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Canon refreshes A-series PowerShot cameras

Four "easy and fun" compact models announced including one with an actual optical viewfinder.

The A1200 marks the return of an optical viewfinder to a Canon A-series camera. Canon

LAS VEGAS--Much of Canon's PowerShot compact camera lineup is due for a refresh, but at CES 2011 it's just the "easy and fun" A-series that's getting updated.

Four models are entering the lineup priced from $179.99 down to $89.99: the A3300 IS, A2200, A2100, and A800. The feature mix is much better than what Canon offered in its 2010 models, giving you solid reasons to pick one model over another. The 16-megapixel A3300 IS, for example, is the only one with optical image stabilization and a 3-inch LCD, while the 12-megapixel A1200 gets an optical viewfinder and AA-battery power.

Canon PowerShot A3300 IS: 

  • 16 megapixels

  • 720p HD movie capture

  • 28-140mm equivalent lens

  • 5x optical zoom

  • Optical image stabilization

  • 3-inch LCD

  • Lithium-ion rechargeable battery

  • $179.99 available in late February

Canon PowerShot A2200:

  • 14 megapixels

  • 720p HD movie capture

  • 28-112mm equivalent lens

  • 4x optical zoom

  • 2.7-inch LCD

  • Lithium-ion rechargeable battery

  • $139.99 available in early March

Canon PowerShot A1200:

  • 12 megapixels

  • 720p HD movie capture

  • 28-112mm equivalent lens

  • 4x optical zoom

  • Optical viewfinder

  • AA-battery powered

  • 2.7-inch LCD

  • $109.99 available in early March

Canon PowerShot A800: 

  • 10 megapixels

  • 2.5-inch LCD

  • 37-112mm equivalent lens

  • 3.3x optical zoom

  • AA-battery powered

  • $89.99 available in mid-February

Aside from the basic specs, you'll find more creative shooting filters in all but the A800, with Toy Camera and Monochrome modes  joining Super Vivid, Fish-eye, Poster Effect, and Miniature Effect. Those three models also get an improved Smart Auto mode that's able to detect up to 32 scenes; Subject Detection for accurately focusing on things that don't necessarily have faces; brightness, vividness and color tone can be easily adjusted with new Live View Control letting you see onscreen just what you're changing; and a Discreet mode for quickly shutting off the auto-focus assist beam, sound, and flash.

Editors' take: If you were expecting Canon to announce exciting new point-and-shoot technologies for CES, this announcement is probably a letdown. However, Canon continues to make entry-level compacts that offer good features, but more importantly best-in-class photo quality. I'm happy to see an optical viewfinder back on an entry-level camera. It would be great if we could get one with manual controls like A-series models of a few years ago, too, but the A1200 is certainly a welcome addition to the lineup--especially at $110. The increased diversity in the A series compared with the 2010 line is helpful, too.