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Check to see if you have the flash set on "red-eye". This causes the flash to pre-flash to eliminate red-eye in your photos. It's a real pain for most photos but if you're shooting in low light, it will eliminate the red-eye.
If this is occurring in "Auto" as you say, then the particular camera that you have is defective. If a recent purchase, return it for exchange or refund. If that's not possible, call 1-800-OK-CANON for warranty repair. The SX100 IS actually is a VERY nice camera, and this is very uncommon for a Canon camera. Unfortunately, it sounds like you somehow got one that slipped through the cracks.
I have the S70 now.. and it's a long shutterlag, that is correct.. but i've taken photos all the day now and it's not a big problem, you get used to it right away.. I can recommend this camera very much! It's just fabulous!
I had the Fuji MX-700 and Canon S10 before and this one is soo much better in all aspects.. And the manual focus, aperture/shutter controls are VERY easy to use.. but it's only a few preset focuses to choose from.
The camera was bigger than i thought but the quality of most pictures i've taken are just amazing. One thing i miss from the Canon is the infra-red focus assist.. the night shots are very amazing! well.. ask whatever you want to know and i'll tell you ;-)
As is common in many compact digital cameras where the built-in flash is very close to the lens strange reflections can appear in images under certain conditions.
Particulate matter in the air in front of the lens (between the camera and subject) such as water vapor (as in a cloudy day), smoke, dust or other items can reflect light directly into the lens causing neutral colored white/grey semi-transparent spots to appear in the image.
In extreme examples there may be many of these spots in an image or there may be only one per image. Also, since these spots are completely random they will move or disappear from image to image. For example, if two images are shot consecutively with the same camera settings one image may have spots while the other is clean.
To avoid these spots:
When possible, avoid photographing in smoky, dust, or cloudy areas
Do not use the camera's flash in locations such as above
Use an external Speedlight flash if a flash is needed
Review images on the camera and re-shoot if spots are visible
Cleaning the lens will not have an effect on these spots, as the particles that cause this are not on the lens itself.