Canon PowerShot SD100 Review

Canon’s most recent ultra-compact digital camera is called the PowerShot SD100 (Digital IXUS II), and its body design and lens are partly based on the PowerShot S230 (Digital IXUS v3), which was introduced at Photokina the previous year.

Despite the fact that there are a few minor upgrades when compared to the S230, the SD100 will be remembered in Canon history for one reason: it is the first Canon digital camera to use SD / MMC storage rather than Compact Flash. Because of this, the designers have been able to shave a few of millimeters off of the camera’s depth, breadth, and height; nevertheless, this reduction is not as significant as we would have anticipated it to be.

The SD100 is equipped with a DiGiC processor, an orientation sensor, a lithium-ion rechargeable battery, a two-times optical zoom lens that has been upgraded, a stainless steel body, and a lithium-ion rechargeable battery.

The Canon PowerShot SD100 in every region of the world

As is the case with Canon’s other ultra-compact cameras, the PowerShot SD100 will go by a variety of names depending on the country in which it is sold. This is done for historical branding purposes. Due to the fact that I work in the United Kingdom, I was given a “Digital IXUS II,” the only noticeable difference being the name inscribed on the front of the camera.

Canon PowerShot SD100 Digital ELPH, Available in the US and Canada

Europe/SE Asia: Canon Digital IXUS II

Japan: Canon IXY DIGITAL 30

Although the design of the SD100 is cleaner than that of the S230, it is still somewhat busier than that of the S400, which has a very basic style that I believe is appealing. The front of the camera has been made more straightforward, and it now has the same strap eyelet as the S400.

At the rear, Canon has designed the device with ergonomics in mind by leaving a sizable open region on the right side of the device where your thumb may rest. This contributes to the luxurious but rugged impression that one gets while holding the camera because the stainless steel housing has a very substantial feel to it and is virtually always cool to the touch. The rubber cover that Canon places over the A/V out and USB ports bother me since it detracts from the camera’s otherwise sleek design and gives the impression that it was added as an afterthought.

Body and Design

Side by side

As can be seen in the image below, the SD100 and the Pentax Optio S are around the same size when viewed from the front; however, the ‘S’ is a great deal more slim and lightweight. You can also notice in this picture how the color of the stainless steel body may change depending on the light in the room and the angle at which it is seen (this can be quite frustrating for reviewers who are attempting to maintain coherence in their product photographs!).

Within your grasp

The SD100 features ergonomics that are satisfactory since the right side of the camera’s back has been left vacant. This ensures that your thumb will not inadvertently change the settings when the moment is most important. The SD100 lacks a front finger grip, which, when paired with the camera’s slick exterior, might give the impression that the camera might slip out of your hands (not out of your hand but downwards in angle). The fact that it was so easy to leave fingerprints on the stainless steel casing was one of the things I disliked the most about it. The new “Cerabrite” material that was utilized for the S400 was a significant improvement in this regard.

LCD Monitor

LCD monitor with brightness and sharpness comparable to that of the S400 and preceding Canon ultra-compacts is integrated inside the SD100. It measures 1.5 inches and has 118,000 pixels. Because it is coated with superior anti-reflective material, using it outside is not only possible but rather enjoyable. The brightness may be adjusted to one of fifteen different settings now. In both the shooting mode and the playback mode, the LCD panel displays the whole frame one hundred percent of the time. Kudos.

Viewfinder

The viewfinder of the SD100 is a standard “optical tunnel,” and while it may be perfectly fine for taking occasional photographs at appropriate subject distances, it is in no way a suitable replacement for the LCD monitor, which displays exactly what the camera captures on the screen. In addition, the SD100 viewfinder does not have a dioptre adjustment and does not have markings for parallax correction. The frame can be seen in the viewfinder roughly 83 percent of the time.

Compartments for the battery and storage

You’ll find the battery and the SD/MMC slots in the same compartment on the underside of the camera. This compartment serves as the camera’s foundation. Slide the door to the right to expose the chamber, and then pull it open to reveal the contents (plastic hinge, no spring). The SD100 is powered by a brand-new, more compact Canon Lithium-Ion battery known as the NB-3L. Despite its diminutive dimensions, the NB-3L is still capable of producing 790 mAh of energy (at 3.7 V). A spring-loaded clip serves as the primary retention mechanism for the battery. The SD/MMC slot, which is of the press-in, press-out variety, may be found directly above this (the optional Canon 128 MB Secure Digital card shown in this shot).

The SD Card

I can’t say “I never thought I’d see the day” because the ever-decreasing size of digital cameras requires a smaller form factor media. Canon had little choice other than to shift to SD cards for their smaller cameras; however, I don’t see this as a move away from Compact Flash for the rest of the PowerShot range. In the picture on the left, you can see the optional 128 MB SD card sitting next to the 16 MB SD card that comes standard.

Charger for the Battery

This brand new battery charger, the CB-2LU / CB-2LUE, is included with your purchase of an SD100. Just insert the battery into the charging bay, and the LED light on top of the charger will signal red while the battery is being charged. It will turn green once the battery has reached its maximum capacity. It takes around one and a half hours to give a completely dead battery a full charge (which works out to an approximate 520 mA charge rate).

Timings & File Sizes

Because of our prior experience with Canon’s PowerShot series of ultra-compact cameras, we anticipated that the SD100 would be quite rapid, and we weren’t let down in this regard. The startup and operating times are both extremely reasonable, and the autofocus lag was satisfactory (although slower than we would have liked with AiAF mode enabled). Although the file write and display speeds were both satisfactory, the play image-to-image browsing performance was noticeably slower than that of several competing three-megapixel ultracompact cameras.

Timing Notes

The timings listed are the averages of the results of three separate procedures. Unless otherwise specified, all timings were done on a picture with a resolution of 2048 by 1536 pixels using the Super-Fine JPEG format (approx. 1,300 KB per image). A Canon SD card with 128 megabytes was utilized as the testing medium for these procedures.

This timing is generally the most changeable since it is determined by the subject matter, current focus position, fixed or moving subject, and other factors. Auto Focus LAG is about the length of time it takes the camera to autofocus (a half-press and hold of the shutter release button). The timing presented here is average.

The shutter release lag is the amount of time it takes to take a picture from the moment you fully depress the shutter release button. This amount of time is measured both as the amount of time that includes autofocus and the amount of time that assumes you have already pre-focused by holding a half-press of the shutter release button.

Continuous modes

The outcomes of our test on continuous shooting are detailed in the table that follows. The table provides information on the actual frame rate, the maximum number of frames that can be taken, and the amount of time that must pass before another shot can be taken after the maximum number of frames have been captured.

File Display and Writing, as well as Sizes

The following timings represent the amount of time it took for the camera to process the image and “flush” it out to the SD card. The timer was started as soon as the shutter release was pushed, and it was stopped as soon as the activity indicator LED beside the viewfinder stopped blinking. This indicates that the timings also include the time required for the camera to process the image, and as a result, they are a better reflection of the real-time required to “perform the task.”

Automatic focusing in low light

The purpose of this test is to determine the lowest possible level of illumination at which the camera will still be able to focus. Our lens distortion test chart, which can be seen on the right of this image, serves as the focus target. The distance between the camera and the chart is precisely 2 meters (6.6 feet).

The amount of light that is available is steadily reduced until the camera is unable to focus. This is done at the wide-angle position as well as the telephoto point on the zoom scale (as more light reaches the focusing systems with a larger aperture).

Battery capacity

We put the camera through the most recent round of our battery life test. This test is meant to be objective and compared to all of the different types of cameras and batteries:

  • Take four pictures without using the flash.
  • Wait 2 minutes (50 percent of the time powering the camera off)
  • Take one picture with the flash.
  • Wait 1 minute
  • Repeat

Image Resolution and Quality in JPEG Format

Standard Test Scene

You are able to make different selections for the image size and JPEG quality with the PowerShot SD100. You have the following alternatives to choose from when it comes to the size of the image: 2048 x 1536 (L), 1600 x 1200 (M1), 1024 x 768 (M2), and 640 x 480 (S). There is a Super-Fine option, a Fine setting, and a Normal setting for JPEG quality. Please take into consideration that the SD100 does not offer a RAW or TIFF output.

The following table is a cross-reference of some of the different combinations of picture size and quality that are available. This will give you an idea of what some of these combinations produce:

  • 2048 x 1536 Super-Fine JPEG
  • 2048 × 1536 Fine JPEG
  • 2048 x 1536 Normal JPEG
  • 1600 x 1200 Super-Fine JPEG
  • 1024 x 768 Super-Fine JPEG

As we may have anticipated, the Super-Fine JPEG setting on the Canon camera produces photos that are practically devoid of artifacts. The amount of detail that is preserved in the image results in file sizes that are significantly bigger than the norm when using this quality option. If you have access to SD cards with higher capacities, I would recommend using the Fine JPEG setting for your camera. When viewed at a magnification of 100 percent, there is no discernible difference between it and the Super-Fine setting, but using Fine JPEG will save you 600 KB per image when it comes to storage space.

ISO Sensitivity / Noise levels

The ability to enhance the sensitivity of the sensor of a digital camera to allow for quicker shutter speeds and/or better performance in low light is referred to as the ISO equivalent setting. This is accomplished with a digital camera by “cranking up the volume” on the signal amplifiers that are included within the CCD. There is no such thing as a free lunch, though, as doing so also enhances background noise and may have an effect on the saturation of colors.

The Canon PowerShot SD100 gives users the option to choose between four different sensitivities: 50, 100, 200, and 400 ISO. After shooting a color patch chart (a GretagMacBeth ColorChecker) across a wide range of ISO sensitivities, our technique for comparing noise entails measuring brightness and RGB noise at a’mid’ grey patch.

A Perfect White Balance

The S45, G3, and S400 were all powered by the same Digic CPU, thus it was not surprising that the SD100 provided results that were extremely comparable. The only significant change was an improvement to the automated white balance when fluorescent light was present. An orange cast for the automatic white balance while working with incandescent light, good results for the preset white balances in practically any light, and near-flawless results for the manual white balance no matter the light.

Macro Focus

We didn’t anticipate the SD100’s modest two-times zoom lens to offer much in the way of macro capabilities, and we weren’t shocked when it didn’t. When shooting at wide-angle, we were able to attain the closest horizontal frame coverage of 67 mm (2.6 in).

Performance in a Flash

When set to Auto ISO, the tiny flash unit that comes with the SD100 has a range of 3.0 meters (9.8 feet) at wide-angle and 2.0 meters (6.6 feet) when set to telephoto zoom. There was no color cast, and photographs taken with the flash had acceptable color and tonal balance. Exposure was generally quite good, and the camera did a fantastic job of metering the scene and determining the correct exposure. The SD100 does not have a setting for flash power compensation.

Specifications

Body Material Stainless Steel
CCD pixels3.34 megapixels
JCIA effective pixels3.2 million
CCD size1/2.7″ (5.27 x 3.96 mm – more info)
CCD Colour Filter ArrayG – R – G – B
Image sizes • 2048 x 1536
• 1600 x 1200
• 1024 x 768
• 640 x 480
Movie clips • 640 x 480, 15 fps, up to 30 secs *
• 320 x 240, 15 fps, up to 3 mins *
• 160 x 120, 15 fps, up to 3 mins *
* Assuming you have the storage space available
Image ratio w:h 4:3
File formats• Still: JPEG EXIF 2.2
• Movie: AVI (Motion JPEG + Wave audio)
JPEG quality levels • Super-Fine
• Fine
• Normal
Sensitivity equiv.• Auto
• ISO 50
• ISO 100
• ISO 200
• ISO 400
Zoom wide (W)35 mm
Zoom tele (T)70 mm (2x)
Zoom steps 5 steps (including full wide and full telephoto)
Lens Thread None
Lens Max ApertureF2.8 – F3.9
Digital zoomUp to 3.2x
Focus modes • 9-point AiAF
• 1-point AF
AF Illumination lampYes (can be disabled)
Manual FocusNo
Focus range• Normal: 47 cm – Infinity (18.5 in – Infinity)
• Macro wide: 10 – 47 cm (3.9 – 18.5 in)
• Macro tele: 27 – 47 cm (10.6 – 18.5 in)
• Landscape: 5 m – Infinity (16.4 ft – Infinity)
Shooting modes • Auto
• Manual
• Stitch Asssist
• Movie (with sound)
AF Lock Yes (shutter release half press + focus button)
Metering• Evaluative
• Center weighted average
• Spot
Min shutter• Auto: 1/8 sec
• Manual: 1 sec
• Manual ‘long shutter’: 15 sec
Max shutter1/1500 sec
Noise reduction Yes, automatic below 1.3 sec
Aperture Priority No
Shutter Priority No
Exposure compen.-2 EV to +2 EV in 1/3 EV steps
AE Lock Yes (shutter release half press + meter button)
White Balance• Auto
• Daylight
• Cloudy
• Tungsten
• Fluorescent
• Fluorescent H
• Custom
Photo Effects • Vivid
• Neutral
• Low Sharpening
• Sepia
• Black & White
Drive modes• Single
• Continuous: 2.0 fps, up to 12 frames
Flash Yes, internal
Flash range (Auto ISO) • Normal wide: 0.57 – 3.0 m (1.9 – 9.8 ft)
• Normal tele: 0.57 – 2.0 m (1.9 – 6.6 ft)
• Macro: 0.27 – 0.57 m (10.6 – 22.4 in)
Flash modes • Auto Flash
• Anti-Redeye
• Fill-in Flash (forced on)
• Inhibit Flash (forced off)
• Slow-sync Flash
External flash No
Tripod mount Yes, metal
Self-timer Yes, 2 or 10 sec
Remote control No
Time-lapse recording No
Video out Yes, selectable NTSC / PAL
Storage mediaSD / MMC card
Storage included 16 MB SD card supplied
ViewfinderOptical, no dioptre adjustment
LCD• 1.5″ TFT LCD
• 118,000 pixels
Print compliance • DPOF
• EXIF Print (EXIF 2.2)
• Canon Direct Printing – Card Photo Printers, Bubble Jet Printers with direct print function
Other features • My Camera
• Orientation sensor
• iSAPS technology
• Movie editting
• Sound memo (up to 60 secs)
• Magnify Zoom (2 – 10x)
• Histogram display (playback / record review)
• Slide show
• DPOF / Transfer Order
Connectivity• USB 1.1 (inc PTP)
• A/V out
BatteryLithium-Ion NB-3L (790 mAh) rechargeable battery supplied
Battery chargerYes, supplied
Weight (inc. battery) 185 g (6.5 oz)
Dimensions 85 x 56 x 24 mm (3.3 x 2.2 x 0.9 in)

Final Verdict

The SD100 is without a doubt constructed to the greatest standards; the moment you take it up, you know that you are holding a sturdy and dependable camera. There is no doubt about it. The controls of the Canon have been given considerable attention, as a result, they have a smooth yet distinct feel to them, and the majority of them are either metal or coated. The camera is quick to use, both when it is first turned on and when it is being used; the only drawback is the poor browsing speed when it is in play mode (sometimes over a second between shots). Continuous shooting and other circumstances requiring a “rapid next photo” are made easier with the SD100 because to its substantial buffer capacity.

However, much like the majority of ultra-compact cameras, the SD100 is a compromise. The lens has chromatic aberrations and exhibits a degree of softness when used at its maximum aperture (also known as “wide open”), which is the setting that will likely be used in the majority of situations with medium and low light. Additionally, we saw a shift in coloration in overexposed reds, and the camera’s performance in macro mode wasn’t all that great.

However, the most difficult obstacle that the SD100 must overcome is the competition. Taking a look at the other two ultra-compact three-megapixel cameras that I reviewed at the same time as the SD100 (the Pentax Optio S and the Casio EX-Z3), we find that they are smaller and lighter, have three times optical zoom lenses (versus the Canon’s two times), and also have a wider feature set and, in the case of the Pentax, provide more user control over the image results.

Pros & Cons

Good For
  • Good reliable metering
  • Excellent quality, about as much as we could hope for from a very tiny three-megapixel camera.
  • Excellent color response and better overall balance than the majority, particularly in the blues and greens
  • Noise levels that are low at ISO 50 and 100. (ISO sensitivity higher than indicated)
Need Improvement
  • Observable chromatic aberrations in some areas
  • Limited zoom (only two times optical zoom)
  • The ‘blooming’ of light sources can be caused by the softness of the lens when it is set to its maximum aperture.
  • Reds that have been overexposed undergo a color change.

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