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Canon PowerShot A1100 IS Ken McMahon, December 2009

Canon PowerShot A1100 IS verdict

The Canon PowerShot A1100 IS is a 12.1 Megapixel budget compact with a stabilised 4x optical zoom lens, a 2.5in LCD screen and an optical viewfinder.

Powered by two AA batteries, it has a variety of shooting modes including Easy Auto with scene recognition.

It has face detection for autofocusing on people and provides manual control of ISO, white balance, exposure compensation, metering, focussing and some other settings in Program mode.

It can shoot 640 x 480 resolution movies in one of two quality settings as well as smaller 320 x 240 pixel movies. It's a good specification for a budget point-and-shoot, but how does it compare to what's arguably its biggest rival at this end of the market: Nikon's COOLPIX L20?



Compared to Nikon COOLPIX L20


The Canon PowerShot A1100 IS and Nikon COOLPIX L20 are very similar looking cameras and there's not a massive difference in price, but that's about as far as it goes. These are very different cameras in terms of the who they're aimed at, what they offer and what they're like to use.

First, let's look at the features. The Canon PowerShot A1100 IS has a slightly wider zoom range than the Nikon COOLPIX L20, but there's really very little in it. The COOLPIX L20 has a bigger screen, but the PowerShot A1100 IS counters with an optical viewfinder. Both Cameras have a built-in flash and offer similar movie shooting features.

The PowerShot A1100 IS packs an extra two megapixels of image resolution over the Nikon COOLPIX L20 - that's not be ignored if you like to be able to print big photos and have some flexibility when it comes to cropping. And crucially, the PowerShot A1100 IS has excellent optical image stabilisation providing up to three additional stops of hand held exposure, meaning you'll get shots in low light conditions that would be beyond hope with the COOLPIX L20.

But it's not just these features that set these two cameras apart. The Canon PowerShot A1100 IS provides many of the same functions as other Canon compacts. You can manually set the ISO, choose between three different metering modes, change the way the autofocus works, select red-eye reduction and correction options, and choose what information you want to display on the LCD panel.

You can, if you choose, ignore all of this and use the camera in Easy mode, which is what you get with the Nikon COOLPIX L20, a camera that's simpler to use than the PowerShot A1100 IS and lacks some of its best features, but nonetheless produces better quality photos. One last factor that can't be ignored is the Nikon COOLPIX L20 is around 20 percent cheaper than the PowerShot A1100 IS. If you're happy shooting in Auto alone and are on a tight budget, it's a great option. Look out for our upcoming review of the Nikon COOLPIX L20.


Canon PowerShot A1100 IS verdict

The Canon Powershot A1100 IS is a great budget-priced compact which offers simple point-and-shoot operation with a degree of control for those who want a little more involvement with their photography. Although not the most compact of designs by today's standards, it looks good, feels robust and is comfortable to hold.

The 4x optical zoom just about provides wide enough coverage to cope with most of the typical photo situations from group shots to head and shoulders portraits and it can close focus to 3cm - admittedly not as good as some Canon compacts, but you can fill the frame with a shot of, say, a butterfly, at that distance.

The picture quality of the PowerShot is, for a camera in this price bracket, very good, though it's tendency for the evaluative metering on our review model to over-expose bright subjects and under-expose dark subjects was a shame and resulted in poorer quality photos than the camera is undoubtedly capable of producing..

Despite those problems the A1100 is a great all round budget camera with some excellent features that will appeal to casual picture takers as well as more demanding photographers. It's particulary well equipped for low-light photography and the optical viewfinder, a feature that you don't see in too many compacts nowadays, makes it ideal if you need a camera that can go for a long stretch wthout a change of batteries. If you're looking for an affordable point-and-shoot digital camera, it should definitely be on your shortlist.

Good points
Inexpensive, attractive and robust.
Extended battery life using viewfinder.
Excellent image stabilisation.
4x optical zoom with 3cm macro.

Bad points
Sometimes poor exposure metering.
Slow flash recycling time.
Low resolution LCD lacks detail.
Plastic mode dial is too easily moved.


(relative to 2009 compacts)

Build quality:
Image quality:


17 / 20
15 / 20
17 / 20
16 / 20
17 / 20


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