The Canon PowerShot A3100 is one of the many point and shoot cameras currently flooding the market. Being one of the new line-ups from Canon this year, the PowerShot A3100 IS with its new look and new features is here to please consumers who just need a basic camera that shoots well.
The Canon PowerShot A3100 has quite a standard set of features. It has a 12.1MP sensor, 4x optical zoom lens ( 35-140 mm) with image stabilization (IS) and a 2.7-inch LCD screen. Like previous IXUS range of cameras, the PowerShot A3100 uses a digic III image processor and it comes equipped with handful of features like Smart Auto, Smart FE ( Flash Exposure), Super Vivid , Self Face Timer and Low light mode. It can also detect up to 9 faces, track and select faces. Totally, there are 18 shooting modes which is more than adequate for beginners. These include Easy Mode, Smart Auto, Program manual ( with few customizable option ISO speed, white balance, and metering etc), portrait mode, landscape,kids&pets, night snapshot, indoor, scene selection ( 8 scenes) and movie. Video is captured in VGA resolution at 30 fps which is outdated in a year like 2010 where HD becomes the household name.
Design & Usability
Canon’s focusing system worked admirably under good lighting. It quickly detects and locks on the subjects, thanks to the AF assist lamp.
The PowerShot A3100 IS is not ultra-compact but pocketable enough and it weights just 155g. It is available in three colors: silver, red and blue. There is nothing really obtrusive about the camera design, we find using it as normal point and shoot comfortable and uncomplicated. The handgrip is not as good as it was with the older A-series PoweShot cameras, but we still find it easy to use. The silver color looks a bit boring and cheap,so trying out the other two color options may be a good idea, although the build quality is quite good for a budget camera.
The PowerShot A3100 IS has a body not as chubby as those older PowerShots series, this makes it more pocket-friendly. The top of the camera has a mode dial with two flushed buttons for shutter release and power, and an onboard speaker. The front has a flash conveniently located on the upper right where the hands won't block its light when it fires off. The back has a 2.7-inch LCD screen and all the controls on its right. Here, we found the zoom toggle, face select button, playback button and four directional keys with center select/function button. The last two buttons at the row are for display and menu. The buttons are not tiny and have uncomplicated layout design. Despite their plastic look and feel, they offered good tactile. The camera has a miniUSB port sealed on the side and it works for both data transfer and a TV-out.
Dedicated buttons for menu and function (for submenu) made things easier and accessing shooting modes were just a mode dial away. The display has good viewing angle and visibility is also good even on outdoors. The PowerShot A3100 IS uses the tried and tested Canon's simple interface. Even for first time users, getting around its two tab menu design would not pose much problem as there is always a pop up hint for each function.
From powering-on to taking its first shot, the PowerShot A3100 IS took just two seconds flat which is good for a point and shoot camera.Navigating the menu and operating the camera happened at acceptable speed. Zooming in and out happened smoothly but not silently, the internal zoom mechanism noise is audible. Shutter lag in pre-focusing mode is measured 0.1 second while in autofocus, it took 0.5 seconds which is average. Its shot-to-shot time without using the flash is 2.3 seconds and 3.5 seconds using the flash on which is satisfactory. Its continuous shooting mode has just acceptable burst rate though, 0.8 fps and 0.4 fps with or without the flash respectively.
Canon’s focusing system worked admirably under good lighting. It quickly detects and locks on the subjects, thanks to the AF assist lamp. In low lights while shooting distant subjects though, the camera took a little longer to get the subjects in focus. The image stabilization system let us capture sharper images while shooting in slow shutter speed which is commendable. Images captured at the widest angle have good edge to edge sharpness. We also noticed some purple fringes in high contrast areas but they are not noticeable enough to spoil the image quality.The lens also showed slight barrel distortion towards the extreme ends but it is passable.
ISO Test: Noise presence was noticed from ISO 400 and beyond. Below that, images looked clean with good details
Color reproduction is good but not the most accurate we've seen. Colors don't look that rich and color in auto mode, so if you want your pictures to be lively and colorful , the super vivid mode can do the trick. Images captured have fine details and a good exposure. Noise presence was not an issue till ISO 200, but from ISO 400, noise began to appear and image details also began to drop. This became worst as we pushed the ISO speed up. The built-in flash showed good exposure with no red eye issue in our low light portrait shots. The camera let us capture subject as close as 3cm in macro mode with good color reproduction and acceptable details.
(From Top left to right) 1. Macro shot - Focusing was quick and image has good details in budget point and shoot standard. 2. Outdoor shot in auto mode: High contrast area shows chromatic aberration. 3.Outdoor test: The camera captured good details and image is well exposed. Barrel distortion is noticeable. 4. Night shot at ISO 200: Good details even on darker areas but overexposure in bright areas.
Videos captured in standard resolution were not choppy , rather the clips have respectable frame rates and details. Optical zoom is not available during video capturing as is the case for most standard point and shoot. And indoor clips we recorded showed fair amount of noise this makes the camera best suited for shooting videos in good lights. The sound recorded were clear and loud but they are in mono. Overall, the video quality is not great but good enough for casual video recording or posting it on YouTube. The built-in Li-Ion battery let us capture around 210 images and few short video clips.
The Canon PowerShot A3100 IS which costs Rs. 8,995 is on the upper end of budget point and shoot camera. It captures good image quality for its class which makes it a good option for those who just need a camera with basic features. If you are a budget seeker, the cheaper Nikon L22 is also a good option but comes without optical image stabilization.