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Steve's SnapShotcanon_a3100is_450.jpg

  • 12.1-Megapixel Imaging Sensor
  • 2.7-Inch LCD Screen
  • 4x Optical zoom lens: 35-140mm (35mm equivalent)
  • Smart Auto mode
  • Face Detection
  • Li-Ion Battery power source
  • SD/SDHC/SDXC memory card compatible
  • Video Capture

Pros
  • Excellent image quality
  • Video mode captures nice VGA sized movies
  • Smart Auto shooting mode is accurate and makes the camera incredibly easy to use
  • Li-ion power source
  • More compact body than previous "A" series models
Cons
  • 640x480 max video resolution (No HD)
  • High ISO (1600) noise
Timing Test Results
  • Power up to first image captured = 2.1 seconds
  • Shutter lag when prefocused  = 1/10 of a second
  • Shutter lag with autofocus = approx. 5/10 to 7/10 of a second
  • Shot to shot delay wo/flash = 2.0 seconds
  • Shot to shot delay w/flash = 3.33 seconds
  • Sequential burst =  0.93fps
  • Sequential burst w/flash = 0.42fps
Bottom Line
Canon's PowerShot A3100 IS is an easy-to-use entry-level digicam that anyone can operate. Packed full of features like a 12.1-Megapixel imaging sensor and a 4x optical zoom with optical image stabilization (IS), you will be very happy with the feature set and image quality from this camera.
Pick This Up If...
You are looking for your first digicam, have no previous experience with photography, or if you are looking for a camera that anyone in the family/office can use.
Canon's new PowerShot A3100 IS is one of their most compact "A" series models, thanks in large part to the addition of a Lithium-Ion battery replacing the AA-sized batteries that are normally used to power these cameras. This camera also features a 12.1-Megapixel imaging sensor, 4x optical zoom lens with optical image stabilization, 2.7-inch LCD screen, Smart Auto shooting mode and several new and scene modes for more creative photographs. As with all "A" series models, this is one of the easiest cameras on the market to operate, making it a perfect starter camera. 

The size and shape of the A3100 IS gives it a similar look and feel to the popular Digital ELPH series, but with the ease of use that people look for in an "A" series model. This compact size makes it the most versatile in the series and the easiest to carry in a pocket or purse. With the placement of the shutter release, zoom controls and mode dial, the camera is easier to use with two hands but is also manageable with one. The buttons on the back are large, easily distinguishable and well spaced. Framing and viewing your images is done easily on the 2.7-inch LCD, which is easy to see in most lighting conditions. Reflections can cause a little trouble as there does not appear to be an anti-reflective coating.

Performance from the A3100 IS is descent for an entry-level model. The camera is able to capture its first image in just 2.1 seconds after you press the power button. Its shutter lag is approx. 1/10 of a second when the camera is pre-focused and varies between 5/10 and 7/10 of a second when allowing the camera to autofocus. In single shot mode, the camera is capable of capturing images at a rate of approx. 1 image every two seconds when shooting without the flash. With the flash, the camera captures an image approx. once every 3.33 seconds. If this is not fast enough for you, the camera can be put into burst or continuous shooting mode in which the camera can capture 10 images in 10.7 seconds (0.93fps), or 10 images in 23.8 seconds (0.42fps) when using the flash. All of our tests were completed using Program mode, ISO Auto, Flash Off and all other settings at the factory defaults unless stated otherwise. All times may vary depending on lighting, camera settings, media, etc.

The quality of our outdoor images is excellent for an entry-level camera. Our samples are crisp and show great exposures with vivid, realistic colors. Our Golden Dragon shot is the only place that we saw any major problems. If you look along the roof, you will see a very noticeable aberration. Canon's 4x optical zoom, with a 35mm equivalent of 35-140mm, uses optical image stabilization to help steady the camera in low-light situations, allowing you to shoot 2-3 stops lower than without. The wide end of the zoom is not incredibly broad, so you will not be able to capture extremely vast landscapes, and you might find it a bit tight indoors. It will however still afford nice group portraits, as long as you have plenty of room to move around. There is also very little barrel distortion. On the telephoto end, 140mm is not a huge zoom, but it will get you a little closer to distant objects and it is a great tool for framing or picking out an individual from a group. 

Our indoor samples show the same great image quality we saw outdoors. The M&M man shot shows us the very low amount of noise and high amounts of detail that the camera produces at low ISO settings (80-200). When viewing the image at 100% at ISO 400, you will notice that the image shows a noticeable amount of noise and some of the finer details have disappeared. Fortunately this is not as much as a problem as it sounds. The ISO 400 and 800 images will still look great in prints of 8x10 and under. To assist with your indoor and low-light images, the A3100 IS's built-in flash has a range of up to 13.1 ft. The flash is controlled very well, even when shooting in macro mode. One thing to watch out for in macro mode is the lens. If the object is too close to the camera, the lens will block part of the flash.

Shooting in Portrait mode with the Face Detection AF turned on makes capturing portrait shots of friends and family a breeze. The camera quickly detects the faces within the frame and Canon's Face Detection AF/AE/FE/WB system makes sure that the image is exposed exclusively for your subjects face. Our Portrait sample shows that the camera does an excellent job of adjusting the image specifically for the face or faces that were detected in the frame. We see natural looking skin colors and pleasing details in the face. In some of our shots, including the posted sample, while shooting with the red-eye reduction flash off, we did see some red-eye.

Recording movies on the A3100 IS is as easy as turning the mode dial to "Movie" and pressing the shutter release. The camera records video at VGA (640x480) and QVGA (320x240) resolutions with mono sound. While you are recording you are not able to use the 4x optical zoom, but it can be set before hand. The videos recorded by the camera are clear and play back smoothly. When shooting in less than perfect lighting, you will see some noise: the darker the light, the more noise you will see. Recording the audio is a small built-in mic that is very sensitive and will pick up any sounds that occur near the camera. Background noises such as a furnace or the wind will be very noticeable when viewing your movies, so be careful where you position yourself while recording.

Powering the A3100 IS is a 3.6V, 740mAh rechargeable Li-Ion battery. This is a big change over most of the"A" series cameras that have typically run off of AA-type batteries. While completing our tests, we were able to capture 120 images with plenty of battery power left to keep shooting. This confirms Canon's claims of the battery being able to capture up to 240 images on a single charge (CIPA).  Thanks to the external charger that Canon supplies, it is easy to keep a spare battery charged and on hand at all times. It is also an excellent idea. 

Bottom Line - Canon's A3100 IS is an affordable, compact entry-level model that provides you with excellent image quality and decent performance. Featuring a 12.1-Megapixel imaging sensor, 4x optical zoom with optical image stabilization, smart auto and face detection, you will be very happy with the large set of features that are included. With a MSRP of US $179.99, this is a great compact model for the home, office or as someone's first digicam.

Visitors of Steves can visit the stores below for real-time pricing and availability. You can also find hot, soon to expire online offers on a variety of cameras and accessories at our very own Camera Deals page.

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