First impressions: Canon S100 camera

The Canon S100 is a nice little ‘cusper’ camera, filling the niche between your phone camera and a DSLR. It’s small enough to be an everyday carry, slipping easily in a jacket pocket or motorcycle suit. The more you carry a camera around, the more likely that you’ll take more pictures. And a DSLR doesn’t always make for a convienent appendage.

Samsung Focus and Canon S100
Size comparison: Samsung Focus and the Canon S100

Just as importantly for me, I can turn it on and shoot it left handed while I’m doing something else – riding a motorcycle, driving a car, or holding an over-achieving dog on a leash. The S100 is not a substitute for an action camera like the GoPro HD or Contour – it’s too refined to be out in wet weather, and I doubt it’s resiliency if dropped from a 4 foot elevation.

GoPro HD and Canon S100
It's not the size that matters, it's the output: GoPro and Canon S100

The S100 is designed to be an everyday companion when you want to quickly pull it out, quickly do a RAW or HD video capture, and tuck it away unnoticed. Such as grabbing a foodie shot at a restaurant or capturing a pepper spray incident at an unruly crowd rally. The 24-120 lens has a wide enough coverage for most mid-range uses, with a handy supplementary fish-eye setting for JPG captures. By comparison, the GoPro excels as an all weather video capture recorder, despite it’s algebriac menu settings.

Here’s a short 1 minute video sampler with the GoPro HD and S100 set at 1080, where I clamped both cameras on a stick and followed our over-achieving dog up a trail.

Still captures

S100 in motion
Shot with my left hand while riding
Got any sheep to herd?


What it doesn’t do

  • Interval shots, which means it’s not a camera for KAP (kite aerial photography) or automated capturing long sequences like a highway ride.
  • RAW captures with special effects, such as fish eye
  • Perform in wet weather, like the GoPro
  • Also MIA: native RAW support within Windows, Photomatix, and Lightroom, as the camera is too new (unless I’m doing something wrong with the Canon codec install). Need to use the Canon photo editing tools to convert RAW to TIF or JPG until Microsoft and Adobe release updated drivers.

Hands on

  • The front rubber grip helps, particularly when operating with gloved hands
  • Customized self timer is useful (say, fire off 3 shots at 15 seconds instead of standard one shot after 2 or 10 seconds)
  • One touch flash control is handy, regardless of other settings.
  • Battery life goes quick for 200 shots/video captures.
  • I like the fish eye effect.

Unlikely to use…

  • Built-in HDR, which requires a tripod. There will come a day when this is just built into all cameras, we’re not there yet. I’ll just capture RAW instead and handle HDR via post processing.
  • All those special built-in filters…does anyone really use sepia or B&W on the hardware end?

Haven’t yet played with…

  • GPS functionality
  • Neutral density filter

Bottom line
I’m not sending this one back to the retailer, the Canon S100 is a keeper.


  1. Geobduffy says:

    Thanks for the review. If you add chdk you can capture raw images and run an intervalometer script. I and others use this method for UAV mapping. I’ve post processed aerial images from an s100 and it performs well but I don’t currently own one. I primarily use an sx260 for mapping but I want to pick up an s100 soon. Thanks again

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.