Sunday, December 18, 2011

First Impressions: Canon S100

As long time readers of this blog know, I'm an unabashed fan of the Canon S90. It is all around the best pocketable camera for the serious cyclist/photographer. It's lightweight enough to fit in the jersey pocket, while producing photos of such high quality that I used many of those photographs in Independent Cycle Touring.

I ended up skipping over the Canon S95, but when Canon launched the S100 the features made contemplating a switch compelling:
  1. Integrated GPS, so no awkward geo-coding hassles lining up the Edge 800 with the Canon.
  2. 1080p Video. With Bowen's arrival, I found myself shooting video. Some of it is even viewable.
  3. 12 Megapixels while preserving low light performance. More resolution means you can crop more and still have enough leftover for usable pictures. I've never been satisfied by the quality of digital images short of the .Canon 5D Mark II's. The S100's sensor stays the same size, so raising the number of pixels could add more noise, but Canon claimed that this wasn't so.
  4. 24mm->120mm higher zoom range. At the long end it didn't matter very much. However, the wide end is very attractive. The 24mm end of the 24-105/4L is one of my favorite focal lengths. Having it on a point and shoot makes photos coming out of it extra special.
Other sites will undoubted make a run down of the UI and thee little "feel differences." I'll just cover what's important to me. Compared to the S90, the S100 is lighter. The S90 camera, battery, and SD card weighed in at 201g, while the S100 combination weighs 194g. The charger weighs 63g compared to the S90's 67g, for a total of 11g weight savings. Not huge, but as Pardo says the typical cyclist will pay about $1 per gram of weight savings, so it's $11 worth of savings. Both camera and charger are slimmer, which is very nice when you have a full saddlebag. I went out today and shot with the camera like I would on tour. The results are very satisfying. Shooting almost directly into the sun carries almost no flare:
From BayArea
What this means is that Canon's managed to keep the lens relatively simple despite the wider zoom range. Since cyclists frequently do shoot into the sun for various reasons, this is impressive. The images have enough resolution that even cropping out 25% of the photo, the resultant image still looks decent:
From BayArea
If you stop and take a picture, you can expect the GPS to kick in within 3s and give you a reasonable geo-location attached with your photo. For example, you can cleary see GPS location data on this photo of Black Mountain Summit. The big disappointment here is that PicasaWeb doesn't respect the GPS location information, so you still get prompted to add a location. The further disappointment is that 3s means that your "on the move" pictures shot while cycling will not carry GPS data unless you turn on the GPS logger (which is a battery drain). So the days of ditching Jeff's Lightroom Plugin are not over. For hiking, rock-climbing, or other slow moving activities, however I expect the GPS encoding to be great. The 24mm lens is as wonderful as I remember. What about video? I tried some video, and 1080p is ridiculously sharp. I shot a video of my baby and you can see the pores on his face, as well as where he's molting. The only problem now is I have to actually be able to edit this stuff. We'll see how that goes. Needless to say, I'm very impressed with this camera. It comes highly recommended, and if you've been wondering as to whether to upgrade from the S90 I'd say it's a no brainer. Incidentally, the camera's a victim of the Thailand flooding, which means that 3rd party sellers on Amazon are gouging. Your best bet is to actually go to a physical store. Text 11NEWHOME to 332211 to get a Best Buy 10% off coupon. Then go to your nearest Best Buy and special order it (do not try this from the online store as they will not respect your coupon). I got mine within 3 business days this way. This sounds like a lot of hassle, but for this camera, it's worth the work.
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