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

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

Video quality si better than my D5100, even in low light. No surprise since the D5100 is Baseline profile 4.0 at 18Mpbs and the S100 is High profile 5.0 at 34Mpbs. Too bad you cannot compensate exposure during video, and I found no way to lock the AF before or during video.

Things I wished for this camera to be PERFECT.

Slightly faster focus will make it good even for sports.

Exposure compensation unlocked for video, and AF lock during video.

And the most important, a Fuji X100-like fill flash system would have put this camera in a different league.

Well, you can't have it all.

So really, the best camera I have ever used ? A big YES to that. Since I got it I rarely find a real reason to use my DSLR. The S100 has on par IQ until you get to really high ISO's. The S100 lens is the same or better than the kit lenses on my D5100. The focus is almost as fast. The video is better on the S100.

All this from a camera that fits in any pocket, smaller than many phones, built like a tank. Thank you, Canon.

I will not carry my DSLR anymore. I will use it only in very low light situation (D5100 with my 35mm f/1.8 is fantastic), or when I need more telephoto/ultrawide (rarely) or when I really need shallow DOF (rarely)

There is still a question. Was my S90 a lemon, and I was lucky to get one of the best S100's ? Maybe, I heard many praise the S90 and not satisfied with the S100.

At the end a few more photos. Also, keep in mind that dpreview does nasty things to uploaded photos. On my computer all are super sharp, and no compression artifacts.

P.S. The IS system is one of the best I ever used

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toomanycanons
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Re: S100 review: The best camera I have ever used. (considering form factor)
In reply to d3xmeister, Apr 22, 2012

You skipped the S95. Who knows, maybe that was the big upgrade right there and the S100 is just a minor upgrade from the S95.

I can't imagine saying I'd leave my D5100 at home and only carry a point and shoot. I guess everyone's needs are different. Personally, I hate composing with just an LCD.
Nice snapshots, though, great Canon color.

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rimshot
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Re: S100 review: The best camera I have ever used. (considering form factor)
In reply to toomanycanons, Apr 22, 2012

It truly is a little GEM.. I have had mine for about two months..I was tempted to send it back when I read some of the horror stories but decided to give it a chance..After this Camera convinced me that it doesn't really need a lot of help from me, I just put it on AUTO (cringe) and let it shine..The video is really good! It's low light performance surprises me..I was in the Fort in Puerto Rico and my Sony A550 didn't want to focus in some of those dark places but the S100 just said "no problem,Mon" and effortlessly took some good pictures..Surprise! One thing that I haven't figured is a sunrise mode..The reds just aren't there unless I put it in underwater mode and then it comes pretty close. Go figure! Makes no sense but it works..I have been shooting Jpegs only..It does even better in poor light than my Fuji F31fd..I think Canon built a really good little camera..Is it the Magic Camera that some seem to demand? That's for you to decide, but I like mine...Jimmymac

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toomanycanons
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Re: S100 review: The best camera I have ever used. (considering form factor)
In reply to rimshot, Apr 22, 2012

"It truly is a little GEM.. I have had mine for about two months..I was tempted to send it back when I read some of the horror stories but decided to give it a chance"

For the uninitiated who read the above comment, there were no horror stories. That's just this photog's way of saying something, I don't know what.

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d3xmeister
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Re: S100 review: The best camera I have ever used. (considering form factor)
In reply to toomanycanons, Apr 22, 2012

toomanycanons wrote:

"It truly is a little GEM.. I have had mine for about two months..I was tempted to send it back when I read some of the horror stories but decided to give it a chance"

For the uninitiated who read the above comment, there were no horror stories. That's just this photog's way of saying something, I don't know what.

There were horror stories. I had the S100 on preorder, but I cancelled once the forums were invaded with poor lens problems, sucky colors, green LCD, lens errors and others.

That's the reason I bought it this late. Also the dpreview comparison gadget do not show real life performance of a camera. Same with DxO.

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toomanycanons
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Re: S100 review: The best camera I have ever used. (considering form factor)
In reply to d3xmeister, Apr 22, 2012

Good for you that you finally ignored the stories. It is a great camera. You'd never know that if you believed the "stories".

d3xmeister wrote:

toomanycanons wrote:

"It truly is a little GEM.. I have had mine for about two months..I was tempted to send it back when I read some of the horror stories but decided to give it a chance"

For the uninitiated who read the above comment, there were no horror stories. That's just this photog's way of saying something, I don't know what.

There were horror stories. I had the S100 on preorder, but I cancelled once the forums were invaded with poor lens problems, sucky colors, green LCD, lens errors and others.

That's the reason I bought it this late. Also the dpreview comparison gadget do not show real life performance of a camera. Same with DxO.

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rickreyn
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Re: S100 review: The best camera I have ever used. (considering form factor)
In reply to toomanycanons, Apr 22, 2012

I too am happy with the S100, but I had a S95 and that was a good camera. This is better, faster, more feature rich, has the equivalent wide angle as my 15-85 but at 2.0. It is super in low light. Incredible actually. I like how the shots in RAW can be processed to look like a million bucks with a few tweaks. I carry mine everywhere. My only beef is it takes a lot of battery to fire its engine room!

see also http://www.gloriography.com
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http://www.gloriography.com

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rimshot
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Re: S100 review: The best camera I have ever used. (considering form factor)
In reply to rickreyn, Apr 22, 2012

You are right about that! It eats batteries like candy.. My wife bought it for my birthday,complete with a second battery..Good thing! Not much room in there for a battery..Good to carry a spare!!!Jimmymac

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gail
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Re: S100 review: The best camera I have ever used. (considering form factor)
In reply to d3xmeister, Apr 22, 2012

Yes, your s90 must have been a lemon.

I also bought mine in 2009, then gave it to a family member months before the s100 was announced. I still use the s90 from time to time. During the gap, I used my SD700 for my carry-at-all-times camera. I've owned the S100 since last October.

My experiences with still images from the S90 are quite different than yours. Sure the newer S100 has improvements. However the s90 is capable of taking quite impressive photos too for a camera with a small 1/1.7" sensor.

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d3xmeister
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Re: S100 review: The best camera I have ever used. (considering form factor)
In reply to gail, Apr 22, 2012

Gail, I am 100% sure the lens on my S90 was very bad. I thought that's just how it performs, if I knew I would have sent it back, but I had nothing to compare, so I assumed that's how the lens is. I'm not so sure about the sensor performance. The output just screamed P&S on my S90 even when viewing tiny thumbnails. Not so with the S100.

Again, I was not really dissapointed with my S90, I had P&S expectation from it and for a P&S I happy with it. Here are some of my S90 shots over these years

http://www.flickr.com/photos/d3xmeister/sets/72157624199682673/

I would never say it was a bad camera. In fact I will not sell it. But the S100 is just in a different league.

Not only there are lots of improvements that everybody sees, but ad to that the fact that my S90 was ome of the worse ones while probably my S100 is one of the better ones, and you can understand why I am so impressed with this little wonder.

All I wrote in this topic is in the light of the S100 form factor. That makes everything so amazing. If it was DSLR size it would have been a different story.

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gail
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Re: S100 review: The best camera I have ever used. (considering form factor)
In reply to d3xmeister, Apr 22, 2012

d3xmeister wrote:

Again, I was not really dissapointed with my S90, I had P&S expectation from it and for a P&S I happy with it. Here are some of my S90 shots over these years

http://www.flickr.com/photos/d3xmeister/sets/72157624199682673/

Maybe I misunderstood but I read your post three times and it gave me the impression that you thought the s90 was a poor camera. I've looked at your s90 gallery and, to my eyes, the vast majority of the photos are knockouts, with beautiful color an sharpness. If anything, some of the photos look like they were taken with the camera set to Positive Film or Vivid, which produce quite saturated colors.

But the S100 is just in a different league.

I'm impressed with the s100 too and like the added features such as 24mm wide 5X zoom, built-in neutral density filter and faster performance. But I still think the s90 is a fantastic little camera. I loaned mine to my daughter for a class reunion not quite two years ago and never got it back. lol. She absolutely loves it and takes great photos using full auto mode only.

Here is my s90 photo gallery:

http://www.pbase.com/gailb/canon_s90is

btw, you have a very good eye for composition. I love this shot:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/d3xmeister/6140762406/in/set-72157624199682673

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d3xmeister
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Re: S100 review: The best camera I have ever used. (considering form factor)
In reply to gail, Apr 22, 2012

Thank you. I like your photos I have been watching them for quite some time. I also followed your advice long time ago for setting up the S90, thank you for that. Some of those photos are taken in jpeg using your recomended settings, but most of them were shot in RAW, to improve as much as possible the softness of my lens and the weird colors I got in some situations. All of them have serious PP, not that necessary on the S100.

It's amazing what we can get from these little cameras compared to what we got on film days or on early digital days.

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jim_joh
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Re: S100 review: The best camera I have ever used. (considering form factor)
In reply to d3xmeister, Apr 23, 2012

I bought mine last week and so far I am over whelmed with the quality of the photos. I am done lugging all around the lens & slr's. Besides when I needed them they were at home and this little camera will always be in my pocket jimjoh

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Bruce Hunter
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Re: S100 review: The best camera I have ever used. (considering form factor)
In reply to jim_joh, Apr 23, 2012

I too, own both the S90 and the S100 and though I am very satisfied with the S90, I was extremely happy to see Canon "fix" the exposure compensation wheel on the back of the S100 as well as allow for video zoom focusing with the S100, too.....

Many years of fun and satisfaction with your new S100....

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Polyglot92
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Re: S100 review: The best camera I have ever used. (considering form factor)
In reply to d3xmeister, Apr 23, 2012

d3xmeister wrote:

Gail, I am 100% sure the lens on my S90 was very bad. I thought that's just how it performs, if I knew I would have sent it back, but I had nothing to compare, so I assumed that's how the lens is. I'm not so sure about the sensor performance. The output just screamed P&S on my S90 even when viewing tiny thumbnails. Not so with the S100.

Again, I was not really dissapointed with my S90, I had P&S expectation from it and for a P&S I happy with it. Here are some of my S90 shots over these years

http://www.flickr.com/photos/d3xmeister/sets/72157624199682673/

I would never say it was a bad camera. In fact I will not sell it. But the S100 is just in a different league.

Not only there are lots of improvements that everybody sees, but ad to that the fact that my S90 was ome of the worse ones while probably my S100 is one of the better ones, and you can understand why I am so impressed with this little wonder.

All I wrote in this topic is in the light of the S100 form factor. That makes everything so amazing. If it was DSLR size it would have been a different story.

If, as you now believe, your S90 was such a lemon, how did you manage to produce the images in your gallery? Are they rare exceptions?

Since you now have both cameras, could you post comparative shots with both, under the same conditions, to illustrate the huge improvement with the S100?

BTW, you sure like saturated colours

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d3xmeister
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Re: S100 review: The best camera I have ever used. (considering form factor)
In reply to Polyglot92, Apr 23, 2012

@Polyglot92

Yes I can say that they are exceptions, plus hard work in PP, plus some flaws hidden by the low res files on flickr.

Now my wife is using the S90, it is set to RAW and I PP the files in Aperture.

So many files are missfocused, although I can see clearly from the exif that the S90 locked focus on the subject, in face detection or in center focus, but when you look at the photos usualy the far background or the close foreground are in focus, not the subject.

Just like I did when I was using it, I told her to take 4-5 shots of the same subject, and usualy one is in proper focus. I can tell you for sure it's not user error, the camera just reports focus locked on the subject but it is not in focus. The S100 does not do that.

Also we get so many blurry photos even at very high SS, like 1/1000 or faster. I tried IS ON and OFF and still get quite a lot blurry photos.

What I can clearly see is that at any setting, the lens is very soft at farther focusing distance, but is is reasonably sharp at close focus. If you focus at infinity, at any setting the photo in just unusable, is that bad.

We also get strange color shifts sometimes depending on the light we shoot in. Sometimes the colors are great, sometimes colors so shifted that is impossible to repair just with a WB processing.

I also used for 2 years a Olympus E-520 with severe focus problems, and I got some very nice photos from it, you can also find a E-520 album on my flickr page.

All in all I liked and like the S90, it's just harder to get the results I want. If it was unusable I would not have kept it for so long.

The S100 is great because it just works, delivering superb photos and responding just the way it should.

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nellydesign
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Re: S100 review: The best camera I have ever used. (considering form factor)
In reply to rickreyn, Apr 23, 2012

Was that picture taken in Savannah, GA? Looks great!

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MikeNeufeld30
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Re: S100 review: The best camera I have ever used. (considering form factor)
In reply to nellydesign, Apr 23, 2012

I would have to agree. Its a "Gem" of camera, portable, nice AF, good video and fantastic IQ. I am beyond pleased witg the results you can achieve with the S100. It holds up well to PP which my Nikon P series could.not do or even focus for that matter.

Beautiful images BTW...

Happy Shooting to all the S Series owners.

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seri_art
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Re: S100 review: The best camera I have ever used. (considering form factor)
In reply to rimshot, Apr 23, 2012

I had an F31fd and you're right, the S100 is better in low light as well as better overall in image quality (F31fd was jpg-only and oversharpened).

rimshot wrote:

It does even better in poor light than my Fuji F31fd

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