Last month Jennifer sprung a Canon PowerShot S100 on me for my birthday. It’s meant to be a replacement for the SD780 that bit the dust last November (sordid details here), which is to say, a compact camera small enough to have with me at all times (that’s something you just can’t do with a digital SLR). Now the S100 is larger than the SD780, which was small enough to stuff in my jeans pocket (with my keys: yes it got pretty banged up), but it’s still extremely portable, which is the whole point of owning one; it just means it’s going in a jacket pocket instead. It’s still smaller than most other compact cameras I’ve seen, and considerably more able.
It has manual controls, for one thing: I can shoot in manual, aperture-priority and shutter-priority modes. Its user interface is quite innovative: there’s a dial around the lens that adjusts different things (ISO, aperture, shutter) depending on the mode you’ve chosen, along with a secondary dial at the back. And it can take images in RAW format. It’s hard to see this as anything but a pocket camera for people who know a bit about photography and have a digital SLR. That’s probably not a bad market to cater to.
Image quality is still no match for a digital SLR, though. The 1/1.7-inch sensor (7.6×5.7 mm) is bigger than is usually found in most compact cameras and is very good in low light (it goes up to ISO 6400), all things considered, but it’s still a compact camera sensor, and it shows in terms of sharpness, noise and noise reduction. The lens is f/2.0 at its widest zoom, which also helps in low light. I don’t anticipate ever using the flash.
It’s very quick and responsive in terms of starting up and taking pictures. That’s something I also noticed with Jennifer’s Nikon Coolpix AW100. It appears that compact cameras have made a lot of progress on that front.
It also has built-in GPS, which is a feature I will actually use, but GPS can’t help the camera’s battery life, which is reportedly not great. So far I haven’t run into that problem, but I haven’t been out much yet; the true test of this camera, including its battery life, will be in spring and summer when I spend a lot of time walking and biking. Watch this space.