Canon PowerShot S110 £429.99

18th Sep 2012 | 16:20

Canon PowerShot S110

Petite but powerful compact camera with the latest tech

TechRadar rating:

4 stars

Like:

Excellent images, inc raw files; Responsive touchscreen; Fast f/2.0 lens; Handy lens control dial;

Dislike:

No hotshoe; Only f/5.9 in telephoto; Wi-Fi drains battery; No built-in GPS;

Introduction

Aimed squarely at the serious photography enthusiast, the new Canon PowerShot S110 aspires to build on the success of its original ancestor - the pioneering Canon S90 - bringing with it a host of updated and new features.

Canon has bestowed the new compact camera with a freshly designed high-sensitivity 12.1MP 1/1.7-inch CMOS sensor, latest generation Digic 5 processor, 0.2 second autofocus acquisition and a 3-inch capacitive touchscreen with a resolution of 460,000 dots.

Canon PowerShot S110 review

It also boasts a newly expanded sensitivity range that tops out at ISO 12800 at full resolution, plus 1080p HD movie recording, raw file support, 10fps continuous shooting and Wi-Fi connectivity.

Owners of the Canon PowerShot S110's immediate predecessor - the Canon PowerShot S100 - may be disappointed that the new camera sacrifices built-in GPS functionality, but it's still possible to geotag your photos by syncing with a GPS-enabled smartphone.

Canon PowerShot S110 review

On paper, the Canon S110 certainly looks like a decent all-rounder. However, with recent launches such as the Sony RX100 and Fuji X-F1 - both of which boast larger, higher-resolution sensors - whether it offers enough to stay ahead of the game remains yet to be seen.

The Canon PowerShot S110 has a full price of £429.99/AU$549/US$449.99, putting it up against its sibling the Canon SX50 HS and rivals including the Nikon P7700 and Panasonic LX7.

Build quality and handling

As we've come to expect from cameras occupying the upper echelons of the Canon PowerShot range, the new Canon PowerShot S110 is robust in its construction, boasting a lightweight, compact body that retains the good looks and user-friendly styling of the Canon S100.

Available in classic black or a contemporary white finish, the innovative newcomer improves further upon the petite dimensions of the model it replaces, with a slimmer profile that enhances its pocketability.

Canon PowerShot S110 review

The Canon S110 also carries over some key features such its ancestor's 5x optical zoom lens, which offers a focal range that's equivalent to 24-120mm on a 35mm camera.

At the wide-angle end of the range the lens offers a fast maximum aperture of f/2.0, however this drops to a somewhat disappointing f/5.9 at the telephoto end. Otherwise, the Digic 5 processor that proved its mettle in the Canon S100 makes a repeat appearance, delivering snappy start-up and shot-to-shot times, as well as fast raw file recording and more besides.

Canon PowerShot S110 review

The placement of the controls on the Canon S110 is identical to that on the Canon S100, with a comprehensive range of no-nonsense buttons and dials that combine to offer a simple and pleasurable operating experience.

One minor criticism is the lack of grip on the front of the camera - which is perfectly smooth aside from a lightly textured Canon decal - making it somewhat slippery in the hand.

Canon PowerShot S110 review

The overall design and layout of the controls leaves little room for complaint. There's a handy one-touch recording button for capturing Full HD movies at a moment's notice, a rotating control dial around the four-way d-pad (which also offers shortcuts to key functions) plus the much-loved customisable control dial surrounding the lens on the front of the camera.

The top panel plays host to a well-stocked mode dial, with the full range of manual exposure modes available for more advanced users, plus a customisable slot to store your own unique combination of settings.

Canon PowerShot S110 review

Beginners are also catered for with the camera's Auto mode, together with a bank of user-selectable scene modes, Movie Digest and a further slot for the previously mentioned HD movie recording options.

There's also a position on the dial dedicated to Canon's popular Creative Filters, which enable you to imbue your shots with a range of special effects in-camera.

Canon PowerShot S110 review

The filters available include HDR, Nostalgic, Fish Eye, Miniature, Toy Camera, Soft Focus, Monochrome, Super Vivid, Poster Effect, Color Accent and Color Swap - each of which produces its own distinctive look.

All of these measures - coupled with the time-saving quick on-screen menus that can be called up using the Function button in the centre of the d-pad - add up to a slick shooting experience that makes the Canon S110 a real pleasure to use.

Performance

Stick to Auto mode and the Canon S110 will produce consistently high-quality results, with largely accurate metering and faithful yet punchy colours under most conditions.

We did encounter the odd occasion where a particularly bright sky set against a considerably darker foreground would result in some clipped highlights, but for the most part this little camera impresses in its capacity to deal with high contrast situations.

Canon PowerShot S110 review

The camera's snappy AF system performs well, finding a positive lock at speed in both bright and lower lighting conditions.

The Canon S110's 3-inch touchscreen is nicely detailed - if not the highest resolution one we've seen - but its wide viewing angle, decent anti-reflective coating and responsiveness to touch does impress.

Canon PowerShot S110 review

A far cry from the frustratingly insensitive touchscreens of old, the Canon S110's screen requires only the lightest of touches to access key features and perform useful tasks such as setting the AF point anywhere in the frame, instantly.

The screen also proffers a handy enhancement to the superb lens control dial, with a virtual dial that's activated by tapping the corresponding on-screen icon. It also enables you to quickly switch between functions.

Canon PowerShot S110 review

Noise is generally very well controlled, with clean shots perfectly possible right up to ISO 800.

At ISO 1600 there's still a very good level of detail produced, although pushing the sensitivity past this point results in the loss of detail and level of noise that you'd expect from a camera with a sensor of this size.

Noise and dynamic range

We shoot a specially designed chart in carefully controlled conditions and the resulting images are analysed using DXO Analyzer software to generate the data to produce the graphs below.

A high signal to noise ratio (SNR) indicates a cleaner and better quality image.

For more more details on how to interpret our test data, check out our full explanation of our noise and dynamic range tests.

Here we compare the Canon PowerShot S110 HS with the Panasonic LX7, Sony RX100, Canon PowerShot S100 and Olympus XZ-2.

JPEG signal to noise ratio

Canon PowerShot S110 HS review

These results show that the Canon S110's JPEG files have a strong signal to noise ratio, sitting in the top three performers alongside the Canon S100 and Sony RX100 in the low to mid sensitivities, before its ratio falls after ISO 1600, to eventually fall below the results of the Panasonic LX7 and Olympus XZ-2at the top of the range.

Raw signal to noise ratio

Canon PowerShot S110 HS review

The signal to noise ratios of the TIFF images (after conversion from raw) from the Canon PowerShot S110 HS are higher than those from the JPEG images, this time putting the Canon S110 top of the pack on several occasions, beating the Canon S100 sometimes, but sometimes falling behind it. The Canon S110's raw images beat those from the Panasonic LX7, Sony RX100, and Olympus XZ-2 at every sensitivity setting.

JPEG dynamic range

Canon PowerShot S110 HS review

JPEG results for dynamic range are less impressive than those for signal to noise ratio, with the Canon S110 sitting in the middle to bottom of the pack compared to the other cameras tested here. It beat older brother the Canon S100 at almost every ISO setting, and beats the Sony RX100 at low sensitivities and the Olympus XZ-2 at the top end of the ISO range. The Panasonic LX7 beats the Canon S110 at most settings, but produces very similar results from ISO 400 upwards.

Raw dynamic range

Canon PowerShot S110 HS review

This chart indicates that TIFF images (after conversion from raw) from the Canon S110 have stronger dynamic range than JPEGs, beating the Panasonic LX7 throughout the sensitivity range and beating theCanon S100 at every setting but ISO 3200. It produces almost identical results to the Sony RX100 at lower sensitivities, before falling behind at ISO 400 and above. The Olympus XZ-2 starts off strongest, then falls slightly behind the Canon S110 in the mid-range, then gets ahead again, before finishing behind again at the top of the ISO scale.

Image quality and resolution

As part of our image quality testing for the Canon PowerShot S110, we've shot our resolution chart.

If you view our crops of the resolution chart's central section at 100% (or Actual Pixels) you will see that, for example, at ISO 80 the Canon PowerShot S110 is capable of resolving up to around 22 (line widths per picture height x100) in its highest quality JPEG files.

For a full explanation of what our resolution charts mean, and how to read them, check out our full explanation of our camera testing resolution charts.

Examining images of the chart taken at each sensitivity setting reveals the following resolution scores in line widths per picture height x100:

JPEG

Canon PowerShot S110 review

Canon PowerShot S110 review

ISO 80, score: 22 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Canon PowerShot S110 review

ISO 100, score: 22 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Canon PowerShot S110 review

ISO 200, score: 22 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Canon PowerShot S110 review

ISO 400, score: 20 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Canon PowerShot S110 review

ISO 800, score: 18 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Canon PowerShot S110 review

ISO 1600, score: 18 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Canon PowerShot S110 review

ISO 3200, score: 16 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Canon PowerShot S110 review

ISO 6400, score: 16 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Canon PowerShot S110 review

ISO 12800, score: 12 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Raw

Canon PowerShot S110 review

ISO 80, score: 22 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Canon PowerShot S110 review

ISO 100, score: 22 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Canon PowerShot S110 review

ISO 200, score: 22 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Canon PowerShot S110 review

ISO 400, score: 20 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Canon PowerShot S110 review

ISO 800, score: 18 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Canon PowerShot S110 review

ISO 1600, score: 18 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Canon PowerShot S110 review

ISO 3200, score: 18 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Canon PowerShot S110 review

ISO 6400, score: 16 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Canon PowerShot S110 review

ISO 12800, score: 14 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Sample images

Canon PowerShot S110 review

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Canon PowerShot S110 review

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With a closest focusing distance of 3cm, the Canon S110 enables you to capture frame-filling shots of smaller subjects as well as abstract compositions.

Canon PowerShot S110 review

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The Canon S110 is capable of reproducing rich colours and accurately metering scenes with a wide dynamic range.

Canon PowerShot S110 review

Click here to see the full resolution image

The camera's newly designed sensor captures plenty of fine detail and demonstrates its ability to retain information in both the highlights and the shadows in relatively high contrast scenes.

Canon PowerShot S110 review

Click here to see the full resolution image

The array of exposure modes and in-camera creative options on offer make it easy to produce imaginative images without the need for a PC.

Canon PowerShot S110 review

Click here to see the full resolution image

The Canon S110's fast 10fps continuous burst mode makes light work of capturing action, but you may have to compromise on some aspects such as metering accuracy on some occasions - as denoted by the clipped highlights in the sky in this scene.

Canon PowerShot S110 review

Click here to see the full resolution image

In-camera creative filters enable you to imbue your shots with a selection of stylised effects, for unique results without the need for specialist image editing software.

Sensitivity and noise images

JPEG

Canon PowerShot S110 review

Full ISO 80 image, see the cropped (100%) versions below.

Canon PowerShot S110 review

Click here to see the full resolution image

ISO 80

Canon PowerShot S110 review

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ISO 100

Canon PowerShot S110 review

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ISO 200

Canon PowerShot S110 review

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ISO 400

Canon PowerShot S110 review

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ISO 800

Canon PowerShot S110 review

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ISO 1600

Canon PowerShot S110 review

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ISO 3200

Canon PowerShot S110 review

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ISO 6400

Canon PowerShot S110 review

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ISO 12800

Raw

Canon PowerShot S110 review

Click here to see the full resolution image

ISO 80

Canon PowerShot S110 review

Click here to see the full resolution image

ISO 100

Canon PowerShot S110 review

Click here to see the full resolution image

ISO 200

Canon PowerShot S110 review

Click here to see the full resolution image

ISO 400

Canon PowerShot S110 review

Click here to see the full resolution image

ISO 800

Canon PowerShot S110 review

Click here to see the full resolution image

ISO 1600

Canon PowerShot S110 review

Click here to see the full resolution image

ISO 3200

Canon PowerShot S110 review

Click here to see the full resolution image

ISO 6400

Canon PowerShot S110 review

Click here to see the full resolution image

ISO 12800

Verdict

On the surface, the Canon PowerShot S110 provides a relatively minor upgrade over the older Canon S100, but a few new additions - in particular its responsive touchscreen - do make a real difference to the overall handling and performance offered by the new camera.

While the sensitivity of the screen and its placement on the back panel can result in the occasional accidental activation of on-screen options, overall this new addition to the camera's feature set is a positive one that enhances its usability.

Little touches such as the on-screen virtual dial - which really capitalises on the versatility provided by the popular lens control dial - along with the well-balanced provision of automatic, creative and manual exposure modes on offer, all add to the favourable impression the Canon S110 creates.

We liked

Great build quality, attractive styling and a slim profile, coupled with a comprehensive array of exposure modes and a superb touchscreen all add to the overall appeal of this enjoyable little camera.

We disliked

The loss of in-built GPS functionality and less-than slick Wi-Fi implementation take some of the shine off what is otherwise a very desirable advanced compact camera.

Final verdict

With plenty to appeal to beginners and more advanced enthusiasts alike, the Canon S110's inclusion of Wi-Fi connectivity adds to its potential attractiveness to tech-savvy photographers too.

We should warn you, however, that the system is highly cumbersome to set up initially, but once you've navigated this minefield it's possible to upload your shots directly to social networking sites, PCs, smartphones and tablets. Finally, if you do use Wi-Fi, expect to run down the battery pretty quickly.

Yes there are a few drawbacks to this camera, and no it's not a major upgrade over the Canon S100, but the new features that the Canon S110 does pioneer definitely add to its value and keep it in the running among its high-end competitors.

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