Fabulous Fall with Canon S100 Camera

Post by WildSnow.com blogger | October 4, 2012      
High noon shot in AUTO mode

High noon shot in AUTO mode with no manipulation in PhotoShop. This image would have been better with a step or two of under-exposure, easily done in P mode by viewing the histogram and moving the control ring a few clicks till the histogram shifts to the left. The S100 has two rings which can be set for various functions. I set the control ring for exposure compensation and watch the histogram in order to maximize dynamic range. Click image to enlarge.

Every fall, aspen groves stun us with their brilliance. Despite drought, global warming and horribly managed forests, they faithfully turn radiant yellow. This year seems more vibrant than ever — good excuse to practice using my new Canon S100 camera.

Winter is coming to the Elks!

Before heading up to WildSnow backcountry HQ, I went on a bike ride. Though haze lingered in our valley from Idaho wildfires, the views were stupendous. Exciting to see our home mountains dusted with snow! The haze is easy to minimize in post-processing via Photoshop, but we left it here in more the way the camera sees it.

I like the Canon G12, so I was skeptical about the S100. Yes the S100 is smaller with just about the same horsepower, but would I miss too many shots without an optical viewfinder (G12 has one, S100 does not)? I am still learning the camera, and the lack of viewfinder hopefully will be something I’ll get accustomed to. In bright light the LCD is a bit hard to read, but I compensate by taking a larger picture to crop later in Photoshop. The feature I like best is the ability to program the control ring that surrounds the lens on the front of the camera. I set this for exposure, and with the histogram displayed on the LCD as I bracket the shot, I get a lot of help with perfecting exposure.

Canon S100 is palm sized, light at 6.8 oz, 192 gr. 5x zoom is adequate.

Canon S100 is palm sized, light at 6.8 oz, 192 gr. 5x zoom is adequate.

Regarding size over viewfinder, advantage of size is winning. I would not have taken the S100 on the bike ride if it was the G12. Indeed, I rode for a while with it in my hand until the vista I was looking for opened up. This would not have been as easy with the bulky G12. Another impressive feature in this little camera, which will be especially helpful for ski shots, is the burst mode for action shots. The High Speed Burst HQ mode can capture 8 shots at 9.6fps (burst mode is difficult for shooting moving action without an optical viewfinder, but can be done with practice.)

WildSnow HQ portahut

WildSnow HQ portahut in bright noon-time sun. While no camera has the dynamic range to show detail in both the highlights and shadows during light like this, Canon does their best and the result satisfies. Interestingly, according to some reports we've read the G12 does a bit better in this area at mid-range ISO numbers, but not enough to make a perceptible difference for web publishing. More, as with all digicams, if you want the best results dial it down to ISO 100 and use a tripod if if the image stabilization can't handle resulting slow shutter speeds.

A view across the valley to Mt. Daly, a lovely ski during the spring.

Across the valley, the south chutes of Mt. Daly: some of our favorite runs for spring corn.

Mr. WildSnow at work cutting metal trim for a bench next to the fireplace.

Mr. WildSnow cutting metal trim for a bench next to the wood stove that needs a non-combustible face in case the stove gets over-fired.

Aspen saturation

Aspen saturation.

Overall, both Lou and I highly recommend the Canon S100 as a compact but high-end camera for ski mountaineering and other sports where gear weight and size are important considerations. The weight (6.8 oz with card and battery) and size are good, and in our experience you’ll easily get several days out of the battery without excessive shot and video review on the LCD. If you do many multi-day trips without opportunity for battery charging, we recommend carrying a spare charged battery at 0.7 ounces. The S100 battery is an NB5L that crosses to numerous other Canon cameras, so it’s possible Lou and I could get away with one spare battery between us, since we both may be using compatible cameras (Lou has a Canon SX230 for his compact).


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15 Responses to “Fabulous Fall with Canon S100 Camera”

  1. Bryce October 4th, 2012 2:33 pm

    Canon makes some great compacts. I used to have the G11 and I swapped it out in favor of a great deal on a used S95 when the S100 came out. The ability to shoot RAW files instead of JPGs is a critical feature for me, as is the faster and wider lens of the Canon S series cameras. They’ve proven relatively tolerant of the Northwest ski mountaineer’s damp lifestyle and it is good balance of capability and weight for high altitude adventures. The images can be corrected to near zero distortion with Lightroom and the colors are lovely as demonstrated in your samples above. The small sensor\wide\fast lens format is
    I think better suited to mountaineering snapshots where a heavier\larger sensor\lens format’s subject isolation capabilities often are of less use than the deep depth of field offered by the smaller format. I’ll still bring the DSLR for some outings, but it’s the S95 I grab when I’m moving fast and light.

  2. Lisa October 4th, 2012 2:42 pm

    Bryce, I don’t utilize RAW much, but I know others value this feature. Thanks for your input!

  3. Joe John October 4th, 2012 2:47 pm

    Thank you for sharing those wonderful screen saver shots!

  4. Lou Dawson October 4th, 2012 3:02 pm

    Bryce, good points, one thing to remember is that if RAW is important to you, running CHKDSK firmware in all sorts of Canon compacts can give you an option for shooting RAW. Personally, I’ve found that simply shooting highest quality jpegs, cropping tight in camera, and with attention to not using too high and ISO (unless needed) gives me all I need, but can understand the usefulness of RAW — if a person has the time to deal with it…

  5. Fra October 5th, 2012 2:36 am

    Thank you for sharing!
    I’m in the market for a new camera…

  6. mtsplitski October 5th, 2012 11:05 am

    The S100 is awesome. The homemade chest-harness of my SLR just became too cumbersome and awkward, so I sold it and picked up and S100. While I still miss the SLR for those storm day fast action shots, the fast f/2.0 lens on the S100 still gets it done. The manual controls are also super easy to use, facilitated nicely by the ring around the lens, the function of which is customizable. I have mine set for aperture and the back ring to shutter speed, which makes manual adjustments more or less as easy as SLR.
    Can’t say enough about the thing. Very happy with my purchase. The video it shoots is outstanding as well.

  7. Doug Ouren October 5th, 2012 12:00 pm

    The photos look great for that small of a camera thanks for sharing. Quick question is that first picture looking up the Crystal? Just curious…

  8. Bruno October 5th, 2012 3:51 pm

    Don’t know who has the time to hack all the firmware in Canon cameras, but things like motion detector triggering and timelapse are just an evening away. Thank you CHDK community.

  9. Ern October 6th, 2012 9:57 pm

    I’ve just got completely over compacts with LCD viewers only. In bright sunlight framing is a guessing game esp at long focal lengths. Have had 3.

    New acquisition is a Lumix LX7 with optional electronic viewfinder which cost about 2/3rds the price of the camera! But will make it a usable tool. Fast lens, not a long zoom by any means plus a bunch of fruit salad like dynamic range correction, panorama, hi def vid etc.

  10. Lisa October 7th, 2012 6:16 pm

    Doug, good eye! Yes, that shot is looking up the Crystal from the Perham Creek Trail.

  11. Mark W October 7th, 2012 10:23 pm

    I’m a bit of a Canonophile, and I like my G9, but it is a bit of a brick to lug. Can’t believe I’m saying that, as my old SLR’s are far worse. In any case, an S100 would be a dream to hike and ski with. Must admit I’m leery about not having an optical viewfinder.

  12. Lou Dawson October 8th, 2012 8:20 am

    Ern, I hear you about the viewfinder.

    LCDs do keep improving, so we’re giving it a go.

    A few years ago you simply couldn’t effectively use a non-viewfinder camera on bright snowy days, now they seem to barely work when dialed to max brightness. The camera I’m testing presently is the Canon SX230, but I’ve still got my G12 with viewfinder…

  13. AndyC October 9th, 2012 7:27 pm

    I bought the G12 after Lew’s review–but was unimpressed by the rotating LCD screen, until I used it! I have yet to use the viewfinder, even on very bright days. I love the scene options and the manual exposure control.

  14. Lou Dawson October 9th, 2012 10:30 pm

    Andy, I still love that rotating LCD and totally miss it when I’m not using the G12. It’s incredibly useful. We love it for self portraits, ground level shots, all sorts of stuff. ‘best, Lou

  15. Fred October 15th, 2012 2:35 pm

    In the past I’ve had a couple Canon p&s cams and used CHDK even writing a couple scripts. I toyed with the idea of the s90,95 or 100 but they’re spendy with limited zoom range. So my latest cam is the Panasonic SZ7 (not ZS7). 24mm to 10x zoom range and HD video with image stabilization and sweep pano mode all in a super slim package that weighs only 133g. The 10x zoom is quite nice for getting snaps of wildlife. Granted, it doesn’t take quite as nice pictures as the S100 bit it was also less than half the price and it goes in my bike jersey pocket without knowing its there.

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