Canon PowerShot A3000 IS / A3100 IS

Canon PowerShot A3000 IS / A3100 IS verdict

 

The Canon PowerShot A3100 IS is a 12.1 Megapixel compact with a stabilised 4x optical zoom lens, and a 2.7 in LCD screen. It’s the first Canon A series compact to use a Lithium-ion battery, as all prevous models took a pair of AA batteries. Released concurrently, the PowerShot A3000 IS, which in the UK is exclusively sold by Argos stores, is the same camera with a 10 Megapixel sensor and a silver-only finish.

Although the A3000 IS / A3100 IS is essentially a point and shoot model, with Auto and Easy Auto modes taking care of exposure using Canon’s scene recognition technology, in Program mode it does offer a degree of control for those who want it. You can manually set the ISO, choose different metering modes, set the white balance manually and choose a range of other settings.

The PowerShot A3000 IS / A3100 IS’s 4x optically stabilised lens ranges from 35mm to 140mm (equivalent), providing good all-round coverage with a middling wide-angle and a short telephoto sutable for portraiture and getting just a little closer to the action. It shoots standard definition video at a maximum resolution of 640 x 480 pixels at 30 frames per second. Like most new 2010 compacts, the A3000 IS / A3100 IS also supports the latest SDXC format for cards bigger than 32GB, although the older SDHC and SD formats are still supported.

Compared to Canon PowerShot A490 / A495

 
 
     

The Canon PowerShot A490 / A495 is a real stand out budget choice, beating the more expensive PowerShot A3100 IS hands-down in our image quality tests. It lacks the A3100’s higher resolution, but unless you like to make big prints, this is unlikely to be an issue for you. The A490 / A495 out-performed the A3100 IS in both our real-life resolution and high ISO noise tests.

So, a better camera for less money, right? In terms of picture quality, absolutely, and so long as you fit a pair of decent NiMH rechargeables, the battery life is much longer too. In terms of other things though, like zoom range, maximum aperture, screen size, physical size and good looks, the A490 / A495 is one step behind the more expensive Canon.

Where the A490 / A495 really loses out to the A3000 IS / A3100 IS though is in low light usability. Although its high ISO performance is very good, it amazingly lacks any form of image stabilisation to counteract camera-shake. This means the A3000 IS / A3100 IS could still be taking sharp hand-held photos long beyond the stage where cameras like the A490 / A495 will recording fuzzy blurs.

The other big drawback with the A490 / A495 is the flash recycling time, which is slow thanks to its AA battery power. If you take a lot of indoor pictures and don’t like having to wait around this may not be the best choice. But once again the image quality and the low price still make it a compelling option. Look out for our upcoming review of the PowerShot A490 / A495.

Compared to Nikon COOLPIX L22

 
 
     

On paper, the Nikon COOLPIX L22 is a closer match for the Canon PowerShot A3000 IS / A3100 IS than the PowerShot A495 / A490. It matches the A3100 IS’s 12 Megapixel resolution, comes closer on the zoom range – losing out only a little at either end, has a bigger 3in LCD screen, and is similarly proportioned. Not bad, considering it costs around 50% less than the PowerShot A3100 IS.

Now lets look at where the COOLPIX L22 falls short. First and foremost, no real image stabilisation. Nikon’s Electronic VR, which post-processes shots to remove blur caused by camera shake is no match for the physical system used in the PowerShot A3000 IS / A3100 IS. Add to that the maximum f3.1 aperture of the COOLPIX, and like the PowerShot A490 / A495, the COOLPIX can’t match the A3000 IS / A3100 IS’s low-light performance.

The COOLPIX L22 also lacks a lot of the control options provided by the Canon compacts. For many people this will actually be its major attraction, but if you like to take control occasionally, you may find its totally automated approach frustrating. And lastly there’s the quality, In our real-life resolution tests the COOLPIX L22 failed to match up to either of the Canon compacts. If that all sounds a little negative, don’t forget that this is a camera that’s targeted at point-and-shoot users looking for value for money rather than sophisticated features. Given the low price and the competition it’s up against though it’s done very well. The COOLPIX L22, like its predecessor, is set to be another big-seller. For more details see our Nikon COOLPIX L22 review.

 

Canon PowerShot A3000 IS / A3100 IS verdict

The Canon PowerShot A3000 IS / A3100 IS is Canon’s first A Series compact to use a Lithium-Ion battery instead of a pair of AA batteries. This replacement for the popular A1100 IS also sports a new body shape, bringing it more in line with the sophisticated styling of the IXUS range and a bigger 2.7in LCD panel, albeit at the loss of its predecessor’s optical viewfinder.

Canon has stuck with the 4x 35mm-140mm (equivalent) image-stabilized zoom lens and it’s a wise move, providing good all round performance from respectable wide angle to short telephoto. The f2.7 maximum aperture combined with very capable optical image stabilization makes the PowerShot A3000 IS / A3100 IS a consumate low-light performer.

The change of power source means the A3000 IS / A3100 IS flash is very quick to recharge between shots – you can even use it for continuous shooting – but sadly the actual battery life itself doesn’t compare well to its predecessor and the other two cameras we tested it alongside, all of which can go for much longer on a pair of rechargable NiMH AAs.

The one blot on the landscape for the Powershot A3000 IS / A3100 IS is its image quality. In our tests, some areas of the frame suffered from soft details and it was often outclassed by the cheaper PowerShot A490 / A495. But in every other respect the PowerShot A3000 IS / A3100 IS performed respectably and makes a good choice at this price point.



Good points
Well built, compact and classy.
Excellent optical image stabilization.
Fast flash recycling.
Good practical zoom range.

Bad points
Inconsistent image quality.
Fiddly mode dial.
Coarse zoom control.
Poor battery life.


Scores

(relative to 2010 compacts)

Build quality:
Image quality:
Handling:
Specification:
Value:

Overall:


17 / 20
14 / 20
17 / 20
17 / 20
17 / 20

82%

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