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Photographic tests

White balance

The SD1100 IS has five white balance presets (daylight, cloudy, tungsten, fluorescent and fluorescent H) in addition to the default auto white balance. There is also a 'custom' white balance setting, which allows you to point the camera at a white or gray object and set the white balance manually. The custom white balance setting is remembered even if you turn the camera off.

In normal outdoor shooting the auto white balance works perfectly (as confirmed by our outdoor sample shots). Indoors the situation is slightly different. The SD1100's behavior is pretty much in line with most Canon PowerShots we have recently had a look at. In Auto White Balance mode incandescent (tungsten) lighting causes a fairly strong orange color cast (the tungsten preset gives a better - although far from perfect - result). We've spoken to Canon about its approach to white balance and have been told that the warm colors we see when shooting under incandescent light are intentional and are intended to 'try to keep some of the warm atmosphere of this kind of shot'.

Auto WB performance under fluorescent light is average with a visible yellowish-greenish cast. The preset however will produce an almost perfectly neutral result. If you cannot accept any compromises in terms of White Balance, you should always use the Custom White Balance option with a gray card.

Auto White Balance Flu Preset Auto White Balance Incandescent preset
Fluorescent light - Auto white balance average,
Preset white balance excellent
Incandescent light - Auto white balance poor,
Preset white balance average

Flash

The SD1100's built-in flash has a quoted working range of 0.3m - 3.5m (12 in - 11 ft) at the wide end of the zoom and 0.3m - 2.0m (12 in- 6.6 ft) at the tele end. This is not exactly a high power flash and you'll have to be careful to position your subjects within the flash range, especially in larger rooms.

In our real-world tests the flash did a decent job with a very slight warm tone (which is no bad thing) and no blown results (it actually tends to slightly underexpose). Flash recycling times are also quite fast - even with the red-eye reduction turned on, meaning you shouldn't have any problems capturing this decisive moment. The AF illuminator allows you to focus in complete darkness (or as near as we can get) at distances of up to around 1.0m. In low light the AF illuminator can help focus at distances of up to around 2.0m.

Skin tone -
Warm tone, slight under exposure.
Flash chart - Good exposure, good color.

Macro

As is common to most compact digital cameras the SD1100's macro mode is most effective at the wide end of the zoom, where you can get as close as 3cm. That's quite good for a 3x zoom ultra compact camera. At its widest setting the camera captures an area of just over 3cm across. At the long end of the zoom the macro performance is less impressive - 40cm subject distance capturing an area just over 9cm wide - but still pretty useful. As you would expect there is some visible distortion when when shooting very close up at the wide end, but it is fairly subtle, certainly in comparison to many of the SD1100's competitors.

Movie mode

The maximum movie size on the SD1100 is 640x480 pixels - fairly standard and enough to fill most television screens at 30 frames per second. However, the SD1100's movie options have been slightly reduced compared to more upmarket IXUS/ELPH models. There are options to shoot at smaller sizes but the SD1100 does not feature a low or high frame rate mode. There is a time lapse mode though. It records one image per second or per every two seconds and then plays the movie at the normal speed of 30fps.

Overall quality is not bad at all, the movies are very smooth but show a few compression artifacts. When pointing the camera directly towards a light source you'll also pretty often get the typical 'blooming' (vertical colored lines in the preview image and actual video). The AVI files are large - at the best quality setting (640x480 / 30fps) you're burning approximately 2MB every second, so if you intend to shoot a lot of movies you're going to need to invest in some big, fast SD cards.

You can only use digital zoom during filming.

Sample movie: 640 x 480 pixels @ 30 fps
File size: 10.8 MB, 5 secs

Click on the thumbnail to view the movie (caution: large file!)

Resolution

The SD1100's measures resolution is good for this class of camera but the results are not particular clean. There is visible moiré, diagonal lines are fairly jagged and you'll also find some CA and sharpening artifacts on the chart (although these minor flaws are not very likely to show up on any image that is not a test chart). Our sample also has noticeable corner softness (top left corner) - if we'd bought this particular sample we'd send it back for a replacement.

Crops

Click here for the full resolution test chart

Horizontal LPH

Absolute resolution 1625 LPH
Extinction resolution 2150 LPH *

*moiré visible

Vertical LPH

Absolute resolution 1600 LPH
Extinction resolution 2125 LPH *

*moiré visible

Distortion and other image quality issues

The SD1100 shows moderate distortion at the wide end of the zoom - 1.1% barrel distortion (click here for test chart), for a camera of this type this is well within acceptable limits and nothing to worry about. There is no measurable distortion at all at telephoto end (click here for test chart).

General comments

In most situations the SD1100 produces appealing images that can go straight to a printer. We have seen sharper images out of compact cameras but there's no need to worry. The SD1100's output is more than sharp enough for even large prints; and if you want your images to look crisper, even at a pixel level, you'll simply have to add a little sharpening in post-processing.

Softness becomes more visible at the long end of the lens. Apart from this there aren't any major problems to report, just the usual issues we have almost learned to accept on small sensor digital cameras - highlight clipping and noise reduction artifacts.

Highlight clipping / dynamic range issues

Like most of its siblings the SD1100 has a fairly pronounced tendency to clip highlights. This is common to almost all digital compact cameras with small sensors and it's no worse than average on the Canon. The symptoms are well known to anybody who has used a digital compact camera before. On an overcast day you'll end up with blown out white skies most of the time and in high contrast scenes parts of your image will be hopelessly over exposed.

Unfortunately there is not an awful lot you can do about this. Where feasible apply one or two thirds of a stop negative exposure compensation and/or reduce contrast in the MyColors option.

100% crop 38 mm equiv., F2.8

Noise and NR at low ISO settings

Shooting in anything else but perfect lighting conditions brings out some of the nastier characteristics of the tiny sensors used in compact cameras and the SD1100 is no different. Even at base ISO you'll find some noise in the shadows and blurring of low contrast fine texture such as foliage (caused by noise reduction). Again, the SD1100 is no worse in this respect than the competition but you better be aware of it if you plan to make large prints from the Canon's output.

100% crop 114 mm equiv., F2.8
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