canon powershot s110, camera

Canon Powershot S110 Review

On these days, it seems the less experienced a photographer is the bigger and the more expensive is his camera. If such assumption is true then the Canon Powershot S110 camera must be for the savviest photographer.



o   Power button � small retreated, good if you have small finger

o   Shutter �Shutter is fast and responsive, focusing is faster than older G series cameras

o   Lens Zoom � smooth, support 24mm to 120mm

o   Ring Function / Shortcut � can be customized, favorite short is manual white balance

o   Dedicated Movie record button � can record movie at any mode, very handy

o   Image play back � same as before

o   Menu button � bring up the stacked manual

o   Four direction dial, ring function � can be used to control the menus without using the touch screen

o   Front ring � can be customized, usually I set it to ISO mode

o   Wi-Fi Button in play back mode / Exposure compensation in record mode

o   Flash � small but adequate

o   Macro/MF selector � 3 cm is the minimum macro focus distant. MF focus has enlargement mode.

o   Display selector � control histogram, girds and electronic leveler


o   Quick menu �- Control Picture quality, White balance etc

o   Stacked menu - customizable


o   Transfer to phone, computer, Canon IMage Gateway... etc

o   Has Gestures to control Wi-Fi


o   Camera window � for importing photos, easy to control

o   Image Zoom � more useless than Zoom browser

o   Digital Photo Professional � Quite useless since it does not support raw image for Canon S110 yet

o   Lightroom

  If you want to take better pictures, getting a better camera is only half of the solution

  Post processing is as important or more important as what kind of camera you use. That�s a whole different topic and requires lots of explanation.

  Especially for this kind of puny cameras, shooting raw and process the file will give you much better result. For example... If you shot with big camera with premium lens, you can get good result with not much processing, depends on your taste and requirement.

         Mode dials

o   Regular PTAM

o   One custom mode � Prefer two, but one is better than none

o   Auto � auto mode is more intelligent than regular point and shoot, it knows about macro, moving subjects and people�s face

o   Movie Digest � quite baffling why it�s one of the modes

o   Scenery � Most useful one is the Panorama mode which unfortunately only support horizontal mode

o   Filters � most useful one is the HDR mode which will require you to use tripod

o   Movie Mode � since it already have movie button so this mode may not get used very often

Rant about Scenic Mode

Often times I have seen people trying to learn photography by learning the �scenic mode�. Well, learning the scene mode is completely useless. Scene mode is different from camera to camera even if such product is from the same manufacturer. If you want to learn photography, learn to use the Aperture priority, or Shutter priority, not the program mode, not the auto mode, and definitely not the scenic mode. It does not mean that experienced photographers don�t use the other modes, sometimes they use these modes more than beginners who pretend to be pros, but you should avoid those when you are trying to learn photography.� The �A and T� mode are consistent with all the cameras (or at least the better one), so by knowing this two modes, and dabble a bit on white balance and ISO, you can claim you have learned �photography�. If you don�t want to learn this, you can also compensate by buying a bigger and more expensive camera. Photography is the only hobby that allows you to compensate skill with money. I certainly don�t mean to imply that people with big SLR are bad photographers; I carry my big SLR all the time and took lots of pictures with it, OK... I�m not that good of a photographer myself... but you see my point...

Comparing with Elph 110

This is the Canon Powershot S110. Now, don�t mistake this with the similar named Canon Powershot Elph 110, which has a lower price and more megapixels. You might be wondering why one would pay more to get less megapixels?

Well,� imagine two cakes, one big, one small: the smaller cake is divided into 16 million pieces, and the bigger cake is divided into 12 million pieces. Just because you have more pieces does not mean your cake is bigger, that�s why people pay more for less megapixels, mainly because the cake, or in this case, the sensor is actually bigger, not to mention the cake also tastes better (which means it has higher quality sensor).

The peers for Powershot S110 are more likely to be Panasonic LX7, Olympus XZ-2, Nikon Coolpix 7700, Sony RX100 and Canon�s own Powershot G15.� Of all the cameras I mentioned previously Sony RX100 has the biggest sensor and the best image quality, but it�s also the most expensive. �The main reason I bought the Canon S110 is because it�s on sale for $350 and the Sony RX100 cost $700 at the time, in other words, I�m cheap.

Now the Canon Powershot G15 is a different story. I seriously considering buying the G15, mainly because I have a Canon G11 and was very happy with it, thinking it was the best invention since sliced bread.

Comparing with G15

I don�t really have a G15, so let us pretend my G11 is the G15. G15 is smaller than G11 but bigger than S110, but not significant enough to affect the purchasing decision. G15 is also $30 dollar more expensive than S110 but that is insignificant either. G15 has significantly better battery life than S110. The S110 battery does not last very long, around 200 in average but different hugely depends on pattern of use, it could vary widely from 50 to 500, but under the same condition, it�s about half of the G15. But battery is cheap: you can get a dozen on eBay for as few as $4 each. I usually buy the $8 one which last much longer than the $4 one. The G15 also use a different battery than the G11, so one less motivation for me to buy the G15.

G15, like G11, has amazing macro capability, which is 1cm. S110 macro is 3cm minimum, not too bad by itself. Both G15 and S110 have better and faster focusing than older Canon G11 and G12, G15 in theory may have slightly faster focusing, but not detectable during my hand-on test. They both shot HD video, unlike G11. �S110 has wifi but G15 doesn�t have one. Same image stabilization engine.

What I like most about the G11 is the knobs. It looks more like a Frankenstein than a camera. That�s the beauty of it. It has a knob for ISO, a knob for exposure compensation, and the mode dials and the usual control for manual controls.

The G15 has removed the ISO knob which I used quite a lot, so another motivation removed for me. It does gain an extra knob in the front which can be customized, but it cannot be configured to control ISO, which is strange.� The Canon S110 on the other hand does not have a dedicated ISO knob but it can configure the front dial as a direct ISO knob.

Now the Canon G15 and S110 both have a setting to control the maximum value for Auto ISO which makes the need for adjusting the ISO a little less than before. �I tried to leave it at auto most of the time, but sometimes I still need to control it manually, so it�s still important.

The Canon S110 has the same sensor as the G15, both is at 1/1.7� CMOS, both is 12 MP. So image quality and ISO performance of the two should be indistinguishable. The biggest difference is the lens. The G15 is 28mm to 140mm, and S110 is 24mm to 120mm. G15 has 20mm in longer reach but is pretty useless. The extra 4mm at the wide angle for the S110 is much more useful than one would expect. Mainly because if you actually do a statistic on the photos you take, much more values fall on the wider end of the lens than the mid-long end. If you buy a SLR lens, the money you pay for 24 to 28 differences is more than the money you pay for a typical 120 to 140 difference. However, the huge advantage for the G15 is speed which supports 1.8 to 2.8 which is hugely better than the 2.0 to 5.6 the S110 support. What it means the G15 can takes much more light in wide angle and hugely more light at the telephoto end. It means that G15 can take picture at a lower ISO and have less noise. That�s one major advantage for G15, but other than that everything goes downhill for G15 from now on.

G11 has an elevated screen but the G15 lost that features, another motivation removed from buying the G15. S110 have a touch screen. Neither the G15 nor the Sony RX100 has one. Touch screen is not a gimmick, doesn�t matter how savvy you are on photography. The most useful thing for touch screen is focusing. That�s the only thing I use a touch screen for, everything else I use the physical buttons. The S110 touch screen does not make controlling the menu or functions easier.

In a tradition camera, I usually set the focusing to center, half press the shutter when pointing at the subject, and then move the camera back to the original intended composition.� The problem for this approach is it drives the exposure slightly off. It�s possible to expose with another button but that is a multi button operation. Using a touch screen you don�t have this problem. Another way to focus is to let the camera decide which is like the Google �I�m feeling lucky� button. More than often, I�m not feeling as lucky as the button implied. The G11 and the G15 and the Sony Rx100 all allows you to move the focus point manually, but that�s time consuming, and hope that your subject will be patience enough for you. For the touch screen, it�s a one click focusing. The touch screen is also smart enough to distinguish false input, like if you put your thumb at the corner, it will ignore it. It also has touch shutter, but I usually turns it off unless my subjects are really impatience.

Rant about Viewfinder

The G15 and G11 both have a viewfinder, which I usually call a benign tumour. It�s a lump that grows at top of the camera that does nothing than wasting space and increase weight. Let me make it plain, viewfinder on a compact camera (other than Fuji X20) is a joke, and a bad one. Unlike the viewfinder on a SLR, it does not show you any shooting information on the viewfinder, no focusing point, no aperture value, no shutter timing, no ISO, plus the fact that the image you see on the viewfinder is puny and vastly different from what you will get. Unlike the viewfinder on a SLR, the viewfinder on compact is a hole on the front and it only shows the approximate frame you will finally receive. So not only you are shooting in blind, it�s also useless in composition. Sony and other high end mirrorless cameras has electronic viewfinder, which is just as pointless, it does not provide the real time instantaneity of a SLR viewfinder and is only a redundant of the bigger LCD screen.

One may argue that the LCD screen is difficult to see under bright sunlight. Well, I have owned G9 for 1 year and G11 for two years, and I have travelled to the Sahara, the Amazon, the Kilimanjaro, the Patagonia, sunny, cloudy, stormy, any weather I have seen it all, not once I ever used the viewfinder on the compact camera, because it�s useless.

In the desert, under the midday sun, it�s difficult to see the LCD, but it�s not as bad as people claimed. The G15 and S110 all have polarized LCD so it�s still visible under the sun. Worst come to worst, we all carry a free LCD shade which is call our left hand (well unless you are one handed).

Since the screen is polarized, if you are wearing a polarized sunglasses and you turn your camera vertical like this, the screen will go completely dark, not difficult to see but 100% black. The solution? You can tilt your head slightly sideway or god forbid, take off your sunglasses. Problem solved. So not having a useless viewfinder on the top is another reason for me to buy the S110.

Who is this camera for?

Canon S110 is not an ideal camera for a beginner. I have seen a comment on Amazon that complained about the auto mode carry more noise than other cameras. Well, if you are going to use auto mode, you shouldn�t buy the S110, you should really buy a low end SLR, or if you are rich buy a full-frame SLR with premium lens. I really mean it. The bigger and better cameras have bigger and better lens and sensors and allow much more margins of errors than this puny camera with puny lens. With a big SLR, you can turn to auto mode and shot without thinking. With this puny camera, sometimes you have to think before you shot.

The auto mode for S110 is much more intelligent than those dumb cameras we have seen before. It knows when to use macro, it even knows how to recognize faces, and sometimes it knows to follow subjects. But unlike the older compacts, the intelligent auto mode is much more unpredictable. Most of the time, it still feels like the �I�m feeling lucky� button on Google, some hits, but also many misses. Also, the auto mode does not allow you to shot raw.

Big camera, 3200 ISO, no problem. This tiny camera, it has better ISO performance than the cheaper cameras but no where near the SLR performance. The 800 ISO in S110 feels more like the 3200 on my SLR. The S110 is not particularly good for indoor shots. The flash is puny and has a low rating. For filming or photographing your kids� indoor events, like hockey games, dance recital etc. This is OK if you are not too picky on noise. Most cameras, even the expensive SLR cannot do too well on those situations. It is actually easier to shot Olympic events than those high school indoor events, mainly because your average high-school events cannot afford Olympic style lightings. Most Olympic venues are rated at ISO200 for TV filming, so an average zoom lens can get pretty good results. To shot your every day indoor events, most of the time, you don�t need a super duper camera or lens, you just need a super duper flash. If flash is not allowed, you would need military grade equipment to get the same result. The Canon S110 does not have a flash hot shoe like the G11/G15, so if that�s the picture you take, get the G15 instead of the S110, or better, get a big SLR.

The bigger SLR also has more controls that are targeted for beginners, at least for Canon. Say, this Canon 60D, it only has one custom mode, same as S110, but one less than my G11. It does not have a dedicated ISO knob, unlike my G11. Half of the mode dials are targeted for beginners, but is completely useless for either beginners or experienced users. �Despite its short coming, the 60D takes pretty decent photos, even with cheap lens like those I have.

So the Canon S110 doesn�t take the best picture, is not the cheapest, then who is this camera really for? It�s for people who want decent quality images, with decent controls but cannot afford to carry a big SLR. It�s a great travel camera. If you travel by car or on a cruise, carrying a SLR is not a problem. But if you are backpacking and you are not a donkey, than carrying a SLR may not be the best idea.

It does pretty well on portraits as long as the subject co-operates. Although it has decent high speed drive mode, it�s useless for either sport or wildlife, mainly because the lack of long zoom and SLR-fast focusing (even though the focus is much faster than G11).

The Wi-Fi is particularly useful for traveling. You can easily transfer you photos to iPad or Android tables or even your laptop.

With the 3cm macro, it�s good for museums, or photographing insects or plants. It has a decent performance for shooting ruins, monuments, landscapes, cityscapes, architectures and general scenery. As long as the lighting is not too challenging, it can handle most of the regular tourist routine. It can handle sunset and sunrise, the dynamic range is not the best but as long as you shot raw, it�s quite adequate. Even indoor photos like churches, cathedral or mosques are OK with this camera, since most of the stuff happening inside those buildings doesn�t involve fast moving objects. This camera only has 15 seconds exposure, so obviously it�s not suitable for those fancy starlight photos, but any night scenic with decent lighting should be OK. So overall it is a competent camera with a small enough package to fit your shirt pocket.

Hope you enjoy this review.



Tech Lion



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