Canon Powershot SD100 Review

Steve's Digicams

Canon Powershot SD100

Steve's Conclusion

The Canon PowerShot SD100 DIGITAL ELPH is the smallest and lightest camera thus far from Canon with a durable stainless steel case. It's 15% smaller by volume and 8% lighter in weight than the previous DIGITAL ELPH thanks in part to exclusively using SD cards (a 16MB card is included) and its tiny battery. Its f2.8 2x zoom lens is one of the world's smallest and fastest retractable lenses available on a consumer digicam to date.

The SD100 features a high-resolution 1.5" color LCD with a non-reflective coating that makes it quite visible in bright light as well as resistant to nose smears. The back light for the LCD is supplied by very energy efficient white LEDs, this is a good thing as a small camera also means a small power supply. The SD100 is powered by a hefty 790mAH rechargeable lithium battery that's good for about an hour of continuous use. The problem with a proprietary battery is that you can't use an off-the-shelf battery if it dies on you out in the field. So the smart owner will buy a second battery and keep it charged and ready. Canon supplies an AC charger for the battery that takes a little over two hours to charge a fully depleted pack. The charger is very compact and portable, it plugs directly into an AC outlet and has fold-away prongs.

The connectivity of the SD100 provides options for both direct printing without a computer, and remote image capture using a computer. When connected via USB cable to one of Canon's new go anywhere anytime portable Dye-Sub printers (using Canon's PICTBRIDGE technology), you'll have a great shoot-it-print-it anywhere system, rivaling the old Polaroid instant prints for immediate gratification while producing image quality Polaroid users could not imagine. Remote Capture allows you to exercise complete control over a tripod-mounted SD100 attached to a PC via USB cable. You can preview the image, zoom, adjust camera settings, and release the camera's shutter from your PC. The image is then immediately uploaded, making it available for editing and printing without removing the CF card or initiating a batch upload process. If you've ever had the need to take a series of portrait shots and offer prints to your subjects within minutes, you will love this application. You will use the USB 1.1 port in most cases to move your pictures from the camera to your computer; drivers are included for Windows 98 SE, ME, and 2000 and Mac OS 8.5+.

The overall operation of the SD100 is very robust, it only takes about three seconds from pushing the power button until it is ready to snap the first picture. It takes less than a second to go from Record to Play mode. The camera has a fairly fast autofocus system that is further enhanced in dim lighting to complete darkness by a focus assist lamp - something that Nikon, Fuji and others should start using too (hint, hint!) If the LCD is on you'll see the nine auto focus points and which ones have been used for the AF lock. The SD100's Macro mode has excellent coverage from six inches to about two and a half feet and controls the flash perfectly even at the closest range. The total shutter lag (time from pressing shutter to actually capturing) varies from less than a second to about a second, this is a little better than average. In Large/Fine mode the shot to shot time is about a second and a half, this is faster than most other three megapixel digicams.

Overall the image quality is excellent and there are a number of recording options that you can apply when desired. Don't let the small size of this camera fool you, there are a lot of selections in the menus. The Photo Effects (Vivid color, Neutral, Sepia, B&W) give you the ability to massage the look of your images in-camera. If you like shooting night pictures then you'll appreciate the "slow shutter" option that gives you access to 1 to 15 second shutter speeds. To insure the best possible image, Noise Reduction can be enabled and applied when the shutter speed is 1.3 second or slower. The SD100 has ISO sensitivity settings for 50, 100, 200, 400 or Auto. In addition to the automatic white balance setting there are presets for sunny, cloudy, incandescent, fluorescent, fluorescent H (daylight temperature) and a custom setting for use with a white or grey card. Being a small camera it also has a small built in flash and its coverage is somewhat limited. In wide angle it's good to about ten feet but in telephoto that drops off to around six feet. The 2x zoom lens exhibits moderate barrel distortion in full wide angle and a little pin cushioning at full telephoto but no more than most zoom lenses and better than some. The optical viewfinder covers about 92% of the captured image, it has no dioptric adjustment.

For anyone that wants or needs a very portable and extremely durable camera it's hard to beat one of Canon's Digital ELPHs. Canon was the first to make these small but fully functional digicams and is still making the best ones. On vacation the SD100 makes for an excellent "tourist" camera and around holiday time it's a perfect stocking stuffer. It fits in the smallest pocket and can be easily carried in your hand all day, ready in seconds to capture that special moment, and best of all this camera will give you great looking 8 x 10-inch prints at home or from your local camera store, drug store lab etc. We recommend this one. Oh, and I almost forgot, wait until you see the big 640 x 480 resolution movies with sound that this little camera produces, they're amazing!

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