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neuroanatomist

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PowerShot S100 reviewed and compared to the S95
« on: November 09, 2011, 03:45:03 PM »
My goal is to make this a quick, readable review that hits the highlights.  I’ll leave a lot of the technical details to the big review sites, although I will include some IQ comparisons.

First impression is that the S100 is a great little camera.  It combines a rich feature set, including GPS, and good IQ, including the ability to save RAW images, all in a form factor that actually fits into a pocket.  So, if you’re looking for a small camera that shoots RAW, the S100 is a great choice.

But, what if you have the S95, or the S90 (same sensor as S95) – should you upgrade to the S100?  I’d say, “Yes!”  No, I’m not a Canon marketing shill, but unlike the relatively modest changes from the S90 to the S95, the S100 is a major upgrade to the line.  Most important is the new sensor, going from a 10 MP 1/1.7” CCD to a 12 MP 1/1.7” backlit CMOS.  The new sensor delivers much better performance at high ISOs (although the real reason for the change was likely the need for a sensor to support 1080p video shooting).

I’ll get to the IQ later, but first I’ll hit on the highlights of the other changes.  First off, the zoom of the S100 range is broader, equivalent to 24-120mm instead of 28-105mm.  While they maintained f/2.0 at the wide end, less welcome is the decrease in max aperture at the long end, amounting to a loss of a bit over 1/2-stop of light.

The ergonomics of the S100 are an improvement over the S95.  The surface is more textured, and there are grip areas for fingers and thumb that make holding the S100 more secure.  Buttons have been moved around a bit, and a dedicated movie button is included.  I like the strap included with the S95 better – it’s flat and more supple than the S100’s strap (so, I just switched them). 

One of the big changes is the exposure adjustment function accessed by pressing on the 12-o’clock position of the rear control dial – it’s the same icon as on the S95, but the function is different.  On the S90, one big complaint was that the rear dial turned too easily, resulting in lots of inadvertent changes to EC.  On the S95, the dial was made ‘stiffer’ with positive detents, but it was still pretty easy to inadvertently apply EC.  Pushing that exposure adjustment ‘button’ merely changed the display.  On the S100, you must push that button to adjust EC – otherwise, rotating that dial does nothing in Av/Tv modes.  Means one more step to adjust EC, but it’s quick to push and spin the dial, and much better not to do so inadvertently!

It’s true that ISO is fixed at 80 for exposures longer than 1 s in Tv and M modes.  I don’t really have a problem with that – with exposures that long, you need a tripod and noise is a bigger issue, so I’d almost certainly set the ISO to 80 anyway.  But, it does seem odd for a ‘fully manual’ camera.

On to the IQ comparisons – I’m not really going to cover sharpness, distortion etc., but rather show noise and color performance over the ISO range.

Shots were taken with the setup shown here, and were shot as RAW images converted with default settings in DPP.  My interpretation of the results is that the ISO noise performance of the S100 is around 2 stops better than the S95.  Two stops – that’s huge!  Nothing comes for free, though.  To my eye, the S95 delivers slightly better color, and with increasing ISO on the S100 there is a progressive desaturation of the red channel – note how the red patch in the middle row gets progressively pinker.  This is something I noticed in my comparisons of the 5DII and 7D, and it does not seem to occur with the S95 (perhaps a difference between CMOS and CCD).

Here are the noise and color crops (click for larger, up to 1600 pixels wide with View All Sizes):

    

Overall, I’m really pleased with the S100.  It will be good for all of the things my S95 is good for…and do them a little better across the board.  The frame rate is faster, it seems to focus more rapidly (still slow compared to a dSLR), but in particular the dramatic improvement in ISO noise means not only better low light performance, but also higher possible shutter speeds in brighter conditions.

Happy to address comments and/or answer questions...
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PowerShot S100 reviewed and compared to the S95
« on: November 09, 2011, 03:45:03 PM »

Meh

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Re: PowerShot S100 reviewed and compared to the S95
« Reply #1 on: November 09, 2011, 04:11:47 PM »
Great post!

By ISO200 the S100 colors start to look a little washed to me (on my display anyway) compared the S95... difference surely due to the CMOS vs. CCD sensors.  Most noticeable is the red tile that starts looking quite pink I think while in the S95 it stays red but just gets noisy.

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Re: PowerShot S100 reviewed and compared to the S95
« Reply #2 on: November 09, 2011, 04:20:18 PM »
do I see right, that there ist very little noise in 6400? Looks greate.
Did you shot in raw, or jpeg?

Can you post other shots too?

So i think i'll go for one, if it available here in germany.
Search for an always in pocket cam.

dstppy

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Re: PowerShot S100 reviewed and compared to the S95
« Reply #3 on: November 09, 2011, 04:22:57 PM »
I'd be interested in hearing what happens with the GPS left on and battery drain.  That was a problem with the pannys.

Can you give us an idea after a week or so of intermittent/little use?
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Meh

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Re: PowerShot S100 reviewed and compared to the S95
« Reply #4 on: November 09, 2011, 04:42:50 PM »
do I see right, that there ist very little noise in 6400? Looks greate.
Did you shot in raw, or jpeg?

Can you post other shots too?

So i think i'll go for one, if it available here in germany.
Search for an always in pocket cam.

ISO6400 on the S100 looks less noisy than ISO1600 and almost as good as ISO800 on the S95.

neuroanatomist

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Re: PowerShot S100 reviewed and compared to the S95
« Reply #5 on: November 09, 2011, 05:17:52 PM »
Most noticeable is the red tile that starts looking quite pink I think while in the S95 it stays red but just gets noisy.

Yes - and if you look at the color comparisons I did for the 7D and 5DII, they do the same. 

do I see right, that there ist very little noise in 6400? Looks greate.
Did you shot in raw, or jpeg?

Can you post other shots too?

Yes, ISO 3200 seems usable, actually.  Shots were RAW converted with default settings in DPP (which, so far, is the only RAW converter that handles the S100 files).

What other shots?  Just some scenes (as opposed to test setups) at various ISOs?

ISO6400 on the S100 looks less noisy than ISO1600 and almost as good as ISO800 on the S95.

I was possibly being a bit conservative on the two-stop improvement.  The S100 is hands-down better at higher ISOs.  Plus, that's with DPP.  From previous testing, DxO can improve on what DPP does with the S95 RAW images...if the improvement with S100 RAW files is similar, that will be impressive! 
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JackSw1ss

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Re: PowerShot S100 reviewed and compared to the S95
« Reply #6 on: November 09, 2011, 05:22:06 PM »
Thanks neuro...that was a great quick yet comprehensive and complete review!!!
Seems a big improvement over the s95.

I have a question...well more of an advice. While I'm a bit expert on the DSLR, beg, mid and higher models, I''m a noob as what concerns the compact/mirrorless/bridge world.
So here the advice I need:

I'd love to buy a new camera for my lady.
She has a suuuuper old Pana/leica (dont recall the name) and she loves to take pictures but the DSLR route is not in thoughts because of weight and size. She wants quality yet pockability and versatility.
She had her eyes on a G12 some months ago but I kinda pushed her on the s95 way since it's a marvellous compact camera.
Being a Canon fanboy (and olympus) my suggestions hold on this side of the river, though nikon options I think are great as well but I dunno them. So now that the s100 is on the market and since you Neuro delivered the review I was waiting for I guess I have no doubt, ain't it?
but today I saw a sale on the new olympus pen mini...ohhh boy, it's beautiful and I love olympus.
I thought of Pen EP3 or even the 2 but it's waaay to expensive and too big for her tastes.
Ssssso, what you guys suggest me?

(s95), s100, G12 or the new pen mini?????
s95 being in brackets because after this review I have no doubt about the 100.

Hope you can help me out guys

Cheers and thanks neuro for the review

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Re: PowerShot S100 reviewed and compared to the S95
« Reply #6 on: November 09, 2011, 05:22:06 PM »

alipaulphotography

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Re: PowerShot S100 reviewed and compared to the S95
« Reply #7 on: November 09, 2011, 06:36:06 PM »
The black doesn't ever look quite as black on the S95 through the ISO's which is probably why you're picking up the 'washed out' look. Must just have different contrasts in the lenses.

neuroanatomist

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Re: PowerShot S100 reviewed and compared to the S95
« Reply #8 on: November 09, 2011, 07:23:41 PM »
I thought of Pen EP3 or even the 2 but it's waaay to expensive and too big for her tastes.
Ssssso, what you guys suggest me?

(s95), s100, G12 or the new pen mini?????
s95 being in brackets because after this review I have no doubt about the 100.

I'd say if she wants portable, the Oly Pen isn't the way to go, even though the m4/3 sensor should give better IQ than the S100.  The G12 is also much larger than the S100. Also, the G12 uses the same sensor as the S95 (different lens, though), so I'd expect G12 and S95 IQ to be similar - and beaten by the S100.  So, the S100 gets my vote.  FWIW, we had Oly P&S previously. My wife was using a 10 MP waterproof Stylus, but in fact, one of the drivers for me getting the S100 was her comments that the S95 was so much faster and easier to use than the Stylus (so...the S95 is now in her purse!).

The black doesn't ever look quite as black on the S95 through the ISO's which is probably why you're picking up the 'washed out' look. Must just have different contrasts in the lenses.

The noise crops are of a SpyderCube (images rotated 90 degrees CCW), but if you look inside the black half-diamond on the right, you'll see a darker circle. That's a hole designed to be pure black on the inside (parts of it are - no light).  So, that should show as black as it gets. You can actually see the DR compression at higher ISOs, where the circular border between the 'black hole' and the illuminated black surround gets progressively harder to distinguish.
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Woody

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Re: PowerShot S100 reviewed and compared to the S95
« Reply #9 on: November 09, 2011, 08:27:45 PM »
This is a very helpful review. Curious to know if ACR 6.6 RC can handle the red channel better.

gmrza

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Re: PowerShot S100 reviewed and compared to the S95
« Reply #10 on: November 09, 2011, 08:40:33 PM »
Overall, I’m really pleased with the S100.  It will be good for all of the things my S95 is good for…and do them a little better across the board.  The frame rate is faster, it seems to focus more rapidly (still slow compared to a dSLR), but in particular the dramatic improvement in ISO noise means not only better low light performance, but also higher possible shutter speeds in brighter conditions.

Hopefully this bodes well for the G13 - whatever that turns out to be.
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swblackwood

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Re: PowerShot S100 reviewed and compared to the S95
« Reply #11 on: November 09, 2011, 08:47:01 PM »
Great little review. I know that the main thing with a camera is IQ but since it now has GPS and 1080p movie mode, it would be nice to see how well it handles those functions as well. Did you try the GPS and how long did it take to "lock on to satellites? But, otherwise, kudos.

neuroanatomist

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Re: PowerShot S100 reviewed and compared to the S95
« Reply #12 on: November 09, 2011, 10:39:19 PM »
I'll report back on other issues raised.

One little feature I forgot to mention, and haven't seen mentioned elsewhere. The S100 has a built-in 3-stop ND filter. Nothing in the manual confirms it's an optical filter, although the click when it's turned on and subsequent lag to correct the exposure do strongly suggest that it is, and the image circle is small enough that it's quite feasible. The only lingering skepticism is that Canon does manipulate sensor sensitivity on the sly, e.g. when ultrafast lenses are used on a dSLR, where they compensate for an angle of incidence too shallow for the sensor by 'secretly' increasing sensitivity (i.e. ISO).  But, I suspect in this case, it's a real ND filter. Handy for waterfalls and other desired motion-capture situations, and for overcoming the max 1/2000 s shutter speed when needed.
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Re: PowerShot S100 reviewed and compared to the S95
« Reply #12 on: November 09, 2011, 10:39:19 PM »

jiamflash

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Re: PowerShot S100 reviewed and compared to the S95
« Reply #13 on: November 10, 2011, 02:00:38 AM »
Why not cover  sharpness and distortions? Because they are not as good? What is the point of super good high iso if the iphone 4s's daylight shots are sharper?

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Re: PowerShot S100 reviewed and compared to the S95
« Reply #14 on: November 10, 2011, 02:36:57 AM »
I'd love to buy a new camera for my lady.
She has a suuuuper old Pana/leica (dont recall the name) and she loves to take pictures but the DSLR route is not in thoughts because of weight and size. She wants quality yet pockability and versatility.
She had her eyes on a G12 some months ago but I kinda pushed her on the s95 way since it's a marvellous compact camera.
but today I saw a sale on the new olympus pen mini...ohhh boy, it's beautiful and I love olympus.
I thought of Pen EP3 or even the 2 but it's waaay to expensive and too big for her tastes.
Ssssso, what you guys suggest me?

(s95), s100, G12 or the new pen mini?????
s95 being in brackets because after this review I have no doubt about the 100.

Hope you can help me out guys

Cheers and thanks neuro for the review
I suggest you try out the cameras on casual portratit in day light.  My experience is that different manufacturer ( even camera from the same manufacturer)will give you different skin tone. Some are slightly pale and greyish for my taste.  For the small size, the S95 or the S100 difinitely wins hands down.

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Re: PowerShot S100 reviewed and compared to the S95
« Reply #14 on: November 10, 2011, 02:36:57 AM »