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Canon EOS 1100D review

April 9, 2011

Overall Rating:

3

Canon EOS 1100D


  • LCD viewfinder:
  • Dynamic Range:
  • Build/Handling:
  • Autofocus:
  • Metering:
  • Features:
  • AWB Colour:

Manufacturer:

Manufacturer:

Price as Reviewed:

£419.99

Almost three years on from its release, Canon has updated its entry-level DSLR with HD video, an improved sensor and greater ISO range. We put the Canon EOS 1100D to the test

Canon EOS 1100D at a glance:

  • 12.2 million effective pixels
  • ISO 100-6400
  • 2.7in LCD screen with 230,000 dots
  • 720p HD video
  • Street price £419 body only or £499 including kit lens

Canon EOS 1100D review – Introduction

It seems at odds with these hard times that new cameras are released more frequently than ever, with people seemingly having enough cash to splash out on new camera kit. One section of the camera market that is particularly busy and competitive is that of the entry-level DSLR. It is a surprise, then, that the last time we saw Canon announce an entry-level DSLR, the EOS 1000D, was almost three years ago in June 2008. In today’s terms, we have waited a long time for its replacement.

The digital technology used in cameras has come a long way during the past three years, not least in the development of imaging sensors, the introduction of HD video in stills cameras and improved low-light performance. It seems reasonable to expect the new Canon EOS 1100D to outshine its predecessor on many fronts, given the gap between releases. The introduction of HD video and the extended sensitivity range of the new model are an indication that this might just be the case.

Today the Canon EOS 1100D faces stiff competition, perhaps more so than when its predecessor was introduced in 2008. Not only are there great cameras available in the form of the Nikon D3100 and Pentax K-r, but also a plethora of other options now exist, including the compact system camera. I look forward to finding out what it is about the Canon EOS 1100D that may entice the punters away from its competition. It will be interesting to see if Canon’s new DSLR can handle the pressure.

Features

Canon EOS 1100D featuresWith improvements to image sensors during the past three years, it is likely that the 12.2-million-effective-pixel, APS-C-size sensor of the EOS 1100D has filtered its way down from the EOS 450D. The 450D occupies the next level up in the EOS range, although it has since been eclipsed by the newer EOS 550D with its improved 18-million-pixel sensor. What was good enough for an upper entry-level DSLR three years ago, it seems, is good enough for an entry-level DSLR now. This marks a two-million-pixel increase for the 1100D over the earlier EOS 1000D, which puts it on equal terms with the Pentax K-r but two million pixels shy of the Nikon D3100.

Like all EOS models, the 1100D records in both JPEG and CR2 raw format, and images measure 4272×2848 pixels at their highest resolution. The 14-bit Digic 4 processor, found in all other current Canon DSLRs, is an improvement over the last generation 12-bit processor found in the 1000D and should ensure fine colour reproduction. To process raw files, the camera comes with Canon’s excellent Digital Photo Professional software.

A main difference during these three years is the now common presence in DSLRs of HD video. The 1100D brings this feature to a Canon entry-level model, with 720p recording at 30fps or 25fps. This is one of the most significant improvements over the 1000D and is not a feature of the EOS 450D’s sensor. Another step forward is an increased sensitivity range, rising by 2EV to ISO 100-6400 with no expanded setting. The new processor should go some way to help produce images with low levels of noise.

New to the EOS range and found in both the 600D and 1100D is an in-camera shooting guide that is represented by one-line descriptions of a function when it is selected in the quick menu. This is used in the creative auto mode, too, and its language is nice and simple as it is aimed at the beginner. For example, opening up the aperture is described as ‘background blur’, and users are advised that ISO 400 is for ‘under cloudy skies and for bright indoor scenes’.

A shooting rate of 3fps helps to capture high-speed scenes, such as the erratic movement of these birds

The frame rate remains the same as before, with the 1100D offering 3fps in JPEG format, but the burst now lasts roughly 30% longer, giving up to 820 frames. Up to five raw files can be recorded at 2fps.

At the core of the 1100D is a nine-point AF system and 63-area iFCL metering system. These have both filtered down from higher specified Canon EOS models. Overall, the 1100D is solid at the core and has been kept simple, offering a good mix of scene modes and basic manual exposure modes.

Features in use: Compatibility with EF and EF-S lenses

Canon EOS 1100D features in useWhen buying a DSLR body from a well-established manufacturer such as Canon, one is investing into a whole existing system. The label ‘entry-level’ is truly apt for the EOS 1100D, as it is compatible with the entire EOS range of EF and EF-S lenses, as well as Canon flashguns.

There are more than 60 lenses available in the company’s EF and EF-S range, including telephoto zooms and standard fixed-focal-length options, to cover a variety of needs. Some lenses are very reasonably priced, particularly in the EF range.

Full control is maintained when using any of these lenses with the EOS 1100D.

Build and handling

Canon EOS 1100D build and handlingStraight out of the box, the EOS 1100D has a distinctly entry-level feel. It is lightweight and made from what feels like a tough but low-density plastic, to keep costs down. Canon has done away with the textured handgrip of the EOS 1000D, and given the 1100D a shiny and smooth plastic finish all over. It remains a compact DSLR at 130x78x100mm and is just about the same size as its direct competition, although a shade larger than its predecessor. At 495g, it is a little heavier than the 1000D, too, but slightly lighter than other similar DSLRs on the market.

A pronounced handgrip helps the 1100D sit comfortably in the hand. Each button is large, labelled clearly, and good for beginners and those with big fingers. Most of the key functions have a designated button on the back of the body, all within thumb’s reach. These include ISO, white balance and drive mode. Three key buttons – quick menu, live view and exposure compensation – are handily placed at the top right of the screen, and these also double up as other functions. All the important manual controls are given a prime spot on the body, which should encourage the user to ‘discover’ them.

The quick menu button gives access to the key controls without having to trawl through the main menu. While in this menu, the shooting guide appears every time a new setting is selected to advise the user what it is for. This provides a second way of accessing the key controls and is easily navigated.

A shooting mode dial on the top accesses the usual exposure modes as well as a handful of standard scene modes, such as portrait, landscape and sports. These modes automatically set the exposure to achieve the best results, as does creative auto and the A-DEP option for automatic depth of field. Video shooting can also be found on the dial.

The crispness of detail captured by the kit lens in close-range subjects is impressive

Canon EOS cameras have had an easily navigated menu system for a while now, and current EOS users will be right at home here. As with the 60D and new 600D, the 1100D has a handy image-rating system in place: when images are imported to a computer, the star rating helps to organise files.

Instead of in-camera stabilisation, the 1100D relies on the 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS II kit lens. Another 18-55mm kit lens is available without stabilisation, but this restricts usable shutter speeds. With a steady hand, the 4EV stabilisation allows shutter speeds of around 1/10sec for sharp images.

The pop-up flash has a guide number of 9.2m @ ISO 100. For greater flash control and output, the 1100D is compatible with all Canon EF flashguns, which are connected via the hotshoe.

Those considering replacing their 1000D with this updated model should note that their current batteries will not work with the 1100D. It has a new battery type, which Canon claims will give 700 exposures on a full charge.

The company is making no bones about the 1100D’s target entry-level audience – the camera is small, lightweight, easily navigated and feels like a budget-price model.

White balance and colour

This overcast scene is served well by some of the picture modes, particularly monochrome, and even the portrait and landscape modes boost the saturation a little

Like most of the key controls, white balance can be accessed directly on the back of the camera body. As well as auto, there are six presets and a custom option, which works by taking information from a photo file (preferably with a grey card in the frame) and setting the appropriate colour temperature.

In the EOS 1000D the picture modes have a dedicated button on the body, but on the EOS 1100D they are accessed via the quick or main menu. There is much fun to be had taking pictures using these different settings – such as monochrome, portrait and neutral – and then fine-tuning the effects ±3 for saturation, colour tone, sharpness and contrast.

As well as the six presets, there are three custom spaces for the user to create their own colour setting. I created a high-contrast black & white setting, a low-contrast and low-sharpness sepia setting for a dated look, and a punchy and vivid setting. As JPEG image processing can be slightly soft, I found it worth boosting the sharpness of my well-used colour modes a little. There is no in-camera option to adjust the colour post-capture.

Standard monochrome colour mode produces pleasing results, but for creative images there are three slots for user-defined versions

In its standard mode, the colours demonstrate a strong, subtle and natural tone. There is an option to suit every taste in the picture modes, but not too many to baffle the photographer. Overall, I am happy with the colours produced by the 1100D.

I used the camera across various types of lighting. The auto white balance does a good job in overcast light and in sunny conditions, producing almost neutral results. The custom setting is even closer to neutral, while the white balance presets give warmer results. I found the auto white balance offers a pleasing compromise.

When shooting outdoors at night and in tungsten light, it is advisable to use the appropriate white balance preset or take a custom reading because the camera does little to take away the yellow hue.

Metering

Metering is one of the few controls that does not have a dedicated button on the camera body; instead, it is accessed by the quick or main menu. Its 63-area, iFCL colour-sensitive metering system is the same one used in the EOS 7D, which is impressive given the level of the EOS 1100D. The 63-area metering covers the entire frame and areas can be individually selected in the partial metering setting. Centreweighted metering is also available.

Taking a series of images while each time tilting the camera up from the ground to the sky showed a gradual change in exposure for highlights, midtones and shadows. This shows that the 1100D is not easily thrown by large bright or dark areas.

Autofocus

The nine-point AF system of the EOS 1100D has been used well in other EOS models higher up in Canon’s range and marks an improvement over the seven-point system of the EOS 1000D. Also, it has wider coverage and a more sensitive cross-type central point.

The AF button on the body gives access to three AF modes: one-shot, AI servo or AI focus. The first is for static subjects, the second for moving objects and the third switches automatically between the two when the camera detects movement. When shooting street scenes, I mostly stuck to the automatic AI focus mode to ensure I was ready for any candid moments.

I found the phase-detection AF responsive, even in low-contrast light. However, the contrast-detection AF in live view is slow, taking a good second to hunt back and forth to find the focal point. This makes live view unsuitable for any high-speed shooting, although it is helpful in other circumstances. Quick AF offers an alternative method for focusing while in live view. In this mode the mirror flips down momentarily to allow phase-detection AF to kick in. However, this is still not as quick as shooting via the viewfinder.

Noise, Resolution and Sensitivity

Under the controlled lighting of our studio, the EOS 1100D is able to resolve a fine level of detail, right the way through its entire sensitivity range. Raw files reach 24 and JPEGs reach 22 on our resolution charts at ISO 100 and around 20 at ISO 6400, the latter being particularly impressive. Combine this with the improved resolution of 12.2 million pixels and the 1100D should comfortably give good-quality A3 prints without interpolation.

At ISO 1600, the level of distracting luminance noise, even in colour images, is impressively low

Luminance noise is well controlled and not too distracting at any point. It is at higher sensitivities and in shadow areas that it is most apparent, but images are very usable even at ISO 1600. The biggest increase in noise levels is at the maximum sensitivity of ISO 6400. Given its particularly strong performance when it comes to noise, combined with a good sensitivity range, the EOS 1100D offers high-quality handheld and flash-free photography, even in low light.

Resolution charts: These images show 72ppi (100% on a computer screen) sections of images of a resolution chart, captured using a Canon 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS lens. We show the section of the resolution chart where the camera starts to fail to reproduce the lines separately. The higher the number visible in these images, the better the camera’s detail resolution is at the specified sensitivity setting.

Dynamic range

The measured dynamic range of the EOS 1100D according to DxO (www.dxomark.com) is 11EV, which is respectable for a camera at this level. It is a tiny improvement over the EOS 1000D and on a par with the Nikon D3100, although the Pentax K-r has a range that is greater by 1.5EV.

In real-world settings, the 11EV dynamic range gives a good range of tone and, as with other similar models, there is plenty of detail that can be extracted from dark shadow areas, particularly in raw files. In light of this, it is better to meter for just before the highlights burn out and then boost shadow areas. The auto lighting optimiser, which can be found in the main menu, boosts the extreme ends of the dynamic range and has three levels of strength.

Viewfinder, LCD, Live View and Video

Canon EOS 1100D viewfinderA screen size of 2.7in on the EOS 1100D marks an increase in size over the EOS 1000D’s 2.5in screen, although the resolution remains the same at 230,000 dots. Three years ago, this screen would have been well regarded, but by today’s standards the combination of size and resolution is disappointing. A viewing angle of 170° offers good visibility and the screen is bright enough to view in all but the brightest of situations.

To use the optical viewfinder clearly, the automatic LCD screen display can be turned off by pressing the display button. The optical viewfinder is pleasingly bright, and gives a 95% field of view. I found myself using it much more than live view, a designated button for which is conveniently placed and locks the mirror up when activated.

Cameras available at the time of the 1000D’s launch generally did not offer HD video. The 1100D therefore offers a big step forward for the entry-level EOS system, as 720p HD video is now available at 30fps and 25fps. It is accessed via the shooting dial on the top of the body, and when video mode is selected the live view button is used to record. Video quality is good, and there is a maximum clip length of 17 minutes, which is good at this level. A HDMI port enables viewing on HD televisions.

Our verdict

Three years is a long time to wait and in some respects it is easy to feel a little disappointed with what, on the surface, could be deemed minor improvements. However, many of the changes to the core of Canon’s EOS 1100D have trickled down from old and current-generation, higher level EOS models, such as the imaging sensor, 63-area iFCL metering and nine-point AF system. This is testament to the progress Canon has made during the past three years.

The 1100D does not have the best build quality when compared to its direct competition, but what it does offer is impressive image quality, particularly with regard to low noise levels at high sensitivities. I appreciated its simplicity of use and image quality, which should both help to nurture the beginner and enthuse them with good results, while its picture modes encourage the creation of a personal style.

We do not know how much the 1100D will drop in price, but as it is currently set I would have to say there are better cameras out there. Nonetheless, the camera has been clearly positioned as a good starting point for DSLR photography, and it satisfies where it matters most, in image quality.

Canon EOS 1100D: Focal points

Viewfinder
The bright viewfinder has 95% coverage and a magnification factor of 0.8x. Dioptre adjustment ranges from -2.5 to +0.5

Quick menu
With all the key exposure controls available through this menu, this is a key button and well placed within thumb’s reach

Live view
Live view is activated by this button. Once in this mode, the same button acts as the video record

Memory card
The memory card slot is now found in the battery compartment on the bottom of the camera, and is compatible with SD, SDHC and SDXC cards

Eye-Fi memory card
Like all recent EOS models, the 1100D is compatible with Eye-Fi memory cards, which enable users to upload images and videos wirelessly.

Rate your files
Image files can be given a star rating of between one and five. This helps no end with organisation once files have been loaded onto the computer.

Flash compatibility
The hotshoe enables use of EX-series Speedlite flashguns, with E-TTL II wireless multi-flash support.

Bracketing
Both autoexposure and white balance can be bracketed over three shots. Autoexposure is available at ±3 and white balance in three levels of colour temperature.

The competition

Nikon D3100Canon’s EOS 1100D follows the release of a fine couple of entry-level DSLRs.

The Nikon D3100 boasts 1080p HD video, a 14.2-million-pixel sensor and a very helpful in-camera shooting guide.

The Pentax K-r is that company’s similarly priced option.

In its favour is 6fps shooting and a maximum sensitivity of ISO 25,600.

Pentax K-r

Both models feature a 3in LCD screen, with the K-r offering an impressive 921,000 dots.

All three cameras are similarly sized, but the K-r is a little heavier than the other two. For an even more lightweight option, compact system cameras offer a fine alternative to a DSLR.

Considering that models like the Samsung NX11 also feature APS-C-sized sensors, the choice is not an easy one to make.

  • Tested as: Entry-level DSLR
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