The Canon PowerShot A2100 IS digital camera is the new top-of-the-range model in the popular PowerShot range, which has traditionally offered a compelling combination of features and affordable price. The A2100 IS replaces the PowerShot A2000 IS model, offering a new 12.1 megapixel sensor, 6x optical zoom lens with a focal length of 36-216mm and optical image stabilizer to help prevent blurred photos. The Canon A2100 also features a large 3-inch LCD screen with wide viewing angle, new DIGIC 4 image processing engine, 18 shooting modes including the new Smart Auto and improved Easy modes with Scene Detection Technology for point-and-shoot operation, plus Face Detection, Face Select & Track, i-Contrast, Motion Detection and Auto Red-Eye Correction technologies. Available in black for $249.99 / £259.00 / €309.00, we find out if the Canon PowerShot A2100 IS deserves its place at the top of the Canon A-series range.
Ease of Use
From the outside the Canon Powershot A2100 IS is virtually identical to the A2000 model that it replaces. This is still a well-made, fairly compact digital camera, with a serious matt-black plastic body and excellent overall finish. It's just about small enough to fit into the palm of your hand, which is quite remarkable considering the 6x optical zoom lens that's equivalent to a 36-216mm focal length. The A2100 IS has also been considerably slimmed down, measuring 3cms thick when turned off, making it suited to either a trouser pocket or small camera bag. It has a reassuring weight of 185g without the battery or memory card fitted.
As with most Canon cameras that we've reviewed before, the Powershot A2100 IS is one of the better models around in terms of build quality. Every aspect has a quality feel with nothing feeling flimsy or ill-thought out. The main criticism that we leveled at previous PowerShots, namely that the tripod mount was plastic instead of metal and positioned in the extreme left corner of the bottom of the camera, has been rectified by the A2100's central, metal mount, so kudos to Canon for listening to user feedback. The battery compartment still houses the memory card slot though, which means that the AA batteries sometimes fall out when changing the memory card as they don't have a catch to keep them in place. Still, this is a fairly minor criticism of a quality product.
A less welcome change is the lack of any kind of hand-grip. Older models were comfortable to hold thanks to the chunky, rubberised hand-grip, but this has been completely removed on the A2100 (and the previous A2000), inexplicably replaced by a smooth, flat finish, embossed with the Canon logo. This makes it more difficult to hold the camera than it really should be - only the inclusion of a small vertical, raised moulding on the rear saves the day. The various buttons are well-made and easy to operate, and the action of the mode dial has been stiffened up so that it's less likely to be inadvertently turned to the wrong mode when stored in a pocket/bag. There are no real innovative features here, but everything that the Canon Powershot A2100 IS does, it does extremely well. Overall the Canon Powershot A2100 IS is well constructed and designed with no obvious signs of corners being cut.
The Canon Powershot A2100 IS has relatively few external controls, just 11 in total, which reflects the fact that this is quite a simple camera in functionality terms, with only limited photographic control on offer. Compared to the older A720 IS model, which offered a full range of creative shooting modes including shutter-priority, aperture-priority and manual, this represents a big change for the A2100, continuing the more simplistic approach of the A2000. It won't be a big deal for the less-experienced snapper, who will get more use out of the point-and-shoot Easy and new Smart Auto modes, but for many keen photographers looking for a second, pocket camera, this news will come as a bitter pill to swallow. If you really want a fully-capable PowerShot, then the G10 is a much better fit.
Located on top of the A2100 IS are the Power button, Mode Dial, Zoom Lever and Shutter button, and on the bottom are the tripod mount and battery compartment, which also houses the SD memory card slot. On the rear of the A2100 is the large 3 inch LCD screen, with a number of controls to the right. You can directly access the various focus and flash options by clicking left and right on the navigation pad, whilst up and down are respectively used to set the exposure compensation and timer options. There is sadly no longer a dedicated button for ISO speed, which is a commonly used feature, although you can work around this by optionally setting the Print Transfer button to one of 7 available options (which include ISO speed).
The Function/Set button in the middle of the navigation pad opens a sub-menu, which allows you to set ISO speed, white balance, colours, metering, continuous shooting and image size/quality settings. This system is a good compromise given the size of the camera's LCD screen and therefore the limited space for external controls. All 11 external controls are clearly labeled using industry-standard symbols and terminology. Overall the camera body feels very well-designed and not at all cluttered, despite the presence of the large 3 inch LCD, which has a wide viewing angle from left to right, and is visible in all but the brightest of sunlit conditions. There is no optical viewfinder on this model.
If you have never used a digital camera before, or you're upgrading from a more basic model, reading the comprehensive and fairly easy-to-follow manual before you start is a good idea. Unfortunately Canon have chosen to cut costs and only supply the full manual as a PDF on a CD, rather than in printed format (there's just a short printed guide to the camera's basic features). Not much use if you're taking pictures and need to find out what a particular option does.
The menu system on the Canon Powershot A2100 IS is extremely straight-forward to use and is accessed by a dedicated button underneath the navigation pad. Quite a lot of the camera's main settings, such as white balance, exposure compensation and ISO speed, are accessed elsewhere, so the main menu system isn't actually that complicated. A row of 2 icons along the top of the LCD screen represents the Camera and Setup sub-menus, with most of the options being the kind that you set once and then forget about. Due to the very large and bright LCD screen, the various options are easy to access and use, especially as only 6 are shown onscreen at one time.
The Canon Powershot A2100 IS offers Program and a comprehensive range of different scene modes aimed at the user who just wants to point and shoot, making this camera particularly well-suited to the beginner. The A2100 IS also offers Smart Auto Mode for the first time on a Canon compact. Similar to Panasonic's Intelligent Auto, Smart Auto Mode automatically determines the subject's brightness, contrast, distance and overall hue, then selects the best scene setting from 18 possible modes, which is more than most competitors. The A2100 uncannily selected the right kind of scene mode for almost every environment that I tried it in. There's also the improved Easy Mode, where the camera automatically sets every shooting setting, preventing the inexperienced user from changing anything at all, apart from turning the flash on and off. In addition Easy Mode works in the same way as Smart Auto Mode - it really does turn the A2100 into a true point and shoot camera, perfect for use by children for example.
Memory Card Slot
The Canon Powershot A2100 IS has an anti-shake system, dubbed IS Mode - turn it on in the menu system and the A2100 IS automatically compensates for camera shake, which is a slight blurring of the image that typically occurs at slow shutter speeds. There are three different modes. Continuous is on all the time including image composition, Shooting is only on when you press the shutter button, and Panning as the name suggests is best when using the camera to track a moving subject. In practice I found that it does make a noticeable difference, as shown in the examples on the Image Quality page. You don't notice that the camera is actually doing anything different when anti-shake is turned on, just that you can use slower shutter speeds than normal and still take sharp photos. Leaving the anti-shake system on all the time does seem to affect the battery-life, however, with the camera only managing just over 150 shots before the supplied LR6-AA Alkaline batteries ran out of power. As part of a belt and braces approach, the anti-shake system is also newly backed up by motion detection technology that assesses camera or subject movement. The latter is effectively what rivals would refer to as digital anti-shake, as, activated in high ISO auto mode, it boosts ISO to a level (between ISO 80-800) it considers will compensate without hopefully introducing too much noise. Still, you do get both in the same camera.
The start-up time from turning the Canon Powershot A2100 IS on to being ready to take a photo is quite quick at around 1.5 seconds, and it takes about 3 seconds to zoom from the widest focal length to the longest. Focusing is very quick in good light and the camera happily achieves focus indoors or in low-light situations, helped by a powerful focus-assist lamp. The visibility and refresh rate of the 3 inch LCD screen are perfectly acceptable, with a standard resolution of 230,000 pixels. It takes about 0.5 second to store an image, allowing you to keep shooting as they are being recorded onto the memory card - there is a very quick LCD blackout between each image. In Continuous mode the camera takes 1.1 frames per second at the highest image quality, which is slow for this class of camera (and slower than the 1.3 fps offered by the A2000), although the shooting rate is maintained until your memory card is full. The flash recycle time has thankfully been improved from the previous A2000, now taking a more acceptable 3 seconds to recharge between shots.
Once you have captured a photo, the Canon Powershot A2100 IS has a pretty good range of options when it comes to playing, reviewing and managing your images. You can instantly scroll through the images that you have taken, view up to 9 thumbnails, zoom in and out up to 10x magnification, view slideshows, delete, protect, resize and rotate an image. You can also add a sound clip to an image, set the print order and the transfer order. The Red-eye Correction options fixes red eye after you have taken a photo (useful if you forgot to activate it before) and i-Contrast improves the shadow/brightness areas, with Auto and Low, Medium and High settings (if you select i-Contrast before taking a photo, only Auto and Off settings are available). The Display button toggles detailed settings information about each picture on and off, such as the ISO rating and white balance, and there is a small histogram available during playback which is helpful in evaluating the exposure. A third press of the Display button shows the image alongside a small, magnified section, useful for quickly checking the sharpness.
In summary the Canon Powershot A2100 IS is a stylish, fairly compact and well-built digital camera that is simple to use and even more well-suited to the beginner than the previous A2000 model.
All of the sample images in this Review were taken using the 12 megapixel Fine JPEG setting, which gives an average image size of around 3Mb.
The Canon PowerShot A2100 IS produced images of good quality during the review period. The A2100 IS dealt extremely well with chromatic aberrations, with limited purple fringing effects appearing only in high contrast situations. The pop-up flash worked well indoors, with no red-eye and adequate exposure. The night photograph was good, with the maximum shutter speed of 15 seconds allowing you to capture enough light in most situations. Anti-shake is a feature that sets this camera apart from its competitors and one that works very well when hand-holding the camera in low-light conditions or when using the telephoto end of the zoom range. Macro performance is amazing, allowing you to focus as close as 1 cm away from the subject (although it's difficult to get the lighting correct at such a close distance). The images were a little soft straight out of the camera at the default sharpening setting and ideally require further sharpening in an application like Adobe Photoshop, or you can change the in-camera setting if you don't like the default results. Noise is the biggest problem for the Canon PowerShot A2100 IS. The 12 megapixel sensor produces noise-free images at ISO 80 and 100, but some limited noise is already starting to appear at ISO 200. ISO 400 exhibits quite visible noise and loss of fine detail, and ISO 800 and 1600 are even noisier.
There are 6 ISO settings available on the Canon Powershot A2100 IS. Here are some 100% crops which show the noise levels for each ISO setting:
ISO 80 (100% Crop)
ISO 100 (100% Crop)
ISO 200 (100% Crop)
ISO 400 (100% Crop)
ISO 800 (100% Crop)
ISO 1600 (100% Crop)
Here are two 100% crops which have been Saved as Web - Quality 50 in Photoshop. The right-hand image has had some sharpening applied in Photoshop. The out-of-the camera images are just a little soft at the default setting ideally and benefit from some further sharpening in a program like Adobe Photoshop. You can also change the in-camera sharpening level to suit your tastes via the My Colors menu option.
Original (100% Crop)
Sharpened (100% Crop)
The Canon Powershot A2100 IS handled chromatic aberrations excellently during the review, with very limited purple fringing present around the edges of objects in certain high-contrast situations, as shown in the example below.
Example 1 (100% Crop)
The Canon Powershot A2100 IS offers a Macro setting that allows you to focus on a subject that is just 1cm away from the camera when the lens is set to wide-angle. The first image shows how close you can get to the subject (in this case a compact flash card). The second image is a 100% crop.
The flash settings on the Canon Powershot A2100 IS are Auto, Flash On, Slow Synchro, and Flash Off, with Red-eye Correction and Red-Eye Lamp settings available via the Flash Settings main menu option. These shots of a white coloured wall were taken at a distance of 1.5m.
Flash Off - Wide Angle (36mm)
Auto Flash - Wide Angle (36mm)
Flash Off - Telephoto (216mm)
Auto Flash - Telephoto (216mm)
And here are some portrait shots. As you can see, neither the Flash On setting or the Red-Eye Correction option caused any red-eye.
Flash On (100% Crop)
Red-eye Correction (100% Crop)
The Canon Powershot A2100 IS's maximum shutter speed is 15 seconds in the Long Shutter mode, which is good news if you're seriously interested in night photography. The shot below was taken using a shutter speed of 10 seconds at ISO 80. I've included a 100% crop of the image to show what the quality is like. The camera takes the same amount of time again to apply noise reduction, so for example at the 10 second setting the actual exposure takes 20 seconds.
Night Shot (100% Crop)
The Canon Powershot A2100 IS has an anti-shake mechanism, which allows you to take sharp photos at slower shutter speeds than other digital cameras. To test this, I took 2 handheld shots of the same subject with the same settings. The first shot was taken with anti shake turned off, the second with it turned on. Here are some 100% crops of the images to show the results. As you can see, with anti shake turned on, the images are much sharper than with anti shake turned off. This feature really does seem to make a difference and could mean capturing a successful, sharp shot or missing the opportunity altogether.
Shutter Speed / Focal Length
Anti Shake Off (100% Crop)
Anti Shake On (100% Crop)
1/15th / 36mm
1/5th / 216mm
This is a selection of sample images from the Canon PowerShot A2100 IS camera, which were all taken using the 12 megapixel Fine JPEG setting. The thumbnails below link to the full-sized versions, which have not been altered in any way.
The Canon Powershot A2100 IS builds on the key strengths of the previous A2000 model by adding even more beginner-friendly features. The A2100 is a fairly compact camera that produces excellent images in good light, covers a large focal range thanks to the 6x zoom lens, and has a massive 3 inch LCD screen on the back that can be easily viewed from a wide angle. The wealth of different scene modes on offer are now accompanied by the ultimate point-and-shoot Smart Auto and Easy modes, which really do take the guesswork out of using the A2100 and make it suitable for all the family. Other beginner-friendly features include Face Select & Track, which is a great way of focusing on who really matters in your photos, and FaceSelf-Timer which easily allows you to take part in those all-important family group shots.
The move to more megapixels - up to 12.1 from the A2000's 10 - thankfully hasn't come at the cost of image quality, although the A2100 still suffers from less than stellar images in low-light due to obvious noise appearing at ISO 400 and faster. Other key disappointments include the continued lack of any hand-grip which makes it difficult to hold, and an even slower continuous shooting speed of 1.1fps - thankfully the annoyingly slow flash-recycle time of the A2000 has been slightly improved on this model. Disappointingly for UK buyers, the launch price has shot up from £199 to £249, although to be fair to Canon comparable price rises are happening across the industry as Sterling struggles against the Yen.
Overall the Canon Powershot A2100 IS adds a number of improvements to an already solid and easy-to-use design, making it even more ideally suited to its family target audience.
Ratings (out of 5)
Value for money
Reviews of the Canon PowerShot A2100 IS from around the web.
The similarities between the Canon PowerShot A1100 IS and the Canon PowerShot A2100 IS far outweigh the differences. Both cameras feature a DIGIC4 processor, motion detection and, an almost identical set of controls and the layout of buttons, switches and dials is basically the same. There's almost nothing to choose between image quality either, both cameras delivering crisp, sharp and very naturally coloured pictures. However, considering the relatively minor increase in street price, there are a couple of things that make the A2100 IS more appealing.
Read the full review »
Colour Filter Type
DIGIC 4 with iSAPS technology
6.4 – 38.4 mm (35mm equivalent: 36 – 216mm)
Optical 6x. Digital approx. 4x ² (with Digital Tele-Converter approx. 1.5x or 2.0x and Safety Zoom ¹)². Combined approx. 24x
f/3.2 – f/5.9
9 elements in 7 groups (including 1 double-sided aspherical element)
AF System/ Points
AiAF (Face Detection / 9-point), 1-point AF (fixed to centre or Face Select and Track)
AF Point Selection
Size (Normal, Small)
AF Assist Beam
Closest Focusing Distance
1cm (W) from front of lens in macro
Evaluative (linked to Face Detection AF frame), Centre-weighted average, Spot (centre)
Locked when shutter button is pressed half way
+/- 2 EV in 1/3 stop increments.
i-Contrast for automatic dynamic range correction
AUTO , 80, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600
1/60 - 1/1600 sec (factory default)
15 - 1/1600 sec (total range - varies by shooting mode)
Auto (including Face Detection WB), Daylight, Cloudy, Tungsten, Fluorescent, Fluorescent H, Custom
3.0” TFT, approx. 230,000 dots
Adjustable to one of five levels
Auto, Manual Flash On / Off
Slow Sync Speed
Flash Exposure Compensation
Face Detection FE
Flash Exposure Lock
Built-in Flash Range
30cm-3.5m (W) / 2.0m (T)
Canon High Power Flash HF-DC1
Auto*, P, Easy*, Portrait, Landscape, Night Snapshot, Indoor, Kids & Pets, Movie, Special Scene (Night Scene, Sunset, Foliage, Snow, Beach, Fireworks, Long Shutter, Aquarium, ISO 3200¹).
*with Scene Detection Technology and Motion Detection Technology
My Colors (My Colors Off, Vivid, Neutral, Sepia, Black & White, Custom Color (limited))