Camera Reviews
by Brad Soo on April 10 2009

I’ve just published my review of the Canon PowerShot A1100 IS, a 12 megapixel camera with a 4X zoom lens, 2.5 inch LCD and optical viewfinder. There’s the Canon PowerShot A1100 IS photo gallery as well which contains photos from the camera.

DPInterface Canon PowerShot A1100 IS Review

Brad Soo – April 10th, 2009

The PowerShot A1100 updates last year’s A1000 model, a compact camera with a 4X zoom lens, 2.5 inch LCD and optical viewfinder, with a few new things. You must be wondering “but the A1000 was announced in August and now it’s being replaced after less than a year?!” …well, that was what I was thinking too when Canon announced the A1100 in February.

So, what’s new on 2009’s PowerShot A1100 IS? Not much actually – a new 12 megapixel sensor, DIGIC 4 imaging processor, iContrast and new Smart Auto mode. Is the A1100 a worthy successor to the old camera? Find out now.

Size and Weight

(188.8) 95.4 x 62.4 x 31.0 mm (155 g) – Canon PowerShot A1100 IS
(197.3) 101.9 x 63.5 x 31.9 mm (185 g) – Canon PowerShot A2100 IS
(163.7) 94.2 x 54.6 x 14.9 mm (112 g) – Casio Exilim S12
(172.5) 92.0 x 57.9 x 22.6 mm (151 g) – Fujifilm FinePix J250
(179.4) 99.9 x 59.5 x 20.0 mm (125 g) – Kodak EasyShare M380
(171.0) 93.0 x 54.5 x 23.5 mm (130 g) – Nikon Coolpix S560
(173.3) 96.1 x 56.6 x 20.6 mm (130 g) – Olympus FE5010
(173.1) 97.0 x 54.4 x 21.7 mm (117 g) – Panasonic Lumix FS7
(175.3) 94.0 x 58.4 x 22.9 mm (138 g) – Samsung SL620
(172.6) 93.1 x 55.7 x 23.8 mm (157 g) – Sony Cyber-shot S980
All the weight figures above show when the camera is empty without a battery or memory card

The Canon PowerShot A1100 is a tad smaller and lighter than its 6X zoom sibling, the A2000. Compared to other cameras, the A1100 isn’t quite as slim but still slips into your pocket with ease.

Box contents

The Canon PowerShot A1100 IS comes with a decent bundle:

  • 2 AA alkaline batteries
  • 128 MB SD memory card
  • Wrist strap
  • USB and A/V cables
  • Camera software CD (Digital Camera Solution Disk)
  • User’s manual and quick start guide

The PowerShot A1100 IS takes SD, SDHC (SD cards which are 4 GB and above) and MMC (typically slower than SDs) memory cards; and it comes with a 128 MB Secure Digital memory card, a step up from the measly 32 MB card Canon gave out with the A1000. Don’t go jumping around with joy though; it holds just 40 pictures at the highest settings. That means you should still consider getting a 2 GB memory card (or more) with the camera. A high-speed card helps in cutting processing times and speeding up shot-to-shot by a bit.

The Canon PowerShot A1100 uses 2 AA batteries and comes with two non-rechargeable alkaline ones. Rated up to 140 shots, the bundled batteries won’t last long and you’ll find them landing in the trash more quickly than you could imagine. So do yourself and the environment a favor – pick up a set of two, preferably four AA NiMH rechargeable batteries with a decent charger (those with two charging modes: trickle and fast charge, would be good).

450 shots – Canon PowerShot A1000 IS
350 shots – Canon PowerShot A1100 IS
400 shots – Canon PowerShot A2000 IS
150 shots – Fujifilm FinePix J250
160 shots – Nikon Coolpix S560
360 shots – Panasonic Lumix FS7
240 shots – Samsung SL620
310 shots – Sony Cyber-shot S980
All the cameras above are rated with rechargeable batteries with LCD on according to CIPA Standard

With a set of rechargeable AA NiMH batteries, the Canon PowerShot A1100 IS lasts 2.5 times as long, though not as long as I would’ve liked. Compared to the old model, the PowerShot A1100’s battery life sees a 22% drop. It could be due to the new 12 megapixel sensor and/or the DIGIC 4 processor. Compared to the whole group above, the A1100 is about average.

Of course, switching off the LCD and using the camera’s viewfinder will dramatically increase the number of shots you can take per battery charge.

Accessories

The Canon PowerShot A1100 IS also does away with the numerous (conversion lens) accessories that the A-series used to have. The only optional accessories now are an AC adapter, slave flash and various camera cases for the camera.


Camera Tour

The Canon PowerShot A1100 looks identical to the A1000 before it; sharing the exactly same design with good build quality (despite being made entirely of plastic) and ergonomics. The camera also features an optical viewfinder, so you can hold the it up to your eye and steady the camera better when taking photos.

One thing that HAS changed since the previous camera is color selection. The Canon PowerShot A1100 IS comes in your choice of four new colors: gray, blue, pink or green. The model you see here is the pink one.

Aside from the new processor, imaging sensor, iContrast and body colors I mentioned, nothing else on the A1100 has changed from the previous model. The Canon PowerShot A1100 IS sports the same 4X optical zoom lens we’ve seen before, equivalent to 35 – 140 mm in 35 mm terms. The zoom lens has an aperture range of f2.7 – f5.6 and features optical image stabilization to reduce the effects of camera shake on photos.

The A1100’s flash is located to the top right of the camera lens. The flash here is more powerful at wide-angle than the one found on the A2100; at wide-angle and Auto ISO, it covers 30 cm to 4.0 m and the maximum range drops to 2.0 m at telephoto.

Directly above the lens is the A1100’s optical viewfinder window and beside that, you’ll find the autofocus assist lamp/self-timer and the camera’s microphone, used to record voice clips and sound in movie mode.

The Canon PowerShot A1100 IS features a 2.5 inch LCD whose resolution remains unchanged from last year. The screen has just 115,000 pixels but the low-resolution isn’t really noticeable unless you’re viewing it in low-light or if you’ve used higher-res screens before. The LCD has good visibility in low-light and is ‘okay’ in bright light.

For easier image composition outdoors or to conserve power, consider using the optical viewfinder situated directly above the LCD. Sure, the viewfinder is on the small side and there’s no dioptric correction but for some people, it’s better than no optical viewfinder at all. Next to the optical viewfinder are the camera’s two status indicator lights.

To the upper right of the A1100 IS are its speaker and directly playback button (you can turn on the camera using this button too). Next up are the Face Detection and print buttons (the latter can also be assigned to a function in shooting mode).

As we approach the mid section of the column of buttons, there’s the five-way controller used to navigate menus, browse pictures and of course, access these functions directly:

  • Up – Exposure compensation (+/-2 EV in 1/3 step increments)/Playback jump
  • Down – Self-timer (Off, 10 seconds, 2 seconds, custom)/Delete photo
  • Left – Focus mode (Normal, macro, landscape)
  • Right – Flash setting (Auto, on, off; red-eye reduction and slow sync are turned on/off in the menu)
  • Center – Function menu/Set

The function menu

Pressing the center button when you’re taking pictures will bring up the function menu which contains a list of several settings you can adjust (most of them are available in program mode):

  • ISO sensitivity (Auto, 80, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600)
  • White balance (Auto, daylight, cloudy, tungsten, fluorescent, fluorescent H, custom)
  • My Colors (Normal, vivid, neutral, sepia, black & white, custom)
  • Metering method (Evaluative, center-weighted, spot)
  • Drive mode (Single-shot, continuous shooting)
  • Image size and compression

The custom option in the My Colors section allows you to adjust contrast, saturation and sharpness up to +/- 2 in 1/3 increments. Unlike more expensive Canon models, there are no individual color (RGB) and skin tone settings here.

Lastly, we have the DISPlay and MENU buttons. The DISPLAY button toggles on-screen information and switches you between the LCD and viewfinder, while the MENU button brings up the camera menu.

At the top of the Canon PowerShot A1100 IS, you’ll see the camera’s power button, mode dial and shutter button with a zoom controller surrounding it. You’ll also notice from here that the camera is more contoured and thus, has a more substantial grip than the A2000.

Let’s take a closer look at the modes available on the PowerShot A1100 IS, going anti-clockwise around the mode dial:

  • Program mode
  • Smart Auto
  • Easy mode
  • Portrait mode
  • Landscape mode
  • Night snapshot
  • Kids and pets
  • Indoor
  • Other scene modes (Night scene, foliage, snow, beach, sunset, fireworks, aquarium, ISO 3200, long shutter)
  • Movie mode

The Canon PowerShot A1100’s mode dial features your average set of shooting modes plus five directly accessible scene modes. The rest of the scene modes can be found under the “SCN” spot on the mode dial. The PowerShot A1100 IS features an “Easy Mode” which is as easy as things can get – the only setting you can change in Easy Mode is flash setting (flash on or flash off).

Unfortunately, and like the A2000 as well, the A1100 IS has lacks manual controls. The most you’ll get here for exposure control is Long Shutter which has been relocated from the Function menu to the Scene modes section here. Long Shutter allows you to select a slow shutter speed between 1 to 15 seconds.

New to the Canon PowerShot A1100 IS is Smart Auto mode, which detects the scene and the camera automatically selects a scene mode for you.

Nothing here. On the other side of the camera is a mini-B jack, used for both A/V out and USB 2.0 High-speed connectivity, and DC-IN port for plugging in the camera’s AC adapter accessory.

At the bottom of the Canon PowerShot A1100 IS is the camera’s battery/memory card compartment covered by a fairly sturdy door. There’s also a plastic tripod mount here, whose placement will prevent you from swapping memory cards/batteries while the camera is on a tripod.

Taking pictures (Shooting mode)

The Canon PowerShot A1100 IS shares a lot of on-screen information with you – that includes details about exposure (shutter speed and aperture), camera settings and optional composition guide overlays on the screen when you’re taking pictures. You can choose to display a 3:2 guide, 3 X 3 framing gridlines or both overlaid on the screen. There’s no battery indicator or live histogram though.

The Canon PowerShot A1100 IS has a few image resolutions for you to select from, including full 12 MP, 8 MP, 5 MP, 2 MP, VGA and widescreen. The two compression options available on the camera are Fine and Normal; a 2 GB memory card will hold 625 photos at 12 MP, Fine quality.

Most of the camera’s main settings can be adjusted via the Function menu I described in the previous section, but now let’s head on to the other settings in the camera’s main menu. There’s a slight change in menu font face here so you can see text more clearly (but to me, the difference isn’t a lot):

  • Autofocus mode (Face detection, 9 point AF, center AF)
  • AF point size (Normal, small) – Choose how size of the camera’s focusing point area
  • Digital zoom – you should keep this turned off, it lowers picture quality
  • AF point zoom – magnify the focus point
  • Autofocus assist beam
  • Flash settings – toggle red-eye reduction (lamp and software based) and slow sync
  • Custom self-timer settings – Set the countdown interval and number of shots that the camera should take
  • Review – This option decides whether the camera will show the image on the LCD screen right after the picture is taken
  • Review info
  • Display overlay – Toggle grid lines, 3:2 guide, both or none
  • IS Mode – Off, Continuous, Shoot-only, Panning
  • Date stamp – off, date only, date and time
  • Set print button – customize what this button does in shooting mode; you can assign it as a shortcut to a shooting function

The camera has three optical image stabilization modes which are continuous (the system is always on to make composition easier, which uses up more battery power) or shoot-only, where image stabilization only works when you take a picture, which is more effective. Panning mode is self-explanatory.

You can also assign one of seven “shortcut” functions to the print button I mentioned earlier. Those functions include exposure compensation, white balance, custom white balance, red eye correction, digital teleconverter, toggle grid lines and display off.

The Canon PowerShot A1100 IS features the same great macro mode as its predecessor. At wide-angle, the minimum focusing distance is 3 cm and at telephoto, it’s 30 cm.

Video Recording

There are no changes in the Canon PowerShot A1100’s movie department. The Canon A1100 can record VGA (640 X 480) movies with sound at 30 FPS up to 4 GB or 60 minutes (whichever comes first) per clip. To extend recording times, there’s a Long Play option (which increases compression) and QVGA (320 X 240) 30 FPS setting. A 2 GB memory card will hold around 16 minutes worth of movie at the highest settings.

All movies are recorded in AVI MJPEG format and exposure is automatically adjusted throughout the video recording session. You can also use optical image stabilization and the camera’s 4X digital zoom while recording movies, but you can’t do the same with optical zoom.

Both audio and video quality was about average. The PowerShot A1100 IS can record decent movie clips but obviously cannot rival bridge cameras or dedicated camcorders.

Performance

All performance testing of the Canon PowerShot A1100 IS was performed using a high-speed 4 GB SanDisk Ultra II SDHC (90X) card.

The Canon PowerShot A1100 IS takes 1.2 seconds to start up and typically 0.2 to 0.5 seconds to autofocus. In low-light, focusing times are longer – sometimes over a second but at least it manages to focus every time.

  • Shot-to-shot speed – 1 shot every 1.9 seconds, above average
  • Flash recharge time using a fully charged battery – 5 seconds on average

The PowerShot A1100 IS also has a decent continuous shooting mode – it’s on par with other 12 megapixel compact cameras but worse than the A1000’s 1.3 FPS. The A1100 is able to take pictures continuously at just 1 frame per second until the memory card fills up (you’d better prepare a fast memory card for that).

The A1100 moves it 4X zoom lens from wide-angle to telephoto very quickly in just one second – but there are only eight, not very precise steps in between though. Power down time is two seconds, with the lens at the telephoto position.

Perhaps it isn’t surprising that things like power on, shut down and flash recharge times of the A1000 versus the A1100 are identical; after all, they’re both virtually the same camera. What HAS changed, however, are other aspects of performance. The A1100 is slower because of the larger 12 megapixel files it has to handle; most noticeably, the drop in the camera’s continuous shooting speed.

Image Quality

I’ve talked about all of the camera’s shooting features… so now let’s have a look at the Canon PowerShot A1100’s ability at taking pictures!


ISO 80 (f2.7, 1/4 sec)


ISO 100 (f2.7, 1/6 sec)


ISO 200 (f2.7, 1/13 sec)


ISO 400 (f2.7, 1/25 sec)


ISO 800 (f2.7, 1/50 sec)


ISO 1600 (f2.7, 1/100 sec)

The Canon PowerShot A1100 IS produces clean images at ISO 80 and 100. ISO 200 is a bit grainier than the first two settings while there’s a bigger step up in noise at ISO 400 (along with a slight drop in saturation).

At this point, if you pull out photo crops in the Canon PowerShot A1000 review for comparison, you’ll notice there’s less chroma noise here thanks to the DIGIC 4 processor’s stronger noise reduction. Sure, photos here are a little softer but that (and potential detail loss) are not big issues here, thankfully.

It’s only at ISO 800 where the REAL loss of details occurs and you might want to save this setting only for emergencies in good lighting only! Image quality at ISO 1600 becomes unacceptable and there’s nothing you can do about it.

The A1100 doesn’t have much lens distortion though like the A1000, I can still spot some low levels of soft edges and chromatic aberration (color fringing). Redeye is not a problem here as the camera’s built-in redeye removal software is very effective (available in both shooting and playback modes)

Despite the increase in megapixels, the Canon PowerShot A1100 IS still managed to produce good image quality usable up to ISO 400 in low-light and up to ISO 800 in good lighting. The DIGIC 4 processor effectively filters out a lot of color noise, leaving images a tad soft (versus the A1000) but the difference is not noticeable in most cases.

Photo gallery

Check out full blown photos from the camera in the Canon PowerShot A1100 IS photo gallery!


Playback

Compared to the old A1000, the Canon PowerShot A1100’s playback mode adds the iContrast feature but does away with the old camera’s My Category and sound memo features. You can browse through pictures (complete with two transition effects of your choice) and play back video with sound. Basic playback functions such as print marking, image protection, resize and rotation are all here. You can magnify still photos by 10X and pan around using the 4 navigational buttons.

Pictures can be played back as individual photos or in sets of nine thumbnails. You can also use the JUMP feature to skip several photos at a time or to ‘jump’ right to a specific shooting date… not as convenient as the calendar view but it works. There’s also a slideshow function so the camera flips through your photos automatically at a set interval.

Pressing the face detection button in playback mode automatically magnifies faces, if any, in photos so you can check focus easily. Pressing the DISPLAY button will cycle through several display layouts of information; one of them is an image inspection tool which magnifies the focus point(s) of your photos so you can check focus.

The red-eye removal tool in playback mode allows you to pin point redeye in photos and remove them. The new iContrast feature brightens dark areas of your photos at the cost of some additional noise.

You can choose to delete single photos and all photos on the A1100 IS but you can’t select multiple photos yourself and delete them. An “Easy” playback mode (you need the mode dial to be in Easy Mode as well for this to work) simplifies playback just as much as in shooting mode.

The Canon PowerShot A1100 IS shows you shooting details, mode, exposure information (with shutter speed and aperture value) and everything you need to know about your photos in playback – that includes a histogram as well. An overexposure warning feature makes overexposed areas of your photos “blink” to alert you of them.

Conclusion

The Canon PowerShot A1100 IS can be simply put as a 12 megapixel update to the old A1000 with a new processor and a few small changes. It has the same 4X optical zoom lens, 2.5 inch LCD and for most part, functions and features. The A1100 IS comes in your choice of 4 colors, is easy to hold and has an optical viewfinder.

Everything else also remains the same – point-and-shoot operation, quick performance (though there’s a slight drop in shot-to-shot and continuous shooting thanks to larger file sizes) and good image quality. The camera’s new DIGIC 4 uses more noise reduction so the Canon A1100’s image quality is a touch softer but noticeably cleaner than the output from last year’s A1000. In my opinion, that’s a decent trade off since for most part, details are well preserved up to ISO 800. My only gripe with the DIGIC 4 processor is battery life takes a toll here on the PowerShot A1100 – a 22% drop from the previous model, to be precise.

The Canon PowerShot A1100 IS comes with a new Smart Auto shooting mode and iContrast tool in playback but also secretly does away with the old camera’s photo category and sound memo features. So you’re practically sacrificing 2 old features for 2 new ones. The new features may appeal to beginners, but aren’t things that normal users can’t live without.

The Canon PowerShot A1100 IS is a camera that I can recommend but not with a whole lot of enthusiasm. The camera takes good quality photos, has good performance and point-and-shoot feature set, but I don’t think the extra 2 megapixels justify the battery life and slight performance drop versus the old model. After all, 10 megapixels is already enough to make fairly large prints (and I don’t think users of the A-series cameras would be making billboards with their photos). The 12 megapixels here doesn’t bring a significant in detail or total resolution anyway.

What’s hot:

  • Compact design with a fairly decent right hand grip and viewfinder
  • 128 MB “starter” memory card may be handy for photo newbies
  • Good image quality with low noise till ISO 800 (with one issue below though)
  • Smart Auto mode simplifies operation – picks a scene mode for you
  • Fast picture-taking performance
  • Effective red-eye removal and low color fringing

What’s not:

  • No manual controls or conversion lens compatibility
  • 22% drop in battery life from A1000; performance also a tad slower than A1000
  • Very slight color fringing and edge softness (but I’m nitpicking here)
  • Reflective LCD needs “correct angle” outdoors, low in resolution
  • Lacks a battery indicator; lens doesn’t retract if the camera is low on power

Recommended Accessories:

  • 2 GB high-speed SD memory card
  • Set of 4 AA NiMH rechargeable batteries and charger


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13 Comments

  1. Deen May 15, 2009 Reply

    Bought this camera about a month ago, Some images surprisingly exceed my expectations. For the price, not a bad ‘fun’ camera to have.

  2. orrett October 4, 2009 Reply

    I am trying to set the date and time on my power shot A1100IS but i cannot do so, please walk me through via email.

    • Brad October 5, 2009 Reply

      Hit the “MENU” button, then right (to the tools icon, which is the setup menu), scroll down to the part where it says date/time, hit SET/Center on the navigation pad, adjust the date and time, hit SET/Center again to confirm. Done! =)

  3. r4 dsi October 7, 2009 Reply

    Aside from a couple performance quibbles, the Canon Power Shot A1100 IS provides a good point-and-shoot experience with great pictures as a result.Mixed performance; short battery life.

  4. saeed November 27, 2009 Reply

    Hi . I bought a canon camera ( Powe Shot A1100 is ) . But unfortunately it shot down spontaneous and then i couldnot start it . Please guide me soon .

  5. adam325 December 30, 2009 Reply

    Hi. I’m going to buy this camera – does it warn when the battery is low or does it stay calm till the end? 😀

    • adam325 January 8, 2010 Reply

      I’ve already bought it and in my camera the lens retracts automatically when the battery is low.

      • Brad January 8, 2010

        That’s good. They must have updated the firmware then, it seems.

  6. MIloR January 6, 2010 Reply

    I am having so much trouble using my camera…I cannot access the pictures on the memory card…The booklet that came with the camera is almost useless. I don’t usually have trouble following instructions but I feel like I need lessons on the use of the camera. I really don’t know what to do. Any help will be greatly appreciated. TY

    • Brad January 8, 2010 Reply

      I would recommend trying to use a dedicated memory card reader. Are you sure the pictures you were trying to view were not taken on another camera? If you are trying to view/transfer photos directly from your camera via USB, then you would need to install the included Canon software on the bundled disc first.

  7. Alex June 1, 2010 Reply

    Bad focus and not sharp in details in zoom mode while taking lanscape/scene pictures. Portrait, macro, and landscape without zoom is OK.

  8. Randy July 24, 2010 Reply

    I’ve had this camera (Powershot A110 IS)about 1 month now and I’ve shot about 1000 images with no problems. I picked it up at Staples on sale for under $100. Other than the poorly designed battery door, the camera seems to function just fine.

    One thing I can’t seem to locate is the IS Mode option on my menu screen.
    It should be located between the Disp. Overlay and the Date Stamp….but it’s not there.
    Maybe it’s a defect.
    Any ideas?

  9. Linda November 19, 2010 Reply

    I have a canon sure shot SD1200 can anyone tell me how to delete the photos off the card/camera

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