Lens performance: S110 versus S100
December 3rd 2011 I bought a Canon S100, despite an opinion about a possible imperfection of the image quality that your review took in evidence.
I was liking the "size" and the wide angle and the fast lens.
Here are your comments:
Real world scene (JPEG, ~85mm, f/5.0, ISO 80)
Out in the real world at 85mm (equivalent) - pretty close to the focal length at which we shoot our studio scene - there are differences between our two sample cameras but the differences are subtle. Looking at the crop from the lower right of this image, Camera B - which gave poorer results in this area in our studio scene - has the edge over Camera A. Whereas Camera B gave soft results towards the lower right of the studio scene, it is camera A which appears slightly decentered on the right in this image, and by contrast, Camera B is slightly softer at lower left.
These images should serve as a perfect example of why you shouldn't read too much into a single set of samples, taken in a single environment. If you do a lot of copy work at relatively close range, you'll likely be unhappy with Camera B. For everyday shooting, however, it will keep you perfectly content - and remember that Camera B was one of the worst cameras of the five that we looked at, judged on its performance in our studio scene. Even the absolute worst camera that we used (again, judged by its performance in our studio at a focal distance of one meter) gives excellent performance in pretty well every other environment in which we used it.
We're not letting Canon off the hook though - we perform exhaustive critical studio testing precisely because it shows up aberrations that might not normally be evident. The level of sample variation that we've seen in the various cameras that we've used - however unimportant in normal use - is unusual in our experience of such a high-end camera, and definitely counts as a Bad Thing.
The S100's smaller physical size and increased zoom range inevitably makes lens design more complicated, and we have experienced a worrying amount of sample variation, at least in the cameras that we've looked at. The crucial caveat here though is that although the optical variations between our five test cameras were very easy to spot in the critical environment (with fixed shooting parameters) of our studio, they are all but unnoticeable in 'real-world' images shot at a range of focal lengths and subject distances.
The camera I bought had the problem you found: the image was not bad 100%, but was not satisfying. Soft, flat in many shoots. I had before an LX5 that was much better as crispy images, less for colours: I prefere Canon tones.
Now my Canon S100 is broken, and the warranty will not be honored because I have not the selling document. I have to buy a new camera.
I'm wondering if the new S110 has the same problem of the S100: I'm thinking on it. I'm also considering a Sony RX100, although it doesn't have a 24 mm wide and it is not as pocketable as the S110.