Canon's PowerShot A-series digital cameras have been popular with discerning digicam purchasers since the introduction of the groundbreaking little A20 in 2000. Consumers liked them because they were affordable, relatively compact, user-friendly, feature rich, and sturdily built. Photo enthusiasts on a budget and those trying to learn photography loved the A models because they provided optical viewfinders, a useful range of manual exposure options, and produced dependably first-rate images.
One of the newest additions to the A family is the Canon Powershot A1000 IS, which replaces the Canon Powershot A580 IS. On the surface the A1000 IS shows a noticeable family resemblance to earlier A series digicams, but under the hood it presents a major departure from the basic design philosophy that defined all of its predecessors.
Those approaching the A1000 from previous Canon A models may notice immediately that the A1000 IS is approximately 25 percent smaller than the camera it replaces, looking rather like a shrunken version of earlier A models. The A1000 IS retains its optical viewfinder and features a rudimentary a handgrip, while the similarly featured A2000 IS (Canon's "A" series flagship) doesn't provide an optical viewfinder and eschews any type of grip (making the A2000 IS look like an upsized SD series digicam).
The A1000 IS is powered by relatively cheap and universally available AA batteries. The 10 megapixel A1000 features 16 shooting modes, Motion Detection, Auto Red Eye Correction, a nice range of scene modes and movie mode options, a solid 4x optical zoom, a bright 2.5 inch LCD screen, and Canon's advanced Optical Image Stabilization system – which dramatically reduces camera shake, resulting in fewer blurry pictures. The A1000's Face Detection AF system is linked directly to the camera's Auto Exposure and Auto WB systems – the A1000 IS's Face Detection AF automatically finds, locks focus on, tracks, and then optimizes exposure for up to nine faces, or shooters can lock on a single face and track it through a crowd.
Even though Canon's new DIGIC IV processor is starting to turn up in camera's like the G10 and SX10 IS, the A1000 IS's older DIGIC III processor still provides impressive performance including quicker start-up, faster AF, and snappier shutter fire times than most its competitors.
The A1000 IS is an auto exposure only digicam providing auto, program, scene, and "Easy" shooting modes, each with a dedicated slot on the mode dial.
The A1000 IS's menu system, accessed via a dedicated button beneath the compass switch, is logical, easy to navigate, and brutally simple – since the camera permits only minimal user input.
For a detailed listing of specifications and features, please refer to the specifications table found at the bottom of the review.
Styling and Build Quality
In general, the A1000 IS's styling is similar to earlier A series cameras, and the metal alloy clad polycarbonate body is compact and attractive.
The A1000 IS is available in muted shades of gray, blue, brown, or purple and has a solid well built feel.
Ergonomics and Interface
The A1000 IS is very comfortable to use and easy to operate. On a negative note, the A1000 IS's handgrip is a pale shadow of the deeply sculpted handgrips of earlier A series digicams, but at least this camera has a grip: its big brother, the A2000 IS, doesn't.
The A1000 IS's user interface is logical and uncomplicated – all buttons are reasonably large, clearly marked, sensibly placed, and easily accessed. Operation is basic – all exposure options are minor variations on the auto exposure theme. The four-way controller and FUNC button provide direct access to the most commonly changed/adjusted (exposure compensation, WB, ISO, My Colors, flash, macro mode, etc.) features/functions.
All buttons are reasonably large, clearly marked, sensibly placed, and easily accessed. The A1000's mode dial is one of the best I've seen with a logical almost intuitive layout. Most purchasers will have no difficulty using the A1000 IS right out of the box.
A10000 IS users have two options when framing/composing images, they can either use the optical viewfinder or the LCD screen. The A1000's linked optical viewfinder is small and pretty squinty, and it only shows about 80 percent of the image frame, but at a time when optical viewfinders are becoming rare the A1000 IS has one where most competitors don't. That lack could easily make the difference (especially on a bright day with lots of glare) in whether you manage to trip the shutter at the decisive moment or miss getting the picture.
In addition to the viewfinder, the A1000 IS has a 2.5 inch TFT LCD screen that shows 100 percent of the image frame. The A1000 IS's LCD screen is bright, hue accurate, relatively fluid, and automatically boosts gain in dim/low light – and it displays exactly what the lens sees.
However, screen resolution is a measly 115,000 pixels. Many current digicams feature 230,000 pixel LCDs, so critical focus situations like flower interiors, insect wings, and details in portraits can be a problem in less than perfect lighting. Concerns about resolution aside, the user-enabled composition grid display is a nice (and useful) touch, and the A1000 IS's LCD is generally pretty good for framing, composition, captured image review, and menu navigation. But it is, like all LCD screens, subject to fading and glare in bright outdoor lighting.
Timings and Shutter Lag
The A1000 IS is pretty quick in our basic speed measures, roughly equal to or slightly faster than most of its competition.
Shutter Lag (press-to-capture, pre-focused)
|Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W300||0.02|
|Canon PowerShot A1000 IS||0.04|
|Fujifilm FinePix F60fd||0.05|
|Nikon Coolpix P6000||0.06|
|Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX3||0.08|
AF Acquisition (press-to-capture, no pre-focus)
|Fujifilm FinePix F60fd||0.42|
|Canon PowerShot A1000 IS||0.46|
|Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX3||0.46|
|Nikon Coolpix P6000||0.61|
|Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W300||0.67|
The boot up cycle is about 1.5 seconds and AF speed is reliably quick in all but the most difficult lighting. Shot-to-shot times are about average at between 3.0 and 3.5 seconds.
|Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX3||4||3.1 fps|
|Fujifilm FinePix F60fd||3||2.5 fps|
|Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W300||10||2.1 fps|
|Canon PowerShot A1000 IS||5||1.4 fps|
|Nikon Coolpix P6000||5||0.9 fps|
Note: Continuous shooting framerates are based on the camera's fastest full-resolution JPEG continuous shooting mode, using the fastest media type available (300x CF, SDHC, etc.), as tested in our studio. "Frames" notes the number of captures recorded per burst before the camera stops/slows to clear the buffer.
Although there's a noticeable slow-down after five frames when shooting in continuous mode, the A1000 IS can capture 10 shots at the highest quality setting in about 13 seconds (1.3 fps), which is about average for cameras in this class.
The A2000 IS features the same TTL Contrast Detection 9-point AiAF (Advanced Intelligent Auto Focus) system as its predecessor. In all exposure modes the camera analyzes the scene in front of the lens and then calculates camera to subject distance to determine which of the 9 AF points is closest to the primary subject (closest subject priority) and then locks focus on that AF point. Users can also opt for the 1 AF point (center) AF for classic portraits or traditional landscapes.
In low light, an optional focus assist beam helps illuminate the subject for more accurate focusing.
Lens and Zoom
When the A1000 IS is powered up, the 35-140mm equivalent all-glass zoom extends from the camera body automatically, and when the camera is powered down the lens is retracted inside of the camera body and a built in iris-style lens cover closes to protect the front element. Zooming is fairly smooth and lens operation is relatively quiet. Minimum focusing distance (in macro mode) is 1.2 inches.
The A1000 IS needs about 3 seconds to move the lens from the wide angle end of the zoom range to the telephoto end of the zoom range. Construction is 7 elements in 5 groups with 2 single side aspherical elements.
The A1000 IS's built-in multi mode flash provides an acceptable selection of artificial lighting options, including Auto (fires when needed), On (fill flash), Red-Eye Reduction, Red-Eye Correction, Slow Sync, and Off. Canon claims the maximum flash range is about 13 feet (4.0 meters) and that appears to be a fairly accurate claim based on my very limited flash use.
The A1000's flash recycle time is between 3.0 and 4.0 seconds on average, though a maximum-power discharge took a leisurely 10.2 seconds to recharge.
The A1000 IS's Optical Image Stabilization system reduces blur by quickly and precisely shifting a lens element in the zoom to compensate for minor camera movement. IS allows users to shoot at shutter speeds up to three f-stops slower than would have been possible without IS. Image stabilization can also be a very useful when shooting dimly lit indoor venues where flash is inappropriate.
Image stabilization is combined in this case with Canon's Motion Detection technology, which automatically charts camera and subject movement and then utilizes the motion/movement data from both sources to determine how much to boost sensitivity (between ISO 80 and ISO 800) to help counter camera/subject movement. Motion Detection works in concert with the A1000's OIS system and auto focus system to produce acceptable images under less than ideal conditions, but there really is no free lunch: as sensitivity increases so does noise.
The A1000 IS provides three IS modes: Continuous (IS on full time), Shoot only (IS is only activated when the picture is taken), and Panning (only stabilizes up-and-down motion) for horizontally panned exposures. A1000 IS users should keep in mind that leaving the camera in the continuous IS mode full-time noticeably reduces battery life.
The A1000 IS (like all A-series Canon) is powered by two alkaline, NiMH, or lithium-ion AA cells. Canon claims a pair of alkaline AAs are good for up to 240 exposures, and a pair of NiMH rechargeable AAs is good for up to 500 exposures.
I rarely keep track of the number of exposures I shoot before the batteries go belly up, but based on my experiences with the A1000 IS I'd say those numbers are a bit optimistic and don't factor in IS or regularly reviewing/deleting captured images. A more accurate "real world" assessment would be something like 200 exposures. With Energizer lithium cells, power depth was genuinely impressive – while testing the almost identical A2000 IS I did lots and lots of shoot/review/delete/re-shoot and filled a 1GB card before I got a low battery warning.
I've heard a number of folks say that Canon digicams are boring – they're easy to use, they're relatively cheap, dependably produce decent to exceptional pictures in most lighting, but they are not exciting. So what? Where it really counts (in the image quality department) Canon digicams delivers the goods. Outdoors in good light (at sensitivity settings below ISO 400) the A1000 IS produces dependably well exposed almost noise free images with hue accurate (if slightly oversaturated) colors and somewhat harder than average contrast.
Images are highly detailed and surprisingly sharp, although in a very small percentage of my shots the AF system didn't hit the mark and the IS system infrequently dropped the ball – resulting in an occasionally blurry image. In bright contrasty lighting highlight detail was occasionally blown-out. Overall, though, the A1000 IS's image quality is slightly better than the average for cameras in this class.
Exposure, Processing, and Color
Even though the A1000 IS doesn't look like earlier PowerShot A cameras, it utilizes essentially the same exposure system that made its predecessors popular with consumers. Exposure is automatically managed by the camera's DIGIC III processor, which combines most primary camera functions (image interpolation and processing, auto exposure, white balance, JPEG compression, gain control, and power management) in one chip which improves efficiency and processing speed. In all scene modes, the camera automatically optimizes all exposure parameters (aperture, shutter speed, sensitivity, etc.) for the specific scene type selected.
The images produced by Canon's point-and-shoot digicams are bold and bright with noticeably oversaturated color and slightly hard contrast by default. The A1000 IS's color is impressively good for a compact digicam, at least in part because face detection AF is linked directly to the camera's Auto WB system which provides enhanced color consistency and improved hue accuracy. Reds are a little warm, blues are a bit bright, and greens are a tad over vibrant (known affectionately as "Canon Color") but most casual/amateur shooters (the A1000 IS's target audience) probably wouldn't see this as a fault.
In addition to the default rendering option, the A1000 provides several alternate processing choices via it's My Colors menu, allowing users to custom tailor the look of their images in camera.
The A1000 IS provides users with an acceptable selection of white balance options, including Auto (including Face Detection WB), Daylight, Cloudy, Tungsten, Fluorescent, and Fluorescent H, and custom.
Like all Canon consumer digicams, the A1000's Auto WB setting produces colors that are slightly warmer than real world colors under incandescent light.
The A1000 IS's 4x zoom is actually pretty decent – it does displays some very minor corner softness, but no vignetting (dark corners). Barrel distortion at the wide-angle end of the zoom range is slightly above average, but pincushion distortion is essentially invisible at the telephoto end of the zoom.
Chromatic aberration is remarkably well controlled, but some very minor color fringing is present, especially in the color transition areas between dark foreground objects and bright backgrounds.
Sensitivity and Noise
The Canon PowerShot A1000 IS provides a nice range of sensitivity options, including Auto and High ISO Auto (incorporating Motion Detection Technology) settings, as well as manually user-set options for ISO 80 to 1600 (and even an ISO 3200 low-res scene mode).
ISO 100, 100% crop
ISO 200, 100% crop
ISO 400, 100% crop
ISO 800, 100% crop
ISO 1600, 100% crop
ISO 80/ISO 100 images are indistinguishable – both show bright colors, slightly hard edged native contrast, and very low noise levels. ISO 200 images were also very good, but with a little less pop. At the ISO 400 setting noise levels are noticeably higher and there's a perceptible loss of minor detail. ISO 800 images are noisy, but they should be OK for e-mail and non-critical 3x5 inch or 4x6 inch prints. ISO 1600 images are way too noisy to be useful for anything beyond record shots.
Additional Sample Images
The A1000 IS is substantially different in terms of looks and usability from its predecessors. Canon's newest PowerShot A models are obviously targeted toward casual photographers rather than photo enthusiasts. After using both the A1000 and the A2000, I'm impressed with their efficacy as image-makers, but I miss the better responsiveness, control, and creative potential of the older A series models.
The A1000 IS is practically identical to its bigger brother, the A2000 IS. I reviewed both cameras at the same time and I actually prefer the A1000 IS in some ways. The A1000 IS has a smaller LCD screen and a shorter zoom, but it is cheaper, smaller, and lighter than it's more expensive sibling – and if that's not enough it also features the optical viewfinder and handgrip that the A2000 was missing. Now if we could just get back those manual controls.
|Sensor||10.0 megapixel (effective), 1/2.3" CCD|
|Zoom||4x (35-140mm) zoom, f/2.7-5.6
|LCD/Viewfinder||2.5", 115K-pixel TFT LCD|
|Shutter Speed||15-1/1600 seconds|
|Shooting Modes||Easy, Program, Scene, Movie
|Scene Presets||Portrait, Landscape, Night Scene, Foliage, Snow, Beach, Sunset, Fireworks, Aquarium, ISO 3200, Indoor, Kids & Pets, Night Snapshot
|White Balance Settings||Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Tungsten, Fluorescent, Fluorescent H, Custom|
|Metering Modes||Multi, Center, Spot, Face Detection
|Focus Modes||9-Point AF, Face Detection AF|
|Drive Modes||Normal, Continuous, Self-Timer
|Flash Modes||Auto, Forced On, Slow Synchro, FE Lock, Forced Off, Red-Eye Reduction|
|Self Timer Settings
||10 seconds, 2 seconds, Off
|Memory Formats||SD, SDHC
|Max. Image Size||3648 x 2736
|Max. Video Size
||640x480, 30 fps
|Zoom During Video||No
|Battery||2 AA batteries|
|Connections||USB, AV output|
|Additional Features||Face Detection, iSAPS, optical image stabilization, DIGIC III processor|
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