Canon has lots of experience creating ultra-compact, feature-rich, easy-to-use digicams, but they really outdid themselves with last year's snazzy little SD1000 – it was hands down the best digicam in its class. The retro-minimalist Canon PowerShot SD1000 got rave reviews from both professional camera reviewers and ordinary consumers because it delivered everything an ultra-compact digicam could reasonably be expected to provide. What set the SD1000 apart from its competition was not its old-school style or its flashy collection of (mostly unneeded) features: what made the SD1000 unique in a flood of generally competent but uninspired mini-cams was its proficiency, capability, and dependability as a digital image-maker. Updating a very popular digital camera like the Canon Powershot SD1000 is an especially tough job, but the new Canon PowerShot SD1100 IS (which replaces the SD1000) retains most of what made its predecessor one of the ultra-compact digicam sales leaders of 2007.
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The SD1100 IS sports a more stylish and less "retro" look than its predecessor. It boosts resolution from 7 to 8 megapixels, it features a brighter sharper LCD screen, and (unlike its predecessor) it also features Image Stabilization. The SD1100 IS also provides a fully retractable 3x (38mm – 114mm equivalent) optical zoom, Face Detection AiAF (Advanced intelligent Auto Focus), a 2.5-inch LCD, Canon's famous DIGIC III processor, Canon's exclusive iSAPS Scene technology, user selectable ISO sensitivity settings from ISO 80 to ISO 1600, 16:9 widescreen aspect ratio (for HDTV display), and automatic red-eye correction.
The SD1100 IS is an impressive digicam when compared to the competition, but it doesn't fare quite as well when compared to the SD1000. Where does the SD1100 IS fail to measure up to its illustrious predecessor? The SD1000's 35mm-105mm (35mm equivalent) zoom was sharper, slightly wider, and produced noticeably better quality images (and less purple fringing) than the SD1100 IS's 38mm – 114mm (35mm equivalent) zoom. While it's obviously a somewhat subjective observation, the SD1000 also seemed slightly quicker across the board than the SD1100 IS.
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That said, the SD1100 IS's default image quality is very good to excellent. At the lower sensitivity settings (ISO 80-200) images are bright, a bit warm, typically a little oversaturated, and generally smooth looking, with only slight over-hard contrast. Images shot at higher ISO sensitivities are a bit flat, but better than expected – especially for an ultra-compact digicam.
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The Canon Powershot SD1000, like the original Olympus Stylus and the classic Rollei 35S, appealed not only to casual photographers and snapshooters looking for a truly pocketable camera: it also found acceptance with more sophisticated photographers looking for a solid walk-around camera tiny enough to be dropped into a shirt pocket, tough enough to be taken just about anywhere, and capable of producing consistently excellent images. My conclusions and observations should not be taken to mean that the SD1100 IS isn't a good digital camera, because that isn't the case – the Canon PowerShot SD1100 IS is a very good digital camera that will adequately serve the needs of its target audience. It just may not quite be the equal of its very good predecessor.
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