Canon S110 Review
Canon PowerShot S110 Image Quality
Saturation & Hue Accuracy
Less vibrant color than most, but very good hue accuracy.
Saturation. The Canon S110 produced fairly accurate saturation levels, with only minor oversaturation in reds and blues. Some colors such as bright yellow, orange, aqua and cyan were actually undersaturated by a small amount. Average saturation was 105.7%, or only 5.7% oversaturated, which is lower than the approximately 10% we usually see. Overall, the Canon S110's images appear less vivid than most cameras produce, but you can always adjust saturation to your liking. Most consumer digital cameras produce color that's more highly saturated (more intense) than found in the original subjects. This is simply because most people like their color a bit brighter than life.
Skin tones. Here, when using Auto white balance in simulated daylight, the Canon S110 does reasonably well, producing fairly natural-looking skin tones, with just a hint of pink. Where oversaturation is most problematic is on Caucasian skin tones, as it's very easy for these "memory colors" to be seen as too bright, too pink, too yellow, etc.
Hue. The Canon PowerShot S110 produced a few color shifts relative to the correct mathematical translation of colors in its subjects, most visibly pushing cyan toward blue (probably for better-looking skies), red toward orange, and yellow toward green. Unfortunately, the yellow toward green shift along with a reduction in saturation makes yellows look a little dingy in our Still Life shots. Still, mean "delta-C" color error after correcting for saturation was very good at only 4.1; much better than average. Hue is "what color" the
| See full set of test images
See thumbnails of all test and gallery images
Exposure and White Balance
Indoors, incandescent lighting
Slight yellow/green cast with Auto white balance, though much better than average. Antidesiccant setting is quite pink, but Manual is very good. Slightly better than average exposure accuracy.
|Auto White Balance
|Incandescent White Balance
|Manual White Balance
Color balance indoors under incandescent lighting has a slight yellow/green cast with the Auto white balance setting, but is pretty good. The Canon S110 does better here than the majority of digital cameras we test. The Incandescent white balance option resulted in a fairly strong pinkish cast. The Manual white balance setting produced accurate though slightly muted color. The PowerShot S110's exposure system handled this lighting well, producing good results with with no exposure compensation. (The average for this shot is + 0.3 EV.), though the Manual white balance exposure is a little brighter than the others. Our test lighting for this shot is a mixture of 60 and 100 watt household incandescent bulbs, a pretty yellow light source, but a very common one in typical home settings here in the U.S.
Realistic-looking color, but high default contrast and limited dynamic range.
|Auto White Balance,
|Auto White Balance,
The Canon PowerShot S110 performed reasonably well under harsh outdoor lighting for its class, though default contrast is quite high and dynamic range limited. Slightly above average exposure compensation of +1.0 EV was needed to keep the model's facial skin tones bright, resulting in quite a few blown highlights in her shirt and flowers. Most cameras require about +0.7 EV. On the other hand, overall exposure is good in the outdoor far-field shot at the default exposure, with a few clipped highlights but very few lost shadows, and shadows hold onto a fair amount of detail.. Color outdoors is good with Auto white balance, though a touch muted.
High resolution, about 1,900 lines of strong detail from in-camera JPEGs, up to 2,100 lines from converted Raw files.
Strong detail to
1,900 lines horizontal
Strong detail to
1,900 lines vertical
|ACR converted Raw:
Strong detail to
2,100 lines horizontal
|ACR converted Raw:
Strong detail to
2,100 lines vertical
Our laboratory resolution chart reveal sharp, distinct line patterns down to about 1,900 lines per picture height in the horizontal direction, and about 1,900 lines in the vertical directions, in best quality JPEGs straight out of the camera. (Some might argue for over 1,900 lines, but artifacts such as moiré patterns begin to appear at much lower resolutions.) Extinction of the pattern occurred between 2,400 and 2,600 lines. Adobe Camera Raw 7.3 was able to extract significantly more resolution (about 2,100 lines per picture height), but also showed more color moiré and didn't do as well as the camera at reducing the visibility of defective pixels. Use these numbers to compare with other cameras of similar resolution, or use them to see just what higher resolution can mean in terms of potential detail.
Sharpness & Detail
Fairly sharp, detailed images overall, with only minor edge-enhancement on high-contrast subjects. Noise suppression limits definition in low contrast areas, though better than average results here.
|Very good definition of high-contrast
elements, with only minor
|Subtle detail: Hair
Noise suppression blurs
detail in areas of subtle contrast,
as in the darker parts of hair here.
Sharpness. The Canon PowerShot S110 captures very good detail and fairly sharp JPEG images at default settings. Only slight enhancement artifacts are visible on high-contrast subjects such as the crop above left.. Very good results here. Edge enhancement creates the illusion of sharpness by enhancing colors and tones right at the edge of a rapid transition in color or tone.
Detail. The crop above right shows moderate levels of noise suppression, as the low contrast areas of hair show less distinct detail with individual strands smudged together. Performance here is actually better than average for a compact digicam, though. Noise-suppression systems in digital cameras tend to flatten-out detail in areas of subtle contrast. The effects can often be seen in shots of human hair, where the individual strands are lost and an almost "watercolor" look appears.
Raw vs In-camera JPEGs
As noted above the Canon S110 produces fairly sharp, detailed in-camera JPEGs. With a good raw converter, more detail can be extracted, though. See below:
In the table above, mousing over a link at the bottom will load the corresponding crop in the area above, and clicking twice will open the full resolution image.
The image linked on the left is a crop from an in-camera Fine JPEG taken with default settings. The image in the center is a Raw file processed using Canon's included Digital Photo Professional software, using default settings. The right-most image was converted with Adobe Camera Raw 7.2 then sharpened in Photoshop with an unsharp mask of 500% and radius 0.3. As you can see, Canon's Digital Photo Professional software wasn't really able to extract more detail than the in-camera JPEG, though local contrast is higher. The ACR converted image reveals more fine detail than both the other images, but at the cost of showing more noise. Still, shooting raw and using a good quality raw converter gives you control over the detail versus noise tradeoff as well as other benefits such as highlight recovery, exposure adjustment, white balance, output format, etc.
ISO & Noise Performance
Good high ISO performance for a compact, but no improvement over the S100.
|ISO 80||ISO 100||ISO 200|
|ISO 400||ISO 800||
|ISO 3,200||ISO 6,400||ISO 12,800|
The PowerShot S110 produces low to moderate noise at the lower sensitivity settings, though the effects of noise reduction such as smudging and loss of fine detail can already be seen even at the lowest ISO. Fine detail is good up to ISO 200, though. At ISO 400, noise is still quite reasonable and a lot of fine detail remains intact, but additional smudging is evident as well as chroma noise in the shadows. Fine detail really starts to take a big hit at ISO 800, and chroma noise is more evident not just in the shadows, but in midtones as well. ISO 1,600 is softer from more aggressive noise reduction, as one would expect. At ISO 3,200 and above, luminance noise becomes much more visible, along with stronger chroma noise in the form of yellow and purple blotching, especially at ISO 12,800.
Overall handling of detail versus noise is better than the typical compact camera, but we didn't see any improvement over its predecessor. In fact, we'd say the S100's image quality is slightly better at all ISOs. To see how these images held up to printing at various sizes, read the Output Quality section below.
Extremes: Sunlit and low light tests
High resolution with good detail, though high default contrast doesn't make the best of the limited dynamic range. Fairly good low-light performance, capable of getting bright images in near darkness at some ISOs.
|+0.3 EV||+0.7 EV||+1.0 EV|
Sunlight. The Canon PowerShot S110 struggled a bit under the deliberately harsh lighting in the test above. To keep facial tones bright +1.0 EV compensation was require, but that led to a lot of washed-out highlights. Detail is pretty good in the shadows, though. Some may prefer the +0.7 EV setting for its reduced highlight clipping, but we found the face a bit too dim. Consider using fill flash in situations like the one shown above; and it's better to shoot in the shade when possible.
Outdoor Portrait Dynamic Range Correction (+0.7 EV)
As part of the S110's Intelligent Contrast (i-Contrast) feature, the camera has "Dynamic Range Correction" to tame highlights, and "Shadow Correct" to bring out more shadow detail.
Above are examples of our "Sunlit" Portrait scene shot with the S110's three available DR correction settings. Mouse over the links about right to compare, and click on the links to get to the full-resolution images. As you can see that highlights are toned-down with the DR 200% and DR 400% settings, but results with DR Auto are very similar to it being set to Off, with just a small boost to the shadows.
Note that Dynamic Range Correction may boost ISO depending on your current setting, so more noise and/or stronger NR may be visible with it enabled. (In our samples above, DR 200% used ISO 160 and DR 400% used ISO 320, while DR Auto left ISO at 80.)
|Face Detection Examples|
The table above shows results with the default exposure using Aperture Priority AE, as well as Portrait mode and Smart Auto. As you can see, the S110's Portrait and Smart Auto modes both improved exposure automatically compared to the default exposure in Aperture Priority mode, going from very underexposed to usable images. Portrait mode increased ISO to 320 while keeping the same aperture (f/5.6), while Smart Auto boosted ISO to even higher to 500. Overall, we preferred the Smart Auto mode image because while it appears brighter, it actually has fewer blown highlights than Portrait mode.
Because digital cameras are more like slide film than negative film (in that they tend to have a more limited tonal range), we test them in the harshest situations to see how they handle scenes with bright highlights and dark shadows, as well as what kind of sensitivity they have in low light. The shot above is designed to mimic the very harsh, contrasty effect of direct noonday sunlight, a very tough challenge for most digital cameras. (You can read details of this test here.)
Low Light. The Canon PowerShot S110 did fairly well overall in our low-light tests, thanks in part to its fast lens at wide angle, though shutter speed limitations prevented us from capturing a full matrix of low light images here. The S110's longest shutter speed is 15 seconds which resulted in a somewhat dim image at our lowest light level of 1/16 foot-candle at ISO 80, and shutter speeds longer than 0.6 seconds are not supported at ISOs other than 80 (which is why there is no ISO 100 row in the table above). Noise is well controlled to ISO 400, and color balance looks good though slightly cool with the Auto white balance setting.
The camera's AF system was able to focus unassisted to just above the 1/16 foot-candle light level in our tests, which is very good, no doubt thanks to its relatively bright lens. And the S110 was able to focus in complete darkness with the aid of its AF assist lamp.
How bright is this? The one foot-candle light level that this test begins at roughly corresponds to the brightness of typical city street-lighting at night. Cameras performing well at that level should be able to snap good-looking photos of street-lit scenes.
NOTE: This low light test is conducted with a stationary subject, and the camera mounted on a sturdy tripod. Most digital cameras will fail miserably when faced with a moving subject in dim lighting. (For example, a child's ballet recital or a holiday pageant in a gymnasium.) For such applications, you may have better luck with a digital SLR camera, but even there, you'll likely need to set the focus manually. For information and reviews on digital SLRs, refer to our SLR review index page.
Coverage and Range
Very good flash range at wide angle for its size, but with very uneven coverage. Bright exposure from Auto flash mode in our indoor portrait test shot.
|24mm eq., ISO 200||120mm eq., ISO 200|
|Auto Flash, ISO 320|
Coverage and Exposure. Flash coverage was quite uneven at wide angle, leaving corners quite dark. Our flash coverage image at full telephoto is very dim, but more evenly exposed. Auto flash mode produced a slightly bright exposure our indoor flash portrait test, selecting ISO 320. The S110 used a fairly slow shutter speed of 1/25 second however, which could still lead to some issues with subject motion blur.
ISO 200 Range. At wide angle and ISO 200, flash shots were bright to about 13 feet (thanks to the S110's bright f/2.0 lens), decreasing in brightness rapidly from that point on. At full telephoto, flash shots started out quite dim at 6 feet, and got darker from there.
|Manufacturer-Specified Flash Range|
Auto ISO 640
Auto ISO 640
Manufacturer Specified Flash Test. Canon rates the PowerShot S110's flash range at 7 meters / 23 feet at wide-angle and 2.3 meters / 7.5 feet at telephoto, when using Auto ISO. In the shots above, the PowerShot S110's flash performs to Canon's specifications, producing very bright images at wide angle and full telephoto, though the camera boosted ISO to 640 in both cases.
Our standard test method for flash range uses a fixed setting of ISO 100, to provide a fair basis of comparison between cameras. We now also shoot two shots using the manufacturer-specified camera settings, at the range the company claims for the camera, to assess the validity of the specific claims.
ISO 80/100 look quite good at 11 x 14 inches, 13 x 19s are soft but acceptable, fine for wall display.
ISO 200 looks good at 11 x 14, albeit with some softness in the reds.
ISO 400 looks nice at 8 x 10; is a bit too soft at 11 x 14 but fine for wall display.
ISO 800 yields a crisp 5 x 7 print; 8 x 10s show a lot of softening from noise processing, although they might be OK for wall display.
ISO 1,600 prints are usable at 5 x 7 and crisp at 4 x 6.
ISO 3,200 produces a usable 4 x 6, if just a bit washed out and flat in some areas.
ISO 6,400 and 12,800 are not usable at 4 x 6 for anything other than a special fx impressionist treatment.
In comparison to its predecessor, the Canon S100, the S110 boasts an upgraded sensor but our tests show a slight decrease in print quality across the board. Where the S100 produces a nice, crisp print at 13 x 19 at base ISO, the S110 is soft at 13 x 19 and, while maybe acceptable for wall display, we feel more comfortable recommending it for use at 11 x 14 for ISO 80 up to 200. The lower overall image quality across the ISO range compared to its predecessor is a little disappointing.
Testing hundreds of digital cameras, we've found that you can only tell just so much about a camera's image quality by viewing its images on-screen. Ultimately, there's no substitute for printing a lot of images and examining them closely. For this reason, we now routinely print sample images from the cameras we test on our Canon Pro9000 Mark II studio printer, and on the Canon Pixma MP610 here in the office. (See the Canon Pixma Pro9000 Mark II review for details on that model.)
The images above were taken from our standardized test shots. For a collection of more pictorial photos, see our Canon PowerShot S110 Photo Gallery.
Recommended Software: Rescue your Photos!
Just as important as an extra memory card is a tool to rescue your images when one of your cards fails at some point in the future. We get a lot of email from readers who've lost photos due to a corrupted memory card. Memory card corruption can happen with any card type and any camera manufacturer, nobody's immune. A lot of "lost" images can be recovered with an inexpensive, easy to use piece of software though. Given the amount of email I've gotten on the topic, I now include this paragraph in all my digital camera reviews. The program you need is called PhotoRescue, by DataRescue SA. Read our review of it if you'd like, but download the program now, so you'll have it. It doesn't cost a penny until you need it, and even then it's only $29, with a money back guarantee. So download PhotoRescue for Windows or PhotoRescue for Mac while you're thinking of it. (While you're at it, download the PDF manual and quickstart guide as well.) Stash the file in a safe place and it'll be there when you need it. Trust me, needing this is not a matter of if, but when... PhotoRescue is about the best and easiest tool for recovering digital photos I've seen. (Disclosure: IR gets a small commission from sales of the product, but I'd highly recommend the program even if we didn't.) OK, now back to our regularly scheduled review...
Not sure which camera to buy? Let your eyes be the ultimate judge! Visit our Comparometer(tm) to compare images from the Canon PowerShot S110 with those from other cameras you may be considering. The proof is in the pictures, so let your own eyes decide which you like best!
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Note: For details, test results, and analysis of the many tests done with this camera, please click on the tabs at the beginning of the review or below.