Cameras

Canon PowerShot A1300 Digital Camera Review

For those who demand a AA-powered camera, the A1300 is a fair model that holds up better than most.

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Introduction

The PowerShot A1300 is a AA-battery powered compact, offered by Canon to appeal to old-fashioned (or well-prepared) shooters. But there's a lot more going for this little camera. It's very inexpensive, very small, very light, has a built-in optical viewfinder, and actually didn't test quite as poorly as we expected.

The A1300 is available now for $119.99, in black or silver.

Front

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Back

Back Tour Image

Sides

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Top

Top Tour Image

Bottom

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In the Box

Box Photo

• Canon PowerShot A1300 digital camera

• wrist strap

• USB cable

• "Getting Started" guide

• software CD-ROM

Lens & Sensor

The small lens barrel feels sturdier than this camera's price tag lets on. It adjusts very quickly to user input, and we were able to lock focus very close to our subjects. The entire assembly is surrounded by a thick chrome band that makes this cheap camera look a little bit classier.

Viewfinder

A rarity for this price range, the A1300 comes with an optical viewfinder. This certainly isn't the highest quality implementation we've ever seen, but it zooms in along with the lens, and coverage is moderately close to the final image. We're just happy to have the option at all.

Display(s)

The 2.7-inch display on the rear panel is of low quality. The viewing angle is narrow and the preview cannot be relied upon to display an image similar to the final shot. The onscreen display is also prone to lens flares, as well as flickering under non-natural light.

Flash

A flash bulb is located on the upper right corner of the front panel, and this presents a problem when shooting with both hands. The bulb is also fairly weak, maxing out at 9.8 feet. Charge and recycle speeds from the AA batteries are slow, and introduce a long delay before shooting. This means spur-of-the-moment photography is more difficult than it should be.

Flash Photo

Connectivity

All connectivity is accomplished via a miniUSB port, housed underneath a rubber covering at the top of the right panel. This makes it easy to connect the camera to a PC if an SD card slot isn't available. In playback mode, it's possible to output composite video from this port, but the camera doesn't ship with the necessary cable, you'll need to buy that separately.

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Image Quality

We were absolutely blown away by this camera's color accuracy, however the remainder of our image quality tests were closer to our expectations. Resolution is poor and chromatic aberration is very severe. This is a cheap lens, plain and simple.

Sharpness

Resolution of detail is actually rather impressive at the center of the frame, but falls off steeply as we move outward. In many tested regions detail dips below 500 MTF50s. That's very low, and indicative of a cheap lens, but not entirely unexpected from this model. For best results, keep your most important subjects, like faces, in the center of the frame. More on how we test sharpness.

Science Section 2 Images

Image Stabilization

The A1300 is only capable of "digital" image stabilization, which simply increases shutter speed to reduce motion blur. Maximum resolution is also reduced in this mode, therefore we do not test it. For effective image stabilization, check out the slightly more expensive Canon A2400 IS, or last year's Samsung PL120.

Color

The A1300's color accuracy is actually amazingly good. We recorded an error value of 2.23 in our accuracy test (lower numbers are better here), and to put that in perspective, we recently tested the $3500 Canon 5D Mark III, which scored a 2.15. Saturation is also nearly perfect, coming in at 98.5%. More on how we test color.

For sticklers, the errors that do exist are found in shades of yellow and blue. But that shouldn't detract from this very impressive result. Expect subjects, especially human ones, to be rendered in an accurate and flattering way.

NOTE: Because of the way computer monitors reproduce colors, the images above do not exactly match the originals found on the chart or in the captured images. The chart should be used to judge the relative color shift, not the absolute captured colors.

In relation to other cameras, we notice that the only similar results near this price are achieved by the Canon A2400 IS, a similar model that was announced and released at the same time as the A1300. It's likely these two cameras are using the same sensor and the same image processor, so that explains the similarity in scores here.

White Balance

On the other hand, the A1300's white balance system is a little bit better than the A2400's, especially the automatic algorithm. Like all digital cameras, this one still had problems balancing under incandescent light, otherwise the results were above average. Custom white balance is somewhat less accurate than a few other compacts we've seen, but the problem isn't nearly severe enough to detract from general use.

Noise Reduction

This is a very noisy camera. All images, even at ISO 100, are polluted with at least 1.00% noise, and at the maximum ISO that figure jumps to 1.97% on average. More on how we test noise.

Science Section 3 Images

ISO Options

ISO sensitivity extends from 100 to 1600, and that's a pretty narrow range for a 2012 camera, though not rare for this price range. Using the Low Light scene mode it's possible to reach sensitivities of up to 6400, but this reduces resolution to 4 megapixels.

Science Section 4 Images

Chromatic Aberration

Near the edges of the frame, we see the dreaded double-fringing effect, in which high contrast areas are aberrated to both the left and right sides. This is further evidence of a low quality lens, and severely detracts from the visual appeal of captured images. The effect is particularly noticeable in our first sample photo.

Distortion

Barrel distortion is moderately severe throughout the A1300's focal range, holding steady at around 0.9 to 1.0%. Usually, small cameras compensate for unavoidable distortion in software. This camera doesn't use that technique, or doesn't use it as rigorously, but distortion levels are still fairly low and shouldn't distract too badly.

Motion

Trailing is not a problem for video content shot with the A1300, however compression artifacting is very noticeable, especially on fixed surfaces. General smoothness could also be much better, severe judder affects moving objects throughout the frame. In the sample below, pay attention to the moving train to see this problem. More on how CamcorderInfo tests motion.

Video Sharpness

Video sharpness is pretty much average, but for a camera of this price that's impressive in a way. The A1300 can resolve 500 lw/ph of detail horizontally and 450 lw/ph vertically in moving scenes. By comparison, the Canon A2400 IS was capable of only 400 lw/ph along each axis. More on how CamcorderInfo tests video sharpness.

Low Light Sensitivity

The A1300 is also slightly more sensitive in low light than the A2400. In order to collect 50 IRE of video data, illumination of 21 lux was required, compared to the A2400's 25 lux. This still isn't an especially impressive score, especially compared to any camcorder, but we've seen much less sensitivity from many ultracompacts, even expensive ones.

Usability

At this segment of the market, simplicity is the most important consideration. A painless and flexible full auto mode will be very helpful for beginners, and we're always impressed by Canon's intuitive menu systems. We only wish burst mode was a little faster.

Automatic Features

The top spot on the directional pad controls shooting mode, and swaps between fully automatic and everything else. This is a partial scene selecting auto mode, so the software automatically adapts to macro shooting conditions if necessary. While using auto, it's still possible to adjust flash, self-timer, and a few other settings. That's nice for moderately experienced users, we just hope that flexibility advantage doesn't scare off beginners.

Buttons & Dials

All buttons are large and legible. Aside from the shutter release and power buttons, the most important key will be "Func. / Set," which is located in the center of the directional pad and brings up the convenient quick menu. There's also a dedicated video hotkey, a dedicated button for in-camera help, a playback button, and a button to access the main menu.

Effects, Filters, and Scene Modes

Scene modes are lumped in the picture effects, and available from the same position on the quick menu that's used to select Program mode. It's the sort of system that's "so simple it's confusing," but should become second-nature soon enough. There are plenty of useful scene modes, including Digital Image Stabilization, Face Self-Timer, Low Light, Fish-eye Effect, and more.

Canon's current menu systems are excellent and translate well to the A1300. The interface is evenly split between the quick menu and the main menu. The former is a fast, efficient way to adjust important shooting variables on the fly; the latter is a slightly slower but more comprehensive menu for adjusting details. The quick menu is painlessly operated with the directional pad, while the main menu is navigated with a combination of the directional pad plus the zoom lever for swapping tabs. We love this menu system.

Instruction Manual

On the other hand, the printed "Getting Started" guide that's included in the box is far too vague to be of much use. Even copying the digital version of the full manual included on a CD-ROM didn't provide us with all the answers we were looking for.

Handling

Physical handling of the camera isn't bad. The oversized battery compartment makes for a thicker right hand grip than most compacts offer. This counteracts the undesirably slippery surface of the body, and makes for a relatively stable shooting experience. The viewfinder is also readily accessible, regardless of hand position, and this is a real advantage that separates the A1300 from competitors, including the rest of the A-series itself.

Handling Photo 1

Sadly the buttons can be a pain. Although the layout is smart and simple, the buttons themselves are flat and set well into the body paneling. As a result, they can be difficult to actually press, and it is especially difficult to differentiate between positions on the directional pad.

Handling Photo 2

Buttons & Dials

All buttons are large and legible. Aside from the shutter release and power buttons, the most important key will be "Func. / Set," which is located in the center of the directional pad and brings up the convenient quick menu. There's also a dedicated video hotkey, a dedicated button for in-camera help, a playback button, and a button to access the main menu.

Buttons Photo 1

On the top panel, the shutter release is large, obvious, and easily distinguished from the power button, even by touch. The release has excellent tactile feedback, and we have no complaints about it. The zoom lever surrounding the shutter is functional, but feels very cheap.

Buttons Photo 2

Display(s)

The 2.7-inch display on the rear panel is of low quality. The viewing angle is narrow and the preview cannot be relied upon to display an image similar to the final shot. The onscreen display is also prone to lens flares, as well as flickering under non-natural light.

Viewfinder

A rarity for this price range, the A1300 comes with an optical viewfinder. This certainly isn't the highest quality implementation we've ever seen, but it zooms in along with the lens, and coverage is moderately close to the final image. We're just happy to have the option at all.

Image Stabilization

The A1300 is only capable of "digital" image stabilization, which simply increases shutter speed to reduce motion blur. Maximum resolution is also reduced in this mode, therefore we do not test it. For effective image stabilization, check out the slightly more expensive Canon A2400 IS, or last year's Samsung PL120.

Shooting Modes

The top spot on the directional pad controls shooting mode, and swaps between fully automatic and everything else. This is a partial scene selecting auto mode, so the software automatically adapts to macro shooting conditions if necessary. While using auto, it's still possible to adjust flash, self-timer, and a few other settings. That's nice for moderately experienced users, we just hope that flexibility advantage doesn't scare off beginners.

In Program mode, it still isn't possible to control shutter and aperture manually, but all other shooting variables are unlocked, including ISO, white balance, self-timer, continuous shooting, etc. We spent most of our time in Program.

Focus

Recording Options

There are five different shooting resolutions available, from full quality options down to space-saving low-res versions. There's also a widescreen option for native output to an HDTV.

Speed and Timing

At full resolution, we clocked the A1300 at just over 0.7 frames per second, making it a very slow shooter by any standard. As ISO increases, performance will become slower and slower. But some helpful drive options aid this category: the self-timer is fully customizable, and there's even a Scene mode for face detection self-timer.

A valuable compromise would've been higher speed at lower resolutions, sadly the A1300 is just as slow at 0.3 megapixels. Too bad.

Features

As an entry-level device, the A1300 is pretty light on features. This is expected, but we still could've used some expanded video functionality.

Effects, Filters, and Scene Modes

Scene modes are lumped in the picture effects, and available from the same position on the quick menu that's used to select Program mode. It's the sort of system that's "so simple it's confusing," but should become second-nature soon enough. There are plenty of useful scene modes, including Digital Image Stabilization, Face Self-Timer, Low Light, Fish-eye Effect, and more.

Recording Options

This is only a 720p camera, though it is also possible to shoot in 480p. Standard definition videos are captured at 30 frames per second, though 720p footage seems to be 25 frames per second. Beyond this, there are no other video shooting options. Find out how the performed in our video image quality test./r:link_to_content

Video Controls

Auto Controls

All of video shooting is essentially automatic, and it appears only two Scene modes are compatible with video: iFrame Movie and Miniature Effect, the latter of which severely limits frame rate.

Zoom

Optical zoom is locked while a recording is in progress, a limitation that is becoming more and more dated as new cameras are released with this option intact.

Focus

Autofocus locks before each recording, but doesn't adjust continuously once a video is in progress. This means that if a subject gets closer to the camera they'll become more and more out of focus, that is, until a new recording starts.

Exposure Controls

Exposure is completely automated during video and there exists no way to change this.

Audio Features

A tiny mono microphone on the front panel is responsible for all audio recording, and it does a predictably mediocre job. There are no internal audio options of any kind.

Conclusion

For those who absolutely must own a AA-powered camera, you could do worse than the Canon PowerShot A1300. We like the small optical viewfinder, especially how it actually magnifies along with optical zoom. The oversized battery compartment has the side effect of creating a thick right hand grip, which compensates for the poorly-designed buttons on the rear panel. The color accuracy of this camera is also quite amazing, our test returned a score that could compete with models ten times the price of this one.

As for the rest of our performance metrics...well they're pretty much what we expected. After all, you do get what you pay for. Resolution is rather terrible at all focal lengths, despite the 16 megapixel sensor, and all zones fall victim to fringing and distortion. Image noise is also a severe problem, and will detract from shots at ISO 200 and beyond. This camera is also a slow shooter and lacks many secondary features, other than those that have already been mentioned.

But for many consumers these drawback won't matter. Plus, we have to admit, we did enjoy ourselves while shooting with the A1300, probably due to Canon's excellent menu system. As long as you know what you're buying, and don't have any illusions about the capabilities of this 120-dollar camera, the A1300 will not disappoint.

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