Canon PowerShot S110 First Impressions Review$449.00
Follows close behind its predecessor, leaving little time for radical changes and resulting in only a slight upgrade.
Design & Usability
Although our favorite feature of the S100—the manual control ring—has been retained, we noticed some ergonomic features have actually been removed. The thin rubber strip on the front of the S100 has been replaced with a textured (but not rubberized) panel, while the rear thumb rest is no longer rubberized either—just shaped for a little extra leverage. We could go either way on these changes. We always miss rubberized grips; however this is after all a "pocket" camera, and the absence of grippy surfaces could actually allow the camera to slip in and out of pockets more easily.
Canon also implemented a touchscreen this time around, and this is the sort of feature that usually tops of list of "stuff we don't care about." But they've made this addition in the best possible way: without altering the existing control scheme. It's possible to operate the S110 just as you would the S100, but some optional features like touch shutter and touch focus are now available. If you're into that sort of thing, it's pretty great.
The S110 shares a newly designed, 1/1.7-inch, 12.1 megapixel sensor with the PowerShot G15, and this ups the camera's maximum ISO sensitivity to 12800—a full stop over the S100's ceiling of 6400. Other than that, the best new feature seems to be Canon's updated contrast-detection autofocus system which, again, is shared with the G15. And just like the G15, the algorithm did seem noticeably quicker in practice, though admittedly we had little time to experiment. We suppose this will lend some relevancy to the aforementioned touchscreen: Fast autofocus in concert with touch-shutter may make this camera more responsive than competing models.
If you'd like to make the process of transferring your photos slower and more obnoxious, the S110 also includes WiFi connectivity. How this trend continues to catch on, we have no idea. On the plus side, the S110 is priced just $20 above its predecessor ($450), so you're not paying much extra for this frivolity.
Assuming Canon's new sensor holds up in our lab, it is autofocus performance that will probably make the S110 a slightly better camera than the S100. Beyond the AF module and touchscreen LCD, the hardware package has not been improved in a meaningful way, and we don't predict the S110 will even come close to ousting the RX100 for point-and-shoot supremacy.
This is not wholly unexpected. It's probably too soon for Canon to react properly to the RX100, but beyond that, some of the S110's design elements are making our spidey-sense tingle. If we had to guess, the omitted ergonomics, addition of traditionally entry-level features, and even the unromantic model number itself all point to a new branch off the main S-series. We predict Canon will soon announce something like an S200, with a larger sensor but similar lens, and a slightly bigger price tag to compete more directly with Sony. Until then, the S110 seems like a fine camera, but based on our first impressions, we just don't find it all that compelling right now.
Canon's PowerShot S-series was involved in a bit of a coup this year. More accurately, it was the victim of one. In 2011 and the early part of 2012, the S95 and later the S100 were the go-to recommendations for enthusiasts or pros looking for a fixed-lens, pocket-sized companion camera—and for amateurs looking to step up their game.
These models produced excellent image quality... for a point-and-shoot. That's an important qualifier, because not only was the launch of the S100 marred by a noteworthy lens error, but Sony—the usurpers of our story—launched the Cyber-shot RX100 earlier this year. We think that the RX100 was the first fixed-lens compact to produce image quality to truly rivals what you get from a DSLR, thanks to a better lens and most importantly a larger sensor than the S100, all for only a moderately higher price point.
All this drama left us eagerly awaiting Canon's response, but we're not sure the S110 will reclaim the series' former position, or even if this model should be considered a proper "response" at all.