September 15th 2011 9:10 am

Heads up! A newer version of this product is out!

final rating

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Criteria Comments Rating
  • Image quality Excellent. I own the S90, and the Canon does an excellent job on the S100 too. great!
  • Video quality I love the video quality so much that now I'm using the S100 more for video instead of my JVC camcorder. great!
  • Battery life Not too great, especially for video recording. so-so
  • Design and form factor No comments good
  • Durability The brushed metal body is great. Feels solid and durable. great!
  • Speed (start-up time, lag) No comments good
  • Ease of use It can be a totally point-n-shoot camera, or you can set everything manually. good
Detailed review
I love the Canon Powershot S90. It has amazing image quality for its class. The downside is that it can only capture VGA video. I skipped the S95 and thus the S100 is a natural upgrade path for me. It retains almost every design cue from the S90/95. Certain button placements are modified though, so old-timers may need to adapt (eg. the old playback button is now a video record button).

Canon switched sensor on the S100, from CCD to CMOS, and finally they can tout 1080p video recording capability. There are a lot of controversy in regards to the image quality of the S100 with some reviewers having problems with their review units. In practice, I find the S100 to be just fine. One catch though, if you like doing nighttime photography, Canon decided to limit the ISO to 80 on any exposure longer than 1 second. In contrast, there's no such limit on the S90/95, so beware if you're into this genre of photography.

Video recording is one of the main reasons I got the S100. Sure, it can do 1080p, but there's another mode that are not discussed by many. iFrame HD mode. iFrame is Apple's attempt to set a spec for video recording devices so the end video is easily editable with Apple software. It uses the standard H.264 codec, and the classic resolution was 960x540. It's higher than VGA, but not HD. Not many devices support it. Canon, surprisingly, is supporting this format in many of their recent cameras, and the S100 can record in iFrame HD format. Instead of the old 960x540 resolution, it's 720p. Now you may think what's the big deal? There's already the regular 720p mode. Heck, there's 1080p. What makes iFrame apart is that it uses a much higher bitrate compared to the standard mode. Bitrate is the amount of data allocated for the recorded information per a set amount of time. Think about it like MP3s. 320kbps MP3 has a higher bitrate than 128kbps, thus capable of storing more data that can give you better audio quality. Most cameras doing 720p/1080p video only records in bitrates of around ~10Mbit/s (give or take a couple MBit). Well, iFrame 720p on the S100 records in a bitrate of 30+Mbit/s. That's a ton more data! Coupled with the highly sensitive sensor, I find that videos recorded in this mode to be excellent. I have a JVC camcorder, and now I use the S100 more for video. The only drawback is that the S100 has a limited zoom, compared to most camcorders.

Now, using the S100 to record video chews up battery, and the S100's battery life is its Achilles heel. Even worse, Canon decided to use a different battery than the S90/95.

Overall, I love the S100. For long exposure fans, stick to the S90/95 for now, but other than that, the S100 is the next step forward, especially if you are into video recording.
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