Canon PowerShot S110

10MP | 24-120mm (5x) Zoom | $355 (US) £370 (UK) €390 (EU)

The S110 is a relatively gentle update of last year's S100, with the guts of the camera - the lens, sensor and image processor - staying essentially the same. So it still uses a 12MP 1/1.7" Canon-made 'High Sensitivity CMOS' sensor, DIGIC 5 image processor, and 24-120mm equivalent lens offering a usefully-fast F2.0 aperture at wide-angle, but distinctly slow F5.9 at telephoto. The camera's control layout is identical too, including the excellent and much-copied programmable control dial around the lens.

The main additions are a smartphone-like multi-touch capacitive touchscreen, along with integrated Wi-Fi connectivity. The latter comes at the expense of the S100's built-in GPS module, but the camera can still geo-tag your images by syncing with your smartphone's GPS.

Canon PowerShot S110 key features

  • 12MP 1/1.7" Canon CMOS sensor
  • 24-120mm (equivalent), F2.0-5.9 lens, 4 stop 'Intelligent IS'.
  • ISO 80-12800
  • Front click dial and rear four-way dial
  • 1080p30 video
  • Touch-sensitive 3.0" 460k dot LCD
  • 200 shot battery life (CIPA)
  • Built-in Wi-Fi
  • Built-in 3-stop Neutral Density filter
The S110's Wi-Fi offers a fairly standard feature set. You can transfer images to a smartphone or tablet running and upload stills and movies directly to social networking sites such as Facebook and YouTube. If you're out of range of a Wi-Fi network, you can still upload via your tablet or phone using Canon's CameraWindow app. It's also possible to print wirelessly to Wi-Fi-enabled printers, such as Canon's Selphy CP900 or Pixma models which were announced alongside the S110, earlier this year.
 
We've found that the system works well in both modes - connecting phone and camera via Wi-Fi or connecting phone to camera using the camera as a base station. Where it falls down is if you want to swap between a Wi-Fi connection to peer-to-peer where in our experience, you need to completely reset both devices' connection preferences and set camera and phone up all over again, before they will make a new connection. 
The PowerShot S110's front control dial can be customized to fulfill a range of different functions including exposure compensation, setting exposure parameters and step zoom.  A second control dial on the rear of the camera serves to adjust exposure settings and scroll through images in review mode, and the S110's menus. Hitting playback then the Wi-Fi/exposure compensation button brings up the S110's Wi-Fi interface. 
The most pocketable camera in this roundup, the S110 is nice and slim when turned off, and remains very portable even when the lens is extended.  New in the S110 is a touchscreen, which is very useful for setting AF, as well as menu navigation and setting up the camera's Wi-Fi functionality.

In terms of design, the S110 is near-identical to the S100, and the differences are very subtle indeed. The S110 is a little more boxy and angular (although not in an unattractive way), but has all the same controls in all the same places. We liked the S100's control layout, so consider this to be a good thing.

Overall the biggest change is invisible - the addition of touch-sensitivity to the screen. This brings touch-to-focus, which is addictively useful, and makes some menu options (Wi-Fi setup especially) much easier to manipulate. Where it isn't so good is in image review mode, where we've found that flipping between images, and zooming in / out of pictures can be a little glitchy. Image review is still easier using the 4-way controller and physical zoom rocker switch.

The S110's top plate is again almost exactly the same as its predecessor's; the power button is smaller, and the shutter button black rather than silver, but the basic layout hasn't changed. The lens control ring is now knurled, rather than ridged like the S100's, and this finish looks especially attractive on the white model. A tiny light beside the mode dial indicates when the Wi-Fi function is active.

Performance and image quality

In use, the S110 follows in the footsteps of its predecessors, offering a well thought-out interface, fast, responsive operation, coupled with reliable focusing and metering. In terms of operational speed, the S110 isn't a sports camera, by any means, but where it counts - startup time and shot-to-shot time, it's pleasantly snappy. Even with a bog-standard SD card installed, the delay after taking a shot in Raw + JPEG mode before you can take another is barely 2 seconds. Focus is acquired quickly and reliably in decent light, only slowing down in dim conditions where the AF assist lamp comes into play. 

Wide Angle (24mm Equiv.) Telephoto (120mm Equiv.)
The S110's zoom reaches a useful 120mm at its long end. This can't match the 200mm reach of the Nikon P7700 but is longer than most of the competition. Offering such a broad range in such a small lens means the lens is very dark at the telephoto end - restricting its low-light capability at longer focal lengths.
At the long end of its zoom, the S110's maximum aperture of F5.9 is too small to really allow for much subject/background separation unless you're very close to your subject.  Flash exposure is one of the S100's strong points.  Here it's done a reasonable job of flash exposure without rendering the background as completely black.
The flash works well outdoors, as well. This shot was taken into the sunlight, and flash was used to expose our subject, and keep him from being silhouetted.  Sharpness from the S110's zoom is very good throughout its focal range, and thanks to effective in-camera reduction, JPEG  images are free from any serious fringing or CA.

As far as image quality is concerned, the S110 is an impressive little camera. We've rated its predecessors pretty highly and the S110 doesn't disappoint either. Up to ISO 400, image quality in JPEG mode is excellent, and it is only at ISO 3200 and above that noise really starts to have a serious effect on detail reproduction. In Raw mode, careful processing can give excellent, very detailed results right up to ISO 3200. In both JPEG and Raw capture modes we'd be hesitant to go much higher than this, but ISO 6400 and 12800 are available if you don't mind limiting yourself to small prints or web/social display. 

We had some concerns about the lens in Canon's previous S-series camera, the S100, but we're very happy with the optical performance of the S110's 24-120mm zoom which delivers good edge-to-edge sharpness across its span of focal lengths. Close inspection of Raw files reveals noticeable CA around high contrast edges, and some purple fringing around burnt-out highlights, but both issues are minor, and are rendered effectively invisible in JPEG files thanks to in-camera reduction.

The S110's lens is impressively fast at wideangle, but relatively slow by the standards of its competition at the telephoto end; this is the price you pay for its shirt-pocket size. But this is partially mitigated by excellent flash metering - traditionally a PowerShot strength. Flash shots from the S110 look great, in both interior scenes, where the flash is the main lightsource, and outdoors, as 'fill'. 

Summing Up

The Canon PowerShot S110 is a small camera with a lot going for it. Although its lens is slow by the standards of some of its competitors at the long end, it is the most portable of the lot, easily slipping into a shirt or pants pocket. It's zoom range of 24-120mm is very useful, and image quality is excellent up to ISO 800 in JPEG mode, and perfectly acceptable two stops higher than that. Unlike some competitors, the S110 remains highly responsive in Raw and Raw + JPEG capture modes, which is great news for enthusiasts.

The most serious down-side to the S110 in normal use is that slow-ish lens. Photographers tend to be interested in how well a lens can blur backgrounds when shooting portraits at full telephoto, and the S110's small aperture places it at the bottom of the pack of enthusiast compacts. But this is the tradeoff for it being the slimmest and most pocketable of the lot.

Studio and Real-World Samples (links open in new tab)

Studio Comparison Scene Canon Powershot S110 samples (25 images)

What we like: Small, responsive, good image quality, effective touchscreen, Wi-Fi (when it works...)

What we don't like: Slow-ish lens means higher ISOs in lower light and less control over depth of field, glitchy Wi-Fi

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