Timings & File Sizes

Based on our past experience of Canon's ultra-compact PowerShot series we expected the SD100 to be fairly quick, and we weren't disappointed. Startup and operation times are very respectable, auto focus lag was good (although slower than we would have liked with AiAF mode enabled). File write times and display times were also good, play image-to-image browsing speed was not as fast as some other three megapixel ultra-compact's.

Timing Notes: All times calculated as an average of three operations. Unless otherwise stated all timings were made on a 2048 x 1536 Super-Fine JPEG image (approx. 1,300 KB per image). The media used for these tests was a 128 MB Canon SD card. Timings below with AiAF switched off (faster) unless otherwise noted.

Action Details Time, seconds
Power: Off to Record *1 Lens extension 2.4
Power: Off to Play Image displayed 1.8
Power: Record to Off Lens extended 1.7
Power: Play to Off Lens already retracted 1.0
Mode: Record to Play *2 Image displayed 1.8
Mode: Play to Record Lens extended 1.8
Play: Magnify To 10x magnification 1.0
Play: Thumbnail view   1.1

Action Details Time, seconds
Zoom from Wide to Tele Full zoom from 35 mm to 70 mm (2 x) 1.6
Auto Focus LAG Wide angle 0.8 - 1.0
Auto Focus LAG Telephoto 1.0 - 1.2
Auto Focus LAG Wide angle, AiAF On 1.0 - 1.2
Auto Focus LAG Telephoto, AiAF On 1.2 - 1.6
Shutter Release LAG Using Viewfinder <0.1
Shutter Release LAG Using LCD Monitor 0.1
Total LAG Wide angle 1.0
Total LAG Telephoto 1.1
Off to Shot Taken Wide angle 3.3
Shot to Shot Wide angle 1.9

*1 You need to hold the power button for 0.7 seconds before the camera starts to power up. This is to avoid accidental knocks of the power button. The timing shown for this measurement exclude this 0.7 seconds.
*2 The SD100 appears to buffer an image once displayed in play mode. This means that if you return to play mode for a second time the display time is just half a second, compared to two seconds for the first display of a new image.

Auto Focus LAG is (roughly) the amount of time it takes the camera to autofocus (a half-press and hold of the shutter release button), this timing is normally the most variable as its affected by the subject matter, current focus position, still or moving subject etc. This timing is an average.

Shutter Release LAG is the amount of time it takes to take the shot from the moment you fully depress the shutter release button, measured both as a time including auto focus and a time assuming you have already pre-focused by holding a half-press of the shutter release.

Continuous modes

The table below shows the results of our continuous shooting test, indicating the actual frame rate along with maximum number of frames and how long you would have to wait after taking the maximum number of frames before you could take another shot. The media used for these tests was a 128 MB Canon SD card.

Image Type Frames per sec Max no. of frames *1

Wait before
next shot

2048 x 1536 Super-Fine JPEG 1.77 fps 7 2.0 secs
2048 x 1536 Fine JPEG 1.82 fps 11 1.0 secs
1600 x 1200 Fine JPEG 1.65 fps 19 1.1 secs
1024 x 768 Fine JPEG 1.94 fps 44 0.8 secs

*1 In a single "burst" (finger held down on shutter release)
*2 You can take a frame as soon as there is space in the cameras internal buffer (writing continues "in the background").

A very respectable (if slightly inconsistent) performance from an ultra-compact. Certainly faster than most ultra-compacts, indeed many don't even have a continuous shooting mode. Dial down to 1600 x 1200 Fine and you can fire off no less than 19 shots in a burst.

File Write / Display and Sizes

Timings shown below are the time taken for the camera to process and "flush" the image out to the SD card, the timer was started as soon as the shutter release was pressed and stopped when activity indicator LED beside the viewfinder stopped blinking. This means the timings also include the cameras processing time and as such are more representative of the actual time to "complete the task". The media used for these tests was a 128 MB Canon SD card.

Image Type Time to write

Time to display
File size *1
Images on a *2
128 MB SD
2048 x 1536 Super-Fine JPEG 2.4 1.0 1,300 KB 76
2048 x 1536 Fine JPEG 2.2 1.0 800 KB 136
1600 x 1200 Fine JPEG 1.8 0.8 480 KB 216
1024 x 768 Fine JPEG 1.5 0.6 230 KB 372

*1 All file sizes are an average of three files. As is the case with JPEG it's difficult to predict the size of an image because it will vary a fair amount depending on the content of the image (especially the amount of detail captured). For example, take a photograph of a fairly empty wall and you'll get a small JPEG, take a photograph of a bush with a lot of detail and you'll get a larger image. File sizes here are closer to the later, the larger size of file you should expect.
*2 Camera estimation.

Respectable write times for an SD card digital camera, as ever the SD100 feels quick and doesn't leave you waiting for it. The camera also has a good buffer system which allows you to get on with taking the next shot while it continues to process / write the last shot in the background.

Low Light Auto Focus

This test is designed to measure the minimum amount of light under which the camera can still focus. The focus target is our lens distortion test chart (shown here on the right), camera is positioned exactly 2 m (6.6 ft) away.

Light levels are gradually dropped until the camera can no longer focus. This is carried out at both wide angle and telephoto zoom positions (as more light reaches the focusing systems with a larger aperture).

This test target is the optimum type of subject for most "contrast detect" AF systems (as it has a vertical line at its center), you should consider the results below the best you could expect to achieve.

Lens position AF Assist Aperture Lowest light focus
Wide angle (35 mm) On F2.8 0.5 EV (3.5 Lux, 0.33 foot-candle)
Telephoto (70 mm) On F3.9 1.6 EV (7.6 Lux, 0.70 foot-candle)
Wide angle (35 mm) Off F2.8 2.0 EV (10 Lux, 0.93 foot-candle)
Telephoto (70 mm) Off F3.9 2.4 EV (13.2 Lux, 1.23 foot-candle)

Light intensity (Lux) = 2.5 x 2^EV (@ ISO 100), 10.76391 Lux = 1 foot-candle (fc)

The SD100's AF Assist lamp allowed the camera to focus in much lower light levels but still not complete darkness. This could have been because in our tests the light from the lamp didn't hit the center of our target (despite having the center AF area locked on the center of the target), just like the S400. Low light focus without the AF Assist lamp was below average.

Battery life

We ran the camera through our new battery life test. This test is designed to be fair and comparative to each camera and battery type:

  • Take 4 shots without flash
  • Wait 2 minutes (50% of the time powering the camera off)
  • Take 1 shot with flash
  • Wait 1 minute
  • Repeat

Batteries are fully discharged and recharged before the test and all cameras were reset to their factory default settings. Here are the results:

Compact / Ultra compact
Battery Power Battery life Number of shots
Kyocera S3 BP-800S 2.1 Wh 54 mins 95
Canon PowerShot S300 NB-1L 2.5 Wh 1 hr 26 mins 155
Pentax Optio 430 D-LI2 3.3 Wh 1 hr 33 mins 160
Olympus C-40Z 2 x AA NiMH 1600 mAh (GP) 3.6 Wh 1 hr 33 mins 165
Nikon Coolpix 3100 2 x AA NiMH 1600 mAh (GP) 3.6 Wh 1 hr 42 mins 175
Minolta DiMAGE F100 2 x AA NiMH 1600 mAh (GP) 3.3 Wh 1 hr 42 mins 175
Minolta DiMAGE X NP-200 2.8 Wh 1 hr 45 mins 180
Pentax Optio 330 D-LI2 3.3 Wh 1 hr 48 mins 185
Canon PowerShot S330 NB-1LH 2.5 Wh 1 hr 48 mins 185
Sony DSC-P71 2 x AA NiMH 1600 mAh (GP) 3.6 Wh 1 hr 50 mins 185
Kodak DX4900 2 x AA NiMH 1600 mAh (GP) 3.5 Wh 1 hr 51 mins 190
Sony DSC-P5 NP-FC10 2.4 Wh 1 hr 51 mins 190
Nikon Coolpix 3500 EN-EL2 4.1 Wh 1 hr 54 mins 195
Sony DSC-P9 NP-FC10 2.4 Wh 1 hr 59 mins 200
Nikon Coolpix SQ EN-EL2 3.7 Wh 2 hr 03 mins 210
Minolta DiMAGE Xt NP-200 2.8 Wh 2 hr 12 mins 225
Canon PowerShot S400 NP-1LH 2.5 Wh 2 hr 17 mins 230
HP Photosmart 812 2 x AA NiMH 1600 mAh (GP) 3.6 Wh 2 hr 21 mins 240
Nikon Coolpix 885 EN-EL1 4.8 Wh 2 hr 21 mins 240
Nikon Coolpix 775 EN-EL1 4.8 Wh 2 hr 27 mins 250
Canon PowerShot SD100 NB-3L 2.9 Wh 2 hr 29 mins 250
Pentax Optio S D-LI8 2.6 Wh 2 hr 33 mins 260
Nikon Coolpix 2500 EN-EL2 4.1 Wh 2 hr 33 mins 260
Fujifilm FinePix F601Z NP-60 3.7 Wh 2 hr 47 mins 275
Casio EXILIM EX-Z3 NP-20 2.5 Wh 2 hr 48 mins 285
Casio EXILIM EX-S3 NP-20 2.5 Wh 2 hr 48 mins 285
Olympus C-50Z LI-10B 4.0 Wh 2 hr 54 mins 295
HP Photosmart 935 2 x AA NiMH 1600 mAh (GP) 3.6 Wh 3 hr 09 mins 320
Canon PowerShot A70 4 x AA NiMH 1600 mAh (GP) 7.7 Wh 5 hr 08 mins 515
Other test notes:
 • LCD monitor is left on during the battery test
 • The camera is powered off half of the time and left on half of the time (switch every 10 iterations)
 • There are now higher capacity AA NiMH batteries available, however in the interests of fair
    comparison we will continue to use our 1600 mAh test set

The PowerShot SD100 lasted fairly well on its 2.9 Wh battery. A life of two and a half hours for such a small lightweight battery is good, although if you carry on down the list you'll note that both Casio EXILIM digital cameras lasted almost twenty minutes longer on lower capacity batteries.