Shooting modes are geared for point-and-shoot use, so no semimanual or full manual modes. The most control you get over settings is in Program mode, letting you select things like white balance, ISO, and metering. It's also the only mode with access to the camera's My Color options like Vivid and Sepia, as well as a Custom option with adjustments for contrast, sharpness, and saturation. On the other hand, you have the new Live View Control mode, which enables you to adjust brightness, color, and tone with onscreen sliders and see what the photo will look like as you make the changes.
If you just want to point and shoot, there's Canon's Smart Auto, which determines the appropriate settings based on the scene you're shooting. An Easy mode works similarly, but it heavily limits settings. There's a new Discreet mode, too, that shuts off all sound and lights so you can shoot without accidentally disturbing the subject or those around you.
The Scene mode has all the usual suspects: Portrait, Landscape, Kids & Pets, Low Light, Beach, Foliage, Snow, Fireworks, and Long Shutter (exposure settings from 1 to 15 seconds). Oddly, there's no panorama option, which is a pretty popular option these days. Canon does include its Smart Shutter option in the Scene mode, though, providing a smile-activated shutter release and Wink and Face Detection self-timers. Wink allows you to set off the shutter simply by winking at the camera, and with the Face Detection option, the camera will wait until it detects a new face in front of the camera before it fires off a shot. Both work well. Also, since there is no optical image stabilization, there is a Blur Reduction mode that captures 2-megapixel photos using a high ISO sensitivity to keep shutter speed as fast as possible.
Canon's Creative Filters are now all located under a spot on the mode dial, where you can select Toy Camera Effect, Monochrome, Super Vivid, Poster Effect, Fish-eye Effect, and Miniature Effect. While some may find these to be a bit goofy, they can be a lot of fun to play with, if only to add some interest to what would otherwise be a boring shot. I particularly liked the results from the Toy Camera Effect, which has Standard, Warm, and Cool settings.
If you like to shoot close-ups, the A1200 can focus as close as 1.2 inches from a subject. The 12-megapixel resolution allows you to inspect fine details, but they're still a little soft and could use some sharpening with photo-editing software. Also, the f2.8 aperture does create a shallow depth of field in macro, which can make for some nice photos.
Shooting performance is overall slow. From off to first shot takes 2.4 seconds. The wait between subsequent shots averaged 3 seconds; using the flash basically doubles that time. Shutter lag--the time from pressing the shutter release to capturing a photo--is 0.5 second in bright lighting and 0.9 second in low-light conditions. The continuous shooting speed is pretty slow, too, at 0.7 frames per second with focus and exposure set with the first shot. The performance might not be a problem if most of your photos are of stationary subjects. But, if you're trying to capture active children and pets or sports, it'll be tricky to get the shot you want with this camera.
Canon has improved the fit and finish of the A-series cameras for 2011. For as inexpensive as the camera is and being made almost entirely of plastic, the A1200 still looks good. Its two AA-size batteries add weight as well as allow for a wider grip on the right side. The optical viewfinder is, again, a rarity on an entry-level compact. The area visible is about 80 percent of what will be in your image, but it's very nice to have. The 2.7-inch LCD covers 100 percent, and is bright with good color, should you want to use it for framing instead.
The controls and menus are straightforward, too. The buttons are flat, but they're big and easy to press. Plus, a display button allows you to quickly shut off the LCD so you don't waste battery life when using the viewfinder.
On the right side is a Mini-USB port for connecting to a computer as well as an AV output for an optional AV cable and DC in jack for an optional AC power adapter. The battery and SD memory card compartment is in the bottom of the camera behind a locking sliding door. Battery life is average with alkaline batteries; you get about 200 shots. However, you can extend that count greatly by only using the viewfinder or switching to NiMH rechargeable batteries.
Conclusions The Canon PowerShot A1200 is an excellent option for those just looking to take a good snapshot. After slowly watching optical viewfinders disappear from Canon compact cameras (and everyone else's), it's great to see one available on something other than a high-end camera. The convenience of AA batteries is a plus, too. And although some will miss having full control over shutter speed and aperture, they're of limited value in this camera. Instead you get the additions of the Live View Control and Creative Filters modes that let you do some cool things with little or no effort. As long as you don't need speedy shooting, it's a bargain.
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
|Time to first shot||Typical shot-to-shot time (flash)||Typical shot-to-shot time||Shutter lag (dim)||Shutter lag (typical)|
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
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