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The Canon PowerShot SD1100 looks a lot like its predecessor, except it comes in crazier colors. The one we reviewed is "Bohemian Brown." It has a glittery brown metal case that is smooth to the touch. There is a Canon logo on the left side, which is slightly pinched inward. The PowerShot SD1100 IS Digital Elph logo is also on the left side. On the right side is a large chrome circle that encloses the labeled Canon 3x optical zoom lens and nips the bottom of the flash, viewfinder, and autofocus assist beam near the top. The flash is in the upper right corner of the front – not a very smart placement, since the fingers wrap around the camera and block the flash light. To the flash’s left is the optical viewfinder, which is quite tiny. To its left is a small autofocus assist lamp and a tiny hole for the microphone.**
The SD1100’s back has a 2.5-inch LCD screen on its left side that looks small when compared to other slim competitors. Bigger seems to be popular for LCD screens lately, but at the same time, smaller bodies are trendier than ever, and the 2.5-inch LCD size works well with the dininuitive size of the SD1100. Above the LCD is a Canon logo and to its right is an optical viewfinder with two LED indicator lights next to it.
On the right edge of the camera’s back are a slew of controls. There are four peanut-shaped holes near the top that make up the speaker grill. In the upper right corner of the back is a matching peanut-shaped mode switch that moves from still shooting to movies to playback. There is also a print/share button nearby, with its central LED to differentiate it.
Just below the center of the right side is the flat multi-selector with a central Func./Set button. There are no tactile features like grooves or embossed arrows or anything on the ring around the button: it is smooth, flat, and labeled with printed text and icons. There are many icons crammed around the ring, which gives it a rather confused look.
The top of the multi-selector is labeled with a jump icon along with "ISO" text. The flash icon graces the right side, while the following three are jammed onto the bottom: self-timer, burst, and delete. On the left side, the Macro and Landscape focus modes are designated by their icons. At the very bottom are two round buttons labeled "DISP." for display on the left and menu on the right.
**The left side of the SD1100 is completely void of features. There is a central matte black panel surrounded by the Bohemian Brown metal. There are two screws holding the plates together, along with a few bumps so the camera can stand upward on this side without getting too scratched up.
**The right side of the camera body has the same matte black/brown color design. There is a black cover at the top that pops out and reveals two tiny jacks for the AV-out and USB functions. In the center of the right side is a chrome wrist strap eyelet that protrudes ever-so-slightly from the camera body. The camera body’s overall shape on this side has been changed from its predecessor: the center is pinched in a bit so it looks like the front edge of the camera has an hourglass shape while the backside is flat.
The top of the Canon PowerShot SD1100 IS has a flat chrome shutter release button on the right surrounded by a tiny zoom control ring. To its left is a small and recessed power button with an LED indicator just above it. On the left side, the camera is labeled "Image Stabilizer" and "AiAF."
The bottom of the camera has a metal tripod socket centered under the LCD screen and lens. There are bumps in each corner of the bottom to keep the camera from scratching the tripod mount plate or table. On the left side is the battery compartment door that is extremely flimsy; it could be easily snapped off with rough handling. A small rubber cover inset into the door pops out so an optional power adapter can be threaded into it.
Color accuracy is one of the most important aspects of the performance of a camera, and the Powershot SD1100 IS did an overall excellent job capturing the wide range of colors in this big, bright, and beautiful universe of ours.
We test the accuracy of the colors cameras capture by taking photos of an industry-standard Gretag Macbeth ColorChecker color chart under precisely controlled conditions, then analyzing the accuracy of the colors using the image analysis program Imatest. This produces the following chart, which shows the colors the camera captures in the outer rectangle of the color squares, the colors after they have been corrected for luminance in the inner squares, and the original color in the small rectangles to the right of the center of each square.
As you can see, the SD1100 IS generally does a good job capturing colors; many of the colors the camera captures (on the outside of the square) are almost indistinguishable from the original colors shown in the small rectangle in the center. But there are a couple of minor issues: some of the yellows are a little off, and the cyan (on the right, in the second from bottom square) is a little dark. Imatest also produces a chart which shows the color error of the camera represented on the color space the camera should, in theory, be capable of capturing. On this chart, listed below, the ideal colors are represented by squares and the captured colors are represented by circles. The longer the line between them, the more inaccurate the colors are.
This shows the errors on the blues and yellows, but these are relatively minor issues; the chart also shows the great majority of other colors are accurately captured and represented, particularly the important skin tone colors. This means the SD1100 IS captures excellent, accurate color.
*The SD1100 IS captures images at an 8-megapixel resolution, and we found the images it captures have a good, but not outstanding, level of detail. A camera’s resolution is about more than the number of megapixels the image sensor can capture; if the lens in front of this sensor produces blurry images, more megapixels won’t help. So, we test the resolution of the captured images by photographing an industry-standard test chart under controlled lighting conditions at a variety of settings and focal lengths. We then use Imatest to analyze these images to ascertain the maximum number of alternating black and white lines the camera can capture before they dissolve into a gray mess. This measure is called line widths per picture height (lw/ph), and it indicates how much detail an image contains and how well it captures the more subtle aspects of the scene.
Click on the image above to view the high-resolution image
The Canon SD1100 IS captures an impressive 1783 lw/ph horizontally with 4.6 percent oversharpening and 1668 lw/ph vertically with 9.65 percent undersharpening. That’s a very decent set of scores for a point-and-shoot like this, indicating that the SD1100 IS can capture a decent level of detail. This means it scores a little higher than most of the point-and-shoots we’ve tested, but it is worth remembering that digital SLRs (which have much better sensors and lenses) consistently score much higher than this, so there is always a price to pay in resolution for using a point-and-shoot.
Noise – Manual ISO*(4.72)*
Noise is the staticky discoloration you see in some images, particularly those shot at higher ISO settings and in lower light. The SD1100 didn’t do overly well here; although there was little noise at the lower ISO settings, it quickly became more obvious at the higher ones, particularly at the maximum ISO 1600. Noise is mostly caused by the sensor picking up the electrical noise of its own operation, plus environmental factors. It becomes more obvious when you increase the ISO sensitivity of the camera to shoot in low light because the camera is effectively amplifying the signal it captures, thus amplifying the noise, as well. We test noise by shooting images in fixed lighting at all ISO settings the camera supports, then analyzing the captured images with Imatest to see how much noise is in each image.
As you can see from the graph, the noise in the image increases sharply as the ISO increases, ending up at just more than 4 percent of the image at the highest ISO setting of 1600. While that might not sound like much, it is visible (as you can see in the still life images below) and detracts from the quality of the image: higher ISO setting images look grainy and slightly blurry, like a poorly-tuned TV. However, the SD1100 IS is not much worse, or indeed much better, than the other point-and-shoots we’ve tested recently; all show significant noise as you increase the ISO. The SD1100 has no user-controllable noise reduction settings, but there is some noise reduction being used, which is why the noise at ISO 200 and 400 is nearly identical. However, at 800 and above, the noise reduction isn't all that effective, so you should definitely keep the ISO down if possible.
Noise – Auto ISO*(1.37)*
We also test the noise in images taken with the camera set to auto ISO, where the whirling electronic brain of the device sets the ISO as it feels is appropriate. In our test shots on this setting, the camera picked an ISO setting of 200, which only showed moderate noise. Again, this was not much different from the noise levels we have seen on other recent point-and-shoot cameras.
Still Life Sequences
Click to view high resolution images. All images were taken using the Manual mode, as this is the only way to gain direct access to the ISO settings
*White balance is another highly important factor in the quality of images a camera captures, because different light sources produce different types of light, but the camera has to do the same thing the human eye does; compensate for the lighting and capture the true colors. We found that, like most Canon cameras, the SD1100IS does a very good job, accurately judging the cast of the incoming light and adjusting the white balance appropriately.
The color of the light falling on the subject is called the color temperature, and this depends on the source of the light (such as the sun, indoor lighting, etc); each outputs light at a different color temperature. A camera must accurately judge and adjust for the temperature of the light to be able to capture an image properly. To judge how well a camera does this, we test two aspects of white balance: the automatic settings, where the camera automatically analyzes the light and corrects on each image, and the preset settings, where the camera uses a pre-defined preset to adjust the white balance.
*The SD1100 IS does an excellent job automatically judging the white balance of different types of lighting, as you can see from the images below: the white parts of the test chart are reasonably close to the natural white. Only the Daylight setting is slightly off the mark, and not by much. This means for most shooting situations, you will be fine shooting with the camera in automatic white balance mode.
*We found the various white balance presets on the SD1100 IS are generally spot-on: each is an accurate preset for the appropriate light source that would need only slight correction to get clean whites. So, most users should have no issues using either the automatic or the preset white balance settings on the SD1100 IS.
Not all your shots will be taken in perfectly lit situations; sometimes you have to shoot with what little available light there is. This is why we also test cameras in less-than-ideal shooting conditions, and we found the Canon SD1100 IS does an adequate, but not outstanding job capturing images in these conditions.
To test low light performance, we photograph our industry-standard ColorChecker chart at light levels of 60, 30, 15, and 5 lux. This corresponds to the amount of light in a room lit softly by two table lamps (60 lux), down to very dim light levels that would make you squint (5 lux). All shots are taken at ISO 1600.
As you can see from the above images, colors become progressively weaker as the light level decreases, and the noise in the images increases as the camera struggles to capture more light. This is no surprise, but the SD1100 does a reasonable job judging the light level and using the appropriate shutter and aperture settings, which is more than many do; all of the images are fairly accurately exposed. The colors are also reasonably accurate, but the noise is a big issue.
Our other test is to shoot a series of images at progressively longer exposure times, then examine the captured images. In Normal mode, the SD1100 has a maximum exposure time of 1 second, but this can be extended to 15 seconds in the Long Shutter mode that’s available in the Manual mode. But there’s a big price to pay; the metering features of the camera are disabled for long exposures, so you have to shoot and see how the images come out. And the images are also extremely noisy and have weak color. The bottom line is that the SD1100 is, like most compact point-and-shoots, not a camera you should rely on if you like to hang around in dark locations shooting without the flash. Instead, invest more in an SLR or a more complex point-and-shoot that includes better manual controls and noise reduction technology.
*Dynamic range is a measure of how many shades of gray a camera can distinguish; a camera with wide dynamic range will do a better job capturing both highlights and shadow details. The SD1100 only had a middling score in this test: although it can discern a good range of shades at the lower ISO settings, the dynamic range quickly falls off as the ISO increases.
We test dynamic range by photographing a backlit Stouffer step chart at all ISO speeds. The Stouffer chart consists of a long row of gray rectangles, varying slightly in tone from brightest white to darkest black. The more rectangles a camera can discern at the darker end of the scale, the better its dynamic range.
The Canon SD1100 has a decent dynamic range at the lowest ISO setting of 80, but this quickly drops off at the higher settings. Although all cameras do this, the amount it drops off is more than most: many other point-and-shoot cameras maintain a higher dynamic range as the ISO increases. For instance: while the dynamic range of the SD1100 IS drops to about 3.7 stops at ISO 400, the Panasonic TZ3 manages just under six stops. So, for the best image quality on the SD1100, it is important to keep the ISO as low as possible, otherwise images will look contrasty and shadow detail will be lost. But while the SD1100 IS didn't do that well in this test, the results were not a huge problem.
All speed tests were conducted using a Kingston Ultimate 120X 2GB SD Card, a fast card that should not be a limiting factor for the tests.
Startup to First Shot (8.4)
The Canon SD1100 IS takes 1.6 seconds to go from being turned completely off to taking the first image. That’s pretty fast, and should mean you don’t miss many shots if you keep the camera turned off in a pocket or bag.
In our tests, we found the SD1100 is somewhat on the slow side in Continuous Shooting mode, with a lengthy 1.4 seconds between shots at the highest resolution. To get to the Continuous Shooting mode, you also need to put the camera into the Manual mode; it’s not available in the full Auto mode. Reducing the image quality to either the fine or normal settings didn’t reduce this time, but this time could be decreased to 0.8 seconds by taking the resolution down to 3 megapixels. This means you’ll have problems capturing fast action sequences, such as a play at a football game at the maximum resolution, but you can capture a decent set of images by reducing the resolution.
This test measures how quickly the camera reacts to a shutter press. If you hold the button down and let the camera pre-focus, we found no measurable delay in the image capture; it’s pretty much instant. If you press the shutter all the way down immediately, we found the camera takes about half a second to focus and capture the image; a fairly standard time for a point-and-shoot camera.
At the maximum image quality setting, we found the approximate image processing time (how long it takes to process the image after it is captured) is around 1.1 seconds. This is obviously the limiting factor for the Continuous Shooting mode.
Bright indoor light – 3000 Lux
In this test, we analyze the color of the video the SD1100 IS captures under good lighting, using two large lights in our test lab. In this lighting the SD1100 IS does a decent job capturing color: there is some error, but this is a lot less extreme than many cameras we’ve tested. The noise in the video is also not a huge problem: it is noticeable, but not overly distracting.
Low light – 30 Lux
All sorts of interesting things happen in the dark, so we also test the quality of the video captured at 30 lux-about the equivalent of shooting indoors in a room lit by a single lamp. The SD1100 IS does a fairly decent job capturing video in this situation; the colors are flat but distinguishable, and the video is acceptably sharp. There is a lot of blotchy shifting noise, though, and this means the video looks a bit like a poorly-tuned TV. However, the color and noise on the video the SD1100 IS captures is no worse than many other cameras we’ve tested; capturing light in dark places is difficult.
It is also worth noting that we were able to greatly improve the color performance of the camera in both lighting situations by using the evaluative white balance, where you use a white card and the camera sets the white balance from that. However, we don’t score against this because most users don’t do this, but it is worth remembering that you can get better color in your video if you put in the effort to do this.
In our tests for the resolution of captured videos, the Canon SD1100 IS managed to capture 579.3 horizontal and 396.8 vertical lw/ph. That’s a very decent score for video captured by a digital camera: we usually see significantly lower values for this. As you can see from the images below, the video has a good amount of detail in it. The SD1100 seems to be doing a lot of processing to sharpen the image, which can be a bad thing (as it often makes edges in the video artificially sharp), but this doesn’t seem to be a big issue on the SD1100 IS; the video is sharp without being overly sharpened.
To test motion, we take the camera out and shoot video on the mean streets of Boston. We found the motion in the videos the SD1100 IS captures is acceptable; there is some evidence of motion artifacts when we pan around; the entire frame of video becomes slightly blurry as the camera struggles to compress the rapidly-changing video. Most motion (such as a car passing across the frame of the video) looks fine, though, so the video the SD1100 IS captures should be fine for most uses.
The biggest difference between the Canon SD1100 IS and its sibling model, the SD750, is that the SD1100 has an optical viewfinder while the other camera opts for a larger 3-inch LCD screen.
This camera’s predecessor, the SD1000, also has an optical viewfinder. They appear to be the same. The SD1100’s optical viewfinder sits above the lens on the front and LCD on the back, and is incredibly tiny; you have to hold your eye right up to it to use it, which could be a problem if you are a spectacles or sunglasses user. The LCD screen will likely be the favorite preview choice over the viewfinder, although it’s nice to have the optical finder for when the battery is running low and you still want to snap a few pictures. Turning off the LCD will save a bit of juice on the battery.
The SD1100’s optical zoom viewfinder is accurate when the lens is zoomed wide; it crops from all edges so the recorded image won’t be as tightly cropped as how you saw it in the finder. The accuracy gets far worse as you zoom in, though; the optical viewfinder shows more on the top of the image and much less on the bottom, with only about 40 percent of the final recorded image showing up in the viewfinder.
To make matters worse, the optical viewfinder’s glass is low quality and looks blurry in spots. If your battery is running dry, your best bet is to turn off the LCD and keep the lens zoomed out while using the optical viewfinder.
The low-temperature polycrystalline silicon LCD remains unchanged from the SD1000. The new SD1100 IS has the same 2.5-inch LCD screen with 230,000 pixels and a 100-percent accurate view of the recorded image – an improvement from the optical viewfinder.
Canon has dubbed the technology on the SD1100’s LCD as "PureColor II." This features the monitor’s scratch resistance, wide viewing angles, and anti-glare capabilities. The surface does seem resistant to scratches, but it attracts fingerprints and feels greasy after a few minutes of normal use (because the camera is so small, the right thumb ends up greasing the right side of the LCD).
The Canon PowerShot SD1100 IS has very wide viewing angles on its LCD screen. You can see the image on the screen from above, below, and to the sides of the head. It has some of the widest viewing angles available, making this camera a nice candidate for teenagers who want to show off slide shows with their friends gathered around the camera. The LCD wards off most harsh glare, but translates it into a purple tint instead of a blinding white reflection on the screen.
All in all, the SD1100’s LCD screen is decently sized and has great resolution and very wide viewing angles. It’s great for using with the live view and for checking out captured images in Playback mode.
The SD1100’s flash is not changed from its predecessor. The flash is inconveniently located in the upper right corner of the front, where the left fingers wrap around and often cover it – causing unevenly-lit images.
There is a bright spot that appears in images; it is shifted slightly to the left. The flash isn’t very powerful. It reaches from 1 to 11 feet when the lens is zoomed out and shortens to 6.6 feet when the lens is zoomed in (and the ISO is set to auto). The flash only looks more uneven when the lens is zoomed in; the bright spot looks like it has shifted to the upper left corner of the image.
The flash modes can be changed by pushing the right side of the multi-selector. Simple Auto, On, and Off modes are found here. Slow Synchro, Red-Eye Lamp, and Red-Eye Correction options can be turned on and off in the Recording menu. Don’t expect the flash to capture much action in a sequence. It takes the camera about six seconds to recover between shots that use the flash.
Overall, this PowerShot’s flash is poorly placed, weak, and uneven.
**The Canon PowerShot SD1100 IS has a 3x optical zoom lens that is the same zoom rating as its predecessor but has a slightly narrower range. The older SD1000 has a 35-105mm equivalent lens. The SD1100 has a 6.2-18.6mm lens, equivalent to a 38-114mm lens. It reaches a little farther, but won’t get the wide-angle shots that are nice for landscapes or photographing large group portraits.
The lens is controlled by a tiny plastic ring that surrounds the flat shutter release button. It is horribly uncomfortable as it has a sharp little nub at the front that is the sole provider of traction in order to rotate it. This control isn’t very sensitive. It allows you to stop at six different focal lengths throughout the zoom range, but it makes a unpleasant whining noise and seems to backfire a bit before settling in. This can make composing a shot difficult; you zoom in and frame, but the camer than backs out a bit and ruins your composition.
The optical zoom cannot be used in the Movie mode, but there is 4x digital zoom available. The digital zoom degrades the image quality quickly and should be avoided when possible.
The biggest upgrade on the SD1100 from its predecessor is optical image stabilization. The image stabilization options are tucked away into the Shooting menu: the system can be set to Off, Continuous, Shoot Only, and Panning. The Continuous mode makes for the smoothest view, but sucks the battery dry faster. The Shoot Only option is more energy efficient and has the same effect upon recorded images – they do come out with less blur. The Panning image stabilization only corrects vertical movements so it doesn’t try to correct the horizontal motion you use to track subjects. All in all, the image stabilization is a great feature to have, and the iamge stabilization on the SD1100 works well. And this feature at this price point is a first for Canon.
Model Design / Appearance
Canon’s SD-series of digital cameras has always been "fashion-forward," but the SD1100 makes another forward step with its availability in five trendy colors. Canon titled the colors as follows: Rhythm & Blue, Swing Silver, Melody Pink, Bohemian Brown, and Golden Tone. We reviewed the Bohemian Brown camera, and it has a nice shimmer in its sheen.
The camera body is built mostly from plastic, with a thin aluminum plate covering most of it. It is very light and very portable, but some components like the battery compartment door feel like they could be broken off if accidentally pulled beyond the point they are built to go to.
Size / Portability
The Canon SD1100 IS is very small and light with its 3.42 x 2.16 x 0.87-inch dimensions and 4.5-ounce weight, but it is larger than its predecessor. The SD1000 measured 3.38 x 2.11 x 0.76 inches, although it came in at the same weight.
This Digital Elph can fit in a pocket, much like the other cameras in the trendy point-and-shoot lineup. The body is fairly flat, so it will slide right in – no hand grip or anything protruding to catch on your pocket or poke your hip.
It comes with a tiny fabric wrist strap that attaches to a tiny loop on the right side. The Canon SD1100 is made to dangle from your wrist or neck at a party – and make you look "fashion-forward," as Canon puts it.
The old Canon PowerShot SD1000 has sharper edges and a boxier form. The SD1100 IS has softer edges but still isn’t much more comfortable to hold. Canon looks like it made some sort of attempt by making a little pinch in the right side of the camera body where the middle finger grips the camera. The camera is so small and light that it can be held and used with one hand without much of a problem, although two hands are always recommended for a more stable grip.
Overall handling is as expected for a tiny digital camera. The SD1100 is made for an occasional out-of-pocket picture, so handling was sacrificed for a convenient and compact body.
Control Button / Dial Positioning / Size
The camera is tiny, and so are the controls. The miniature Canon SD1100 IS has a shutter release button on the top that is nicely sized but quite smooth. It doesn’t travel as smoothly as some other camera’s shutter buttons, but the people who use this camera probably won’t care. The power button is also miniscule.
The buttons on the back are more reasonably sized, although their issue seems to be more about labeling. There are so many icons crammed onto the controls that it’s a little hard to pick them out. Once you get used to navigating the camera without looking at the icons, this won’t be a problem.
The controls aren’t made to be comfortable. The zoom control nearly punctures your index finger when you rotate it to zoom in and out. The multi-selector on the back of the camera is completely flat so it takes a little more force than usual to give it a push in the right direction.
The Canon PowerShot SD1100 IS has a menu system that is nearly identical to other PowerShot siblings. There is an easy-to-access Function menu that appears along the left and bottom edges of the live view. The view changes as you scroll through the options: for instance, scrolling right in the exposure compensation portion of the menu makes the live image on the screen appear brighter and brighter.
The Function menu appears when the central button in the multi-selector is pushed, but the standard Recording menu appears when the intuitive "menu" button is pushed.
Like other Canon PowerShot digital cameras, this menu system shows three color-coded folder tabs along the top edge with icons on them. The Recording menu has a red camera icon. The second icon is a yellow wrench and represents the Setup menu, which has the following options.
Lastly, there is a purple "Custom menu" that has a portrait icon next to a camera icon. This menu has these options: theme, start-up image, startup sound, operation sound, self-timer sound, and shutter sound. The choices include oddities like howling wolves, twittering birds, alien-like beeps, and – thankfully – the classic shutter sound. There are three choices for each, as well as the option to turn off the image or sound completely.
Navigation is done with the multi-selector, which is uncomfortable to use because of its flat surface and cheap plastic feel. It still works, though – albeit with a bit more force than is usual for this type of point-and-shoot. All in all, the menus are easy to use.
**Ease of Use
**The Canon PowerShot SD1100 IS is very easy to use. All you need to do is turn it on and take a picture. This digital camera is the classic point-and-shoot. It doesn’t have any fancy in-camera help guides, but its layout is intuitive.
There isn’t a mode dial on this camera – only a mode switch. But the switch only moves between three positions: still image shooting, Movie mode, and Playback mode. The various still image shooting modes – including the Auto mode - are tucked into the Function menu. This doesn’t make it the most accessible, but it isn’t tedious to get to either. The SD1100’s Auto mode takes care of everything except the image size and compression; you choose those. The Recording menu is almost exactly the same, and options on the multi-selector are still available.
The Canon SD1100 IS’s Movie mode is accessible from a little switch in the upper right corner of the camera’s back. A tiny video camera icon sits between a still camera icon and a playback icon. The Movie mode’s menu allows access to the white balance and My Colors options, so you can record black & white videos or even vivid red.
The size options can also be changed between two compression options of 640 x 480 (standard and "LP" for "long play") and 320 x 240 pixels. All of these videos have a smooth 30 fps frame rate. The Motion JPEG videos record up to an hour at a time or up to 4GB, whichever comes first.
The size options on the SD1100 are slightly different from its predecessor. The SD1000 has 640 x 480-pixel videos that can record at 30 or 15 fps (but who wants to record choppy videos?), 320 x 240 at 60, 30, or 15 fps, and 160 x 120 at 15 fps. There is no "LP" compression for the top resolution, and the super-smooth 60 fps frame rate on the 320 x 240-pixel videos only lasts for one minute at a time.
The new SD1100 also has the compact 160 x 120-pixel videos at 15 fps, and it maxes out after three minutes. There is also a time lapse movie feature that records 640 x 480 pixels for up to two hours at a rate of 1 or 2 frames per second, selectable in the Function menu.
The optical zoom is disabled while recording videos, but the 4x digital zoom is fully functional – although it should be avoided because it makes subjects look like they have jagged edges. The optical image stabilization works in the Movie mode, and its effect is very pronounced, especially when the lens is zoomed to a faraway subject. It greatly reduces the number of bumps and jiggles from the natural shaking of hands; a very useful feature if you're trying to capture sports videos and the like.
Videos can be played back normally or in slow motion in the Playback mode. You can fast forward and rewind as well as pause. You can also do some simple editing: cut the beginning or end.
Overall, the optical image stabilization is a nice addition to this camera – it’s something that wasn’t on the SD1000 – and the videos look decent for this point-and-shoot.
Drive / Burst Mode
The Canon PowerShot SD1100 IS won’t be known for its speed. This is one area in which the newer camera is actually a step behind the older model. Indeed, the SD1000 shot 1.7 fps, but the SD1100 slows down to 1.3 fps. Perhaps the slowing is from the increased resolution, and thus increased processing time happening on the same Digic III processor.
Regardless, 1.3 fps is not fast. The Sony T70 can shoot 2 fps for up to 100 shots at a time. Other skinny cameras are not so impressive. The Nikon S51 stutters along at 0.8 fps, and the Fujifilm Z100fd performs similarly to the Canon with its 1.4 fps rate. To its credit, the Canon SD1100’s Continuous Shooting mode smoothly snaps away and does so for a long time. It took 83 pictures for me before filling the memory card, so it likely would have done more.
The continuous shooting can be activated by pushing on the lower portion of the multi-selector, but it's only available in the manual mode. Pushing this multiple times will also call upon the self-timer, which has 2- and 10-second delay options along with a custom self-timer that can be set to delay for 0 to 30 seconds and then take a series of 1 to 10 shots. This is great for family portraits when multiple pictures are needed to reduce the number of blinked eyes and bunny ears.
The Playback mode is accessible via the mode switch on the back of the camera. The last picture or video shot shows up first. You can scroll through images by pushing on the sides of the multi-selector and you can scroll very quickly through them by holding a side down continuously. Pushing the top of the multi-selector jumps to every 10th or 100th image, or jumps to different dates, categories, or folders. You can also jump to video files from here. Pushing the bottom of the multi-selector is a quick way to delete files.
Viewing single images can be done with or without file info, and can be done with an exposure histogram if desired. Images can be magnified from 2 to 10x, and automatically rotate as the camera is shifted. Saving an image as rotated requires a little footwork in the Playback menu, though.
The Canon PowerShot SD1100 IS has a few treats in its Playback menu, including the My Colors effects and the red-eye correction feature, which saves quite a few photos from an untimely deletion. There are nice editing features in the Playback mode for stills and movies, and organization is also a strong-point for the SD1100: you can sort images by date, folder, or category and easily view them and play them in slide shows.
The older version of this camera has many of these playback features, but the SD1100 IS has a new feature in its "image inspection tool." This is a souped-up version of the magnification tool; the only difference is that this feature automatically zooms in on faces first, and then allows you to scroll around the face and check the focus. This is a bit gimmicky because it does basically the same thing as any other magnification feature in cameras’ Playback modes. It is accessed by pushing the display button.
Overall, the Canon SD1100’s Playback mode is impressive. It has lots of viewing options and allows you to organize your photos and perform several editing functions.
**Custom Image Presets
**The Canon PowerShot SD1100 IS has the same Scene modes as its predecessor. Its Scene modes are grouped next to the Auto and "Manual" (it’s actually a Program mode) modes in the Function menu. The Digital Macro, Portrait, Night Snapshot, Color Accent, and Color Swap modes are on the main menu screen. There is one more position that shows a selected Scene mode from the following list, accessible via a sub-menu: Foliage, Snow, Beach, Sunset, Fireworks, Aquarium, Underwater, Indoor, and Kids & Pets.
The selection isn’t the largest on the market; a Casio Exilim digital camera probably wins that award for the 30+ Scene modes those models keep on hand. But the Canon SD1100 still has all the basic modes that you are likely to use on a regular basis.
Manual Control Options
If you want manual controls, this isn’t the camera for you. The Canon SD1100 has a "Manual" mode that provides the most access to controls on the camera, but they don’t include shutter speeds and aperture. The so-called Manual mode is really nothing more than a slightly more flexible Program mode.
Auto Focus – The Canon SD1100 has a through-the-lens autofocus system that Canon says is faster because of the Digic III image processor. The autofocus is not slow; there is still a tiny lag that differentiates it from film and high-end DSLRs, but this is about as fast as it gets on a compact digital camera. The autofocus is activated and then locked when the shutter is pushed halfway down.
In the Recording menu, you can choose the AF frame from these three options: Face Detect, AiAF, and Center. The Center focus is the fastest option because the camera doesn’t do any searching to find subjects. The AiAF is the camera’s default setting that uses the 9-area autofocus and superimposes green points on the LCD to show what is being focused. The autofocus frame size can be selected as normal or small in the Recording menu.
The face detection system is advertised to recognize up to 35 faces at a time. It comes pretty close to that. In testing, boxes were superimposed on four faces. Once the image was taken and it appeared for a three-second quick review, five boxes showed around faces. In the Playback mode, though, the camera showed that 18 faces were recognized. There is an "image inspection tool" in the Playback mode that acts similarly to the standard magnification tool, but automatically zooms in on faces. When the display button is pushed, it jumps from face to face so you can check the focus on all of them. The camera tracks faces fairly well and allows some rotation before they are unrecognizable to the camera.
The SD1100’s autofocus system normally focuses from 1 foot (30 centimeters) to infinity. In the Macro mode, which is available by pushing the left side of the multi-selector, the focus changes from 1.2 inches to 1.6 feet (3 to 50 centimeters). An Infinity mode is also available on the same portion of the multi-selector. Of note is a Digital Macro mode that allows you to photograph subjects in a short range of 1.2 to 3.9 inches.
All in all, the SD1100’s autofocus system is quick for a compact digital camera. Subjects are crisp and the face detection system is impressive.
Manual Focus – This digital camera does not have manual focus.
The SD1100 has automatic and high ISO auto modes along with a host of manual ISO options. ISO 80, 100, 200, 400, 800, and 1600 are found by pushing the top of the multi-selector; these are the same as the ones on the older SD1000. Unfortunately, the noise that accompanies some of the higher ISO settings renders images almost unusable. Check out the Testing/Performance section for more details, but images used at the top two settings were very grainy.
**The Function menu houses the white balance options, which are also the same as those included on the SD1000: Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Tungsten, Fluorescent, Fluorescent H, and Custom. The Custom white balance is easy to set, as you only have to frame something white in the little superimposed bracket in the center of the LCD screen.
The custom white balance had some problems when we first turned on the camera. On one occasion, the image showed up with a heavy green cast in the live view (and we promise, we framed something that was completely white), but looked fine when the image was taken and viewed in the Playback mode. After about five minutes of turning the camera off and on, making sure the My Colors effects were turned off (they were), and pondering the issue at hand, the SD1100’s view in the custom white balance mode snapped back into reality and has worked just fine ever since. We'll chalk this one up to some sort of minor glitch.
The Canon PowerShot SD1100 IS does not allow the shutter speeds and aperture to be manually controlled individually, but there is a +/- 2 exposure compensation range. This is available on almost all digital cameras, and is selectable in increments of 1/3 EV on the SD1100.
This digital camera has typical metering options available in the Function menu when the Manual mode is selected. Evaluative, Center-Weighted Average, and Spot options are available.
The SD1100 has a shutter speed range of 15-1/1500 of a second. Most of the time, the shutter speeds are not manually selectable. The only time they can be selected is when you want to shoot a long exposure. You can select 1 to 15-second exposures through a sub-menu in the Exposure Compensation menu. The camera automatically employs a long exposure noise reduction algorithm on long exposures from 1.3 to 15 seconds. Its effectiveness is questionable, though; images were still extremely noisy. Check out the Testing/Performance section for more.
The SD1100’s 3x optical zoom lens has a nice wide f/2.8 maximum aperture that lets plenty of light in to hit the image sensor. When the lens is zoomed in, though, the max aperture shrinks to f/4.9. The minimum is f/8. These F-stops are common on compact digital cameras.
**Picture Quality / Size Options
**This 8-megapixel digital camera has a CCD image sensor that measures 1/2.5 inches and has a total of 8.3 megapixels, although only 8 of those are effective for imaging. This resolution is a small step up from the SD1000, which has 7.1 megapixels on the same size sensor.
The JPEG images can be taken in the following sizes: 3264 x 2448, 2592 x 1944, 2048 x 1536, 1600 x 1200, and 640 x 480 pixels. Widescreen images of 3264 x 1832 pixels can also be taken. Normal, fine, and superfine compressions are available. The image sizes can be changed in the Function menu, and resized in the Playback menu.
Picture Effects Mode
Canon PowerShot digital cameras have come with My Colors effects for a few years now. The SD1100 shows no surprises. All of the options can be found in the Function menu: Vivid, Vivid Blue, Vivid Green, Vivid Red, Neutral, Sepia, Black & White, Positive Film, Lighter Skin Tone, Darker Skin Tone, and Custom. The Custom option lets you adjust the contrast, sharpness, and saturation along with red, green, and blue channels. It can also adjust the tint of skin tones. All of these are adjustable on +/- 2 full-step scales. If you really wanted a black and white shot and missed the chance to use the effect from the function menu, you can still get the shot in the playback menu.
In the exposure mode portion of the menu, there are two modes that act more like effects. The Color Accent and Color Swap modes allow you to pinpoint colors the same way you set the custom white balance. The Color Accent mode lets you choose one color and then dulls the other colors to black and white. The Color Swap mode allows you to select two colors, and then replaces one for the other. For instance, you can make your red car turn green in an image. This is not a replacement for Photoshop, though: the color is flat and doesn’t transition into shadows or highlights well. There are plenty of picture effects in the Recording and Playback menus on the SD1100 IS.
The Canon PowerShot SD1100 IS has version 33.0 of the Canon Solution Disk. This includes ZoomBrowser EX 6.1, PhotoStitch 3.1, Camera TWAIN Driver 6.9, and EOS Utility 1.1a for Windows operating systems. The following programs are available for Macs: ImageBrowser 6.1, PhotoStitch 3.2, and EOS Utility 1.1. Apple’s QuickTime is also available for viewing movies.
Canon’s ZoomBrowser EX program allows you to view images by scrolling through tiny thumbnails, navigating through size-adjustable images, or by viewing a strip of thumbnails along the bottom of a larger previewed image.
When pictures are viewed individually, they can be shown with or without the file information. They can be rated on a 1 to 3-star system so they can be sorted through later. You can magnify or shrink the images, and print them, too. There are also several editing features: red-eye correction, auto adjustment, color/brightness adjustment, sharpness, trim, and insert text. These editing effects aren’t any better than the ones found in the Playback menu of the camera itself. The ZoomBrowser EX software is easy to use, but certainly not elaborate.
*Jacks, ports, plugs
*The Canon SD1100 has two jacks on the upper edge of the right side. It is covered by a small plastic door that is connected with a rubber strip to the rest of the camera body. The round AV-out jack is on the left and the USB port is on the right. The AV-out delivers mono audio along with video and images to televisions; it can be set to NTSC or PAL standard for playback in any country.
*Direct Print Options
*The SD1100 IS is PictBridge compatible and comes with several features to make it very easy to print directly from the camera. There are lots of editing features in the Playback mode such as trimming and red-eye correction that make it easy to fix simple problems in the camera before printing. There is also a print tab in the Playback menu with these options: print, select images and quantity, select range, select by date, and select by category. This makes it easy and very fast to create print orders. You can choose to print 0 to 99 prints of each image, and movie prints can be made with select PIXMA and Selphy compact photo printers. With these printers, an ID Photo Print mode is also available. Just to make things even easier, the Canon PowerShot SD1100 IS has an LED-adorned print/share button that instantly sends the print order once the camera is hooked up to the printer with the included USB cable.
This PowerShot comes with the same rechargeable lithium-ion battery found in the SD1000. The battery got 210 shots per charge in the SD1000, but Canon claims it is more efficient with the SD1100 and gets 240 shots per charge. The 3.7-volt, NB-4L battery fits into the bottom of the camera under a thin plastic door that feels like it will be the first thing to break. In the middle of the door is a rubber flap that opens up to allow you to thread the optional power adapter into the battery compartment. The camera comes with a wall-mount battery charger that is convenient and compact.
The SD1100 does not come with internal memory but comes with a 16MB MMC card instead. The camera also accepts MMC Plus, HC MMC Plus, SD, and SDHC media. The memory card fits into a slot next to the battery under the flimsy plastic door on the bottom.
***Stitch Assist* – When the Manual mode is chosen, a Stitch Assist option appears at the bottom of the Recording menu. It lets you choose whether you want to align images from left to right or right to left. Once that is selected, the camera shows a preview within a framed box on the LCD screen. You take a picture, and then the camera shows a slice of the previously taken image so you can line up the live view that appears next to it. You can do this for as many shots as you want. The images aren’t stitched together in the camera; that is done in the included software later.
The Canon PowerShot SD1100 IS was announced in late January 2008 and arrives on store shelves in March with a retail price of $249. This is relatively inexpensive for a Canon. Just for reference, the SD1000 was $299 – and it didn’t have optical image stabilization. The price is tempting with the trendy and compact body, but the image quality is a concern.
Canon PowerShot SD1000 – This Digital Elph is the more prudent older sister with sharper, straighter edges and offerings in only silver and black casings. The SD1000 has less resolution at 7.1 megapixels, and it does not have optical image stabilization like the newer model. The SD1000 has a slightly wider 3x optical zoom lens but the same flash and 2.5-inch LCD components. The two digital cameras have the same exposure modes and controls and even the same face detection and Digic III image processor. The only advantage the SD1000 has over the new camera is its faster 1.7 fps burst mode. It originally retailed for $299 but can now be found online for about $170.
Casio Exilim EX-S880 – This 8.1-megapixel digital camera has a skinnier body that measures 3.72 x 2.38 x 0.68 inches and only 0.54 inches at its thinnest point. It weighs a little more at 4.51 ounces. It has a similar 38-114mm, 3x optical zoom lens but does not have optical image stabilization. It does have dozens of Scene modes, including a YouTube video mode that shoots MPEG-4, H.264 clips optimized for uploading to the online video sharing website. The Casio S880 has a 2.8-inch wide-formatted LCD screen and comes in black and red colors. It has minimal manual controls and comes at the same $249 price.
Fujifilm FinePix Z100fd – This 8-megapixel camera uses an internal lens and protects it with an interesting diagonally-sliding lens cover. The Z100fd is being marketed toward Generation Y youngsters with its loud colors and online-friendly features. It comes in Shell Pink, Satin Silver, Cappuccino Brown, and Tuxedo Black. It also has IrSimple wireless transfer technology and a "Blog mode" that automatically crops pictures to optimize them for quick uploading and sharing on social networking sites. The Z100fd has 16 Scene modes and a few manual controls, including an ISO range up to 1600 and a face detection system that recognizes up to 10 faces and automatically removes red eyes. This Fuji has a 5x optical zoom lens with dual image stabilization. There is also a larger 2.7-inch, 230,000-pixel LCD screen on the camera. The Fujifilm Z100fd has a whopping 54MB of internal memory and can accept SD, SDHC, and xD-Picture cards. It retails for $249.
Nikon Coolpix S51 – For $299, the Nikon S51 offers the same 8.1-megapixel resolution and a swankier Pictmotion slide show that plays music along with cool transitions between pictures. The S51 has a slim metal body that comes only in black. It has a 3x optical zoom lens and an optical vibration reduction image stabilization system. On the back is a large 3-inch LCD screen with 230,000 pixels. The Nikon Coolpix S51 has mainly automated modes – there is even a one-touch portrait button that enables the face priority feature - but a few manual controls like the 100 to 1600 manual ISO range. The S51 has 13MB of internal memory and SD/SDHC compatibility. The Nikon S51 is less expensive at $229, and there is also a S51c version that includes Wi-Fi capabilities.
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T70 – This slim digital camera comes in white, black, pink, and silver bodies. This 8.1-megapixel digital camera’s most prominent feature is its 3-inch touch screen. The T70 has a 3x optical zoom lens with a Super SteadyShot image stabilization system. There are 10 Scene modes, a face detection system that can recognize up to eight faces, and a Smile Shutter mode that automatically takes the picture when the subject is smiling. In-camera editing effects, including painting on images with the touch screen, are included. The Sony T70 has a 9-point autofocus system and a 2 fps Burst mode, along with an impressive 80 to 3200 ISO range. Like other Sony cameras, the T70 has HD output and slide shows with music. This digital camera retails for $299.
Who It’s For
Point-and-Shooters – The Canon SD1100 IS is made for point-and-shooters with its automated modes and convenient and compact package.
Budget Consumers – At $249, the SD1100 is priced fairly. The competition is hot in the market though, so there are less expensive options that are still trendy and feature-laden.
Gadget Freaks – These folks will appreciate the optical image stabilization and face detection, but will miss true gadgetry.
Manual Control Freaks – With its automated modes and limited control, the SD1100 is not for these consumers.
Pros/Serious Hobbyists – This camera is not an option.
The Canon PowerShot SD1100 IS makes quite a fashion statement with its multiple color offerings and body that is so compact it could get lost in your pocket. This Digital Elph makes some common sacrifices that all compact cameras make: handling isn’t very comfortable, the buttons are generally small, and the components are crammed together so the flash can be easily covered by the fingers.
The Canon SD1100 is physically attractive, but its images aren’t always as beautiful. Images look good when taken in bright light with the ISO set low, but images taken with high ISO settings are noisy and can look somewhat unpleasant. They are hardly suitable even in low-resolution formats for blogs and e-mails – much less for prints that will sit in an album for years to come.
The $249 price tag is inexpensive for a trendy 8-megapixel Canon digital camera, let alone one that has an optical image stabilization system. But the image quality is the big trade-off here; in anything other than bright lighting, you get images that have a serious amount of noise. Whether the portability of the camera is an acceptable trade-off for this is up to you, but it does detract from the attractiveness of the camera.
Sample PhotosClick on the thumbnails to view the full-resolution images.
Meet the testers
Emily Raymond is a valued contributor to the Reviewed.com family of sites.
We use standardized and scientific testing methods to scrutinize every product and provide you with objectively accurate results. If you’ve found different results in your own research, email us and we’ll compare notes. If it looks substantial, we’ll gladly re-test a product to try and reproduce these results. After all, peer reviews are a critical part of any scientific process.