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A picture-perfect best buy

The Canon PowerShot S110 Digital Elph is all it should be. Hardware review hed: A picture-perfect best buy dek: The Canon PowerShot S110 Digital Elph is all it should be.

One of the most important attributes a digital camera can have–next to image quality–is how similar its form factor is to that of traditional silver-halide cameras. A user-friendly design shortens the learning curve and lets you concentrate on making photographs.

The Canon PowerShot S110 Digital Elph looks almost identical to the company’s original Advanced Photo System-based Elph, and is only one-eighth of an inch thicker. Like the film-based Elph, the S110 Digital Elph is clad in stainless steel and features the same functional yet fashionable style. It weighs 6.8 ounces and easily fits in a shirt pocket or purse, so it’s handy when you want to use it.

In these days of resolution horse races, the Canon PowerShot S110 Digital Elph may seem underpowered at only 2.1 megapixels, but digital imagers live by more than megapixels. Its maximum image resolution is 1,600-by-1,200 and you can create images in 1,024-by-768 or the de rigueur 640-by-40 for Web and other low-res applications. You can also capture 640-by-480 or 320-by-240 video clips with audio in QuickTime format. Video clips can be played on a TV set using the bundled AV cable. The lens has a 35mm equivalency of 35-70mm, making it ideal for travel or all around photography. Zoom control is by a stubby lever that surrounds the shutter release. Lag time-the difference between when you click the shutter to when an image is actually captured-is so brief you won’t miss any important candid photographs or fast-moving subjects.

While Canon bundles an 8MB CompactFlash card with the camera, I found that a 128MB Delkin card was perfect for travel photography. With the ability to capture more than 200 images at maximum image resolution, it was like having more than six rolls of 35mm film available in one matchbox-sized card. You can always use the 8MB card as a backup.

One of the S110’s most interesting features is its “stitch” mode (right- or left-hand options are provided.) When selected, the bright, 1.5-inch preview screen shows two images: On one side, you’ll see what looks like one-third of the image you just captured, while a live image of the shot you are about to make is displayed next to it. This enables you to line up horizon lines and provide a bit of overlap that the bundled PhotoStitch software can combine into one wide-screen image. This is great fun.

The camera uses propriety Lithium Ion batteries that perform well in battery-draining situations. The charger is small, has no space-wasteful cable, and charges quickly. During my recent vacation, I never felt let down by the battery, and only had to charge it once during a week of making travel snapshots.

The Canon PowerShot S110 Digital Elph is everything a digital camera should be. It is stylish, takes up little space, is easy to use, and creates excellent 5-by-7 inkjet prints and acceptable 8-by-10 prints on an Epson Stylus Photo 1280 printer. With a street price under $500, this camera is my first “best buy” for digital cameras in 2001.

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