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The good: Excellent photo quality for the money; 6x zoom; simple operation, good feature set.

The bad: Mixed performance.

The bottom line: The Canon PowerShot A2100 IS offers good photo quality, some extra zoom range, and the convenience of AA batteries in an affordable, pocketable package.

Let's be honest: a 3x or 4x optical zoom is not much help. Yes, it gets you a little closer if there's a fence or restraining order in the way, but you'll always want more. That's why stepping up to a 5x or 6x zoom such as the one in the Canon PowerShot A2100 IS is a noticeable difference. Add in the camera's very good photo quality, its 12 megapixel resolution, and Canon's Digic 4 image processor and you're in a much better position to get the shot you really want. At least as long as your target isn't moving too fast.

Caption by / Photo by Sarah Tew/CNET

The A2100 IS is almost identical in design to last year's A2000 IS. However, the A2100's black wedge-shaped body is statelier looking than the A2000's bland gray and silver. The wide part of the wedge is on the right side giving you a comfortably thick grip. Sticking it in a bigger pants pocket or jacket won't be a problem, though its weight won't let you forget it's there. And considering the A2100 IS has a 6x zoom lens and is powered by two AA batteries, the weight is forgivable. Worth noting though is how fast it'll chomp through batteries. You'll want to invest in a pair of NiMH rechargeables that brings the shot count up significantly.

At first glance, it seems as if there's a lot going on with the controls for the A2100 IS. On top are a power button, a shutter release with zoom ring, and a Mode dial with no fewer than 10 shooting options. Why so many for such a basic camera? Well, along with its P (for Program), Auto, Easy (auto without options), and Movie modes, Canon puts five popular scene selections (such as Portrait, Landscape, Indoor) and a SCN choice for accessing lesser used scene settings like Sunset, Snow, and Aquarium. While the Mode dial looks quite busy, it is actually simple. Likewise, the back of the camera is loaded up with a directional pad and six buttons labeled in white (for shooting functions) and blue (for playback functions), but even novice users should have things down pat quickly.

Caption by / Photo by Sarah Tew/CNET
Regardless of the controls, there's little reason to spend much time hanging out in the menu system. However, for those times when its' necessary--say to change the autofocus priority, adjust the LCD brightness, or switch when the image stabilization is engaged--navigation is straightforward.

If you're expecting to find the manual controls of earlier Canon A-series models, you'll be disappointed with the A2100 IS. The A590 IS is the only model in the current lineup that has Aperture-priority, Shutter-priority, and Manual options. The A2100 IS' Program mode does give you control over ISO, white balance, autofocus type, light metering, and color effects, though. Plain and simple the A2100 IS is designed for point-and-shoot use and at that it does extremely well. If only it were a bit faster at doing it.
Caption by / Photo by Sarah Tew/CNET
From off to first shot takes an acceptable 1.9 seconds. The camera's 2-second shot-to-shot time is also comparatively decent for its class. But turn on the flash and you'll be waiting an average of 6.9 seconds between shots. Shutter lag felt long during use and in CNET Labs' tests it was 0.6 second in bright conditions and 0.9 second in dim light. There is no proper burst shooting mode, but the A2100 IS has unlimited continuous shooting capable of a good 1 frame per second.
Caption by / Photo by Sarah Tew/CNET
The A2100 IS has very good photo quality and the larger resolution lets you take better advantage of the results. Color, contrast, and white balance are particularly good. As is the norm for this class of cameras, the A2100 IS produces its best results at light sensitivities below ISO 200. Though there is some graininess/noise at all ISOs, it becomes readily noticeable at ISO 400, but for the most part details remains good. Actually, you can get up to ISO 800 and still have a usable photo at smaller sizes, as long as you're OK with the reduced detail and clarity. Center sharpness is good, but softens as you go out to the sides of the frame. There is some typical barrel distortion and purple fringing, but the amounts are in line with other cameras at this price point.
Caption by / Photo by Sarah Tew/CNET
For a pure point-and-shoot camera, the Canon PowerShot A2100 IS is a good deal providing very good photo quality with the benefits of some extra zoom range and optical image stabilization. You'll just have to overlook its somewhat slow performance.
Caption by / Photo by Sarah Tew/CNET
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