The Canon PowerShot A1200 is an affordable 12.1 Megapixel point-and-shoot compact with a 4x optical zoom starting at 28mm (equivalent) and a 2.7 inch LCD screen. It sits just above the entry-level PowerShot A800 in the A-series line-up, costing only a little more, but offering a wealth of additional features.
The A1200 is one of the first budget compacts to offer HD quality video. It has two auto modes for point-and-shoot photography and includes the kind of ease-of-use features for which Canon compacts are well-known including Scene detection, Face detection and Smart shutter which fires automatically when a smile is detected and also powers optional wink and face self-timer functions.
It also has some new tricks, first introduced on the top-of-the-range A3300 IS, including Creative Filter effects and Live Control View which provides results-based controls with live on-screen feedback.
Compared to Canon PowerShot A800
Having substituted one model for two at the entry point of the A series, Canon has made it much easier to decide on the right budget compact. The A800 represents great value for money, but for a little extra outlay, the Powershot A1200 offers more right across the board.
The PowerShot A1200 has a slightly broader 4x zoom and, crucially, that extra range is all at the wide angle end where it really makes a difference. If you like to shoot interiors, panoramic landscapes or large groups this is a very important difference between the two models, but you’d be well advised to take a look at the Sony Cyber-shot W510 as well. At 2.5 inches, the A800’s screen is slightly smaller than the A1200’s, not to mention much lower resolution too, and it’s also lacking the A1200’s small but useful optical viewfinder. Lastly, if you plan on shooting a lot of video, the PowerShot A1200’s 720p HD format is a big step up from the A800’s 640 x 480 VGA mode and it’s easier to switch from still to movie modes using thePowerShot A1200’s mode dial.
Finally, the PowerShot A800 is 2 Megapixels shy of the A1200’s 12.1 Megapixel resolution, but this is only going to be an issue if you plan to make big prints and, as we saw in our quality tests, the higher resolution sensor doesn’t deliver better quality images, on the contrary, the PowerShot A800 wins that contest hands down.
If you don’t need 720p video, truly wide-angle coverage or an optical viewfinder, the PowerShot A800 delivers excellent quality images for its low price.
See our Canon PowerShot A800 review for more details.
Compared to Nikon COOLPIX L24
When comparing the COOLPIX L24 against the PowerShot A1200, the most apparent difference is the big 3 inch LCD screen on the Nikon. In everyday use, the COOLPIX L24’s 3 inch screen was bigger brighter and better than the screens of either Canon Compacts. Composing shots as well as playing back is a real pleasure on the COOLPIX L24.
The COOLPIX L24’s zoom lens, like that of the PowerShot A800, lacks a real wide angle focal length, so indoors and for panoramic landscapes the PowerShot A1200’s lens will make life easier and give you the scope to create more arresting compositions.
Neither camera has image stabilisation, though the L24’s Electronic Vibration Reduction system which post-processes images to reduce camera shake works on full resolution images, whereas Canon’s Blur Reduction scene mode is restricted to 2M (1600 x 1200) images.
The COOLPIX L24 is very much a point and shoot model and lacks many of the adjustments and options on the PowerShot A1200. You can’t, for example, set the ISO sensitivity manually and it lacks any means of changing focus or metering modes. The COOLPIX L24 also lacks anything to comapare with the PowerShot A1200’s newer features. Live Control View, Creative Filter effects and Smart shutter provide more scope for creativity and, perhaps just as importantly make the picture taking process a lot more fun.
At 14 Megapixels the COOLPIX L24 produces bigger images than both PowerShots. A good thing if you like to make large prints, but its consequences for the L24’s image quality and noise performance are less favourable. The COOLPIX L24’s image quality in our real life outdoor test was markedly inferior to both PowerShots. Having said that, unless you view images at 100 percent, you’re unlikely to see much difference, if you think it might be an issue, take a look at the gallery sample images and make some comparisons of your own.
Finally, like the PowerShot A800, the Nikon COOLPIX L24’s maximum video resolution is 640 x 480 pixels. So if your choice of budget compact is as much about video as still shooting, the A1200’s HD advantage will be a big deciding factor.
See our upcoming Nikon COOLPIX L24 review for more details.
Canon PowerShot A1200 verdict
With the PowerShot A1200 Canon has all but redefined the budget compact. It shares many features with Canon’s A-series flagship model, the A3300 IS, including the ability to shoot HD quality video at 720p resolution. The 4x optical zoom starts at 28mm (equivalent) which is perfect for interior shots, groups and landscape photography. The lack of image stabilisation is disappointing, but given its other features it’s easy to forget this is a budget model, and you can’t have it all, not at this price anyway.
The presence of a mode dial and new features like Live View Control and Creative filters make this a very different camera to the entry-level PowerShot A800 in handling terms. The PowerShot A1200 could be a very attractive proposition for SLR owners looking for an easy and pocketable compact that provides a degree of control, good quality stills and video and, if you use the optical viewfinder, extraordinary battery life, without breaking the bank. Switch to Easy auto mode and you’ve got a simple point-and-shoot that anyone can use.
At the outset we posed the question ‘is the PowerShot A1200 worth the extra cash, or are you just paying for features you’re unlikely to make much use of?’ That ultimately depends on the kind of photographer you are, but for us, the PowerShot A1200’s wide angle reach, HD video, additional exposure modes and optical viewfinder are more than worth the price difference.
(relative to 2011 compacts)
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