In contrast to the radical changes made on the inside, externally the S100 bears an uncanny resemblance to its predecessor. The camera has a matte metal finish that makes it feel incredibly robust, with chunky controls and a similarly elegant styling to the S95.
Like the PowerShot S95, the S100 boasts a handy lens control ring around the front, which can be used for quickly altering camera settings such as exposure compensation, aperture and sensitivity. There's also a new grip on the front of the camera, which pairs with a sculpted rubber rear thumbgrip to enable a firm grasp on the slim body. Otherwise, there's nothing other than an AF assist lamp on the clean front surface of the camera.
The top panel features a chunky metal mode dial, which is well-stocked with a range of automatic and manual features. Alongside Auto, there's a selection of scene modes, plus an Effects menu and a slot for accessing the S100's HD video-recording mode. For more advanced users, there's the full complement of creative exposure modes, comprising program, aperture priority, shutter priority, manual and custom.
The high-gloss shutter release is surrounded by a responsive spring-loaded lever that powers the S100's 5x optical zoom lens, and sits adjacent to a well-positioned power button.
Unlike some other travel zoom compacts with GPS capability, there are no protrusions, lumps or bumps to accommodate the GPS hardware in the S100: only the fact that the new model is ever-so-slightly taller than the S95 provides any hint that anything substantial has been added – save for the unobtrusively printed 'GPS' label in the centre of the top panel.
On the left-hand side there's a neatly hidden pop-up flash, which nestles inside the camera body until it's needed.
Around the back, there are a few more obvious changes that have been made to the design of the S100's control layout, most notably the addition of a new one-touch video button below the thumbgrip. There's also a new Ring Func. button, which enables you to customise the feature that you want the lens control ring to perform.
The four-way D-pad incorporates a rotating outer edge, making scrolling through menus and settings a slick process. The four directional keys also offer quick shortcuts to exposure compensation, flash, display and focus options, with the latter providing the choice of either macro, normal or manual focus.
The S100's menu system is logically arranged and easy to navigate, although the quick, graphics-based menu that pops up when you press the Func. Set button in the centre of the D-pad means you won't need to access the main menu very often.
Overall, the S100 feels well-made and handles very nicely indeed.