Sub-£500 DSLR group test: Canon EOS 1100D
Canon's entry-level model is the most up to date of the three on test, meaning there's been that extra mile of pre-release testing to position the camera well against its rival models.
A 12.2MP APS-C CMOS sensor takes large images and, despite the apparent ‘low' resolution by a lot of today's higher megapixel bodies, this isn't a concern when considering the sensor size. Indeed the 12MP resolution is around that ‘sweet spot' of balancing image size and quality.
A built-in optical viewfinder offers a 95% field of view - meaning that some 5% of your composition (around the edges) won't be seen but will be captured into the final file. It's a common condition of DSLRs, and indeed no budget models will provide a full field of view (so it's not just a Canon concern, it's across all manufacturers).
Focus-wise there's a 9-point autofocus system with one cross-type sensor in the middle that provides improved sensitivity when using the camera in a portrait format. Live view is available to preview images on screen rather than using the viewfinder and is supported by a 720p HD movie mode too.
For whatever reason Canon has chosen a smooth plastic finish that just exudes that ‘plastic feel' more than the others. It's not that the materials are any worse, it's simply the finished quality that doesn't look as high end as the other two models.
The rear LCD screen is 2.7in in size, making it slightly smaller than its rivals. The 230k-dot resolution is a fine standard, though when not at eye-level the screen can reflect and be harder to read.
The camera's layout may not be instant for first-timers, but all the relevant buttons for quick access to the main settings such as ISO, AF, and burst shooting are easy to access. Modes such as Creative Auto do provide a simplified method of shooting, or full Auto means point-and-shoot ease is also an option.
A single thumbwheel is arranged towards the camera's front-side on the top and is the main control to cycle through settings such as aperture and shutter (mode depending).
On paper the 1100D may not have as many of those ‘big numbers', but it's what things are like in practice that counts.
The 9-point autofocus system is the fastest of the three on test, easily nipping in and out of focus as required. Adjusting between focus points is no problem either and, despite the fewest number of focus points against its test rivals, the overall reach is similar (not as wide as we'd like, but as expected for an entry-level model).
However, flick the live view button and autofocus takes a downward turn. Here autofocus is rather slow, far more so than the other two models, and this can make for painful use if you have moving subjects. The camera's video mode also resides on the live view's autofocus so focusing during movie capture isn't recommended. However, saying that, the 720p quality of the clips comes up trumps. There's lots of data packed in and the files, although not as high resolution as the Nikon D3100's, were the most fluid and detailed of the bunch.
The 1100D's 3fps burst mode is on par with the Nikon D3100 in terms of speed. However, shooting Raw files reduces this to 2fps where the camera was able to capture four before a very brief pause and then reeling off the fifth shot.
One area where the Canon is a real winner is with its image quality. Even though it doesn't produce the largest images the final quality is perceptively sharp and detail-packed.
White balance is the best of the three models, remaining consistent and not lacking punch throughout the whole ISO range. All ISO sensitivities are useable, though ISO 3200-6400 do lack critical detail, yet image noise is well handled for good final quality.
Exposure is the most balanced of the three cameras, in particular when dealing with contrasting subjects or backlighting. Only in scenes with fewer tones can the camera opt to overexpose a little.
This article has more pages:
- 1. Sub-£500 DSLR group test
- 2. Sub-£500 DSLR group test: Canon EOS 1100D
- 3. Sub-£500 DSLR group test: Nikon D3100
- 4. Sub-£500 DSLR group test: Pentax K-r
- 5. Sub-£500 DSLR group test: Image Quality and Verdict