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Canon PowerShot S110

Canon updates their Digital ELPH with improved color, movie capture, and direct print capabilities!

Review First Posted: 5/24/2001



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MSRP $599 US

 

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2.1 megapixel sensor for 1,600 x 1,200 images
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2x zoom lens
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Improved color rendition
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Ultra-compact, all-metal body design for rugged portability



Manufacturer Overview
Canon U.S.A. has long been a strong contender in the film and digital camera markets, well-known for its high-quality optics, technical innovations, and aggressive product development. Since the beginning of this year (2001), Canon has released a full complement of new digital cameras, all designed and engineered to live up to Canon's competitive standards. On the high end, the PowerShot Pro90 IS incorporates a 3.34-megapixel CCD; 10X optical zoom lens with image stabilization; and no less than 12 (!) EOS-based shooting modes. Canon also introduced two new point-and-shoot digicams for the amateur market -- the PowerShot A10 and A20 -- identical except for their 1.3- and 2.1-megapixel CCDs, respectively. Simple to use and affordably priced ($499 and $599 list), these two became the ultimate vacation cameras when Canon added an optional underwater housing (safe to depths of 100 feet) and a dye-sub printer kit, the CP-10 Photo Card Printer, which outputs credit-card-size prints directly from the cameras in less than 60 seconds ($699 list).

The lineup wouldn't have been complete, however, without at least one successor to the ultra-compact, ultra-cool PowerShot S100 Digital ELPH, introduced in Spring 2000. Canon came through with two new ELPHs -- the 2.1-megapixel PowerShot S300, with a new retractable 3x zoom lens, and more recently, the PowerShot S110 (due to ship in June), with the same high-quality chip, but a shorter 2x zoom. Not only are these new ELPHs *very* classy looking, but they've also added QuickTime movie capabilities, faster shutter speeds (1/1,500 second), improved color rendition, lower power consumption, and faster processing speeds. Add direct print capabilities to the CP-10 Card Printer, and you've got a camera that even James Bond could love!


High Points



Executive Overview
The Canon PowerShot S110 is the next-generation Digital ELPH, succeeding the very successful PowerShot S100 model introduced last year (the first digital member of the Canon ELPH family), and following closely on the heels of the S300 model -- introduced earlier this year (February 2001) at the Photo Marketing Association show in Orlando. The S110 is similar in design and image quality to the S300, except that it has a 2x (35-70mm equivalent) zoom lens compared to the S300's 3x (35-105mm equivalent) zoom. Both cameras incorporate improved technology and updated features, including direct connectivity to the Canon Card Printer CP-10 dye-sublimation printer, 20-frame-per-second movie clips with audio, faster shutter speeds (1/1,500 to 1 sec.), an adaptive color filter system for better color reproduction, and a high-speed digital signal processing IC connector that reduces power consumption when transferring images to the computer or printer.

Like earlier members of the Digital ELPH family, the S110 is among the slickest digicams we've seen. Its solidly built, all-stainless steel body measures only 3.4 x 2.4 x 1.1 inches (87 x 57 x 26.9 mm) with the lens fully retracted, and weighs about 8 ounces with the battery and CompactFlash card installed. It's so small, in fact, that it easily fits into the palm of one hand, and a credit card laid over the camera's front panel completely covers it from edge-to-edge. The 2x zoom lens telescopes outward approximately one-half inch when the camera is powered on in the Shooting (Record) mode, and retracts when the camera is powered off or in Playback mode -- protecting the delicate glass surface with a sliding lens cover.

A real-image optical viewfinder and 1.5-inch color TFT LCD monitor are provided for composing images. The optical viewfinder features a center target on the glass, which serves as the focusing and metering point for the camera's automatic exposure systems. The viewfinder also zooms along with the lens, showing approximately 80 percent of the actual image area. The LCD monitor has an optional image display, with a separate information display that appears for several seconds when the camera is turned on, or whenever you engage one of the user controls on the back panel. The LCD image display is much more accurate than the optical viewfinder, showing approximately 98 percent of the actual image area, but it also drains the battery more than twice as fast when it is turned on.

The S110's lens is a high-quality Canon glass aspherical zoom lens, with focal lengths ranging from 5.4-10.8mm (35-70mm equivalent on a 35mm film camera), and maximum aperture settings of f/2.8-f/4.0, depending on the zoom position. Focus is automatically controlled, with Normal, Macro, or Infinity (Manual mode only) focus modes available. There's also an Autofocus Assist light to aid focusing in dark situations. The 2.5x Digital Zoom is enabled by zooming past the 2x optical zoom range when the LCD monitor is activated, though it visibly reduces image quality as it enlarges only the central portion of the image.

Exposure is automatically controlled at all times, with four Shooting modes selectable through the Record menu: Automatic, Manual, Stitch-Assist (with options to shoot from left to right or right to left), and Movie. In Automatic mode, the user has control over Resolution, Compression, Flash, Self-Timer, and Normal or Macro focus modes. Manual mode expands the user controls to include Exposure Compensation, White Balance, Infinity focus, and Continuous Shooting. Stitch-Assist is Canon's panoramic mode, allowing you to take a series of up to 26 images to be "stitched" together on a computer. In Stitch-Assist mode, the camera retains all functions except Digital Zoom, Red-Eye Reduction, Auto Flash, and Continuos Shooting modes. (However, all readings are based on the first frame in the series and cannot be changed in subsequent frames.) Movie mode offers no Flash, Continuous shooting, or Compression settings, and the Resolution options are reduced to 640 x 480, 320 x 240, oand 160 x 120 pixels. All other features remain intact.

The S110 determines exposure through an evaluative metering system, linked to the autofocus metering field inside the optical viewfinder brackets. Shutter speeds range from 1/1,500 to 1 second, with an automatic noise reduction system for exposures slower than 1/6 second. The camera's light sensitivity is rated at ISO 100, though it increases to ISO 150 at low-light levels. Exposure is adjustable from -2 to +2 exposure equivalents (EV) in one-third-step increments, allowing you to lighten or darken the exposure as needed. White Balance options include Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Incandescent, and Fluorescent settings, accommodating most light sources, plus an additional Black-and-White shooting option.

External controls include (on the top) an On / Off button, Zoom lever, and Record and Playback switch, and (on the back) a Flash button with Auto, Red-Eye Reduction, On, Off, and Slow Synchro options; a Drive button to access Continuous Shooting (Manual only) and Self-Timer modes; a Focus button that switches between Normal, Infinity (Manual only), and Macro modes; a Menu button; and a Display On / Off button. The Flash button also serves as an option Set button when using the camera's menu system.

Images are stored as compressed JPEGs on CompactFlash Type I memory cards (an 8MB card is supplied with the camera). Resolution options include 1,600 x 1,200, 1,024 x 768, and 640 x 480 pixels, with selectable compression levels of Superfine, Fine, and Normal. You can download images to a computer via the included USB cable and Canon's Digital Camera Solution Disk software (Version 4.0), which is supplied on the accompanying software CD. The Solution Disk provides ZoomBrowser EX (Win) and ImageBrowser (Mac) programs for loading images onto the computer; PhotoStitch software for piecing together panoramic images; and a Remote Capture utility that enables you to remotely operate the camera from a computer. Image editing programs include ArcSoft PhotoImpression, Adobe Photoshop LE, and Adobe PhotoDeluxe Home Edition.

The S110 is powered by a rechargeable Li-Ion battery pack, designed specifically for Canon Digital ELPH cameras. It comes complete with a dedicated battery charger and an AC adapter kit is available as an option. Fully charged, the battery will power the camera continuously for 60 minutes in capture mode with the LCD turned on, or for 120 minutes in playback mode.

Since its introduction as the world's smallest film camera in 1994, Canon's ELPH camera has enjoyed noterity as the "coolest" consumer camera on the market. While it's much harder to maintain that title in the digital world, the Digital ELPH series has certainly challenged the competition in terms of design, image quality, and features. While exposure options are somewhat limited, the S110 more than makes up for it in image quality and creative options, providing such "fun" features as continuous shooting, panoramic stitching, and QuickTime movies with sound. We highly recommend it for the point-and-shoot consumer who's willing to pay a little extra money for a lot of extra *cool.*


Design
The Canon PowerShot S110 has a very slick, high-tech design that is sure to draw attention -- especially for its small size and elegant style. The all-stainless steel body measures only 3.4 x 2.4 x 1.1 inches (87 x 57 x 26.9 mm) and weighs about 8 ounces with the battery and CompactFlash card installed. It has a brushed silver finish on all sides, accented by a wide band of etched hairlines encircling the retractable lens, and a polished silver tab that extends around the right side of the camera body onto the front panel. Canon has designed it in such a way that you can hang it from your neck as flashy *digital wear* or carry it around your wrist with the supplied nylon strap. It is also perfectly suited for carrying in a small pocket, fanny pack, or purse.


The retractable 2x zoom, 5.4-10.8mm lens (equivalent to a 35-70mm lens on a 35mm camera) is the focal point of the front panel, measuring about one-half inch when fully extended in the Shooting mode. Above the lens is a small viewfinder window and built-in flash, separated by a multipurpose lamp that serves as the autofocus assist light (to aid focusing in low-light situations), red-eye reduction lamp, and self-timer countdown indicator. Directly below the flash is a small microphone for recording audio clips with QuickTime movies. A slightly raised edge, with a silver Canon logo, runs vertically along the right side of the front panel, stratigically placed to serve as a finger grip.


The right side of the camera has a large wrist strap attachment eyelet in the center, and a hinged plastic door that covers the CompactFlash memory slot compartment. The CompactFlash door opens by pushing down on the sliding CF Open button on the back.panel. We found it opens best by laying the camera face down while you slide the button, so the door swings open freely as soon as the latch is released. Of all the parts on the camera, this plastic door seemed most fragile, but the hinge is long enough (more than an inch) that it should be reliable.


The left side of the camera houses the Digital / Audio / Video Out Terminal, which is protected by a very small, hinged rubber flap. Unlike most terminals we've seen, this one has only one port available for use with all three available connectors. The AV Cable (supplied with the camera) fans out to standard audio / video plugs for connecting to a TV or video player, and Canon's dedicated digital connector for the camera port. The USB interface cable (also supplied with the camera) has a standard USB connector on the computer end, and a dedicated digital connector for the camera. A third cable, supplied with the CP-10 Card Photo Printer when purchased separately, provides a direct interface between the camera and the printer so you can make instant credit card size prints from your images.


The S110's top panel has several controls clustered around the shutter button, including a Zoom lever ring that completely surrounds it. On the front of the Zoom ring, a large notched protrusion serves as the lever, which pushes toward the left side of the camera for a wide-angle zoom and pulls to the right side for telephoto. A marker, set at a 90-degree angle to the Zoom lever, indicates which direction you're zooming when you push or pull on the lever. In addition to operating the optical zoom, the Zoom lever also accesses the nine-image Index display in Playback mode (at the wide-angle position) and the 2x enlargement of an individual image display (at the telephoto position). To the left of the shutter button is the camera's On / Off button, which must be held down until you hear a beep to successfully power up the camera, and just behind the Shutter button, along the back edge of the camera, is a Mode switch for placing the camera in Record (left) or Playback (right) modes.


The remaining camera controls are on the back panel, along with the LCD monitor and optical viewfinder eyepiece. The 1.5-inch monitor is set in the lower left corner, with the optical viewfinder above and the sliding CompactFlash (CF) Open button on the right. The Mode selector switch sits in the top right corner of the back panel, though its setting icons (a blue "Playback" arrow and red "Shooting mode" camera symbol) can only be seen from above. The right side of the back panel is slightly raised as a natural grip ridge, with a semi-circle of small raised stubs to the left that provide an extra tactel grip for the thumb.

Controls lined up along the bottom of the LCD monitor include (left to right): Flash / Set, Drive / Self-Timer, Macro / Infinity Focus, Menu, and Display. The Drive button also serves as the left arrow key when scrolling through captured images or menu options, while the Macro button serves as the right arrow key. On the left side of the optical viewfinder eyepiece are two LED lamps that report camera status.


The S110 has a reasonably flat bottom panel, with a few minor ridges and indentations. The battery compartment door is on the far right side, and the threaded metal tripod mount is on the left. The separation between the two is sufficient to allow for quick battery changes while the camera is mounted on a tripod, particularly when used with a quick-release plate that allows you to take the camera off the tripod without unscrewing the mount. (The downside of this offset tripod mount though, is that the camera usually won't set level on the tripod head, requiring some compensation via the tilt adjustment of the tripod.) The battery compartment door is very long and narrow, a necessary design element to accommodate the small camera size and dedicated Lithium-Ion battery pack. The door opens by sliding it to the right with your thumb and pushing up on the right end as it extends over the edge of the camera body. Once inside the battery compartment, a light brown latch must be pulled to the right to insert or remove the battery pack. (All of these motions are fairly smooth and effortless once you become accustomed to them.)

Canon's optional AC Adapter Kit includes a DC coupler that slides into the battery compartment in place of the battery pack. The power adapter then connects to the coupler and the AC power cable. We strongly recommend investing in the AC adapter if you plan to spend a lot of time downloading images to your computer or making prints from the camera with Canon's CP-10 Card Printer.


Viewfinder
The S110 provides a real-image optical viewfinder as well as a color LCD monitor for composing images. The optical viewfinder zooms along with the lens to give an approximate preview of the capture area (ranging from 77 percent of the field of view at wide angle to 82 percent at telephoto), and a set of autofocus target marks in the center of the finder help define the autofocus and exposure areas. Though the optical viewfinder does not offer a diopter adjustment, it does have a fairly high eyepoint, which should accommodate most eyeglass wearers. Two LED lamps on the left side of the viewfinder eyepiece report a range of camera information. The top LED lamp glows green when the focus and exposure are set, or when the camera is ready to communicate with your computer, and it flashes green when the camera is processing an image. If the top LED lamp glows orange, the flash is charged. A flashing orange LED lamp indicates a low-light shooting situation and the potential for a blurred photograph from camera movement (it also brings up the shaking hand icon on the LCD monitor). The bottom LED lamp lights yellow when the Macro mode is enabled and the Shutter button is halfway pressed (also noted by a small macro symbol next to the LED lamp).

The 1.5-inch, color LCD monitor features a low-temperature, polycrystalline silicon, TFT display with roughly 117,000 effective pixels. When enabled, the LCD serves as a very accurate viewfinder, showing 98% of the final image area regardless of lens zoom setting. A Display button adjacent to the LCD monitor controls the image display, turning it on and off in the Shooting mode. An information display operates independently of the Display button, appearing on-screen whenever the LCD monitor is activated or a control button is pressed (even when the LCD image display is turned off). The information display reports the current camera settings, including Shooting mode, Exposure Compensation, White Balance, and Resolution and Compression across the top, as well as Flash, Drive, Macro / Infinity modes, and the number of remaining images across the bottom. After a few seconds, the display disappears, and is called up again with the next press of a control button.

In Playback mode, the Display button cycles through various levels of information display. The first display shows no information. The second reports the file number, date and time of exposure, quality setting, and the number of images on the card. A third display shows select exposure information, such as Shooting mode, Macro, Drive, Flash, Exposure Compensation, and White Balance. Also in Playback mode, the LCD monitor offers a nine-image index display (the wide-angle position on the Zoom lever) and single image 2x enlargement (the telephoto setting) for closer inspection of details. Once an image is enlarged, you can use the arrow keys to scroll around and check on framing or other details (holding down the Set button provides up and down scrolling).

An Instant Review function displays captured images on the LCD screen for two or 10 seconds; the review time is adjustable through the Setup menu. You can continue to review an image by holding down the Shutter button after you've exposed the image, or leave it on-screen indefinitely by pressing the Set button at the same time. The image will continue to display until you press the Shutter again halfway. During this time, you have the option of deleting an image, before it is recorded to the CompactFlash card, by pressing the left arrow button.


Optics
The PowerShot S110 features a high-quality, seven-element, all-glass aspherical 2x zoom lens, with a focal range of 5.4-10.8mm, equivalent to a 35-70mm lens on a 35mm camera, and maximum aperture settings between f/2.8 at the wide-angle setting and f/4.8 at the maximum telephoto range. Aperture and shutter speed settings are automatically controlled, with no values reported on the LCD display. (A feature we really miss with the Canon PowerShot digicams.) The closest focusing distance is 1.9 feet (57 cm) in Normal mode, and 3.9 inches (10 cm) in Macro mode. In Macro mode, the total focus range extends from 3.9 inches to 1.9 feet (10 to 57 cm) at the wide-angle setting, and from 10.6 inches to 1.9 feet (27 to 57 cm) at the telephoto setting. Focus is automatically determined using a three-point, through-the-lens Artificial Intelligence Auto Focus (AiAF) system, which gauges focus from three points in the center of the subject, even if it is slightly off-center of the viewfinder.

The Macro / Infinity button switches between Normal (default) and Macro (close-up) focus in Auto mode, and adds an Infinity focus in Manual mode. The Infinity mode presets the aperture for the best possible depth of field under existing light conditions, which is good for shooting fast-moving subjects from a distance, and decreases shooting time, as you don't have to wait for the camera to set focus for each exposure.

For low-light focusing situations, the S110 uses an autofocus (AF) Assist Light that emits a bright blue light during the pre-capture process, to more accurately focus on the subject. We found that the AF Assist worked very well, as we obtained clearly focused images in our low-light testing, even at the lowest light level. The S110 doesn't offer an adjustable focus lock, but you can manually lock focus by framing the portion of the subject you want to be sharp in the center of the frame, halfway depressing the Shutter button, then recomposing the shot (while continuing to depress the Shutter button halfway), and firing the shutter.

In addition to the 2x optical zoom, the S110 also offers a 2.5x digital telephoto (not available in Stitch-Assist or Movie modes) that is automatically enabled by zooming past the camera's optical zoom range when the LCD monitor is active. The amount of digital zoom is reported in blue numbers on the right side of the LCD display (combining the optical and digital zoom values, for a maximum value of 5x). Keep in mind that digital zoom results in increased noise levels or grainier image quality, because it is simply cropping and enlarging data from the center of the image.

In our testing, the lens appeared to be of good quality, showing better than average sharpness in the corners, and very little chromatic aberration. (Chromatic aberration is visible as colored fringes around light/dark boundaries in the corners of the images.) Optical distortion on the S110 is a good bit lower than average at the wide angle end of the lens' range, where we measured an 0.48 percent barrel distortion. The telephoto end fared better yet, as we didn't find even a pixel's worth of pincushion distortion. Overall, a surprisingly good performance from such a compact lens design.


Exposure
The PowerShot S110 and S300 both feature 1/2.7-inch, 2.1-megapixel CCDs with newly developed Intelligent Auto Exposure systems, which are linked to the camera's through-the-lens Artificial Intelligence Auto Focus (AiAF) system. According to Canon, these new exposure systems are faster and more sensitive than earlier models, concentrating their metering efforts more fully on the subject(s) -- whether or not they're centered in the viewfinder frame. Canon also introduced a new primary color CCD filter, for improved color reproduction, and an ultra-sensitive digital signal processing IC, to speed operations by the cameras' internal CPUs. All of these features are intended to make exposures faster, easier, and more accurate -- perpetuating the Digital ELPH's reputation as a highly sophisticated, fully automatic, point-and-shoot digital camera.

While creativity is paramount in the S110, exposure adjustments are fairly limited in all of the basic Shooting modes, including Manual. Automatic mode provides control over Flash, Drive (Normal or Self-Timer), Focus (Normal or Macro), Resolution, and Compression settings, while Manual mode adds only White Balance adjustment, Exposure Compensation, Continuous (Rapid) Shooting, and a fixed Infinity Focus. Stitch Assist mode provides all of the available exposure controls except Auto Flash, Red-Eye Reduction, Digital Zoom, and Continuous Shooting, and by necessity, the Movie mode eliminates all Flash modes, Continuous shooting, and JPEG Compression settings. The S110 offers more resolution options than most QuickTime enabled digicams (640 x 480, 320 x 240, and 160 x 120 pixels in Movie mode), and nine combinations of still image quality and JPEG compression options in all three still capture modes (1,600 x 1,200, 1,024 x 768, and 640 x 480 pixel resolutions, with Superfine, Fine, and Normal JPEG compressions).

Basic exposure decisions, such as shutter speed, aperture setting, and ISO, remain under automatic control and are not reported on the camera's LCD information display (a feature we miss). Shutter speeds range from 1/1,500 to 1 second, and maximum lens apertures are from f/2.8 to f/4.0 (depending on the telephoto setting). Light sensitivity is rated at an ISO 100 equivalency, and is automatically raised to ISO 150 in low-light situations. This boost was helpful in our low light tests, but the maximum shutter time of 1 second meant the camera couldn't capture shots in conditions darker than about 1 foot-candle (11 lux) of illumination. (This roughly equates to common street lighting at night.) One notable feature of the most recent generation of PowerShot cameras is automatic noise reduction for exposures lasting longer than 1/6 second. We found this to be quite effective in our low-light test shots, which showed very low noise levels.

The S110 offers a slightly different user interface than the larger PowerShot A10 and A20 models, primarily because of the limited surface area available for external controls. The large Mode dial is replaced by a two-option switch for Shooting and Playback modes only. Additional Shooting options -- Automatic, Manual, Stitch Assist, and Movie mode -- are the first option in the ELPH's Record menu system.

The S110's White Balance Exposure Compensation is the second on-screen menu item if you're shooting in any mode except automatic. When activated, it displays the Exposure Compensation adjustment scale, which allows you to lighten or darken the image from +2 to -2 exposure equivalents (EV) in one-third-step increments.White Balance is the third Menu item in Manual mode, with six possible settings -- Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Tungsten, and Fluorescent -- to accommodate most common light sources, plus a Black-and-White option for more creative shooting. All menu options are navigable with the right and left arrow buttons, using the Set button to select sub-menus and to confirm menu selections.

Many of the most frequently used camera controls, such as Flash mode, Single or Continuous Drive, Self-Timer, Zoom, and Focus, remain outside the camera' menu system, so you should only have to use the menu display for intitial set-up options and periodic adjustments (unless of course, you opt to use the Automatic mode and let the camera do all of the thinking for you).


Flash
The S110 has two built-in supplemental lighting systems: a main flash that fires automatically in low light levels (unless the flash is in Forced On or Forced Off modes), and a very bright white-light LED that is located between the optical viewfinder and the main flash. This LED serves three functions: 1) It emits a bright blue-white focus-assist light when the camera is focusing in low-light situations, to provide additional light for more accurate focusing; 2) it fires an auxilliary flash before the main flash in Red-Eye Reduction mode, to help shrink the pupils in the subject's eyes; and 3) it blinks during the Self-Timer countdown to indicate when the Shutter is about to fire.

The main flash has five operating modes, all controlled by the Flash button on the camera's back panel: Auto, Red-Eye Reduction, (Forced) On, (Forced) Off, and Slow Synchro. The Automatic flash fires in low-light situations or when a subject is backlit. Red-Eye Reduction mode works in the same manner, although it fires a small pre-flash before the full flash to reduce the occurrence of red-eye effect. Slow Synchro mode works with a slower shutter speeds (usually 1 second), keeping the shutter open beyond the flash duration, to allow more ambient light into the image to balance the background with the subject.

The S110's built-in flash has a working range of 1.9 to 9.8 feet (0.57 to 3.0 meters) at the wide-angle setting, and from 1.9 to 6.6 feet (0.57 to 2.0 meters) at telephoto. In Macro mode, Canon reports that the flash is effective for the Macro shooting range, which is 3.9 inches to 1.9 feet (10 to 57 cm), but that the flash may be too bright for the closer shots allowed by the wide-angle lens setting (3.9 to 10.6 inches). In our own testing, the flash did a pretty good job of throttling down for macro shots, and also seemed to reach a bit further than the 6.6 range Canon specifies in telephoto mode. (We felt it did pretty well out to about 8 feet.)

Movie Mode
A new feature on the S110 that wasn't previously available on the S100 is the Movie exposure mode. Movies are recorded at approximately 20 frames per second, with resolution sizes of 640 x 480, 320 x 240, and 160 x 120 available. Maximum recording times are four, 10, and 30 seconds, with the largest resolution size offering the shortest recording time. (This time may be dependent on the complexity of the images being recorded. In our tests, we measured recording times of six, 15, and 30 seconds respectively.) Recording stops and starts with a full press of the Shutter button, but the amount of available CompactFlash space will also limit the recording time when the card is nearly full. The Self-Timer option is available in Movie mode. Recording starts after the 10-second delay has elapsed, and continues for the maximum amount of time available for the resolution selected, or until the shutter button is pushed again. Exposure Compensation and White Balance are both adjustable in Movie mode, but remain fixed after recording starts. The lens may also be zoomed prior to the start of a movie, but once recording begins, remains fixed at whatever focal length was set when the shutter button was pressed.

Stitch-Assist Mode (Panorama)
The S110 features Canon's popular Stitch-Assist mode, which allows you to create panoramic images by shooting a series of images and then "stitching" them together on a computer. As many as 26 consecutive images can make up a panoramic series, all captured using framing guidelines provided on the LCD monitor (to help line up each shot correctly). Depending on the subject, these framing guidelines can be quite effective, as it's fairly easy to see when portions of the image don't "connect" across the seam properly. (See the screen shot inset right, which shows the result of two shots being lined up. The seam between them is about one-third of the way in from the left-hand edge of the image.) A shot confirmation after each image allows you to re-shoot an image if necessary. Auto and Red-Eye Reduction flash modes, as well as the Digital Zoom, are not available in Stitch-Assist mode. Canon also notes that a television cannot be used as a viewfinder when shooting in Stitch-Assist mode. Canon's (excellent) PhotoStitch software is included on the software CD accompanying the camera.

Continuous Shooting Mode
Accessed via the Drive / Self-Timer button, the Continuous Shooting mode allows you to capture a series of images at approximately 1,1 to 1.5 frames per second. (The manual claims 2.5 frames per second, but we didn't measure speeds anywhere near that level in our own testing.) The camera snaps images continuously for as long as the Shutter button is held down, or until the CompactFlash card is full. In large/fine mode, the camera can capture 6-8 images in rapid sequence before having to pause to write data to the memory card, while in small/economy mode, it can capture dozens before pausing. (We captured 64 small/economy photos without pausing.) Images are immediately recorded to the camera's buffer memory. Once the buffer memory is full, images are recorded to the CompactFlash card. The series will resume if you continue to hold down the Shutter button, but only after the buffer has been cleared. Shot-to-shot cycle times vary depending on the image size and quality settings, whether or not the LCD monitor is enabled, and the amount of image information to be recorded. The flash is available in this mode, but use of the flash decreases the shot-to-shot cycle time to allow the flash time to recharge. Continuous Shooting is available in Manual mode only.


Shutter Lag/Cycle Times
When you press the shutter release on a camera, there's usually a lag time before the shutter actually fires. This time is to allow the autofocus and autoexposure mechanisms time to do their work, and can amount to a fairly long delay in some situations. Since this number is almost never reported on, and can significantly affect the picture taking experience, we now routinely measure it using an Imaging Resource proprietary test system.

Canon PowerShot S110 Timings
Operation
Time (secs)
Normal Card
Time (secs)
Lexar 12x
Notes
Power On -> First shot
4.65
-
Time is total time from power on to first picture, not just time to telescope lens. Fairly fast for a camera with a telescoping lens.
Shutdown
2.2-4.6
2.2-4.0
First time is for lens retraction if camera done writing to card, second figure is from last frame snapped to card ready to remove.
Play to Record, first shot
3.2
-
Time to first shot when switching fromplayback mode. (Fairly fast)
Record to play (max/min res)
1.7/3.9
1.7/3.3
First time is for switch from record to play with no image being processed, second time is measured from shutter press to image ready to display.
Shutter lag, full autofocus
0.64
-
Quite fast. (Average in high-end consumer cameras is about 0.8 seconds)
Shutter lag, prefocus
0.063
-
Incredibly fast! (Average is 0.3 seconds)
Cycle time, large/fine files
2.20/3.60
2.14/3.08
Shorter time is for first 6-8 shots, then need to wait for the buffer to clear before taking next shots.
Buffer clearing time
14.1
7.2
Time to finish writing data to card after a series of shots. (Eg, time until card is ready for a full-speed series again.) Note nearly 2x faster performance with 12x card.
Cycle time, small/basic files
1.8
1.8
Quite fast. No slowdown due to buffer fill for more than 12 shots.
Continuous mode, large files
0.88/3.3
0.88/2.2
First time is for first 6-8 shots, then must flush each image to disk before next shot. (33% faster after buffer fill with 12x card.)
Continuous mode, small files
0.67
0.67
No buffer problems past at least 12 exposures (as far as we tested).


The Powershot S110 is a pretty fast camera, with good shutter lag in full autofocus mode, amazing speed when prefocused by half-pressing the shutter button prior to the exposure, and very good cycle times. It seems to have a fairly large buffer memory, as it can take between six and eight shots at 2.2 second intervals before it has to wait for the buffer to empty. It also appears well able to take advantage of faster memory cards, as it's buffer-clearing time is almost twice as fast with a 12x Lexar card than slower models.


Operation and User Interface
The S110 features a straightforward user interface similar to that of other Canon PowerShot digicams, but without the large Mode dial for selecting a Shooting mode. Though it is somewhat reliant on its LCD display for confirming mode changes and menu settings, the LCD works very efficiently to minimize power drain. Even when the image display is turned off, simply pressing a control button activates the information display, allowing you to change the setting without turning on the image display. Once you've made the change, the information display automatically disappears and shuts off the LCD monitor after a few seconds.

The Menu system is set up in two different formats. The first section accommodates those functions that are external controls on some other PowerShot models: Shooting mode, Exposure Compensation, and White Balance. These three menu screens are accessed by pressing the Menu button and their options are selected by scrolling with the Arrow keys. Pressing the Set button locks in the desired option. To advance to the next menu in this section, you must press the Menu button after setting your selection. However, after the White Balance menu, subsequent menus are navigated with only the Arrow keys and Set button. Pressing the Menu button while in these sections will turn off the Menu. While this menu system is somewhat quirky to navigate, the user interface overall is fairly intuitive and quick to learn.


Control Enumeration


Main Switch (On / Off): Located on top of the camera, to the left of the Shutter button, the Main Switch is used to power the camera on or off in Shooting or Playback modes. When turning on the camera, the button must be held down until it beeps to successfully power up the camera.


Shutter Button: To the right of the Main Switch, surrounded by the Zoom adjustment lever, this large silver button sets focus and exposure when halfway depressed, and releases the shutter when fully depressed. When the camera is in Self-Timer mode, pressing the Shutter button activates the Self-Timer countdown.


Zoom Lever / Ring: Positioned on top of the camera, encircling the Shutter button, the Zoom lever controls the Optical Zoom in any Shooting (Record) mode. When the LCD monitor is active in either Automatic or Manual mode, this lever also controls the 2.5x digital telephoto. Pushing the lever to the left zooms out to the wide-angle setting and pulling it to the right zooms in to maximum telephoto. A dimpled marker, set at a 90-degree angle to the Zoom lever, indicates which direction the lens is zooming when you push or pull on the lever.

In Playback mode, the wide-angle end of the Zoom lever activates the nine-image index display mode, allowing you to select single images for review. A second press in the wide-angle direction allows you to scroll page by page through the index display. Pulling the lever back toward the telephoto end returns you to the normal nine-image index display page. A second pull enables the Playback zoom function, which enlarges the captured image by 2x.


Mode Switch: In the top right corner of the back panel, this small, rectangular sliding button controls the camera's operating mode, placing it in Playback (left) or Shooting mode (right).


Set / Flash Button: Directly under the bottom left corner of the LCD monitor, this button controls the Flash mode in Automatic, Manual, and Stitch-Assist modes. Pressing the Flash button cycles through five modes: Auto, Red-Eye Reduction, (Forced) On, (Forced) Off, and Slow Synchro modes (except in Stitch-Assist mode, where it cycles through On, Off, and Slow Synchro only). When a settings menu is displayed, this button is used to access and confirm menu selections.

In Playback mode, when Playback Zoom is enabled, holding down the Set / Flash button, while simultaneously pressing the right or left arrow keys, allows you to move up and down within an enlarged image.


Drive / Left Arrow Button: To the right of the Flash / Set button, the left arrow button controls the camera's Drive mode when in Automatic or Manual modes. In Automatic mode, the default setting is Single Capture and pressing the button once activates the Self-Timer mode. In Manual mode, the settings go from Single Capture, to Continuous Shooting, to Self-Timer. Also marked with a left-pointing arrow, this button allows the user to scroll through menu options.

In Playback mode, the left arrow button allows you to scroll backward through captured images. When the Playback Zoom is enabled, this button scrolls to the left within an enlarged image. Also in Playback Zoom, pressing this button while holding down the Set button allows you to scroll up within the enlarged image.


Focus / Right Arrow Button: To the right of the Focus button, the right arrow button controls the Focus mode while the camera is in any Shooting mode. Pressed once in Auto mode, it changes the focus to Macro (close-up). In Manual, Stitch-Assist, and Movie modes, a second press of the button changes the focus to Infinity mode, while a third press returns it to the Normal focus mode. This button is also marked with a right-pointing arrow, which allows the user to navigate through menu options.

In Playback mode, the right arrow button allows you to scroll forward through captured images. When the Playback Zoom is enabled, this button scrolls right within an enlarged image. Also in Playback Zoom, pressing this button while holding down the Set button allows you to scroll down within the enlarged image.


Menu Button: To the right of the Focus button, pressing Menu turns on the settings menu in each camera mode, and turns it off again when you've completed your menu selections. In the first three menu options only (Shooting mode, Exposure Compensation, and White Balance), the Menu button also scrolls from one menu to the next.

In Playback mode, pressing the Menu button allows you to delete the currently selected image (using the Set button), with an option to cancel.


Display Button: The far right button along the bottom of the LCD monitor, the Display button controls the image display in any Shooting mode, turning it on or off.

In Playback mode, the Display button cycles through three image information display screens: 1) no information; 2) basic image information, including the file name, image number, Resolution and Compression setting, and the date and time it was recorded, and 3) the full information display, including Shooting mode, Macro or Infinity Focus, Drive, Self-Timer, Flash, Exposure Compensation, and White Balance (in addition to the information in #2).


Camera Modes and Menus

Shooting (Record) Mode: Indicated by a red camera symbol on the Mode switch, Shooting mode allows you to record still images or movies in one of four possible shooting options -- Automatic, Manual, Stitch-Assist, and Movie modes -- accessed through the Record settings menu.

Playback Mode: Indicated by the traditional playback symbol on the Mode switch, Playback mode allows you to scroll through and enlarge captured images for inspection, as well as delete, protect, rotate, and view images in an automatic slide show. They can also be set up for printing on a DPOF device.

Record Mode Menu
The following menu options are available by pressing the Menu button in any Record mode (unless otherwise specified):

Shooting Modes: The first set of options available in Record menu is the Shooting mode selection, which includes five possible capture methods (two Stitch-Assist modes):


Exposure Compensation (EV): The second Record menu option, accessed by pressing the Menu button twice, is Exposure Compensation, which is available for all Shooting modes except Automatic. Exposure Compensation is adjustable from -2 to +2 exposure equivalents (EV) in one-third-step increments.

White Balance: The third Record menu option, accessed by pressing the Menu button three times, is White Balance, which is available for all Shooting modes except Automatic. The White Balance adjustment offers an Auto setting as well as four preset options for Daylight, Cloudy, Tungsten, and Fluorescent lighting. It also includes a Black-and-White setting for creating monotone images and movies.

The remaining Record menu options are accessed differently than the first three (above). Instead of pressing the Menu button to move on to the next menu, you use the arrow key buttons to scroll through available options. When you reach a menu item you want to adjust, you press the Set button, which brings up the submenu options. You then use the arrow keys to highlight one of the available options, and press the Set button to select that option. Subsequently pressing the arrow keys will continue navigation through the following submenus. Pressing the Menu button will exit you from the menu:


Playback Menu: This settings menu is displayed by pressing the Menu button in Playback mode:



Image Storage and Interface
The S110 uses CompactFlash Type I memory cards for image storage; an 8MB card comes standard with the camera. Upgrades are available separately to memory capacities as high as 320MB. The CompactFlash slot is on the right side of the camera, covered by a plastic door with a sliding quick-release latch on back of the camera. The card inserts with the electrodes going in first, and the front of the card (indicated by an arrow) facing the back of the camera. A small button beside the slot ejects the card by popping it up slightly, allowing you to pull the card the rest of the way out.

Although individual CompactFlash cards cannot be write-protected or locked against erasure or manipulation, the S110 allows you to protect individual images through the Playback menu. Once protected, images cannot be erased or manipulated in any way, except through card formatting. The Playback menu also allows you to rotate images in the LCD display, play them back in an automated slide show, erase them, and set them up for printing on DPOF compliant printers.

Three image resolution sizes are available for still images: 1,600 x 1,200, 1,024 x 768, and 640 x 480 pixels. Each resolution size also offers three JPEG compression settings, including Superfine, Fine, and Normal. Both Resolution and Compression are adjustable through the Record settings menu. The number of available images is reported on the LCD's information display, in addition to the selected size and quality settings.

The table below summarizes the compression ratios and number of images which can be stored on the included 8MB memory card with each size/quality combination.


Image Capacity vs
Resolution/Quality
8MB CompactFlash Card
Super Fine
Fine
Normal
Large Resolution 1600x1200 Images 7
11
24
Approx.
Compression
5:1
7:1
15:1
Medium Resolution 1024x768 Images
16
24
46
Approx.
Compression
5:1
7:1
14:1
Small Resolution 640x480
Images
35
50
87
Approx.
Compression
4:1
6:1
10:1

 

QuickTime movies are recorded in one of three resolutions: 640 x 480, 320 x 240, or 160 x 120 pixels, selectable through the Movie Record settings menu. When displayed on screen, the movie resolution icon shows only the first value in partial outline (i.e.: the 640 x 480 resolution will be displayed with just the number 640, framed on two sides by a rule). Movie duration is dependent on file resolution and available card storage (no compression options are available). The following chart shows the approximate duration of a single movie recorded at each of the three resolutions:


Recording Mode
Resolution in pixels
Movie Duration in Seconds
640
640 x 480
(20 frames/sec)
4
320
320 x 240
(20 frames/sec)
10
160
160 x 120
(20 frames/sec)
10

A USB cable and interface software accompany the S110, for quick connection and image downloading to a PC or Macintosh. The USB driver (on the PC at least, which was the platform we tested it on) doesn't mount the camera as a disk volume, but rather is a TWAIN driver that connects the camera to TWAIN-compliant applications. We used Canon's own (very nice) ZoomBrowser application to check the download time, and clocked the S110 at a download speed of 202 KBytes/second. This is a bit slower than average, as most USB digicams we've tested seem to download at about 300 KB/sec. It's possible that this timing was adversely affected by our aging 350 MHz Pentium II computer: ZoomBrowser seems to pause to build a thumbnail of each downloaded image "on the fly", so a faster CPU could very well improve throughput. Regardless, 200K/second is no small potatoes, and overall is a very acceptable download speed. (You really don't need to worry about buying a separate card reader to speed downloads, at least in our opinion.)


Video Out
The Video Out signal is adjustable to PAL or NTSC timing through the Setup menu. The S110 comes packaged with an AV cable for connection to a television or video recorder. Once connected, the S110 uses the television as an enlarged LCD monitor, allowing you to compose and playback images, or to play recorded QuickTime movies with sound. The Stitch-Assist mode does not work with the video display.


Power
The S110 is powered by a rechargeable Li-Ion battery pack (NB-1L), designed specifically for Canon Digital ELPH cameras. It comes complete with a dedicated battery charger, and an AC adapter kit (ACK500) is available as an option. Canon estimates that a freshly charged battery pack should record approximately 120 shots with the LCD monitor on, or 270 shots with the LCD off (or provide 85 minutes of playback time). Unfortunately, there is no battery icon on the LCD monitor to indicate power level until the battery is very low. At that point, a red battery symbol starts flashing on the right side of the monitor, and it is quickly replaced by a message that reads "Change the battery pack" when power is too low to operate the camera. It would be helpful to have a continuous battery level indicator with the other information icons, especially since the battery pack is a dedicated unit, and the image capacity is much lower than other PowerShot models we've tested. Because of this, we highly recommend buying a second battery pack so you can keep one charged at all times (recharge time is relatively quick, at less than two hours).

Because the S110 offers an optical viewfinder as well as an LCD monitor, you can operate the camera more efficiently without the LCD monitor in use. While an information display automatically appears on the LCD screen whenever a control button is pressed (even when the LCD monitor is turned off), the display quickly disappears a few seconds after the adjustment is made. There's also an Auto Power Down feature, enabled through the Setup menu, which turns off the camera after a few minutes of inactivity. The optional AC Adapter Kit is highly recommended for time-consuming tasks such as downloading images to a computer or printing them on the CP-10 Photo Card Printer.

Because we didn't receive the Power Adapter cable along with the S110, we couldn't measure power consumption directly, as we normally do. We did try running the camera continuously, both in capture mode with the LCD illuminated, and in playback mode.A fully-charged battery lasted for 60 minutes of continuous operation in capture mode with the LCD lit, and for 120 minutes in playback mode. We'd thus conclude that Canon's own battery-life estimates are fairly conservative.


Included Software

Learn what the manual left out -
How to *use* your camera.

Camera manuals are (sometimes) fine for knowing which button does what, but where do you go to learn how and when to use the various features? Dennis Curtin's "Shortcourses" books and CDs are the answer. (Cheap for what you get, too.) Order the Shortcourses manual for the camera reviewed in this article.

Packaged with the S110 is Canon's Digital Camera Solution Disk software (Version 4.0), which is supplied on the accompanying software CD. The Solution Disk provides ZoomBrowser EX (Win) and ImageBrowser (Mac) programs for image downloading, file management (displays, moves, and copies files), and setup for printing and e-mailing images; PhotoStitch software for piecing together panoramic images; and a RemoteCapture utility in ZoomBrowser that enables you to remotely capture still images from a PC in both real-time and time-lapse function. A second CD, the ArcSoft Camera Suite disk, contains the following image editing programs: ArcSoft PhotoImpression, Adobe Photoshop LE, and Adobe PhotoDeluxe Home Edition.



In the Box
Packaged with the PowerShot A10 are the following items:



Test Results
In keeping with our standard test policy, the comments given here summarize only our key findings. For a full commentary on each of the test images, see the PowerShot S110's "pictures" page.

As with all Imaging Resource product tests, we encourage you to let your own eyes be the judge of how well the camera performed. Explore the images on the pictures page, to see how the S110's images compare to other cameras you may be considering.

Analysis coming soon!


Conclusion
The Canon PowerShot S110 is an excellent option for novice to advanced photographers who want to make the move into digital photography with a lot of class. Its elegant styling and ultra-compact size made its predecessor (the S100) a very popular choice for users who wanted more than just a good point-and-shoot digital camera. The automatic exposure control takes the worry out of snapping quick, high-quality pictures, and it provides a fair mix of user selectable controls that allow for some creative input. The 2.1-megapixel CCD captures good quality images, with excellent color saturation and picture resolution, and the lens appears to be of excellent quality. Despite some limitations in low-light shooting capabilities, the S110 was able to handle a variety of exposure situations, including indoor shots illuminated by available light. At $599 (list price at introduction), we think it will find many a happy home.

<<PowerShot S110 Sample Images | Additional Resources and Other Links>>

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