The Canon PowerShot A1000 IS might not blow your socks off with its design, but if you want a 10-megapixel pocket camera with the convenience of AA batteries, an optical viewfinder, optical image stabilisation and a low price, this camera has them -- and it takes good photos, too. It's available now for around £125.
The step-up model is the £170 A1100 IS, which has 12 megapixels, uses Canon's Digic 4 image processor and has a couple more shooting options such as automatic scene recognition and long shutter, but no direct shutter or aperture controls.
Available in four two-toned colours -- blue, grey, purple and brown -- the A1000 IS feels higher quality than its price lets on. Its body has a smooth curve on the right side for a steadier grip while shooting one handed. Though this makes it a little bulky (the bulge is necessary for the two AA batteries powering it), the camera is still small enough to slip in a trouser pocket.
By today's standards the 69mm (2.5-inch) LCD is small, but it's one of only a handful of Canon compact cameras with an optical viewfinder. While the viewfinder is small, slightly uncomfortable to use and only represents about 80 per cent of what's in the frame, it does come in handy when shooting in bright sunlight and it means you can save battery life by switching off the LCD.
At first glance, it seems as if there's too much going on with the controls for the A1000 IS. On top are a power button, a shutter release with zoom ring and a mode dial with no fewer than 10 shooting options. Why so many for such a basic camera? Well, along with its program, auto, easy (auto without options) and movie modes, Canon puts five popular scene selections (including portrait, landscape and indoor) and a scene choice for accessing lesser-used scene settings such as sunset, snow and aquarium. So while the mode dial looks quite busy, it's actually pretty simple.
Likewise, the back of the camera is loaded with a directional pad and six buttons labelled in silver (for shooting functions) and blue (for playback functions), but even novice users should have things down pat fairly quickly.
Regardless of the controls, there's little reason to spend much time hanging out in the menu system. But for those times when it's necessary -- say to change the autofocus priority, adjust the LCD brightness or switch when the image stabilisation is engaged -- navigation is straightforward.
If you're expecting to find the manual controls of earlier Canon A-series models, you'll be disappointed with the A1000 IS. The A590 IS is the only model in the current lineup that has aperture-priority, shutter-priority and manual options. The A1000 IS' Program mode, however, does give you control over ISO, white balance, autofocus type, light metering and color effects. The rest of the camera is designed for point-and-shoot simplicity.
The A1000's performance is decent for its class and has better shutter lag than we expect from such a low-end camera. From off to first shot takes an acceptable 1.7 seconds. The camera's 2.5-second shot-to-shot time is also comparatively normal for its class. Turning on the flash drives the average wait time up to 6.7 seconds between shots.