Body & Design
The first impressions of the 1100D are those of a camera that has been aggressively engineered to keep costs down. The body materials are plain and lightweight, giving a less reassuring sense of build quality than recent Rebel models have started to offer. The 1100D is (alongside Panasonic's trimmed-back DMC-G10 and Sony's entry-level SLRs) one of the most 'plasticky'-feeling interchangeable lens cameras we've seen.
The 1100D offers a more substantial handgrip than previous Canons at this level, which improves its feel in your hand. The buttons are also positioned so they're now all operated by your right hand, though their placement is clearly designed for changing settings via the screen, which is completely standard at this level of camera. However, we can't help but feel that the movement of the ISO button from the top plate to the rear is a retrograde step, as it can't now be easily changed with the camera to your eye and the viewfinder display turns off the moment you try to change it. You can however customize the flash button on the top plate to change ISO, but this means you'll need to enter the Q-menu simply to raise the flash.
The 1100D will be sold with two new kit lenses. The image-stabilized EF-S 18-55mm F3.5-5.6 IS II lens has received some cosmetic changes, but is optically the same as the previous version. Meanwhile, the non-stabilized EF-S 18-55mm F3.5-5.6 III receives the same optical design as seen in the IS versions, which should result in a significant improvement in image quality over its predecessors.
In your hand
The grip is larger than that of the XS/1000D, making it considerably more comfortable to hold for long periods of time. Despite the more crowded button layout on the back of the camera, there's still plenty of room to place your hand to support the camera.
On the top-panel, rather than the 1000D's ISO button the 1100D has probably the most oddly-placed flash button on any DSLR. Even with Auto ISO, we'd have thought sensitivity is still a more useful setting to have eye-level access to. ISO is still accessible via the four-way controller, but you have to take your eye away from the viewfinder to change it. However, it appears the Canon engineers weren't totally convinced by this design decision themselves. If you dive into the custom menu C.Fn-9 you can change the flash button's function and turn it into an ISO button. In turn you'll have to enter the Q-menu in order to raise the flash though.
Viewfinder specs and view
The EOS 1100D appears to use the same viewfinder as the 1000D - it's rather small for today's standards but the most essential shooting parameters are visible underneath. The exposure level display along the bottom stretches to +/- 2.0 EV and you get ISO and White Balance information. You now also have nine visible AF points, as opposed to the 1000D's seven.
One figure hidden away in every SLR's spec is the size of the viewfinder (often in a format that makes direct comparison between competing models impossible). The size of the viewfinder is a key factor in the usability of an SLR - the bigger it is, the easier it is to frame and focus your shots, and the more enjoyable and involving process it is.
Because of the way viewfinders are measured (using a fixed lens, rather than a lens of equivalent magnification), you also need to take the sensor size into account, so the numbers in the diagram below are the manufacturer's specified magnifications divided by the respective 'crop factors'.
|The EOS 1100D offers the currently smallest viewfinder in the Canon DSLR line-up, and indeed one of smallest optical viewfinders of all current Digital SLRs.|
All DSLRs at this level crop the frame slightly when you look through the viewfinder - in other words you get slightly more in the final picture than you see through the viewfinder. The EOS 11000D shows 95% (vertically and horizontally) of the frame which is pretty standard for this class of camera.
|Canon EOS 1100D: 95% viewfinder.|