Conclusion - Pros

  • Good resolution, about as much as we could expect from an ultra-compact three megapixel
  • Good reliable metering
  • Low image noise at ISO 50 and 100 (ISO sensitivity higher than indicated)
  • Good color response, better overall balance than most, especially blues and greens
  • Histogram in record review and play mode (no live histogram)
  • Good flash exposure, no color cast
  • Easy to understand controls, good layout
  • Ultra compact, although not as light as aluminium cased digital cameras
  • Good build quality, solid feel (case tends to show fingerprints)
  • Bright, detailed LCD monitor with anti-reflective coating
  • Very fast startup time, good shot-to-shot times (good buffering)
  • Fast magnification in play mode (up to 10x)
  • Easy access to most often change settings via FUNC menu
  • Continuous shooting ability (unusual for an ultra-compact)
  • Impressive night exposure ability (up to 15 sec exposures)
  • Long movie clip mode (up to 3 minutes including audio)
  • VGA movie clips (640 x 480) up to 30 seconds
  • Orientation sensor, although JPEG's are only tagged not rotated

Conclusion - Cons

  • Limited zoom (only two times optical zoom)
  • Lens softness at maximum aperture, can lead to 'blooming' of light sources
  • Some chromatic aberrations visible
  • Color shift of overexposed reds
  • No image parameter adjustment
  • No manual focus
  • Very 'average' macro performance
  • AF assist misalignment

Overall conclusion

Here's my rating of the Canon PowerShot SD100: (3 megapixel ultra-compact)

Detail Rating (out of 10)
Construction 8
Features 7
Image quality 7.5
Lens / CCD combination 8
Ease of use 8
Value for money 7

There's no doubt that the SD100 is built to the highest standards, the moment you pick it up you know you are holding a solid and reliable camera. Canon have paid special attention to the controls which have a soft but definite feel to them, many of which are either metal or coated. Operationally the camera is quick, both on startup and in use, the only niggle would be the slow browsing speed in play mode (sometimes over a second between shots). The SD100 does have a good buffer which proves useful for continuous shooting and 'quick next shot' situations.

Much like most ultra-compacts however the SD100 is a compromise, the lens suffers from softness at maximum aperture ('wide open' - which it is likely to be in most medium and low light situations) and also exhibited chromatic aberrations. We also experienced color shift in overexposed reds and the camera's macro performance wasn't fantastic.

However, the biggest challenge for the SD100 is the competition. Taking a look over at the other two ultra-compact three megapixel cameras I reviewed at the same time as the SD100 (the Pentax Optio S and Casio EX-Z3) we find that they are smaller and lighter, have three times optical zoom lenses (versus the Canon's two times) and also have a wider feature set and in the case of the Pentax provide more user control over the image results.

That's not to say that the SD100 can't produce very nice images, it can, and thanks to Canon's progressive improvements and introduction of the DiGiC processor you're unlikely to be that unhappy with shots taken by the SD100. If this camera had a three times optical zoom lens, was a little lighter and offered some of the features of the others or was notably cheaper I would have no problem giving it a 'Recommended' rating, as things stand the SD100 gets 'Above Average'.

Above Average

So which one should I buy? A question I get asked several times a day, the answer is that everyone has different requirements. In a new addition to my reviews (after the amount of feedback I normally get) I've added a link to a specific forum in which you can discuss the review or ask other questions which I've not answered in these pages.

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