Advanced compacts have become an increasingly popular choice for those photographers looking for a camera that’s small enough to be carried around all day without weighing you down, but which also offers the added functionality and greater degree of user control offered by DSLRs.
With the launch of the S90 in 2009 Canon had this segment of the compact market pretty much to itself, with only the Panasonic Lumix LX3 really offering it any serious competition. Fast-forward three years and the advanced compact market is much more crowded, with all of the major manufacturers now offering at least one model of their own. Indeed, in the past 12 months we’ve seen the likes of the Fuji X10, the Nikon P310, the Nikon P7700, the Samsung EX2F, the Lumix LX7 and the Sony RX100 all burst on to the scene, each bringing with it an added competitive edge. Has the PowerShot S110 got what it takes to compete? Let’s take a closer look and find out.
The Canon PowerShot S110 succeeds the S100 that was released about this time last year. The S110 retains all of the advanced operational and shooting features of its predecessor; the customisable control ring remains in place around the base of the lens, as does the ability to take full manual control over the camera and shoot in Raw should you wish. This being a new model, there are of course a host of new features too, the most notable of which are the additions of touchscreen functionality along with a Wi-Fi connectivity. More on those in a moment, but first let’s have a look at the other headline specs to see what’s changed from the S100.
Put simply, internally the S110 doesn’t represent a huge upgrade over the S100. Indeed it's really more of a gentle refresh with the newer model employing the same 1/1.7in 12.1MP High Sensitivity (HS) CMOS sensor and DIGIC 5 image processor found inside the S100. That’s not to do the combination down in any way, as the S100 was (and remains) more than capable of excellent image quality.
Sensitivity ranges from a baseline ISO 80 up to 12,800 – making the S110 a stop faster than the maximum ISO 6400 setting of its predecessor. Canon’s proprietary High Sensitivity system (which is essentially just the name given to the pairing of the S110’s advanced CMOS sensor and DIGIC 5 image processor) also promises to reduce the effects of obtrusive image noise at higher ISO settings. The DIGIC 5 processor also facilitates the S110’s High-speed Burst mode of up to 10fps, although only to a maximum of 10 consecutive frames.
On the front of the new model the S110 gets the same 5x fixed zoom that’s found on the S100. This offers the 35mm focal range equivalent of 24-120mm, which should be flexible enough to cover most day-to-day situations – just so long as your subject isn’t too far away in the distance. Maximum aperture is a usefully quick f/2 at 24mm, but disappointingly this drops to a not particularly quick f/5.9 by the time you reach 120mm. Indeed compared to rivals such as the Lumix LX7 (f/1.4-2.3), Samsung EX2F (f/1.4-2.7), Olympus XZ-2 (f/1.8-2.5), Fuji X10 (f2-2.8), Sony RX100 (f/1.8-4.9) and Nikon P310 (f/1.8-4.9) the Canon S110’s lens actually comes up a bit short – at least in terms of speed. The lens does however benefit from what Canon claims to be a 4-stop intelligent IS system, which is designed to minimise the effects of camera shake at slower shutter speed and longer focal lengths.
In addition to Program, Aperture-priority, Shutter-priority and Manual (PASM) exposure modes, the S110 also offers a Smart Auto automatic scene recognition mode alongside a host of individually selectable Scene modes for simplified point-and-shoot operation. In addition, the camera also benefits from a range of Creative Filter digital effects modes that include all the regular favourites such as Fish-eye, Miniaturisation, Toy Camera and Colour Swap among others.
In addition to its still imaging capabilities, the S110 also offers 1080p Full HD video capture at 24fps with sound recorded in stereo via two microphones positioned on the front of the camera. In addition to Full HD capture, the S110 also allows you to capture 720p HD and 640 x 480 VGA quality movies. Last but not least are a couple of high-speed movie capture modes – 640 x 480 at 120fps, and 320 x 240 at 240fps – both of which will play back in slow motion.
Two areas where Canon has upgraded the S110 in order to keep it more competitive are with the additions of touch-screen functionality and Wi-Fi connectivity. The former employs the S100’s otherwise unchanged 3in, 461k-dot screen and uses capacitive touchscreen technology to add a new layer of control over the camera. The touch-screen is able to recognise a range of gestures – such as pinch-to-zoom – as well as the regular Touch AF and Touch Shutter features found in other touch-screen compacts.
Wi-Fi connectivity is quickly becoming the must-have feature for digital cameras, so it’s good to see that Canon have seen fit to include it here. That said, its actual implementation isn’t quite as complete as what’s found on some other Wi-Fi enabled compacts, however it still offers a range of functions that many photographers will no doubt find useful. With Wi-Fi enabled S110 users can share images online directly from the camera, as well as print directly from a Canon Wi-Fi enabled printer. In addition, the S110 can also utilise a smartphone’s GPS to keep track of shooting locations and later synchronise this information to image metadata.