS has no internal memory available for image storage.

Shooting. Taking the Canon 100 HS out for a quick spin, it behaved so much like my old ELPH cameras that I was right at home. Were it not for the orange color, I'd have forgotten I was using something new and just shot as usual. You can take that to mean it's a great experience with a camera that I'd buy myself.

There are a few differences worth mentioning, just in case you've also used another PowerShot ELPH. First, the navigation disk is a little stiff and so small that it could be difficult for some with larger fingers to actuate. I'm about in the middle, and have no trouble tilting my thumb to the right angle of attack, but I've been using small cameras and computers for years, so it could be chalked up to experience and a certain sense of stubborn determination on my part. If small controls frustrate you, consider a different model.

Wide and tele. 4x optical zoom ranging from 28-112mm equivalent.

As for the Function menu, it's unfortunately the virtual dial kind, that rolls like a slot machine on the left side of the screen, rather than showing more options across the entire screen as the Function menu used to do. It's a bit of a hassle, and I think it'll confuse novices enough that most should just shoot in Auto mode. The main menu uses the familiar tabbed layout that is easily navigated.

Autofocus is about as fast as most of Canon's ELPH cameras in the last few years, not blazing, but not slow either. At wide angle it's about a half-second to autofocus and capture an image. At telephoto it's more like 0.6 second, just a tenth of a second longer. That's reasonable.

Muted and Vivid. I was disappointed with the drab rendering of the Fall leaves above, but switching to Super Vivid cranked it up noticeably.

Color is fairly muted, surprisingly so, for a Canon camera. This Fall scene at left was more vibrant to my eye than the camera captured, but switching to Super Vivid mode captured more of the scene's beauty.

Special features abound in this low cost camera. Canon's HS system is tuned for high sensitivity in low light, and includes a backlit CMOS sensor to gather more light. Full HD video, 24 fps at 1,920 x 1,080 progressive includes Dynamic Image Stabilization for smoother video overall. Capturing action is easy thanks to the High-speed Burst mode that captures up to 8.2 frames per second (fps), though it reduces resolution to three megapixels (our laboratory results only show the camera capturing 6.3 fps, for the record).

Super Slow Motion Movie mode is also good for action, capturing video at 120 fps at VGA, or 240 fps at quarter VGA resolution. Other available resolutions include 720p, VGA, and QVGA, all at 30 fps. Movies are captured in MOV format, which works better with computers, and sound is mono, not stereo.

Full HD Movie. 1920x1080 at 24 fps. Click to download 47.1MB MOV file.

Smart Auto analyses the scene and selects the right mode to handle it, or you can choose to select your own mode by sliding the Mode switch on the top deck to the Camera icon. That'll give you the choice of shooting in Program mode, or many other special Scene modes. The 25 additional modes include Movie Digest, Portrait, Kids & Pets, Smart Shutter (which fires the shutter when people in the picture smile, wink or enter the frame), High-speed Burst, Best Image Selection, Handheld Night Scene, Low Light, Fisheye Effect, Miniature Effect, Toy Camera Effect, Monochrome, Super Vivid, Poster Effect, Color Accent, Color Swap, Beach, Underwater, Foliage, Snow, Fireworks, Long Shutter, Stitch Assist, Movie, and Super Slow Motion Movie.

Overall, the PowerShot 100 HS is an enjoyable pocket camera that defines what an inexpensive point and shoot should be. It's easy to recommend for anyone looking for a quality affordable pocket camera for themselves or as a gift.

 

Canon PowerShot ELPH 100 HS Lens Quality


Wide: Sharp at center
Wide: Slightly soft at upper left
Tele: Sharp at center
Tele: Very mild blurring, upper left corner

Sharpness: The wide-angle end of the Canon PowerShot ELPH 100 HS' zoom shows some minor blurring in the corners of the frame compared to what we see at center, though blurring doesn't extend far into the image area. At telephoto, performance is a even better, with very mild softening in the corners. Very good results overall.


Wide: Moderate barrel distortion; noticeable but still slight
Tele: A small amount of barrel distortion, though barely visible

Geometric Distortion: There is moderate barrel distortion at wide-angle (0.5%), and a small amount of barrel distortion at telephoto (0.2%). The PowerShot ELPH 100 HS' processor does work to keep distortion under control here, and though some distortion still breaks through, the effects are minimal.


Wide: High and somewhat bright
Tele: Not as noticeable

Chromatic Aberration: Chromatic aberration at wide-angle is a little high in terms of pixel count, and those pixels are somewhat bright (most notable are the bluish pixels). Telephoto, however, shows less noticeable distortion, with more subtle red and blue pixels.


Macro
Macro with Flash

Macro: The Canon PowerShot ELPH 100 HS' Macro mode captures a lot of fine detail at the center of the frame, though blurring in the corners creeps far toward center (a common limitation among consumer digital cameras in macro mode). Minimum coverage area is 1.55 x 1.16 inches (39 x 30mm), which is quite good. The camera focuses so closely that the flash is blocked by the lens in the lower right corner, and overcompensates by blowing out the top left.


 

Canon PowerShot ELPH 100 HS Viewfinder Accuracy


Wide: LCD Monitor
Tele: LCD Monitor

Viewfinder Accuracy: The Canon PowerShot ELPH 100 HS' LCD monitor showed just over 100% coverage at wide-angle and at telephoto, which is very good.


 

Canon PowerShot ELPH 100 HS Image Quality


Color: The Canon ELPH 100 HS produced good overall color, though bright yellows are muted, and strong reds, greens and blues are a little brighter than life (though not as strongly pushed as we've seen). Hue is also a little off for colors like yellow, orange, red and cyan. Both light and dark skin tones plot fairly close to home, with only slight color shifts. Overall though, good performance here.


Auto WB:
Good, though slightly yellow
Incandescent WB:
Much too pink
 
Manual WB:
Very good

Incandescent: Manual white balance handled our incandescent lighting best overall, though the Auto setting came in pretty close (with just a slight greenish-yellow tint). Incandescent was way off the mark, with a very strong pink cast.


Horizontal: 2,000 lines
Vertical: 2,000 lines

Resolution: Our laboratory resolution chart revealed sharp, distinct line patterns down to about 2,000 lines per picture height in both directions. (That said, vertically, lines do show some moire just around 2,000, but are still clear.) Extinction of the pattern occurred at around 2,500 lines per picture height.


Wide: Fairly bright
Tele: Fairly bright
Auto Flash

Flash: Our manufacturer-specified testing (shown at right) shows fairly bright results at the Canon-rated distance of 13 feet, though the ELPH 100 HS increased ISO to 500. Telephoto performance is fairly bright at 6.6 feet, also with a hearty ISO increase to 500.

Auto flash produced bright results in our indoor portrait scene, retaining some of the ambient light by using a slower shutter speed of 1/20 second, and raising ISO to 320. The Canon PowerShot ELPH HS' optical image stabilization should help with the slower shutter speed, but any subject movement could be problematic at this shutter speed. Shot taken at ~5 feet (~1.5m) on a stable tripod.


100
200
400
800
1,600
3,200

ISO: Noise and Detail: Detail is quite good at ISO 100 and 200, though some visible softening begins at ISO 400. Chroma (color) noise remains fairly well controlled at all ISOs, though luminance noise does increase. Noise suppression efforts become more problematic, and blur fine details. However, results at ISO 3,200 are slightly better than average. See the Printed section below for more on how this affects prints.


Print Quality: The Canon 100 HS surprised us with its print quality. It didn't start out with as large a print size as we expected, thanks to noise in the red channel, but it remained steady for a long time. Many shades of yellow had a green cast to them, but it wasn't bad.

ISO 100 shots print quite well at 11x14 inches. High-contrast detail looked pretty good at 13x19 inches, but red areas in particular were a bit too soft for this size.

ISO 200 shots look about the same as 100 at 11x14 inches, quite good.

ISO 400 images also print surprisingly well at 11x14 inches.

ISO 800 files also have enough high-contrast detail for a usable 11x14-inch print. Reds get a little soft again by this setting, but we still think it's pretty impressive at this size. Reducing to 8x10 tightens up the reds a bit.

ISO 1,600 shots look quite good at 8x10, save for the reds, which are at this point commonly soft across most cameras.

ISO 3,200 shots are usable at 8x10, but really look decent at 5x7.

Overall, a surprisingly good performance from the Canon 100 HS, especially considering its price. Manufacturers have shifted their strategies away from making cameras that can produce a low-ISO print at a very large size and have instead aimed for better performance in low light across a wider range of ISO settings, and the Canon 100 HS achieves that goal.


 

Canon PowerShot ELPH 100 HS Performance


Startup Time: The Canon 100 HS takes about 2 seconds to power on and take a shot. That's pretty good for its class.


Shutter Lag: Full autofocus shutter lag is fair, at 0.49 second at wide angle and 0.60 second at full telephoto. Prefocused shutter lag is 0.083 second, not the fastest out there, but still pretty quick.


Cycle Time: Cycle time is also just okay, capturing a frame every 1.95 seconds in single-shot mode, though a High-Speed continuous mode (limited to 3 megapixels) captures frames every 0.16 second, or 6.31 fps, seemingly forever. (Our tester noted that the camera was still speeding along after 200 frames with no apparent buffer fill.) Full resolution continuous mode is rated at 3.4 fps, which isn't bad for its class.


Flash Recycle: The Canon PowerShot ELPH 100 HS' flash recycles in about 4.1 seconds after a full-power discharge, which is pretty quick.


Low Light AF: The camera's AF system was able to focus down to just above the 1/8 foot-candle light level without AF assist enabled, and in complete darkness with the AF assist lamp enabled.


USB Transfer Speed: Connected to a computer or printer with USB 2.0, the Canon PowerShot ELPH 100 HS' download speeds are moderately fast. We measured 5,846 KBytes/sec.


 

In the Box

The retail package contains the following items:

 

Recommended Accessories

 

Canon 100 HS Conclusion

Pro: Con:
  • Small and smooth design makes it very pocketable
  • Multiple colors available
  • Plenty of optional modes if you want them
  • 4x wide-angle zoom with optical image stabilization
  • Smart Auto makes Scene settings choices for you
  • Good 3-inch LCD
  • Well-placed controls
  • Full HD video
  • Dedicated movie record button
  • Good autofocus speed, about average for the category
  • Good startup speed
  • HDMI output (rare for the price)
  • Handheld Night Scene
  • Good corner sharpness for wide-angle lens
  • Auto white balance handles tungsten lighting quite well
  • Print quality starts low (11x14) but stays good up to ISO 800, which is quite impressive!
  • Buttons may be too small for those with large hands
  • Color shift in yellows makes some colors seem muted
  • Some noticeable chromatic aberration at wide-angle
  • Slightly lower-than-average battery life
  • High-speed burst wasn't quite as fast as advertised in our tests
  • Plastic center piece feels somewhat cheap
  • Function menu is less friendly than old design
  • Digital zoom only in movie mode

 

Canon's PowerShot ELPH models are generally easy to recommend; that's true with the Canon 100 HS. It's the year's easiest pick as a bargain all-around camera, with good looks and good image quality.

We appreciated the Canon 100 HS's small, pocketable size and reasonable speed. Its print quality was good enough to make 11x14-inch prints from ISO 100 to 800 without much noticeable degradation; and even ISO 3,200 made a usable 5x7-inch print.

Overall, for basic snapshots, the Canon PowerShot 100 HS is a great choice for family members of all ages, and will serve the photo enthusiast as a pocket camera quite well too thanks to its sharp lens and good print quality. For the price, it's an easy Dave's Pick.