Conclusion - Pros
- Decent resolution and detail at base ISO
- Consistently reliable metering and good AF accuracy
- Useful highlight tone priority mode
- Intuitive user interface
- Beginner-friendly 'Basic+' control Screens
- On-screen Q-Menu offers good access to shooting settings
- Good battery life
- Comprehensive software bundle
- Attractive price point
Conclusion - Cons
- Plastic body has a cheap feel to it, no rubberized grips
- Very simple video mode (no manual controls, only one resolution setting, no external mic)
- Very slow contrast detect AF in live view and movie mode
- Comparatively small viewfinder
- Combined battery/card compartment can make tripod use a little tricky
- Flash less powerful than on previous Canon entry-level models
- Slow continuous shooting in RAW mode
- Spec-sheet a little weak compared to some competitors
The EOS 1100D is Canon's budget model and it shows in the comparatively simple specification and cheapish look and feel of the camera body. However, the camera gets all the important stuff, such as metering and focus, right most of the time, and the targeted user group should be perfectly happy with the out-of-camera JPEGs.
The user interface and many of the camera components are refinements that have been tried and tested on previous Canon models and therefore are virtually free of any unpleasant surprises. The Canon EOS 1100D is, from a design and specification point of view, a typical entry-level DSLR that doesn't offer anything out of the ordinary but does a very solid job at what it's supposed to do - capture images with a minimum requirement for user intervention. The beginner-friendly 'Basic+' control screens facilitate this but advanced users can of course make use of the camera's manual settings and (limited) customization options as well.
We had no issues with the EOS 1100D's image quality and at default settings the out-of-camera JPEGs show natural colors and a decent amount of detail. The camera's metering and focusing are very unproblematic in almost all shooting situations and only occasionally, mainly in sunny conditions, can it be useful to dial in 1/3EV or so of negative exposure compensation to curb the camera's slight tendency to expose to the right in these situations and protect the highlights.
At a pixel level the EOS 1100D's performance is pretty much typical for this class of camera. The differences in nominal resolution between cameras at this level is pretty much negligible in real-world use and the 1100D's image detail and resolution are on par with the closest competitors. That said, at base ISO the Canon's output can, compared to some of its peers, appear a little soft. The difference will only be visible at 100% magnification but, if necessary, you can get additional detail out of your images by converting your RAW files and applying some careful sharpening in the process.
At higher sensitivities the EOS 1100D does again a decent job but is not quite up with the best in class. At ISO 3200 and higher there is a touch more detail smearing than on, for example, the Nikon D3100 or Pentax K-r and chroma noise becomes more visible. The two highest ISO settings are good enough for small output sizes or web use but should be avoided for larger prints.
When you hold the camera in your hands for the first time it becomes obvious that it has been designed with cost in mind. The smooth plastic material of the body has a cheap look and feel to it and there are no rubberized surfaces anywhere on the camera. Due to its dimensions the grip is more suitable for smaller hands but as long as you don't mount any large and heavy lenses on the 1100D's bayonet even photographers with larger hands should not have any problems with the handling.
The 1100D is firmly based in the entry-level bracket of the market and as such comes with relatively few external controls. However, most essential parameters still have got a dedicated button and the Q-menu does a good job in providing access to many other frequently used functions. You just won't be able to change these settings without taking your eye from the viewfinder and looking at the screen.
When you actually start using the camera the Canon EOS heritage becomes immediately apparent. Compared to the 1000D and other previous Canon entry-level models some of the buttons have been slightly moved around but nevertheless the 1100D user interface will look familiar to anyone who has used a Canon DSLR before. That said, users that are new to the Canon brand will find the operation of the camera equally intuitive and shouldn't require more than a day's shooting or so to know their way around the buttons and settings. There aren't many customization options but you can change the function of the SET and Flash buttons which can be quite useful.
For those photographers who frequently shoot with a tripod it is worth mentioning that on the 1100D the card and battery compartments are, just like on many compact cameras, combined in the bottom of the hand grip. This can, depending on the shape and size of your tripod-plate, make it difficult to get to the card while the camera is mounted on the tripod. In general though the EOS 1100D handles well for a camera in this class and operation is a fairly straightforward affair.
The Final Word
The Canon EOS 1100D is a solid entry-level performer but doesn't offer anything out of the ordinary. The image quality is decent, it's easy to use and beginners will find their way around the user interface pretty quickly. However, as usual it is worth having a closer look at other options in the market as well.
The competition in the entry-level bracket is fierce and some rivals offer arguably better specifications at very similar price points. Our new camera comparison tool gives you a good overview of the specification differences between the Canon EOS 1100D and its closest competitors. The Nikon D3100, which is from a price point of view quite close to the 1100D, comes with a larger screen, a 1080p full HD video mode, higher maximum ISO, more AF points and a more powerful built-in flash. The Pentax K-r is only slightly more expensive and comes, like the 1100D, with a 720p video mode but puts a higher screen resolution, faster continuous shooting, a larger viewfinder and a more customizable user interface on top.
Despite the, on paper, comparatively weak specification we quite enjoyed shooting with the EOS 1100D during the four weeks or so we have been working on this review, which shows that, at least in the entry-level bracket, good ergonomics and a thought-out user interface can be more important than some additional bells and whistles. Nevertheless there are other very good products available at this level and if you're not limited in your choices by owning a stack of EOS lenses, we'd recommend you have a good look at the alternatives as well.
Scoring is relative only to the other cameras in the same category.
Click here to learn about the changes to our scoring system and what these numbers mean.
Ergonomics & handling
Metering & focus accuracy
Image quality (raw)
Image quality (jpeg)
Low light / high ISO performance
Viewfinder / screen rating
Movie / video mode
Beginners who want a solid entry-level camera for general photography
Not so good for
Photographers who focus on video, extreme low light photography or anything that requires fast continuous shooting
The Canon EOS 1100D is a solid entry-level performer but doesn't offer anything out of the ordinary. The image quality is decent, it's easy to use and beginners will find their way around the user interface pretty quickly. However, competition in the entry-level market is fierce and it is worth having a closer look at other options as well.
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Unless otherwise noted images taken with no particular settings at full resolution. A reduced size image (within 1024 x 1024 bounds) is provided to be more easily viewed in your browser. As always the original untouched image is available by clicking on this reduced image.
|Canon EOS 1100D samples gallery - Posted 13 April 2011|