Canon PowerShot A1100 IS review: Canon PowerShot A1100 IS

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The Good Viewfinder; simple operation; inexpensive; excellent photo quality for the money.

The Bad Mixed performance; short battery life.

The Bottom Line Aside from a couple performance quibbles, the Canon PowerShot A1100 IS provides a good point-and-shoot experience with great pictures as a result.

7.0 Overall
  • Design 7
  • Features 7
  • Performance 6
  • Image quality 8

The step-up model from the Canon PowerShot A1000 IS, the A1100 IS gets a higher-resolution sensor at 12 megapixels, uses Canon's Digic 4 image processor, and has a couple more shooting options like Smart Auto--the manufacturer's automatic scene recognition system--and advanced face detection. Both have excellent photo quality for sub-$200 cameras. And with less than a $50 street price difference between the two models it basically comes down to whether you want to pay a little extra for newer technologies.

Key specs Canon PowerShot A1100 IS
Price (MSRP) $199.99
Dimensions (WHD) 3.7 x 2.5 x 1.2 inches
Weight (with battery and media) 7.2 ounces
Megapixels, sensor size, type/viewfinder 12 megapixels, 1/2.3-inch CCD/yes, optical
LCD size, resolution 2.5-inch LCD, 115K dots
Lens (zoom, aperture, focal length) 4x, f2.7-5.6, 35-140mm (35mm equivalent)
File format (still/video) JPEG/Motion JPEG
Highest resolution size (still/video) 4,000x3,000 pixels/640x480 at 30fps
Image stabilization type Mechanical and electronic
Battery type, rated life Alkaline (AA, 2), 140 shots

Available in four two-toned colors--gray, blue, pink, and green--the A1100 IS feels higher quality than its price lets on. Its body has a nice curve on the right side for a steadier grip while shooting one-handed. Though this makes it a little bulky (the bulge is necessary for the two AA batteries powering it), the camera is still small enough to slip in a pants pocket. By today's standards the LCD is small, but it's one of only a handful of Canon compact cameras with an optical viewfinder. While the viewfinder is small and slightly uncomfortable to use, it does come in handy when shooting in bright sunlight and you can save battery life by switching off the LCD. That last part is important because if you use alkaline batteries, your shot time is pretty short. Invest in a couple pairs of NiMH rechargeables and you'll be in much better shape to keep shooting and shooting.

At first glance, it seems as if there's a lot going on with the controls for the A1100 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 (including Portrait, Landscape, Indoor) and a SCN choice for accessing lesser used scene settings like Sunset, Long Shutter, and Aquarium. So while the Mode dial looks quite busy, it is actually simple. Likewise, the back of the camera is loaded with a directional pad and six buttons labeled in one color for shooting functions and another for playback functions, but even novice users should have things down pat fairly quickly.

Regardless of the controls, there's little reason to spend much time hanging out in the menu system. But for those times when it's necessary--say to change the autofocus priority, adjust the LCD brightness, or switch when the image stabilization is engaged--navigation is straightforward.

General shooting options Canon PowerShot A1100 IS
ISO sensitivity (full resolution) Auto, 80, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1,600
White balance Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Tungsten, Fluorescent, Fluorescent H, Custom
Recording modes Auto, Easy, P (program), Portrait, Landscape, Special Scene, Indoor, Kids & Pets, Night Snapshot, Movie
Focus Face Detection AF, Center AF, Multi AF
Metering Evaluative, Center-weighted, Spot
Color effects Vivid, Neutral, Sepia, Black & White, Custom
Burst mode shot limit (full resolution) Unlimited continuous

If you're expecting to find the manual controls of earlier Canon A-series models, you'll be disappointed with the A1100 IS. The A590 IS is the only model in the current lineup that has aperture-priority, shutter-priority, and manual options (and it probably won't be around much longer). However, the A1100 IS' Program mode does give you control over ISO, white balance, autofocus type, light metering, and color effects. The rest of the camera is designed for point-and-shoot simplicity.

The A1100's performance is decent for its class, but felt slow during regular use. From off to first shot takes 2 seconds. The camera's 2.1-second shot-to-shot time is comparatively normal for its class. Turning on the flash drives the average wait time up to 6.6 seconds between shots. This can be frustrating, which can also be said for the shutter lag at a lengthy 0.6 second in bright conditions. Luckily it's only slightly longer in low light at 0.8 second. There is no proper burst shooting mode, but the A1100 IS has unlimited continuous shooting capable of 1 frame per second.

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