BUILD AND DESIGN
I’ve used just about every “A” series Canon digicam since the groundbreaking little A20’s debut and I’ve been impressed with almost every one of them. Canon has been the overall U. S. digicam sales leader for almost a decade because they reliably deliver what consumers want in a point-and-shoot camera. Building cameras that are consistently usable, practical, functional, flexible, dependable, and durable constitutes a solid philosophy for success.
Rumors that the megapixel wars were finally over have evidently been greatly exaggerated. The Canon PowerShot A3300 IS is a 16 megapixel digital camera (1/2.3-inch sensor) giving it higher resolution, but with a smaller sensor than today’s entry-level DSLRs. Continually crowding more pixels onto small sensors results in exponentially increasing image degrading noise. The A3300 IS is a tough looking (well, maybe not the pink one), durably built little camera. Fit and finish are impressive with good dust/moisture seals and the A3300 IS appears to be robust enough to go just about anywhere.
Ergonomics and Controls
Canon is well known for manufacturing tiny cameras that produce dependably first rate images with very little effort on the part of the photographer and the A3300 IS, like the other members of Canon’s PowerShot tribe, continues that worthy tradition. The A3300 IS’s shirt-pocket sized metal alloy body conveys confidence – this camera should easily stand up to the rigors of an active modern lifestyle, but the wrist strap should be used at all times – smooth contour cameras (with no handgrips) are easily dropped.
The A3300 IS’s minimal user interface is uncomplicated and straightforward with reasonably sized and clearly marked controls. The control array is classic Canon; everything will be familiar to anyone who has ever used a PowerShot camera. Even first time digital camera users should be able to shoot decent images after a short hands-on familiarization with the camera and a quick scan of the user’s manual.
The A3300 IS’s shutter button is fairly large and surrounded by a standard back-and-forth zoom tab. While the zoom tab is small, zooming from wide-angle to telephoto and back is smooth, easy, and fairly precise. All controls are logically placed and easily accessed. The Compass (4-way) switch and the FUNC button provide direct access to the A3300 IS’s most commonly changed/adjusted features and functions. Canon is, in my opinion, the absolute champion when it comes to digicam ergonomics and usability.
Menus and Modes
The Canon PowerShot A3300 IS is an auto-exposure only camera – no manual control over exposure is provided. The menus are simple, logical, and easily navigated. This little digicam offers a fairly basic selection of shooting modes including:
- Easy Auto: Point-and-shoot mode – the camera does it all – no user input.
- Smart Auto: Automatic scene recognition mode that combines Face Detection technology with Advanced Subject Detection technology to lock on the subject (even if moving) and then analyze the scene in front of the lens before selecting the appropriate f/stop, shutter speed, sensitivity and white balance settings automatically. The A3300’s Digic IV processor then compares that data with the subject’s distance from the camera and the lighting on the scene and input from the i-Contrast and Smart Flash Exposure functions (just before the image is recorded) to match one of 32 built-in special scene modes. No user input into the exposure process except for flash on/off.
- Program: Auto exposure mode with some user input (ISO, White Balance, Exposure Compensation, My Colors, Metering, Image Size, flash, etc.).
- Live: Auto exposure with a neat twist – this setting allows users to frame an image (obviously this will work best with static subjects) and then make incremental in-camera color, brightness and contrast adjustments and view those adjustments live on the LCD screen prior to image capture.
- Scene: Landscape, Portrait, Kids & Pets, Indoor, Smart Shutter, Low Light, Beach, Foliage, Snow, Fireworks, and Long Shutter.
- Fish-eye Effect: Mode Dial creative filter
- Discreet: Turns off all camera sounds and disables flash for use in public venues such as museums.
- Movie: The camera records HD video at a maximum resolution of 1280x720p at 30 fps for up to 4GB or 1 hour.
Like most currently available point-and-shoots, the A3300 IS doesn’t feature an optical viewfinder and that obliges shooters to utilize the LCD screen for all framing/composition, captured image review and menu navigation chores. The A3300 IS’s 3.0-inch LCD screen (230,000 pixel resolution) dominates the camera’s rear deck.
The A3300 IS’s TFT LCD screen is fairly bright, hue accurate, fluid, automatically boosts gain (brightens) in dim/low light and displays almost 100 percent of the image frame. The A3300’s LCD screen performs adequately for captured image review and menu navigation, but it becomes almost unusable in bright outdoor light – note to Canon – this digicam’s LCD needs a better anti-glare/anti-reflection coating.
Like all LCD screens, the A3300’s LCD is subject to fading and glare in bright outdoor lighting. The DCR test lab objectively measures LCD peak brightness and contrast ratios to assist our readers in making more informed digital camera purchasing decisions. A decent LCD contrast ratio should fall somewhere between 500:1 and 800:1. An LCD with a contrast ratio within that range should be bright enough to use the LCD screen for framing and composition in outdoor lighting and it could also provide a better sense of real world color and contrast than would an LCD screen with a lower contrast ratio.
The A3300 weighs in on the low end of that range at 582:1 – for comparison purposes, Canon’s most basic entry level point-and-shoot digicam scores in the mid 400’s. Peak brightness for the A3300 IS (the panel’s output of an all-white screen at full brightness) is 437 nits and on the dark side, the measurement is 0.75. For reference, anything above 500 nits will be fairly bright outdoors. The default info display provides all the data this camera’s target audience is likely to want or need.