Check out our examination of Canon's top 2011 A-series camera, the 16-megapixel A3300 IS featuring new creative shooting options and an f2.8 28mm-equivalent wide-angle lens with a 5x zoom.
For its sub-$180 price, the A3300 IS is capable of turning out some excellent photos. But as with most compacts, this really depends on how much light you have--the more, the better. Fine detail and sharpness are very good up to ISO 200 (though a little sharpening with photo-editing software improves things). Photos get noticeably softer at ISO 400 because of heavier noise reduction. Pixel peepers will see there's image noise at all ISO sensitivities, but it's really not visible at reduced sizes until you get to ISO 800. As long as you don't mind increased softness and noise--including faint yellow blotching--ISO 800 is usable for small prints and Web sharing. The camera's highest full-resolution sensitivity is ISO 1,600, and I'd stay clear of it unless you really need to take a low-light photo. On the other hand, because of consistent color at higher ISOs, the photos are better than from other cameras at this price; they just get slightly washed out at and above ISO 400.
As for the A3300's 16-megapixel resolution, it's only useful at and below ISO 100 for cropping and enlarging. It doesn't help the overall photo quality and, in this case, it mainly seems to slow the camera down between shots. I would not recommend buying this camera--or any point-and-shoot--on the basis of a 16-megapixel resolution alone.
If you like to shoot close-ups, the A3300 can focus as close as 1.8 inches from a subject. The 16-megapixel resolution allows you to inspect fine details, but they're still a little soft and could use some sharpening with photo-editing software.
The f2.8 aperture is larger than on many competing cameras and does let you create a shallow depth of field. More importantly, though, you can use a slightly lower ISO when shooting indoors or in dimmer lighting.
There is slight barrel distortion at the wide end of the A3300's lens (top) and maybe a little with the lens in telephoto, too. Center sharpness is good, but there is softening at the top, bottom, and sides and, at least on my review camera, the bottom corners were visibly smeary.
There is a fair amount of fringing in high-contrast areas of photos, such as the orange-yellow fringe around these statues. It's most visible when photos are viewed at full size, so it's not a huge concern unless you plan to enlarge and heavily crop your photos.
Color performance is excellent from the A3300--bright, vivid, and accurate. Exposure is also very good. Highlights will blow out on occasion, but frankly I expected it to be much worse. The auto white balance indoors is a little warm, but otherwise it's good and you can always take advantage of the presets or manual white balance if you're not happy with the results.
The new Live View Control mode allows you to adjust brightness, color, and tone with onscreen sliders and see what the photo will look like as you make the changes. The top photo was taken with all settings set to the middle. For the bottom photo I decreased brightness and tone slightly and increased the color to make it more vivid. All other settings are handled automatically, which is kind of a shame, but understandable given it's an A-series camera.
If you want to experiment even more with your photos, Canon has dedicated a full spot on the mode dial to housing its Creative Effects options. These include a Toy Camera Effect (left from top to bottom: standard, warm, and cool), Monochrome, Super Vivid, and Poster Effect (right from top to bottom).