Digital Camera Home > Digital Camera Reviews > Canon Digital Cameras > Canon PowerShot S100 Digital ELPH

Canon PowerShot S100 Digital ELPH

Canon packs 2 megapixels and a 2x optical zoom into the "smallest digicam on the planet!"

<<Reference: Datasheet :(Previous) | (Next): Print-Friendly Review Version>>

PowerShot S100 Sample Images

Review First Posted: 6/20/2000

We've begun including links in our reviews to a Thumber-generated index page for our test shots. The Thumber data includes a host of information on the images, including shutter speed, ISO setting, compression setting, etc. Rather than clutter the page below with *all* that detail, we're posting the Thumber index so only those interested in the information need wade through it! ;)
Outdoor portrait: (1660k) This is a tough shot for many digicams, due to the extreme tonal range of the image (which is why we set it up this way). The trick is to hold highlight and shadow detail without producing a "flat" picture with muddy colors, which the S100 had somewhat of a difficult time with. We shot samples of this image using the daylight (1631k) and automatic (1629k) white balance settings. Both settings produced very similar results, so we went with daylight for our main series. Color balance looks very good, although the blue and red flowers seem a bit bright. Hue is very good though, with little of the purplish tendencies we're accustomed to seeing from other digicams in the blue colors of this shot. Resolution seems a little soft, but still pretty good, judging by the small green leaves next to the model's shirt and the outer strands of her hair. There's a lot of detail in the shadow areas, but a moderate amount of noise there as well. The S100 seems to produce sharp tonal breaks in the portion of the tonal range corresponding to the model's skin tones. The result is a tendency to emphasize skin imperfections somewhat. We had a little difficulty deciding which exposure compensation adjustment to settle on for our main shot. We finally decided on a +0.7 EV adjustment, which seems to get the best exposure in the shadow areas but also loses highlight detail. Staying at +0.3 EV somewhat keeps the highlights in check, but the shadow areas are way too dark. The table below shows the results of a range of exposure settings from zero to +1.3 EV.

Exposure Compensation Settings:
0 EV
Shutter: 1/250
Aperture: F10
(1729k)
+0.3 EV
Shutter: 1/180
Aperture: F10
(1659k)
+0.7 EV
Shutter: 1/125
Aperture: F10
(1631k)
+1.0 EV
Shutter: 1/125
Aperture: F10
(1590k)
+1.3 EV
Shutter: 1/90
Aperture: F10
(1500k)


 
Closer portrait: (1580k) The S100 gives about the same exposure performance in this "portrait" shot, but is helped out a little by its 5.4 to 10.8mm optical zoom lens. (The availability of longer focal lengths is a key feature if you're going to be shooting close-up people shots). As with the Outdoor Portrait, we shot in the daylight white balance mode. We found the same problem with this shot as we did with the Outdoor Portrait, in that the camera seems to have a hard time dealing with the high contrast of the outdoor lighting. We decided to go with a +0.7 EV adjustment for the main shot, to get a decent exposure in the shadow areas and better-looking skin tones overall. This loses detail in the strongest highlight areas, but going down to +0.3 EV leaves the shadow areas too dark, and the skin tones rather harsh. The table below shows the results of a range of exposure settings from zero to +1.0 EV.

Exposure Compensation Settings:
0 EV
Shutter: 1/250
Aperture: F10
(1711k)
+0.3 EV
Shutter: 1/180
Aperture: F10
(1724k)
+0.7 EV
Shutter: 1/500
Aperture: F4
(1580k)
+1.0 EV
Shutter: 1/500
Aperture: F4
(1535k)


 
Indoor portrait, flash: (1574k) For this test, we simply shot with the S100's automatic white balance setting, using the built-in flash combined with a variety of exposure compensation settings. We chose the +0.7 exposure adjustment for our main shot, as it gave us the best overall exposure. This seemed to hold good detail in the highlights, while still providing fairly good skin tones. Reasonably good color in the image, although the background is a little warm and the blue flowers seem light in hue (and a little bright, as is the red flower in the center). We also noticed that the reds in the face are very pronounced. Overall though, a fairly good job of balancing the very warm-hued room lighting with that from the flash. The table below shows the results of a range of exposure settings from zero to +1.0 EV.

Exposure Compensation Settings:
0 EV
Shutter: 1/30
Aperture: F3.2
(1563k)
+0.3 EV
Shutter: 1/30
Aperture: F3.2
(1575k)
+0.7 EV
Shutter: 1/30
Aperture: F3.2
(1574k)
+1.0 EV
Shutter: 1/30
Aperture: F3.2
(1566k)


 
Indoor portrait, no flash: (1538k) This shot is always a very tough test of a camera's white balance capability, given the strong, yellowish color cast of the household incandescent bulbs used for the lighting and the S100's white balance system did a reasonably good job with this difficult light source. We shot samples of this image in the automatic (1531k) and tungsten (1537k) white balance settings, choosing tungsten for our main shot because of its more accurate color balance. The automatic setting produced rather warm results with a magenta tinge. As with the flash portrait, the reds in this image seem over-pronounced and too bright. Also, the highlight areas in the upper shoulder of the model appear very odd, almost with a fluorescent-blue cast. The blue and yellow flowers seem very muted, as do the green values throughout the image. We found that cutting the color saturation in Photoshop(tm) helped the skin tones greatly, but at further cost to the saturation of the blue and yellow flowers. The camera does a good job of neutralizing the very strong overall yellowish cast, but falls down a bit with the over-saturation in the reds. The table below shows a range of exposure settings from zero to +1.3 EV in the tungsten white balance setting.

Exposure Compensation Settings:
0 EV
Shutter: 1/15
Aperture: F3.2
(1545k)
+0.3 EV
Shutter: 1/10
Aperture: F3.2
(1544k)
+0.7 EV
Shutter: 1/8
Aperture: F3.2
(1541k)
+1.0 EV
Shutter: 1/8
Aperture: F3.2
(1538k)
+1.3 EV
Shutter: 1/6
Aperture: F3.2
(1534k)


 
House shot: (2111k) NOTE that this is the "new" house shot, a much higher-resolution poster than we first used in our tests. To compare the image of the S100 with previously tested cameras, here's a shot of the original house poster shot with the daylight (2270k) white balance setting.

In this shot, we chose the fluorescent (180k) white balance setting for our main series, as the color balance surprisingly appeared the most accurate overall (a very interesting outcome since we do not shoot with fluorescent lighting). We also shot with the daylight (181k), cloudy (183k) and automatic (182k) settings. The automatic setting looked very similar to the fluorescent, but appeared just a bit warmer. Daylight was also just a shade too warm and cloudy was very warm (which is what you'd typically expect, but given the outcome of the fluorescent setting, we thought we'd give it a try). Resolution seems a little soft throughout the image, especially in the shrubbery and bricks. A moderately high level of noise is most noticeable in the shingle area. The in-camera sharpening maintains a low profile, as we don't see any halos around the dark and light edges in the image, although the boundaries of the white trim in the central roof gable do seem a little heavy. The table below shows the full range of resolution and quality settings for the S100.

Resolution/Quality Series
Large/Fine
Shutter: 1/60
Aperture: F3.5
(2111k)
Large/Normal
Shutter: 1/60
Aperture: F3.5
(878k)
 
Small/Normal
Shutter: 1/60
Aperture: F3.5
(180k)


 
 
Far-Field shot: (2059k) This image is shot at infinity to test far-field lens performance. NOTE that this image cannot be directly compared to the other "house" shot, which is a poster, shot in the studio. The rendering of detail in the poster will be very different than in this shot, and color values (and even the presence or absence of leaves on the trees!) will vary in this subject as the seasons progress. In general though, you can evaluate detail in the bricks, shingles and window detail, and in the tree branches against the sky. Compression artifacts are most likely to show in the trim along the edge of the roof, in the bricks, or in the relatively "flat" areas in the windows.

The S100 does a reasonably good job in this shot, which is the strongest test of detail of any we do (the bright white of the central bay window often tricks digicams into losing detail in that area). Although the bay window is partially in shade, you can still see a fair amount of detail in the sunny portions, meaning that the S100 wasn't entirely tricked by the bright white highlights. We again shot with the daylight (169k), cloudy (169k), automatic (169k) and fluorescent (170k) white balance settings, once again choosing fluorescent for our main series because it had the most accurate white value (which seems rather odd, since this shot is taken in full sunlight). Daylight was just a tiny bit too warm, cloudy was definitely too warm, and automatic seemed nearly identical. Color balance and saturation look nice overall, though some of the areas seem a little dim. (The S100 did a good job of holding detail in the very strong highlights of the white trim on the bay window, but with the result that the rest of the image appears a little dark.) Resolution and detail also look good but a little soft, with the shingles showing a small amount of noise. The table below shows the full resolution/quality series.

Resolution/Quality Series
Large/Fine
Shutter: 1/750
Aperture: F3.5
(2059k)
Large/Normal
Shutter: 1/750
Aperture: F3.5
(825k)
 
Small/Normal
Shutter: 1/750
Aperture: F3.5
(170k)


 
Lens Zoom Range: We've received a number of requests from readers to take shots showing the lens focal length range of those cameras with zoom lenses. Thus, we're happy to present you here with the following series of shots, showing the field of view with the lens at full wide-angle, the lens at full telephoto and the lens at full telephoto with 2x and 4x digital telephoto enabled. The S100 does well with this zoom range, there's barely any barrel distortion in the wide-angle shot. It's lens is a little more wide angle overall than most cameras at the wide angle end, and shorter at the telephoto end. The 2x digital telephoto does a nice job of enlarging the image without compromising too much quality, resolution seems close to the wide shot. At the 4x digital telephoto setting, however, we see much softer detail.

Wide
174 KB
Shutter: 1/180
Aperture: F7.1
Tele
169 KB
Shutter: 1/500
Aperture: F4
2x Digital Telephoto
139 KB
Shutter: 1/750
Aperture: F4
4x Digital Telephoto
89 KB
Shutter: 1/120
Aperture: F10


"Musicians" poster: (1951k) For this test, we shot samples of this image using the automatic (152k), fluorescent (151k), cloudy (151k) and daylight (151k) white balance options. Again, we chose the fluorescent setting, as it produced the best skin tones and overall color balance. The automatic setting was just a little too cool (the heavy amount of blue in the image is often tricky for digicams to adjust for), and the cloudy and daylight settings were too warm. Color saturation looks about right throughout, but the model's blue robe seems to be just a little weak in hue. This might be due to an overall bluish cast in the background of the image, causing the camera to adjust the color cast away from the blue end of the spectrum a bit. The skin tones also look about right and not too warm. Resolution and detail are again a little soft, with the detail in the bird wings and silver threads of the blue robe not as crisp as we've seen on some two megapixel digicams. As with the House shot, noise is moderately high. Below is our standard resolution/quality series in the fluorescent white balance setting.

Resolution/Quality Series
Large/Fine
Shutter: 1/60
Aperture: F3.2
(1951k)
Large/Normal
Shutter: 1/45
Aperture: F3.2
(748k)
 
Small/Normal
Shutter: 1/60
Aperture: F3.2
(151k)


 
Macro shot: (1964k) The S100 does a good job in the macro category, capturing a minimum area of 3.97 x 2.98 inches (100.88 x 75.66 mm). Resolution, detail and color all look very good. The brooch is just a little soft, possibly due to the limited depth of field when you get this close. We were also able to shoot at the 2x (1245k) and 4x (866k) digital telephoto settings. As we noticed with the Lens Zoom Range shots, the 2x digital telephoto still produces a reasonably sharp image while the 4x setting decreases resolution very noticeably. (In the macro test, we shot all the images at maximum resolution, which increased the softening effect of the digital telephoto, in both 2x and 4x modes.)


 
"Davebox" test target: (1524k) We achieved nice results in this test, after shooting sample images at the daylight (92k), cloudy (95k), fluorescent (92k) and automatic (91k) white balance settings. We ultimately settled on the fluorescent setting, as it again produced the most accurate white value. Automatic produced very similar results, but with a slightly cool cast. Daylight and cloudy were both too warm. The cyan, magenta and yellow color blocks on the left side of the target look reasonably accurate, although the large red block seems a little bright (consistent with our findings throughout the testing). The S100 just barely picks up the differences between the red and magenta color blocks on the middle, horizontal color chart, echoing the trouble it seemed to have with bright reddish hues (we've seen many digicams get confused in this area and try to blend these colors into one). The subtle tonal variations in "B" pastel range of the Q60 chart are distinguishable, but a notch down from the best we've seen. Shadow detail looks exceptionally good, and it seems like the noise level is a little lower with this shot. Detail still looks somewhat soft, especially in the small resolution target on the right side. Below is our standard resolution and quality series.

Resolution/Quality Series
Large/Fine
Shutter: 1/60
Aperture: F3.5
(1524k)
Large/Normal
Shutter: 1/60
Aperture: F3.5
(477k)
 
Small/Normal
Shutter: 1/60
Aperture: F3.5
(92k)


 
 
Low-Light Tests 
We were pleasantly surprised by the S100's low-light capabilities, as we obtained useable images as low as 1 foot-candle (11 lux). We were still able to see a fair bit of detail as low as 1/16 EV (0.67 lux), but noticed a major jump in image brightness between 1/2 and 1 foot-candles (5.5 and 11 lux). Most likely, this is due to the camera's lowest shutter speed being one second, which is probably not slow enough for the 6 EV light level. For reference, 1 foot-cancle is about the light level of a reasonably well-lit city night scene under typical streetlights.

The table below shows the best exposure we were able to obtain for each of a range of illumination levels. Images in this table (like all our sample photos) are untouched, exactly as they came from the camera.

8 fc
Shutter: 1/3
Aperture: F2.8
(421k)
4 fc
Shutter: 1/1
Aperture: F2.8
(428k)
2 fc
Shutter: 1/1
Aperture: F2.8
(432k)
1 fc
Shutter: 1/1
Aperture: F2.8
(409k)
1/2 fc
Shutter: 1/1
Aperture: F2.8
(347k)
1/4 fc
Shutter: 1/1
Aperture: F2.8
(340k)
1/8 fc
Shutter: 1/1
Aperture: F2.8
(324k)
1/16 fc
Shutter: 1/1
Aperture: F2.8
(307k)


 
Flash Range Test (New)
(This test was added in August 1999, so cameras tested before that time won't have comparison pictures available. As we go forward though, all the new models will have similar tests available). Canon rates the S100's flash power as effective from 11 inches to 10 feet (27 cm to 3 m) in normal wide angle mode, and from 11 inches to seven feet (27 cm to 2 m) in telephoto mode. In our testing, we found the S100's flash shots to be slightly dark overall (perhaps fooled by the specular reflection from the vertical gray scale on the Davebox), but they showed very little falloff from 8 to 14 feet. Based on this particular test at least, it would seem that the S100's flash range is very conservatively rated.

Flash Range/Distance: 
8 ft
Shutter: 1/30
Aperture: F4
(1391k)
9 ft
Shutter: 1/30
Aperture: F4
(1345k)
10 ft
Shutter: 1/45
Aperture: F4
(1392k)
11 ft
Shutter: 1/45
Aperture: F4
(1403k)
12 ft
Shutter: 1/45
Aperture: F4
(1399k)
13 ft
Shutter: 1/45
Aperture: F4
(1419k)
14 ft
Shutter: 1/60
Aperture: F4
(1447k)
 


ISO 12233 ("WG-18") resolution target: (1486k) The S100's resolution turned in a surprisingly good performance on our resolution test. We say "surprising" because we felt that many of its other test images were a little soft for a 2 megapixel camera. The resolution results though, showed that the camera captures a reasonable amount of detail, but loses out somewhat in the sharpness category. - A good illustration of the difference between "resolution" and "sharpness". Horizontal resolution was a solid 700-750 lines per picture height, while vertical resolution was 600-650 lines. As to the sharpness, we found that applying strong unsharp masking with a small radius (130%, 0.3 pixels) in Photoshop(tm) greatly improved the crispness of the image, without introducing any unpleasant artifacts. Seeing this, we went back to some of our other shots, and tried the same trick. We found that 130% was a bit much for general subjects, but unsharp masking of 100% and 0.3 pixels radius made a significant difference in how the pictures looked: Noise was increased somewhat, but the photos overall picked up a much sharper, crisper appearance.

Resolution Series, Wide Angle
Large/Fine
Shutter: 1/125
Aperture: F2.8
(1506k)
Large/Normal
Shutter: 1/125
Aperture: F2.8
(495k)
 
Small/Normal
Shutter: 1/125
Aperture: F2.8
(106k)


Resolution Series, Telephoto
Large/Fine
Shutter: 1/60
Aperture: F4
(1486k)
Large/Normal
Shutter: 1/60
Aperture: F4
(480k)
 
Small/Normal
Shutter: 1/60
Aperture: F4
(102k)


Resolution Series, 2x Digital Telephoto
Large/Fine
Shutter: 1/90
Aperture: F4
(980k)
Large/Normal
Shutter: 1/90
Aperture: F4
(378k)
 
Small/Normal
Shutter: 1/90
Aperture: F4
(99k)


Resolution Series, 4x Digital Telephoto
Large/Fine
Shutter: 1/90
Aperture: F4
(707k)
Large/Normal
Shutter: 1/90
Aperture: F4
(273k)
 
Small/Normal
Shutter: 1/90
Aperture: F4
(73k)



 
Viewfinder accuracy/flash uniformity target: The S100's optical viewfinder is a little tight, showing approximately 84 percent of the final image area at wide angle (483k) and about 85 percent at telephoto (473k). The LCD monitor was much more accurate, showing about 99 percent of the final image area at both wide angle (471k) and telephoto (474k) settings (it actually seemed a little loose on the 640 x 480 (83k) image size at wide angle, cutting off part of the heavy black outline that we use as a guide). We generally like to see LCD monitors as close to 100 percent accuracy as possible, so the S100 comes through with flying colors in this category, and it's optical viewfinder accuracy is very typical of other digicams, as most seem to be designed for 85% coverage. We also shot at the 2x (374k) and 4x (290k) digital telephoto settings, which were very accurate, but resolution became worse with each setting. (And we had significant difficulty in the studio, discerning where the lines were on the LCD display in these modes, as the viewfinder display became quite fuzzy in digital tele mode.)

Optical distortion on the S100 is fairly low at the wide angle end, showing an approximate 0.4 percent barrel distortion. Oddly enough, we found barrel distortion at the telephoto end as well, albeit an almost imperceptible 0.1 percent. (Most lenses switch to pincushion distortion in telephoto mode.) Chromatic aberration was very low, maybe showing half a pixel of coloration on each side of the target elements. (This distortion is visible as a very slight colored fringe around the objects at the edges of the field of view on the resolution target). Flash distribution looked very even at the telephoto setting, but had some fall-off at wide-angle.

 

 

Reader Comments! --> Visit our discussion forum for the Canon PowerShot S100 Digital ELPH!



<<Reference: Datasheet | Print-Friendly Review Version>>

Follow Imaging Resource:

Purchase memory card for Panasonic Lumix DMC-XS3 digital camera
Top 3 photos this month win:

1 $300 Adorama Gift Certificate

2 $200 Adorama Gift Certificate

3 $100 Adorama Gift Certificate