Digital Elph Scores High on Cool-o-Meter
It's sleek. It's tiny. It's impressive. It's Canon's new
But with its attractive form factor comes a trade-off. At $699, the Elph is not within everyone's budget, and it faces competition from less-stylish, similarly priced 2-megapixel cameras that offer more advanced features.
Price aside, the cigarette-pack-size Digital Elph has an alluring, svelte design rendered in stainless steel. Taking a cue from its film-based counterpart, the Elph 2, the 6.7-ounce Digital Elph fits neatly into your pocket. It features a 2.1-megapixel CCD--the charge-coupled device that serves as the "eye" of the camera--that delivers colorful pictures at resolutions of up to 1600 by 1200, and vivid 8-by-10-inch printed photos.
While most digital cameras have at least three resolution modes, the Elph has only two such settings: 640 by 480, ideal for Web posting or e-mail, and 1600 by 1200, for maximum photographic quality. The camera also has 2X optical zoom and 8X digital zoom. Pictures are stored on a bundled 8MB Type I CompactFlash card, which holds 15 high-resolution shots or close to 50 low-res shots. (Type I CompactFlash cards are available in capacities up to 192MB.)
First-time users may find that the menu options (such as resolution) on the Elph's 1.5-inch LCD screen can be a little difficult to decipher--you must get used to navigating the submenus. Experienced users, on the other hand, shouldn't have a problem. The camera also has handy, though limited, manual settings for white balance and shutter speed, two features valued by experienced shutterbugs.
Along with its good looks, the Elph serves up a couple of design quirks. Because of the camera's small size, the optical viewfinder is correspondingly tiny and located too close to the right-hand grip. While looking through the viewfinder, I couldn't get a firm grip on the camera without pressing my nose against my thumb. The built-in flash is also small, and it doesn't provide enough of a light source for dimly lit photo opportunities. As a result, test photographs taken indoors and at night came out dark and lacked background detail.
For downloading pictures, the Digital Elph offers a Universal Serial Bus cable.
The overall package is decent. Canon includes its PhotoStitch software for merging photos to create panoramic shots, as well as Adobe's PhotoDeluxe photo editing package, a rechargeable NB-1L lithium-ion battery, and a recharger. In my informal tests--during which I shot through the viewfinder and checked images on the LCD--the battery ran out of juice after about 2 hours of shooting. (Operating the LCD uses up the battery quicker than any other activity.)
The Canon PowerShot S100 Digital Elph rates high on the cool-o-meter, and it takes handsome outdoor photos. But given the camera's features, the list price is a tad high. We found the camera available online at about $100 less than its list price. However, we were also able to find the Olympus C-2020 and the Nikon CoolPix 800--both 2-megapixel cameras that offer more manual features than the Elph--selling for about $600.