Canon Powershot SD1100 IS Review
Continuing with the success of the PowerShot Digital ELPH series, Canon introduces the SD1100 IS. This very compact digicam features a 3x optical zoom lens with optical image stabilization, 8-megapixel imaging sensor, 2.5" PureColor II LCD screen and Enhanced Face Detection technology. As with its predecessors, it also features a VGA sized movie mode as well as several pre-programmed scene shooting modes to assist you in various shooting situations. It is available in 5 different colors (Rhythm & Blue, Swing Silver, Melody Pink, Bohemian Brown and Golden Tone), which add to its "stylish" appeal as well as individuality.
This ultra-compact camera is small enough to be easily carried in any purse or pocket. It can be operated with just one hand but I found that it is much easier to use with 2 hands via the "pinch" technique. All of the controls lay very nicely under your thumb on the back of the camera, and as always the FUNC. and camera menus are easy to navigate. The only thing that you will need to adjust for, if you are familiar with Canon's menu system, is they have taken the ISO settings out of the FUNC. menu and added them as an option on the 4- way controller. The new PureColor II LCD screen is very easily seen in any lighting condition with its 15 step brightness adjustment and ability to gain up when shooting in low light conditions. It also features an optical viewfinder which can be used when following fast moving subjects in burst mode or to save on battery power.
Performance from the SD1100 was excellent. Its startup time, the time it takes for the camera to turn on and capture its first image was just 1.3 seconds! The shutter delay was almost instantaneous (the delay from when you press the shutter release till the time the image is captured) when pre-focused and just 3/10 of a second when allowing the AF system to acquire focus. When Using the flash, it is a little slower at 1.4 seconds. This is because the flash needs time to charge before the picture can be taken. The time between shots was also very good, allowing me to take 5 pictures in just 5.9 seconds in single shot mode. When using the flash 5 pictures took 10.2 seconds. There is also a burst shooting mode which allowed me to capture 10 Large/Superfine images in just 6.6 seconds, and 10 with the flash in just 12.5 seconds. These tests were completed using a 4gb Kingston SDHC memory card, manual mode, ISO 80, flash off and all other settings at the factory defaults unless otherwise noted. Times may vary depending on lighting conditions, camera settings, media, etc.
The overall image quality from the SD1100 was good. When shooting outside on a nice sunny day, the camera's performance was excellent. The images were very well exposed, and the colors very vivid and bright. However, when shooting on a typical cloudy spring day, the SD1100 had a little trouble with its exposures, and like most cameras that we have tested in these conditions, slightly overexposes the sky in order to correctly expose the targeted subject. The 3x optical zoom lens (38-114mm, 35mm equivalent) with OIS (optical image stabilization) is great for shooting landscape and group portrait shots at the wide angle end and helps to single out and frame your subjects on the telephoto end. As with all 3x zooms, it is not powerful enough to single out distant objects and bring them up close. There is a Digital zoom feature that will extend the range, however using it can degrade image quality; best used in a emergency or as sparingly as possible. The lens did produce slight edge softness and some barrel distortion at the wide end and there were slight instances of chromatic aberrations in areas of high contrast.
All of the indoor portraits were taken using the pre-set Portrait Scene mode, with excellent results. The enhanced face detection technology does an excellent job of adjusting the flash, exposure, focus and white balance to accommodate all of the faces detected by the camera. The images showed good flash exposures as well as natural looking colors and skin tones. When set to ISO auto the flash has a range of 6 to 11 feet, depending on the amount of zoom you are using. I had excellent results shooting from 4 to 5 feet away in the middle of the zoom range. The flash also did well when shooting from just 1ft. away when using the Macro focus mode setting; making it ideal for taking pictures of items for inclusion at online auctions.
The SD1100's movie mode performed better than most cameras in its class. Shooting indoors in moderate lighting conditions, the camera captured smooth and vivid video with only slight noise, much less than some other models. The camera features a 640x480, 320x240 resolutions with frame rates of 15 and 30 fps as well as a compact 160x120 mode which is great for sharing or emailing. The 3x optical zoom is not functional during recording but it can be set before hand. If you must zoom during recording you do have access to the 4x digital zoom if it is turned on in the camera's menu.
Powering the SD1100 is a 3.7v 760mAh rechargeable Lithium-Ion battery pack. This provides plenty of power, and allowed me to capture around 70 images, several videos and complete all of my tests without having to recharge. This is a small battery however, so it is recommended that you have another for backup, especially if you plan on using the flash or taking a lot of video. Canon includes a compact charger that can be plugged in anywhere, featuring fold-away prongs, making it easy to keep that second battery ready to go.
Bottom Line - Canon has introduced yet another stylish and appealing ultra-compact model in their Digital ELPH line. The quality, performance and ease of use make it a great camera for the home or office, and the ultra-compact size and multiple color choices make it a fashionable accessory. With a street price of US$249 or less, this is a good camera for anyone who likes to keep an easy to use "pocket-rocket" handy at all times.
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