As a style-led IXUS model, the 1100 HS benefits from an all-metal casing that gives it an unmistakably premium feel. At 206g with a battery and card it’s reassuringly weighty for a compact too. Aesthetically, it’s quite a bit different from its predecessor not least on account of having lost all traces of a D-pad and most other physical buttons to accommodate the large touch-screen. Corners and edges have been softly rounded off, but have lost the chiselled-off look of the 1000 HS.
Overall, we rather like the new profile. While it’s slightly more of a traditional soap-bar shape, and certainly a lot less angular than the 1000 HS, it remains a very sleek and stylish camera – just as you might expect from an IXUS model.
Even though the Canon logo on the front is embossed, there’s no proper handgrip, and while the back of the camera does get a plastic strip with a raised edge that’s slightly easier to grip than the shiny metal front, it’s not perfect. Thankfully Canon does supply a wrist strap in the box, and we’d suggest anyone who buys a 1100 HS makes good use of this.
In order to accommodate the enlarged touch-screen, physical controls have been stripped back to the bare minimum. Indeed, the camera only has four buttons in total: an On/Off switch, the Shutter button (which is encircled by the camera’s spring-loaded zoom control), a Playback button and a two-way switch that allows you to choose between the camera’s various user-defined shooting modes and fully Automatic mode.
On the back, the 1100 HS sports a 3.2in, 461k-dot PureColor II LCD touch-screen. While this monitor serves up a bright and colourful image that remains visible in bright sunlight, the resolution is a little low for a camera costing in excess of £350. While the 1100 HS’s 461k-dot screen is noticeably sharper than the basic 230k-dot screens used in the vast majority of cheap compacts, for £370-odd it wouldn’t have been entirely unreasonable to expect a 921k-dot monitor. Perhaps Canon is saving that particular upgrade for the IXUS 1200 HS.
In addition to image composition and playback duties, the rear LCD touch-screen also serves as the main control point for the camera. From the main shooting screen it’s fairly easy to get to where you want using the square icons on either side of the screen. For example, to move from Program to say, Smart Shutter mode, you simply tap the ‘P’ in the top-left and then the large Smart Shutter icon from the resultant sub-menu.
If, you want to make more advanced changes, including to settings then the FUNC icon (bottom-left) acts as the entry point to both the advanced menu (accessed via a further screen-jab on the Menu icon) and also serves up a quick menu along the left-hand side of the screen to access and change shooting settings. It’s a simple enough system to navigate at the top level, however we did find that once you leave the large square icons behind and start scrolling through the specific options the touch-screen does become more fiddly.
It’s not that it’s unresponsive, on the contrary we found the resistive screen responded quite well to fingers (gloved or ungloved) and pens alike. You can even scroll through the various options by using your finger on the other side of the screen to where the options are listed, although in practice this makes it much harder to land on the specific option you want.
Indeed, after a while we found that the best way to get where we wanted was to tap our way through the choices one icon at a time. This does slow things down quite considerably though, making overall navigation of the 1100 HS painfully slow at times. To put it another way, if your smartphone was this slow and fiddly to navigate you’d probably want to swap it for something else.
Two new additions to the 1100 HS that are specifically made possible by the touch-screen and which we do rather like are the Touch AF and Touch Shutter functions. Switched on via the icon on the right-hand side of the screen, Touch AF allows you to select a point of focus simply by tapping it on the screen. Taking things one step further, Touch Shutter automatically records an image once focus has been established and your finger removed. While both features give you a degree of creative control it’s a shame there’s no direct depth-of-field control that would allow you to use them even more creatively.
Start-up speed clocks in at around three and a half seconds, and while this is hardly speedy it’s fairly standard for a compact camera of this type. Continuous shooting at the full 12.1MP resolution clocks in at a rather slow 1fps, but there's no upper limit on the number of shots that can be taken. Switching to High-Speed Burst mode lowers resolution to 3MP but raises continuous shooting to just under 8fps. While in this mode we were able to record 210 images in 30secs without experiencing any slowdown. Impressive stuff, but a quick access mode that sits somewhere between these two extremes would probably be more useful.