My goal is to make this a quick, readable review that hits the highlights. Iâ€™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 youâ€™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) â€“ should you upgrade to the S100? Iâ€™d say, â€œYes!â€ No, Iâ€™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 1/1.7â€ CCD to a 12 MP 1/1.7â€ 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).
Iâ€™ll get to the IQ later, but first Iâ€™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 â€“ itâ€™s flat and more supple than the S100â€™s strap (so, I just switched them).
One of the big changes is the exposure adjustment function accessed by pressing on the 12-oâ€™clock position of the rear control dial â€“ itâ€™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 â€˜stifferâ€™ with positive detents, but it was still pretty easy to inadvertently apply EC. Pushing that exposure adjustment â€˜buttonâ€™ merely changed the display. On the S100, you must push that button to adjust EC â€“ otherwise, rotating that dial does nothing in Av/Tv modes. Means one more step to adjust EC, but itâ€™s quick to push and spin the dial, and much better not to do so inadvertently!
Itâ€™s true that ISO is fixed at 80 for exposures longer than 1 s in Tv and M modes. I donâ€™t really have a problem with that â€“ with exposures that long, you need a tripod and noise is a bigger issue, so Iâ€™d almost certainly set the ISO to 80 anyway. But, it does seem odd for a â€˜fully manualâ€™ camera.
On to the IQ comparisons â€“ Iâ€™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 â€“ thatâ€™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 â€“ 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, Iâ€™m really pleased with the S100. It will be good for all of the things my S95 is good forâ€¦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...