Canon Powershot E1 Review
Canon recently unveiled the Powershot E1, a compact, 10-Megapixel digicam that comes loaded with high-end features. With pastel colors and specialized menus and sounds, the new "E" series by Canon is targeted towards a younger crowd, mainly teens and pre-teens. Featuring a 4x optical zoom lens with Optical Image Stabilization (IS), a 2.5" LCD screen, face detection software and VGA movie mode, you will find all the features of Canon's A1000 IS included in this new "E" series model.
The ergonomics of the E1 provide you with a comfortable and easy to operate camera. Even with the plastic shell, the camera still offers a sturdy feel. On top of the camera you will find the power and shutter release buttons, with the zoom control coupled around the shutter release. In between them is the mode dial which easily allows you to change your shooting mode. On the back the controls are well placed and big enough that they can be used while holding the camera with just one hand. Like many of the "A" series models, the E1 features a real image optical viewfinder. This is a great alternative to using the LCD screen, as it saves on battery life and is easy to see in all lighting conditions. Although it doesn't show 100% of the image that will be captured, it does zoom with the camera to give a very good idea of the final picture. The other option for framing and also for viewing your images is the 2.5" LCD screen. It is easy to see in all lighting conditions including direct sunlight and gains up nicely in low light shooting situations. With only 115,000 pixels, about half of most new consumer digicams, the image can look a little pixelated and grainy.
Performance from the E1 is good, matching that of the "A" series cameras. It takes only 1.9 seconds to capture its first image once you press the power button. When the camera is pre-focused, the shutter lag (time between pressing the shutter release until the time the image is captured) is almost non-existent. When allowing the camera's autofocus to work, the shutter lag is 4/10 of a second. In single shot mode, the camera was able to capture 5 images in 7.9 seconds without using the flash and 5 images in 18.3 seconds using the flash. The camera also features a burst mode that works both with and without the flash. With the flash I was able to capture 10 images in just 13.7 seconds and 10 images in 6.6 seconds without it, both are more than twice as fast as single shot mode. All of our tests were completed using a 4GB Kingston SDHC Memory card, Program mode, ISO auto, flash off and all other settings at the factory defaults. Times may vary depending on lighting conditions, camera settings, media, etc.
Our outdoor sample images overall are very good. The E1 produces a sharp image with good exposures and rich colors. To add some versatility for composing your shots, Canon has included a 4x optical zoom lens (35-140mm 35mm equivalent) with IS. The wide end of the zoom is great for shooting landscapes and group portraits, while the zoom end is good for helping you frame your images. The optical image stabilization will allow users to shoot in lower light situations without a tripod by reducing the amount of camera shake in the images.
The quality of our indoor image samples are also very good. The white balance does a good job of keeping the same color tones with and without the flash. The flash sample is just slightly cooler than the shots without it. In our sample M&M man shots, there is not a noticeable amount of noise until you reach ISO 400. Even with the ISO that high, the noise levels are low and will not be noticed in prints unless they are larger than 8x10. The built in flash has a range of up to 13' (w) and 6.6' (t) with the ISO set to Auto. This is enough range for lighting a small to medium sized room, but remember the further away your subject, the higher the ISO will be. The flash did well in our sample flash shot from 6 feet away with the camera set at ISO 80.
With the camera set to Portrait mode, our sample shots produced realistic skin tones and good exposures on all of the faces that were detected in the photos. The only drawback is the amount of noise in the images. In order to get these exposures, the camera had to raise the ISO up over 200, even when only shooting from 3 feet away. Both of our portrait samples with an ISO lower than 400 show more noise than the M&M shot does at ISO 400. The noise is due to the darker, lower contrast areas in the portrait shots. The telephoto shot shows a very high level noise with an ISO level of 350. Even though we had a few problems with image noise, the face detection software works very well, detecting faces quickly and following as they move within the frame. At the telephoto end, it does lose the faces from time to time as they move.
Movie mode offers you the ability to shoot with resolutions of 640x480, 320x240 or 160x120, with the option of 15 or 30 frames per second in the two larger modes. Audio is also recorded using the onboard microphone. This microphone is very sensitive and picks up all of the sound around the camera, so don't expect to get clear sounds of your subjects while using the full 4x optical zoom. When using the zoom, you have the ability to pre-set it before you start recording, but once you start, the optical zoom will no longer work. If you need to zoom during recording, you do have the option of using the digital zoom, if you don't mind the pixelation that will occur as you zoom in. The quality is good when shooting in perfectly lit situations, providing smooth playback with good exposure and colors, but in slightly less than perfect lighting you will start to see noise in the video.
Powering the A1000IS are two standard AA sized cells. We recommend using NiMH cells which will allow you to take roughly 2x as many pictures (approx. 450) as standard alkaline batteries (approx. 220) and provide roughly two hours more continuous playback time. Using NiMH batteries, I was able to capture over 100 images, several videos and complete all of my tests without having to recharge. We still recommend keeping an extra set of batteries on hand at all times, though in a bind you can always pick up a set of alkaline batteries.
Bottom Line - The new Canon Powershot E1 may be targeted towards a young crowd, with new colors, menus and creative sounds, but it can definitely hold its own when it comes to performance and quality. With Easy, Auto, Program auto and a variety of scene modes, this camera can be picked up and used by anyone in the family. Performance and quality are very good for an entry-level camera, making the MSRP of US$199.99 a very good deal. If you like this camera but don't care for the pastel colors and menus, you can check out the Canon Powershot A1000 IS with identical specs and price as the E1.
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