Canon Digital ELPHs have long been some of the most fashionable pocket cameras around, and the new PowerShot SD1100 IS is no exception. But along with earning plenty of style points (it comes in five colors, including Bohemian Brown and Melody Pink) the SD1100 ($249 as tested) packs some serious picture-taking goodness into its attractive body. With an 8-megapixel image sensor and image stabilization, the SD1100 captured generally sharp photos in a variety of shooting situations. Combine that with a simple yet elegant design that's instantly recognizable to most consumers, and you have a camera that, while not excelling in any one area, is a good all-around point-and-shoot.
Good Design and Ergonomics
Though it's not the smallest or thinnest model on the block, the SD1100 is cute, with a classic rectangular design and slightly rounded edges that look snazzy and fit easily into a pocket. The camera's aluminum faceplate is slightly pinched on the left side, providing a comfortable indentation for your finger. And because it's a little thicker than the competition, the SD1100 is actually easier to hold while taking pictures.
The camera's 2.5-inch LCD is on the small side, but its 230,000 pixels of resolution provided very clear image playback, though the screen tended to wash out in bright sunlight. Fortunately, the SD1100 has a tiny optical viewfinder on top--an increasingly rare feature in pocket-size cameras.
Quick on the Draw
The SD1100 powered on very quickly, firing up and extending its 3X (38-114mm-equivalent) optical zoom lens in less than a second, thanks to Canon's very speedy Digic III processor. The overall speed was also very good, with barely any shutter lag and brisk shot-to-shot performance.
Crisp Images, So-So Colors
Images from the SD1100's 8-MP sensor looked crisp, with less noise in low-light shooting situations at ISO 400. (More resolution can often generate more noise in small cameras.) In close-ups of flowers, the SD1100 did a good job of letting us lock in on one flower and recompose the photo to make the subject sharp in the foreground while keeping the background slightly blurred. This added some visual pop.
Unfortunately, colors were slightly dull overall, and sharpness fell off in the corners, making our landscape photos of the George Washington Bridge look flat with the blue sky coming out gray. The SD1100 features a standard movie mode that captured decent 640 x 480 video clips at 30 frames per second, with better-than-average sound.
Better with Faces than with Fast Motion
While the Digital ELPH's Face Detection technology did a good job of zeroing in on our subject's face to create a decent portrait, the Canon's new Motion Detection technology couldn't keep up with a basketball game we photographed; the SD1100 camera failed to freeze much of the action, even though it selected a faster shutter speed and higher ISO.
Canon SD1100 IS Verdict
Like the many Canon Digital ELPH's before it, the SD1100 is an attractive pocket camera that's easy to use and feels great in your hand. Though its image quality was only slightly above average, the SD1100 consistently produced appealing images on our tests, making this a dependable and stylish choice for under $250.