SAN FRANCISCO (07/26/2000) - It's sleek. It's tiny. Canon Inc.'s PowerShot S100 Digital Elph camera is definitely one of the snazziest gadgets around.
The cigarette box-size Digital Elph has an alluring, svelte design. The camera is conveniently pocketable, and it features a big 2.1-megapixel CCD (charge-coupled device) that delivers sharp, colorful pictures at resolutions up to 1600 by 1200 and vivid 8-by-10-inch printed photos.
But this camera permits only two resolution options: a minimum setting of 640 by 480--ideal for Web posting or e-mail--and a maximum of 1600 by 1200. Most digital cameras have at least low, medium, and high modes.
The Canon does provide useful, though limited, manual settings for white balance and shutter speed--which is handy if you're an experienced shutterbug.
It also has 2X optical zoom for closing in on photo subjects.
The US$699 camera stores pictures on an 8MB CompactFlash card, which holds only about 15 pictures in high-resolution mode (but more than triple that on low setting).
Though the Canon's controls and menus are clear, the tiny optical viewfinder is located too close to the right-hand grip. While looking through the viewfinder during informal tests of this shipping model, I found I couldn't grip the camera firmly without pressing my nose against my thumb. Another drawback is that the built-in flash is small and provides insufficient light. Consequently, some photographs that were taken indoors or at night came out dark, and they lost some background detail.
The Elph forgoes a serial port for a USB connector. The latter is a relatively speedy option for downloading pictures, but if your PC doesn't support it, you'll have to buy a cable separately that has a serial connection.
Still, the overall package is decent. Included are Adobe's PhotoDeluxe, plus a rechargeable NB-1L lithium-ion battery and a recharger. The battery ran out of juice after 2 hours of casual shooting in my tests.
The Canon PowerShot 100 Digital Elph rates very high on the cool-o-meter, and under the right conditions it takes handsome photos. But in my opinion, the list price for this digital camera is a tad high.
Canon PowerShot S100 Digital Elph
PRO: Glamorously compact, takes vibrant photos, easy to use.
CON: Relatively pricey, small optical viewfinder, only two resolution settings available.
VALUE: An eye-catching digital camera that produces color-rich photos--ideal if you want to splurge.
List price: $699