S100 review: The best camera I have ever used. (considering form factor)

Started Apr 22, 2012 | Discussions thread
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d3xmeister
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S100 review: The best camera I have ever used. (considering form factor)
Apr 22, 2012

Warning: This will be a long post, a synthethis of my experiences with the S90 and now the S100

You know, I used the S90 from 2009, but now I'm thinking my S90 was a lemon. I mean I was satisfied with the camera, considering it's size it was the closest thing to a DSLR in that small form factor, but really cannot compare in any aspect.

Images were way to soft compared to any of my DSLR even with the kit lenses. It was only decent sharp at close focus distance.

Colors were rarely very good, most of the time they looked kinnda weird. It was not a WB jpeg thing, as I always shoot RAW and PP. Many nuances were lacking accuracy badly, you could spot the S90 images compared to any of my DSLR's, old or new, even when viewed from distance.

RAW files fell apart, they only resisted very slight PP. Any adventure in PP usually resulted in noise, color shifts and other nasty things.

The camera was the slowest camera I have used. I owned Canon compacts before, and before the S90 I had a Casio EX400 (I think) which was like lightning fast compared to the S90. Sluggish experience for the S90 overall. Also the S90 AF missed a lot, many times identifying correctly the subject or a face, but the photo ended focussed on the background.

Enter the Canon S100, which according to many reviews, supposed to be only an update, with 1080p video, 2 extra MP, GPS and longer lens reach, but stills IQ about the same from the sensor and what seemed to be a worse lens than the S90/S95. Some said it even had worse colors than the older versions. If it weren't for the 1080p video, I would have never bought the S100, based on the reviews.

What a big surprise I had in the first day shooting the S100. I never saw this in the reviews, but focus speed and accuracy, and overall speed of the camera blows the S90 in the last century. It's up there with the Sony NEX inmho, making the camera so much more useful than the S90. The Nikon D5100 with kit lenses is only slightly faster.

The second surprise was even bigger, when I got home with the RAW's, expecting to see IQ about the same as S90, maybe worse due to this new ,,problematic,, lens. Heck, I even remember first official Canon samples were very soft. Well, I was blown away by the IQ the S100 delivered.

First, the lens. It is very sharp at any setting, much, much sharper that the S90 could even dream. The sharpest aperture is f/4, but here are some photos at different settings:

100mm equiv, f/5.6 (wide open):

120mm equiv, f/5.9 (wide open, longest end) (my S90 was unusable at the long end wide open)

And here's one at 28mm equiv, f/4, is this sharp ?

Another huge advantage of this camera is that photos loaded from RAW are almost ready, much better than any camera I have ever owned. Even better than my Olympus E-5, which was the best until now at looking great out of the box in RAW. I use Apple Aperture, but I tested with Lightroom 4 and it works just as great, but you must select Camera Standard instead of Adobe Standard.

Lets see how the above photo look with no PP at all, only the RAW loaded, every Aperture setting OFF, and saved jpeg

Yep, photos look fantastic from RAW even without any PP. The AWB also works much better than every other Canon camera I've used.

The S100 is phenomenal for a P&S when torturing the RAW's, recovering highlights or shadows. The S90 was poor in that respect but the S100 is as good as my Nikon D5100 which has the best APS-C sensor on the market. I know, according to DxO, at base ISO the D5100 should deliver about 2 stops better dynamic range. In my workflow I cannot see a clear advantage to the Nikon. The S100 RAW files can take as much torture as the Nikon files. This is worlds better than the S90 or my 4/3 cameras, which is mindblowing. This is a P&S for God sake, I don't know how Canon did it.

The pictures below are tortured RAW's :

In this one, the bottom was fairly dark, and the sky washed out, after a rain in the evening. I was able to heavily lift the landscape. No noise reduction applied

In the two photos below, the landscape was in shadow, and the clouds brightly lit by the sun. Had to do some serious PP, here's the result, again no noise reduction at all.

On the first photo the sky/clouds are lighter because I was recovering so much shadows from below it started to look like HDR, so I preferred to increase a bit the total exposure so I have to recover a little less in the shadows, so the result is more natural.

High ISO's also improved a lot. Here is a (bad) photo of my son, taken at ISO 800 but pushed to ISO 1250 in PP. I did a poor job taking the photo, and not a very good job with NR/sharpening. But again, this is an amateur taking photos at ISO 800 indoors and pushing exposure. Ecological mercury light, AutoWB

I think the S100 is impressive at high ISO, again beating my 4/3 cameras, unbelievable. How is that possible. Well I don't know technically, but what kills 4/3 at high ISO's is not the grain, but colored blotches (not chroma noise) that appear above ISO 1250 and cannot be removed ( I think those are color channels blowing)

The S100 looks great, even at ISO 3200 is usable in some situations. For me I can shoot the S100 at ISO's that I could not shoot my 4/3 cameras. That's what matters.

Again DxO would not agree, but I'm only interested in how I can use my camera, I don't care about measures. The S100 inmho has the same usable DR as the Nikon D5100 and better high ISO performance than older 10-12MP 4/3 cameras.

Canon PowerShot S90 Nikon D5100 Olympus E-5
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