The S100 was a sleek little expert compact that was well received by critics. Updating it was therefore always going to be a delicate matter for Canon. But the firm has played it safe with the S110, a camera that looks very similar to its predecessor. Here, the main new features are ergonomic rather than photographic, with the arrival of a multipoint touchscreen and onboard Wi-Fi.
Anyone who's used a Canon PowerShot S100 will be instantly at home with the S110. While the design has got a little squarer, the 2012 model has more or less the same casing as the S100, with the same controls in the same layout, the same approximate size and the same quality build. The S110 is still a solid, sturdy little mini-brick of a camera that feels nice to touch and handle.
We do just have one regret—removing the little bar from the front of the camera may improve its looks but it does nothing for grip, even if the thumb pad on the back of the camera now has a more pronounced indent.
The S110 may look similar to the S100, but there is, in fact, one huge difference between the two cameras—the new model has a touchscreen. Better still, it's a multipoint touchscreen, a feature that's still quite rare in the digital camera market. In playback mode, displaying images and zooming in on details is effective, smooth and generally works well, even though it's still not quite as consistently responsive as the average smartphone. In shooting mode, you can navigate through menus and access settings quickly using the touchscreen and the lens ring (see inset).
Underneath the touch-sensitive surface, however, this is the same screen as seen in the S100. It's pleasant enough to use, but onscreen image quality could be more accurate. Colour fidelity isn't great and the over-strong contrast floods dark, shadowy areas while overexposing bright, light zones.
The S110 handles a lot like the S100. The menus are clear and it's generally nice to use. There's still a RAW mode, and the main drawback is still the battery—the S110 guzzles its 3.9 Wh battery capacity in 200 shots (according to CIPA standards). Generally, battery life is a bit too tight for any kind of intensive use.
Built-in Wi-Fi is on hand for transferring images to another camera, an Android or iOS peripheral, a computer, a printer or a website. The whole process is a little more straight-forward than with the Ixus 240 we tested this summer, but it's the same basic idea: for example, you still have to use a computer to set up an account with Canon Image Gateway to configure your YouTube, Facebook and other accounts.
The PowerShot S110 is a minor update of the S100, so it's no surprise to see similar results here. The S110 starts up in 2.4 seconds and photo-to-photo turnaround takes two seconds (2.5 seconds in RAW mode). The burst mode shoots at 2 fps (1 fps in RAW).
While the S100 felt like an almost revolutionary expert compact for Canon, the S110 stays very close to its predecessor, from which it inherits both lens and electronics.
The ISO test results are therefore very similar. Noise and smoothing start to appear discreetly, but they won't be a problem on an 8" x 10" (20 x 27 cm) print at 1600 ISO. However, everything goes to pot somewhere between 1600 ISO and 3200 ISO, with sharpness lost and granular noise clearly visible on pictures any bigger than 4" x 6" (11 x 15 cm).
The lens obviously gives similar results to the S100 too. It performs well at wide-angle, without being extraordinary (the corners of the frame are notably less sharp than the middle, at least on very large prints or on 100% size shots). It's on the better side of average at telephoto, with a good level of sharp detail over the entire frame.
The video mode in the S110 has also been lifted straight out of its predecessor, filming in Full HD at 24 fps and with stereo sound.
Picture quality is good, with nice levels of sharpness, distortion is effectively corrected and video noise is kept in check. Sound is recorded relatively accurately too, with good spatialisation in spite of the fact the mics are quite close together. The only drawback is that the mics pick up the buzz of the zoom motor—you're therefore better off not using the zoom in very quiet scenes.
But if one thing keeps the S110 down at four stars in this part of the review, its the 24 fps framerate. That's just not enough these days. Some users may even notice a few glitches as a result. We consider 30 fps a bare minimum by today's standards.