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Canon PowerShot S300

Canon makes a major update to their original S100 "Digital ELPH": More zoom, more controls, and better photos. Hard to beat!

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

PowerShot S300 Sample Images

Review First Posted: 4/5/2001

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: (870 k)
The extreme tonal range of this image makes it a tough shot for many digicams, which is precisely why we set it up this way. The object is to hold highlight and shadow detail without producing a "flat" picture with muddy colors, and the Canon PowerShot S300 does a good job. We shot samples of this image with the automatic (885 k) and daylight (884 k) white balance settings, choosing the automatic setting for our main series. The daylight setting resulted in a pinkish image, with heavy magenta tones in the skin, white shirt, and house siding. The automatic setting produced much more accurate results, with good looking skin tones and excellent overall color balance. The blue flowers and pants look about right, with just the slightest hint of a purplish tint in the flower petals. (These blues are quite hard for many digicams to reproduce correctly, so the S300 does well.) Resolution looks good and reasonably high, with a lot of fine detail visible in the model's face and in the flower bouquet. Details are also very crisp, particularly in the flower bouquet, which is presumably where the camera judged focus from. The bright, red flowers are a little too bright, with a slight loss of detail and a small halo around the outside edges. The shadow areas show excellent detail, with surprisingly little noise. Our main image was taken with a +0.3 EV exposure compensation adjustment, which did a nice job exposing the shadow areas (though the highlights show some loss of detail). The default exposure held quite a bit of detail in the highlights, but left the skin tones slightly dark. (The low shadow noise though, means you'd have plenty of good data to work with to adjust midtone and shadow values post-exposure.) Overall, a really excellent performance. The table below shows the results of a range of exposure settings from zero to +1.0 EV.

Exposure Compensation Settings:
0 EV
1/ 250
F/ 11
(883 k)
0.3 EV
1/ 200
F/ 11
(870 k)
0.7 EV
1/ 160
F/ 11
(882 k)
1.0 EV
1/ 125
F/ 11
(558 k)



 
Closer portrait: (836 k)
The S300 also does a nice job with this closer, portrait shot, thanks to its 3x lens. (Shorter focal length lenses tend to distort facial features in close-up shots like this and the availability of longer focal lengths is a key feature if you're going to be shooting close-up people shots.) We again shot with the automatic white balance setting, which provided the most accurate color balance, although in this shot, we feel that the skin tones are a little "hot", with a bit too much pink in them. Resolution appears higher with this shot, with even more crisp details. The individual strands of the model's hair are very defined, as are the remaining details around her face. The shadow areas again hold a nice level of detail, with very low noise. Some noise is visible in the background house siding, but it doesn't distract from the image. Our main shot was taken with no exposure adjustment at all (this close-up shot usually requires less exposure compensation than the wider Outdoor Portrait). Overall, another excellent image. The table below shows the results of a range of exposure settings from zero to +1.0 EV.

Exposure Compensation Settings:
0 EV
1/ 100
F/ 14
(836 k)
0.3 EV
1/ 80
F/ 14
(907 k)
0.7 EV
1/ 640
F/ 4.7
(902 k)
1.0 EV
1/ 500
F/ 4.7
(900 k)



 
Indoor Portrait, Flash: (740 k)
The S300's built-in flash does a nice job of illuminating the subject, producing nice overall color without washing out details. Flash power seems a little weak, as we achieved the best exposure with a +1.0 exposure compensation adjustment. We also observed a fairly strong orange cast from the household incandescent lighting, which increased in intensity with the dimmer exposures. Despite the orange cast, color looks good on the subject, with reasonably saturated colors in the flower bouquet. Noise is low throughout the image, and overall image details appear nice and sharp. A good performance, but the relatively weak flash didn't balance well with the strong incandescent lighting. The table below shows the results of a range of exposure settings from zero to +1.0 EV.

Exposure Compensation Settings:
0 EV
1/ 60
F/ 2.8
(671 k)
0.3 EV
1/ 60
F/ 2.8
(697 k)
0.7 EV
1/ 60
F/ 2.8
(716 k)
1.0 EV
1/ 60
F/ 2.8
(740 k)



 
Indoor portrait, no flash: (773 k)
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 S300's white balance system handles the challenge well. We shot samples of this image with the automatic (746 k) and incandescent (770 k) white balance settings, choosing the incandescent setting for our main series because of its more accurate color balance. The automatic setting resulted in a very warm, brownish image, no doubt in response to the incandescent lighting. The incandescent setting produced much more accurate results, though the overall color balance is still slightly warm. The blue flowers in the bouquet show some purplish tints, particularly at the edges of the petals. Skin tones are warm and slightly pinkish, but still appear reasonably accurate. The bright, red flowers of the bouquet are a little blurred, possibly from the high red saturation. Resolution looks great, with a lot of sharp, crisp details visible throughout the image, and very low noise. We chose an exposure adjustment of +1.0 EV for our main image, which did a nice job of exposing the highlight and shadow areas evenly. Overall, a very nicely balanced image, it's great to see an "incandescent" white balance preset that actually matches common household lighting! The table below shows a range of exposures from zero to +1.7 EV.

Exposure Compensation Settings:
0 EV
1/ 15
F/ 2.8
(727 k)
0.3 EV
1/ 13
F/ 2.8
(752 k)
0.7 EV
1/ 10
F/ 2.8
(767 k)
1.0 EV
1/ 8
F/ 2.8
(773 k)
1.3 EV
1/ 6
F/ 2.8
(759 k)
1.7 EV
1/ 5
F/ 2.8
(753 k)



 
House shot: (1331 k)
We shot samples of this image with the daylight (1384 k) and automatic (1365 k) white balance settings, choosing the automatic setting for our main series, as the daylight setting produced slightly warm results. Overall color balance looks pretty good, though maybe just a bit cool. Resolution is quite high, with good detail visible in the bricks and shrubbery, and in the tree limbs surrounding the house. The brick pattern is very distinct across the front of the house, and the majority of the tree leaves appear very sharp. Overall image sharpness is just a hint soft, in keeping with Canon's philosophy of going easy on in-camera sharpening. (A decision we personally applaud.) Indeed, only about one pixel of a halo effect is visible along the light and dark edges of the white roof trim, just barely giving away the in-camera sharpening. Noise is low in the roof shingles and shadow areas, with a small, tight grain pattern. All in all, one of the better performances we've seen on this image from a two megapixel camera. The table below shows our standard range of resolution and quality settings.

Resolution/Quality series
Large/Fine
1/ 40
F/ 4
(1331 k)
Large/Normal
1/ 40
F/ 4
(886 k)
Large/Economy
1/ 40
F/ 4
(442 k)
Medium/Fine
1/ 40
F/ 4
(588 k)
Medium/Normal
1/ 40
F/ 4
(395 k)
Medium/Economy
1/ 40
F/ 4
(207 k)
Small/Fine
1/ 40
F/ 4
(250 k)
Small/Normal
1/ 40
F/ 4
(170 k)
Small/Economy
1/ 40
F/ 4
(92 k)



 
 
Far-Field Test (1345 k)
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.

We shot this image with the automatic white balance setting, which produced a nice overall color balance. This shot is a strong test of detail, given the practically infinite range of fine detail in a natural scene like this, viewed from a distance. Resolution looks quite high for a two megapixel camera, with a lot of fine detail visible in the tree limbs, shrubbery, and across the house front. Details are very sharp, especially those of the smaller shrubbery leaves and the tree branches against the sky. We also judge a camera's dynamic range in this shot, comparing how well the camera holds detail in both the shadow and highlight areas. The S300 is fooled slightly by the bright, white paint of the bay window, as it captures only the strongest details. However, the dark shadow area of the porch shows a higher level of detail, with the brick pattern and trim details of the door visible. Noise level is low in the roof shingles and shadow areas of the house, with a very small grain pattern. A really excellent job, overall. The table below shows our standard resolution and quality series.

Resolution/Quality series
Large/Fine
1/ 160
F/ 11
(1345 k)
Large/Normal
1/ 160
F/ 11
(894 k)
Large/Economy
1/ 125
F/ 11
(447 k)
Medium/Fine
1/ 125
F/ 11
(594 k)
Medium/Normal
1/ 125
F/ 11
(400 k)
Medium/Economy
1/ 160
F/ 11
(211 k)
Small/Fine
1/ 160
F/ 11
(252 k)
Small/Normal
1/ 160
F/ 11
(173 k)
Small/Economy
1/ 160
F/ 11
(94 k)



 
 
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 with the following series of shots, showing the field of view with the lens at full wide angle, at full 3x telephoto, and at full telephoto with the 2.5x digital zoom enabled. The zoom lens is one of the most noticeable differences between the S300 and the original S100 Digital ELPH. The original had a 2.5x zoom, the current model has a 3x one. The S300's wide angle setting captures a very large field of view, with a slight barrel distortion noticeable along the curb of the street. Good color throughout, and nice, crisp details. Resolution increases with the 3x telephoto setting, though the entire image appears slightly soft. The details of the bright, white bay window are a little more distinct, though the edges of the white paint near the brick have a slight glow. With the 2.5x digital telephoto shot, the exposure dims slightly and the overall image details appear even softer. Resolution is a noticeably lower (which is typical with digital zoom), but the noise level remains low.

Wide Angle
Shutter: 1/ 200
Aperture: F8
(500 k)
3x Telephoto
Shutter: 1/ 80
Aperture: F14
(506 k)
2.5x Digital Telephoto
Shutter: 1/ 125
Aperture: F14
(316 k)



 
 
Musicians Poster (1034 k)
The large amount of blue in this image often tricks digicams into overcompensating, but the S300's white balance system does a pretty good job. We shot samples of this image with the automatic (133 k) and daylight (132 k) white balance settings, and neither white balance setting produced exactly accurate results. The automatic setting produced a somewhat cool image, with slightly bluish skin tones, while the daylight setting resulted in a slightly warm image. We chose the daylight setting for our main series, despite the warm cast, because the skin tones appear more natural. The blue of the Oriental model's robe looks about right (this is a tough blue for many digicams to reproduce, so the S300 performs well). Resolution looks great, with most of the fine details of the bird wings and silver threads visible on the blue robe (we could even see the fainter details of the smaller bird on the front of her shoulder). The violin strings are nice and sharp, with only a hint of a moire pattern visible, and the flower garland and beaded necklaces also show good, crisp detail. Noise is fairly low throughout the image, and mainly visible in the blue background. The table below shows our standard resolution and quality series.

Resolution/Quality series
Large/Fine
1/ 100
F/ 2.7
(1034 k)
Large/Normal
1/ 100
F/ 2.7
(653 k)
Large/Economy
1/ 100
F/ 2.7
(313 k)
Medium/Fine
1/ 100
F/ 2.7
(462 k)
Medium/Normal
1/ 100
F/ 2.7
(269 k)
Medium/Economy
1/ 100
F/ 2.7
(150 k)
Small/Fine
1/ 100
F/ 2.7
(201 k)
Small/Normal
1/ 100
F/ 2.7
(132 k)
Small/Economy
1/ 100
F/ 2.7
(71 k)



 
Macro Shot (945 k)
The S300 comes in somewhat below average in the macro category, capturing a minimum area of 7.81 x 5.86 inches (198.47 x 148.86mm). Although really not very close, at least the resolution is good, with a lot of fine detail visible in the coins and on the brooch. Details are reasonably crisp, though just a hair soft. Color looks reasonably accurate as well, though slightly magenta. We picked up a hint of barrel distortion across the dollar bill from the wide angle lens setting. Noise is low, and only noticeable in the gray background. The S300's built-in flash (981 k) does a good job of throttling down for the macro area, producing a slightly more accurate color balance (though greenish). The large coin produces a bright reflection, but maintains detail. Flash power falls off around the corners of the image fairly severely this close, but manages to light the main subject area pretty well.


"Davebox" Test Target (703 k)
We shot samples of this target using the automatic (49 k) and daylight (50 k) white balance settings, choosing the automatic setting for our main series because of the more accurate white value in the mini resolution target. The daylight setting produced a very warm image, with a brownish tint throughout. The large color blocks all look reasonably accurate with automatic white balance, showing good saturation levels. Some reviewers have stated that they feel the colors of the S300 are undersaturated, but we'd have to respectfully disagree: These colors are really pretty spot-on, without being oversaturated, certainly among the top rank of cameras we've tested. (Only the large yellow block is slightly muddy, but even that is better than most cameras we've shot this target with.) We noticed small, glowing halos around the outside edges of the bright red and blue blocks, and a brighter pixel outline inside the brighter yellow and bluish blocks. The S300 accurately reproduces the red and magenta color blocks on the middle, horizontal color chart without confusing the two colors (which is a common problem area for many digicams), though the black separator line has a reddish tint. Exposure is a little bright, as the subtle tonal variations of the Q60 chart are only faintly visible in the "B" range (another common problem area for digicams). The tonal gradations of the smaller, vertical gray scales also look good, with only the last two dark blocks blending together. The shadow area of the charcoal briquettes shows nice detail, with unusually low noise. Likewise, the highlights of the white gauze area also show a fair amount of detail. Resolution looks good throughout the image, with a lot of detail visible in the box hinges and silver disk, though the mini resolution target appears a little soft. The table below shows our standard resolution and quality series.

Resolution/Quality series
Large/Fine
1/ 100
F/ 2.8
(703 k)
Large/Normal
1/ 100
F/ 2.8
(429 k)
Large/Economy
1/ 100
F/ 2.8
(191 k)
Medium/Fine
1/ 100
F/ 2.8
(318 k)
Medium/Normal
1/ 100
F/ 2.8
(197 k)
Medium/Economy
1/ 100
F/ 2.8
(96 k)
Small/Fine
1/ 100
F/ 2.8
(140 k)
Small/Normal
1/ 100
F/ 2.8
(91 k)
Small/Economy
1/ 100
F/ 2.8
(50 k)



 
Low-Light Tests
The S300 was only average in terms of its low-light category, as we were only able to obtain bright, usable images as low as one foot-candle (11 lux). The target was still visible at the 1/2 of a foot-candle (5.5 lux) light level, but with a dim, pink cast. Even at the 1/16 of a foot-candle (0.67 lux) light level the target was visible, though the image appeared almost black and white. From the 1/2 of a foot-candle light level on down, the exposure compensation adjustments seemed to make little difference in the resulting images. However, from one foot-candle on up to eight foot-candles, the exposure adjustments were much more noticeable. Noise remains very low in all the images, and is barely noticeable at the higher light levels (from one foot-candle on up). To put the S300's low-light performance into perspective, an average city night scene under modern street lighting corresponds to a light level of about one foot-candle, so the camera should be able to handle most night city shots. Anything darker will require the use of the built-in flash. 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 of our sample photos) are untouched, exactly as they came from the camera.

8fc
10EV
88lux
4fc
9EV
44lux
2fc
8EV
22lux
1fc
7EV
11lux
1/2fc
6EV
5.5lux
1/4fc
5EV
2.7lux
1/8fc
4EV
1.3lux
1/16fc
3EV
0.67lx
EXP COMP +0.0 Click to see S30L1000.JPG
593 KB
1/ 8
F2.7
Click to see S30L1001.JPG
576 KB
1/ 6
F2.7
Click to see S30L1002.JPG
568 KB
1/ 3
F2.7
Click to see S30L1003.JPG
583 KB
1/ 2
F2.7
Click to see S30L1004.JPG
476 KB
1
F2.7
Click to see S30L1005.JPG
391 KB
1
F2.7
Click to see S30L1006.JPG
341 KB
1
F2.7
Click to see S30L1007.JPG
292 KB
1
F2.7
EXP COMP +2.0 Click to see S30L1000.JPG
682 KB
1/ 2
F2.7
Click to see S30L1001.JPG
686 KB
1/ 2
F2.7
Click to see S30L1002.JPG
689 KB
1
F2.7
Click to see S30L1003.JPG
606 KB
1
F2.7
Click to see S30L1004.JPG
476 KB
1
F2.7
Click to see S30L1005.JPG
387 KB
1
F2.7
Click to see S30L1006.JPG
335 KB
1
F2.7
Click to see S30L1007.JPG
305 KB
1
F2.7



 
Flash Range Test
Canon estimates the S300's flash as effective from 2.5 to 11.5 feet (76cm to 3.5m). In our testing, we found the S300's flash to be the brightest at the eight foot distance. Flash power visibly decreased with each additional foot of distance from the target, becoming very dim at the 15 foot distance. Based on our own data, we'd therefore say that the S300's flash range is really about 8 feet:11.5 feet is really overly optimistic. Below is our flash range series, with distances from eight to 15 feet from the target.

8 ft
1/ 60
F/ 4.5
(607 k)
9 ft
1/ 80
F/ 4.5
(574 k)
10 ft
1/ 80
F/ 4.5
(530 k)
11 ft
1/ 80
F/ 4.7
(513 k)
12 ft
1/ 80
F/ 4.7
(449 k)
13 ft
1/ 80
F/ 4.7
(439 k)
14 ft
1/ 80
F/ 4.7
(398 k)
15 ft
1/ 80
F/ 4.7
(378 k)



 
ISO-12233 (WG-18) Resolution Test (772 k)
The S300's lens appears to be of unusually high optical quality: It produces very sharp, clear images, losing very little sharpness even in the corners of the frame. We begin to see aliasing in the test patterns at about 575 lines per picture height in both the horizontal and vertical directions, although detail is clearly visible all the way out to 700-800 lines. Significantly though, there's virtually no color aliasing present anywhere.
Resolution Series, Wide Angle
Large/Fine
1/ 125
F/ 2.7
(772 k)
Large/Normal
1/ 125
F/ 2.7
(768 k)
Large/Economy
1/ 160
F/ 2.7
(212 k)
Medium/Fine
1/ 160
F/ 2.7
(464 k)
Medium/Normal
1/ 160
F/ 2.7
(340 k)
Medium/Economy
1/ 125
F/ 2.7
(214 k)
Small/Fine
1/ 125
F/ 2.7
(110 k)
Small/Normal
1/ 160
F/ 2.7
(152 k)
Small/Economy
1/ 160
F/ 2.7
(101 k)


Resolution Series, Telephoto
Large/Fine
1/ 50
F/ 4.7
(740 k)
Large/Normal
1/ 50
F/ 4.7
(447 k)
Large/Economy
1/ 50
F/ 4.7
(201 k)
Medium/Fine
1/ 50
F/ 4.7
(329 k)
Medium/Normal
1/ 50
F/ 4.7
(203 k)
Medium/Economy
1/ 50
F/ 4.7
(104 k)
Small/Fine
1/ 50
F/ 4.7
(146 k)
Small/Normal
1/ 50
F/ 4.7
(97 k)
Small/Economy
1/ 50
F/ 4.7
(55 k)



 
Viewfinder Accuracy/Flash Uniformity
Perhaps the camera's biggest weakness, we found the S300's optical viewfinder to be quite tight, showing approximately 79.4 percent of the image area at wide angle (165 k). Frame accuracy was approximately 84.25 percent at the telephoto (139 k) setting. Shots framed with the optical viewfinder were shifted toward the lower right corner of the frame. The LCD monitor was much more accurate, showing about 99.3 percent of the image area at wide angle (154 k), and about 99.1 percent of the image area at telephoto (142 k). Since we normally prefer to see LCD monitors as close to 100 percent accuracy as possible, the S300 does an excellent job. Flash distribution looks nice and even at the telephoto setting, with a small hot spot on the center target lines. At the wide angle setting, flash distribution is brightest in the center of the target, with slight but not severe fall off around the edges and fairly pronounced fall off in the corners. (Overall, the S300's flash system doesn't get particularly strong marks.)

Optical distortion on the S300 is moderate at the wide angle end, where we measured an approximate 0.57 percent barrel distortion. The telephoto setting produced much better results, with no visible pincushion distortion. Chromatic aberration is low: We can see about four of five pixels of coloration on each side of the black target lines at the wide angle setting, which would normally rate low marks. The saving grace though, is that the degree of coloration is quite slight, making the distortion pretty inconspicuous in most shots. At the telephoto setting, there are only about two pixels of even the faint color visible. (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.)

 

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

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