Canon PowerShot S100 Digital Camera Review$429.99
An optical viewfinder, or even a shoe with which to attach one, would've been a significant departure from the S95's design and–we think–an improvement. No such luck however, the S100's rear LCD is the only available method of framing shots. For what it's worth, the monitor is excellent. It measures three inches diagonally, and has a relatively high 461,000-dot resolution. Colors are very accurate to the final product, but be aware that dynamic range seems to be enhanced a bit, so shots may need some editing to print exactly the way they appear onscreen.
The S100's flash apparatus is fully motorized, meaning the bulb both deploys and retracts automatically. It's a cool feature we suppose, but since the flash is located right beneath the ideal spot for the left pointer finger, unexpected flash deployment can actually knock your grip out of place. Users who try to push the assembly back inside are met with pretty strong resistance, so we're guessing the hardware isn't designed for that. The move is part of a trend we're just beginning to observe (Nikon's S8200 does the same thing), but we're not yet sure we totally approve.
Based on test results, Canon clearly paid close attention to this lens, yet as far as build construction it's a mix of flimsy and sturdy. The plastic enclosure feels rock-steady at the base, but a bit loose near the front. This may be intended so save on weight or even battery life (lighter elements require less energy to move), rather than production cost, but the difference stood out against the S100's otherwise solid body.
Optical zoom maxes out at 5x, enough for most everyday shooting. Wildlife or stadium photography will require a more ambitious zoom, and a less portable camera. For an ultracompact, this zoom ratio is pretty standard.
The included NB-5L battery pack is CIPA rated at approximately 200 shots, placing it at the lower end of the ultracompact battery spectrum. Our time with the camera did confirm this analysis. Charging is accomplished via a wall socket adapter, and it is not possible to charge the battery simply by connecting the camera to a PC.
The S100 is compatible with SD, SDHC, and fast SDXC cards, as well as Eye-Fi cards for easy wireless transfer (although compatibility with this feature is not guaranteed). We performed all our tests with an SDHC class card, and this worked just fine, access speed was never a problem.
Jacks, Ports & Plugs
Both connectivity ports are concealed underneath a plastic cover on the body's right panel. There's a standard mini-USB port for PC and analog A/V output (although an A/V cable is not included with the S100), as well as a mini-HDMI port for lossless video and image output to HDTVs.
The S100 is equipped with a GPS transceiver for "geo-tagging" of images, and believe it or not the feature actually works! Sure it takes about ten minutes to acquire a signal, but simply functioning places this device ahead of the competition. The camera is able to record detailed positioning information into the EXIF data, and can even determine elevation with sufficient satellites.