Canon PowerShot S100 Review
Besides being a competent manual shooter, the S100 also comes with a useful array of automatic and special shooting features like HDR and Hand-held NightScene that add functionality as well as serving to simplify operation for less experienced photographers. The S100 also incorporates a GPS module for geo-tagging and logging - a feature that is becoming more popular in enthusiast-oriented compact cameras.
The S100 includes a special mode for shooting HDR (High Dynamic Range) images. This feature can be accessed from the Filters mode on the mode dial. HDR mode in the S100 works by taking a series of 3 images at different exposures and combines them to create a single image with a higher dynamic range than would otherwise be possible from a single shot. Unfortunately, if there is any movement while the shots are being taken (either from the camera or the subject) visible ghosting will occur. Unlike some other cameras that offer this mode, the S100 does not do any in-camera aligning of the separate exposures and therefore requires that the camera be on a tripod while shooting in this mode. It is also very important to remember to disable IS when shooting on a tripod or ghosting will still be a problem.
Despite this, the S100 produces decent HDR images that are fairly natural and represent a wide dynamic range without appearing 'cartoonish'. However if the in-camera JPEGs are not to your liking, the S100 also features AEB (automatic exposure bracketing) in raw mode which allows you to create your own HDR images with your favorite software.
|In this scene the S100 has reconstructed an image with a decent amount of dynamic range without overdoing it. This shot was taken on a tripod with IS disabled.|
Functioning much in the same way as auto HDR, Hand-held NightScene mode takes multiple exposures and blends them together in order to reduce visible noise. This works on the principle that noise is a random occurrence and therefore taking multiple exposures allows the camera to filter out the differences (noise) between frames. Fortunately, the S100 automatically aligns frames shoot in Hand-held NightScene in-camera which is crucial when holding the camera in-hand. Unlike HDR, Hand-held NightScene mode is found under Scene modes rather than Filters.
|ISO 2500||100% Crop|
|Hand-Held NightScene||100% Crop|
As you can see from the crops above, the image captured using Hand-held NightScene mode is acceptably sharp without noticeable blur from camera shake and less visible noise in areas of continuous tone than shooting at a high ISO setting alone. Unfortunately, moving objects cause problems in this mode as the S100 does not process out multiple appearances of the same (moving) scene element.
|The combination of multiple exposures in Hand-held NightScene can result in ghosting caused by a moving subject while capturing the scene.|
If you look at the center of the image (above), you'll be able to see that the moving pedestrians are rendered as multiple 'ghosts'. Of course, for the best quality images in low light, shooting on a steady tripod with a low ISO setting and a higher shutter speed will produce sharper results. Hand-held NightScene is very useful though, for situations where using a tripod might not be possible or practical.
Thanks in-part to the ubiquity of camera phones, geo-tagging of photos is quickly becoming a default feature on many compact cameras. The S100's built in GPS module records the location on each image taken when enabled. We have seen cameras that have implemented GPS in a transparent, thoughtful manner as well as some that are completely obtrusive; luckily the S100 belongs to the former group. With GPS tagging enabled the camera simply adds location information to the EXIF data that can be accessed by an increasingly wide number of software platforms and image-sharing websites.
|The included Canon Map Utility software will show the location of your photos on a map based on their location.||The S100 can also keep a continuous log of your travels and plot it on a map.|
There are, however, a couple of things to watch out for if you plan to use the S100's built-in GPS function. Firstly, you must have a clear 'line of sight' view of the sky (where satellites live) for the GPS to find its location, which means that most pictures shot indoors will likely not have location data attached. Secondly, even if you're outdoors, there are many factors that can affect the accuracy of the GPS, such as tall buildings nearby. That said, in our testing, once the GPS has acquired a location, it generally works very well. Image tagging that is. Our experience with the GPS logger is mixed - the image above right represents a brief stroll I took around Seattle's South Lake Union, and although I actually walked through the park to the right of the water, then over a footbridge and back, the S100's logger has me taking a shortcut along the lake's southern-most tip. I'm not that lazy.
Naturally, also, activated GPS decreases battery life. Thankfully though, with only location tagging enabled the decrease in battery life is not terrible but you will be seeing the low battery warning sooner than you may expect. The S100's logging feature constantly logs your location and tracks your path as you move (even when the cameras is powered down) and as you can imagine, this has a much greater effect on the life of the battery. Unfortunately, there is no way to adjust the frequency of logging (either to increase track accuracy or save battery life). As it is, the S100 logs a location point approximately every 3 minutes.