Canon PowerShot A1100 IS
At a Glance
Canon PowerShot A1100 IS Compact Camera
A great value for the price, with better image quality than more expensive cameras and a nice feature set.
Offering a nice feature set, a little bit of style, very good image quality, and a street price of around $200, Canon's PowerShot A1100 IS is a great starter point-and-shoot camera for people who demand better image quality than most similarly priced point-and-shoots can provide.
The A1100 has a well-made plastic body with no creaks or moving seams. The right side bulges a bit to create a hand grip, and the camera's 4X zoom lens retracts until it is more-or-less flush with the camera's body. At 3.7 by 2.5 by 1.2 inches, the camera may feel bulky in some pockets; and because it uses two AA batteries, it's heavier than cameras that work with a proprietary rechargeable battery. But the A1100 is still small enough to slip easily it into a coat pocket or bag. It comes in four colors: blue, green, gray, and pink.
In PC World Test Center testing, the PowerShot A1100 IS fired off 146 shots before the batteries needed replacing--a surprisingly small number for a point-and-shoot camera with a small LCD screen.
On the back of the camera, you'll find a 2.5-inch LCD screen and a set of controls. The top of the camera houses the power button, the mode dial, and the shutter/zoom control. Canon did a good job of standardizing the control layout and the on-screen interfaces across its point-and-shoot line, so the time you spend learning the A1100 should serve you well if you ever try to operate another Canon point-and-shoot.
The A1100 provides an assortment of automatic features. From the mode dial, you can choose between Auto mode, Program mode, Movie mode, and various scene modes. In Auto mode, the camera makes every critical exposure and setting choice for you; in Program mode, it lets you manually toggle flash use and adjust ISO, white balance, and other settings. Though the camera lacks true aperture priority and manual modes, it does permit you to adjust exposure compensation.
The A1100's scene modes are your best option for getting good results in tricky situations with this camera. From its Mode dial, you can select from five scene modes--or choose SCN, which enables you to consider additional scene modes listed in an on-screen menu.
The A1100 comes with three light meters, but it eschews complex features such as focusing modes. The camera's automatic focus works very well. Pressing the Face Detection button on the camera's back causes the camera to focus automatically on faces in your scene; like most such mechanisms, the A1100's works well in good light, but can be frustrating to deal with in lower light.
The camera's 4X zoom lens captures images across a range from fairly wide to surprisingly telephoto, and the lens has good optical stabilization (meaning that it includes special mechanics to counteract hand shakiness). The A1100 also offers an exceptional macro mode. With it, you can get to within 1.2 inches of your subject; and it even works with the camera's video mode, which shoots attractive 640-by-480 video with sound.
The camera's 2.5-inch LCD screen looked slightly washed out, making fine details in brightly lit areas harder to see, especially in bright daylight. The optical viewfinder is most welcome in situations where viewing the LCD screen is difficult, though it does show only about 85 percent of the final image.
When you're reviewing an image, half-pressing the shutter button pops you back into shooting mode immediately, so you never have to worry about missing a shot.
In our lab tests, the A1100 had an excellent overall image quality score for its price category, though it dropped to the middle of the pack in our sharpness ratings. While I used the A1100, I couldn't find any discernible distortion, vignetting, or chromatic aberration. One of the nicest things about the A1100 is its low noise. Shooting at up to ISO 400 is surprisingly clean--and even at ISO 800 and 1600 in low light, results remain very usable.
For $200, the PowerShot A1100 provides strong performance. If you're looking for a good-quality entry-level camera, you should definitely consider this model.