Canon's PowerShot A1100 IS is simple, sturdy and straightforward. But it's not short on technology either -- you also get a 4x zoom, optical image stabilisation, a 12-megapixel sensor, face detection, motion detection and automatic scene recognition. In fact, on the face of it, this camera looks to be pretty good value, at around £150.
The finish is rather good. It's plastic, but it's got a pleasing, semi-matte sheen, and the pale blue of our review sample looks rather smart. This is a camera that's big enough to get a proper grip on, yet still compact enough to slip into a jacket pocket. The controls are clear, simple and well laid out.
Unlike more expensive Canon cameras, this one ditches the rotary controller on the back and makes do perfectly well with standard directional buttons. Those buttons double as shortcuts for the EV compensation, focus, flash and self-timer modes.
With some cameras, you have to try to second-guess when they're going to use their face detection, but that's not the case with the A1100. There's a button on the back for switching it on and off -- it's as simple as that.
On the top is a chunky mode dial, with firm, positive click-stops. It looks slightly tacky, but it works really well. The LCD screen is rather weak, though, measuring just 64mm (2.5 inches) across the diagonal, and sporting a pretty low 115,000-pixel resolution. There's a small optical viewfinder, however. It's not brilliant, but it's worth having in bright light, when the LCD gets rather swamped.
Power comes from a pair of AA batteries. Canon claims you'll get 140 shots on a set of alkalines and up to 350 with NiMH rechargeables. Those aren't particularly great figures, but they're adequate enough, and AAs are easy enough to come by if you need them in a hurry.
This is a refreshingly straightforward camera to use. Everything is clear and logically laid out and you'll pick it all up very quickly.
The A1100's image quality is pretty lacklustre. It has a 12-megapixel sensor, which isn't bad at this price, but the 4x optical zoom doesn't really make the best of it. There's a good deal of barrel distortion at the wideangle end of the zoom, the definition in the corners is fairly weak, and there's some noticeable corner shading (vignetting) in some shots, too.
You can't expect miracles at this price, of course, but it does put the A1100 in a slightly tricky position. Frankly, you can get similar or better results from a whole bunch of cheaper 10-megapixel cameras. Which would you rather have: 12 megapixels and a plastic body or 10 megapixels and a metal one (plus a £20 note to slip in your pocket)?
The Canon PowerShot A1100 IS is down-to earth, functional and easy to use. It's big enough to grip, the controls are clear and it gets its power from easily obtainable disposable batteries. Canon even throws in a 128MB SD card. But it's slightly too expensive when you look at what else you can get for the money.
Edited by Charles Kloet