Back to the ELF 110 HS, the benefits of a wider lens depends on you and your typical subject matter. Personally I like to take a lot of broad landscape shots and enjoy the flexibility that a wide lens can give in close quarters when taking people shots. But if you are much more a fan of, say, taking wildlife shots of far-off creatures, you are more likely to feel less-than-optimally equipped with this camera's 5x zoom (35mm equivalent of 24mm-120mm).
The lens has a maximum aperture of F2.7 (wide) and F5 .9 (telephoto), which helps it perform well in low light. Aided by optical image stabilization and the DIGIC 5 processor's noise reduction, this ELF can take usable shots up to ISO 3200. Admittedly, the results are much better when using a tripod versus handheld. Handheld images I shot at ISO 400 looked noisy on screen at 60% viewing, with fuzzy details. These handheld shots, however, were taken without flash using only indoor light--and thus also required image stabilization to create a usable photo. Though there were noticeable splotches and specks of chroma distortion, the shot at ISO 1600 looked almost as good as the ISO 400 photo. It was only at ISO 3200 that the camera fell off the proverbial wagon and suffered from foggy lack of detail, digital noise, and disruptive chroma distortions.
Moving the camera to a tripod--and thereby eliminating image stabilization--yielded much more impressive results: Details were dramatically sharper and very little noise was evident. Perhaps the most telling comparison was comparing these shots side by side with those from the PowerShot A3400 IS, which I reviewed at the same time and has a CCD sensor. This revealed the advantages of the ELPH's CMOS sensor: Even when viewing the entire 16MP image on a 17-inch screen (at roughly 30%), the ELPH's images were noticeably sharper and brighter, with more details in shadow areas. These distinctions were even more pronounced when blowing up the images to 100%: The ELPH's photos were much sharper, hands-down.
On the whole, the ELPH 110 HS is quick and responsive. It can power up and take a shot in two seconds. And, once turned on, it can focus and capture a photo in a third of a second. If you're not using the flash, the camera can shoot continuously at 2fps while capturing full-resolution files. In high-speed burst mode, it captures 4MP files at 5fps.
One of the most appealing features of the ELPH 110 HS is its bright, high-resolution screen. The LCD has a resolution of 461,000 dots and displays very sharp detail and vivid colors. This ensures not only that viewing images is a pleasure, but also ensures that when you magnify images to inspect the focus, you can actually see enough fine detail to judge if you got the shot. The brightness of the screen can't be beat: Even in bright afternoon sunlight I always found the screen bright enough to see my photos and navigate the menus.
The dedicated switch beside the power button atop the camera provides convenient access to Auto mode. This is invaluable in situations where shooting conditions change and you don't have time to navigate a menu and select another shooting mode: simply flipping the switch will at least ensure that you get the shot. Auto mode has now been dubbed Smart Auto, and selects settings based on 58 different pre-programmed scenes.
The shooting modes are largely usable and achieve desirable results, compared to some cameras that go hog-wild and include too many useless and gimmicky modes that both get in the way of menu navigation and create cartoonish or amateurish effects. One of the most fun is the ability to swap a color for another in the same frame, using the Color Swap shooting mode. Perhaps the most elegant is the Color Accent shooting mode that allows you to pick a single color within the frame to be recorded, while everything else remains black-and-white.
New to the ELPH cameras are Smooth Skin and Soft Focus modes, which appeal to our vanity and promise an image editing shortcut. However, I found it a bit unpredictable. Compared to Portrait mode when shooting indoors, the Smooth Skin mode turned off the flash and increased the ISO from roughly 100 to ISO 1000 or higher, which increased digital noise. In one of these shots, Smooth Skin mode turned a fair skin tone unattractively red and made the entire photo unattractively blurry. In another shot, when my subjects were farther away, the results were acceptable: Background details were not softened, the flash did fire, and the amount of skin softening was not over the top. It's worth mentioning that a two-year-old did not appear affected, while an adult's face appeared to have been minimally touched up. The effect was subtle, though it looked slightly unnatural.
Soft Focus mode works as expected, like the Vaseline lens technique of old, creating a misty look that's probably most appropriate on landscape shots you might want to have a nostalgic appeal. For up-close subjects, I found this effect too severe applied to the whole frame, and you can't adjust it.
Smart shutter mode allows you to have your photo taken using one of three indicators: smile, wink, or face. The first two are self-explanatory: When someone smiles or winks, this initiates the timer to take a photo. Using face self-timer makes the most sense when you're taking a group shot: You frame the group and then come out from behind the camera. When your new face appears in the frame the camera starts the self-timer.
This camera also features Face ID, which includes a couple features aimed at parents. If the camera's face detection recognizes that a baby is smiling, the camera will take three continuous shots rather than a single shot. In addition, if the camera recognizes that a baby is in the frame and sleeping, the camera will turn off the flash and silence the shutter. These parent-friendly features are part of the Face ID feature, and require that you enter a child's birthday in the camera for it to make these adjustments.
The camera can record up to 12 faces. First, you register someone by taking portraits from multiple angles to help the camera recognize that person. Doing this for myself in a self-portrait, however, was problematic. On multiple occasions the camera told me it could not register my face. The advantage of registering faces is you can search for pictures of those people. Enter the birthday of a toddler, for example, and Smart Auto will use servo AF because, of course, toddlers are always on the move. The Face ID feature also optimizes focus, brightness, and color for that individual. The camera can detect and display the names of up to three of the 12 people you have registered in the camera.
Video is recorded in high-definition 1080p format, using the dedicated movie button. You can use both optical and digital zoom while recording video. Unfortunately, the lens is noisy enough while zooming that you'll hear it on the audio. And while you can use the digital zoom, this will decrease the resolution of video; this won't be noticeable on the camera's LCD, but the pixilation will be obvious on a larger screen.
There are two movie modes worth mentioning. Super slow motion movie mode records at 120fps or 240fps, and plays back at 30fps, which can create a dramatic effect for fast-moving subjects or sports action. Super slow movie mode records at a lower resolution (640 x 480 or 320 x 240) than regular video which records at 1280 x 720.
Movie digest records short 720p HD video clips which you later combine into a video montage. The camera records a four-second video before it snaps a still. The idea is that the resulting video file encapsulates a single day or event. The obvious convenience is that you don't need to combine multiple videos later in editing software. One possible drawback is that after you press the shutter people may be saying things you don't necessarily want recorded, like "smile for the camera."
Battery life is nothing to write home about: The camera is rated to take just 170 shots on a single battery charge, so you'll want to be vigilant about charging up the battery. Picking up a spare pack is highly recommended; especially since it can be charged in the included AC charger while you're using another pack in the camera.
As for image playback, the ELPH 110 HS can conveniently display sets of images shot in high-speed burst mode as one photo. A multi-frame icon displays in the corner; pressing the function button enters group playback so you can scroll through all of the images in the set, which are displayed inside a yellow frame with a multi-frame icon in the corner.
Playback offers four viewing options: image only; some information such as date, time and file number; detailed information including camera settings and histogram; and a magnified view that allows you to zoom in on details within the photo while still viewing the overall picture on the screen.
The slideshow feature offers play times of 3 to 10 seconds, 10 seconds, 15 seconds, and 30 seconds. You choose one of five transitions between images, such as a bubble effect or letterbox. Fade is the default and the most elegant-looking in my opinion
Bottom line - The Canon PowerShot ELPH 110 HS performs well for the price. Its CMOS sensor captures high-quality images, and its DIGIC 5 processor ensures fast performance. The high-resolution LCD displays very sharp details and vivid colors. The camera shoots 1080p HD video, and boasts attractive shooting modes and features that make capturing them a pleasure. The 24mm wide-angle lens is ideal for some shooting situations, though the trade-off is that you don't get the most powerful zoom, at 5x. Battery life isn't the best, but with everything else going for it, at an MSRP of $249.99, this compact Canon offers a lot for the money.
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