By CHONG JINN XIUNGbytz@thestar.com.my
Canon's Ixus 1100HS is a solid performer that offers a lot for a small compact camera.
CANON'S Ixus range has come a long way since it was introduced 10 years ago - many innovations and changes have been made to the company's high-end compact camera range and its latest Ixus 1100HS is no different.
We received our dark red review unit not too long ago and we have to say that the glossy metal body definitely gives the camera a very premium look and feel.
The 1100HS boasts a very minimalist design with very few physical buttons. The shutter and on/off button are located on top next to a small switch that flips the camera between its fully automatic and program mode.
At the rear you'll find a large 3.2in touchscreen display that dominates most of the back. Gone are the jog dial, menu and record button of the Ixus 1000HS. The only button that remains is the playback button on the lower right.
There are a number of improvements made to the 1100HS from last year's model. Firstly it has received a slight bump up to 12-megapixels though it uses the same back-illuminated CMOS sensor as the 1000HS.
If you are not familiar with the technology, back-lit CMOS sensors have an increased surface area to receive light that in turn is said to reduce image noise levels.
The 1100HS also sports a longer 12x optical zoom lens with a focal range that starts from 28mm wide up to 336mm at the telephoto end in 35mm terms - a useful range to have especially on a small compact camera.
Having a touchscreen interface may seem cool at first, but we aren't really fans of the whole touchscreen fad on cameras. We found it less than ideal using the touchscreen to navigate long scrolling menus entirely by touch.
However, we did like how the touchscreen makes it easier to check up on how sharp an image is right away.
The full automatic mode simplifies things a lot for beginners, leaving the camera to decide on the best settings for a particular scene.
Switching away from full auto mode opens up a whole list of different options and modes.
Program mode gives you access to the more technical aspects of the camera such as setting the ISO, white balance and exposure compensation.
Even so, it does not offer much control as it is missing things like a simplified background defocus tool for depth-of-field control. Like a growing number of cameras in the market, you can expect to find creative filter modes on the 1100HS.
The camera starts up and is ready to shoot in under three seconds, a slight improvement over its predecessor. The autofocus is decently fast and responsive with little shutter lag even though it searches a lot in dark scenes.
We tried continuous shooting at 3.3fps in full resolution but found the camera's autofocus speed unable to keep up with fast moving subjects. Though the camera can shoot at a maximum of 8fps, it reduces the resolution down to a measly 3-megapixels.
We found the camera's white balance tended to lean towards the warm side when we tested it indoors. Still dynamic range was pretty good as it handled high contrast scenes surprisingly well.
The 1100HS' face detection worked well to get well exposed and focused shots with human subjects.
Occasionally, the face detection worked too well, exposing correctly for the face but overexposing the background in the process.
This can be annoying so under challenging lighting situations it is best to turn the feature off.
In terms of noise performance, we found images to be acceptable up to ISO 800 though we did notice that things start to look softer around ISO 400. Noise really factors in at ISO 1600 as does the softening of fine detail - it's still good for a compact camera but not great for making A4-sized prints.
If you're one who loves to record videos in full HD the 1100HS has you covered. We liked the HD image quality and stereo sound recording which was half decent for a camera of this calibre.
The only major gripe we have with the otherwise good quality video is the noisy zoom motor that muffles ambient sounds while recording.
The camera also offers additional movie recording modes like Movie Digest that automatically records four seconds before each shot and merges the clips into one movie.
We also had a blast playing with the camera's Super Slow Motion Movie mode that record fast moving subjects at 120fps and 240fps at a reduced 640 x 480-pixel and 320 x 240-pixel resolution respectively during playback.
Though the videos definitely won't be great for playback on your HDTV, there's still fun to be had shooting hilarious home videos in slow motion.
In terms of battery performance, the camera managed to take over 300 shots before finally needing a recharge. It should last you a good full day of shooting with some battery power to spare for another half a day.
Overall, the Ixus 1100HS is a camera that's geared towards the beginner who doesn't want to bother with camera settings and absolutely needs face detection to focus in shots.
The camera's long 12x zoom range is very useful for capturing far away subjects and it was wide enough to capture indoor scenes.
It takes decent HD videos though the loud zoom motor spoils some shots. We enjoyed using the high speed video recording option for slow motion videos but aside from that we don't see ourselves using the other modes often.
We're not fans of the touchscreen interface which we found unresponsive at times and it was overall cumbersome to change settings or change modes using it.
If you can live with the less than perfect interface you'll find the 1100HS to be a well-featured camera that will meet your needs as a beginner.
Pros: Long zoom range; good dynamic range; sleek metallic body.
Cons: Poor touchscreen interface; not great for fast moving subjects; noisy zoom motor when recording videoEnds.
IXUS 1110 HS
VIEWFINDER: 3.2in touchscreen
SHUTTER SPEED: 1- 1/4,000 sec
ISO RANGE: 100 - 3200
OTHER FEATURES: Image effects, face detection, Smart Auto mode, h igh-speed burst, Super Slow Motion Movie
BATTERY: Rechargeable lithium-ion
DIMENSIONS (W x H x D): 99 x 58.9 x 21.9mm
Review unit courtesy of Canon Marketing (M) Sdn Bhd, (03) 7844-6000.