Sep. 15, 2011 at 12:24 PM ET
While you can buy impressive Canon point-and-shoots for under $200, real photographers keep their eye on the pricier S series. It's compact but it has a larger sensor and pro-level controls. Today the S100 appears at the top of the totem pole, with an improved sensor and zoom lens, plus GPS. Meanwhile, in the super-zoom category, the SX30 is replaced by the SX40 in a less spectacular leap.
Yes, the jump to the S100 from its predecessor, the S95, is far greater than the previous jump from S90 to S95. The $430 camera still has an f/2 aperture lens for low light and nice shallow depth of field, but now it's got a 5X zoom, from 24mm to 120mm. Its new CMOS sensor is not only an increase in megapixels, from 10 to 12, but a shift from CCD for improved performance.
The system is now capable of ISO 6400 (up from ISO 3200) for even better low-light shooting, and it has a high dynamic range (HDR) mode that can maximize the best parts of the different shooting modes to create one very good looking shot. The predecessor, the S95, was the first with HD video, but it was only 720p. The S100 has full 1080p HD.
And let's not forget about the built-in GPS sensor, which not only tags images but can log your day's journey, and display it on map software that comes with the camera.
There's even more going on in this camera, but hopefully I've made the main point, that anyone who's been holding out for a high-end point-and-shoot should probably take a look now.
At the same time, Canon also upgraded the sensor in its super-zoom SX line with the $430 SX40 HS. Though it takes a step down in megapixels, from 14 to 12, it gets an improved system that should do a lot better in low light. I was sad to see that the SX40 did not get GPS, as it would make sense for this camera. With an insane 35X zoom lens (24mm-840mm), the thing was basically built for a safari!
The big question is, where's the other top point-and-shoot upgrade? The PowerShot G12 just turned a year old, and the G13 rumors are all over — some, such as TechRadar, even speculating that it might even be "canned," due to its similarity to the S100.
More on cameras from msnbc.com's Gadgetbox:
Nikon's D5100 and Olympus' PEN E-P3 are both amazing, and come with similar pricetags and target customers. But they're very different, making a choice between them tricky.