The 1100 HS is built around a 1/2.3in backside-illuminated CMOS sensor producing 12.1MP of effective resolution, with images processed by Canon’s DIGIC 4 chip. This sensor and image processor combination forms the HS (High Sensitivity) part of the product name, being specifically designed to work together to improve overall image quality in low light by minimising the effects of noise.
For those new to the concept of backside-wired sensors, the idea behind them is actually quite simple. Reduced to its most basic level, a digital camera sensor is basically an array of light-sensing diodes. These need to be wired together so that the camera’s able to cross-process the data from all of them in order to create an image.
On regular sensors this wiring sits on top of the sensor, which has the effect of blocking some of the light. Backside-illuminated sensors, on the other hand, place all this wiring underneath the chip, which allows more light to hit the individual diodes, resulting in a stronger signal.
In addition to its backside-wired sensor and latest generation image processor, the 1100 HS offers a standard sensitivity range of between ISO 100 and ISO 3200 – exactly the same as the 1000 HS before it. There’s also a dedicated High Sensitivity shooting mode that pushes sensitivity up to ISO 6400 albeit at a reduced resolution of 3MP.
Whereas the 1100 HS’s predecessor sported a 10x optical zoom, the new model increases this to 12x, with a focal range equivalent of between 28mm and 336mm in 35mm terms. Maximum aperture of this lens remains at f/3.4 at 28mm, stopping down to f/5.9 by 336mm. In addition to its regular Optical Zoom capabilities, the 1100 HS allows you to apply either a 1.5x or 2.0 digital teleconverter that combines with Image Stabilisation (IS) support to produce usable shots up to a maximum 24x, or a combination of the two without IS up to a maximum 48x.
The new model offers a good range of shooting modes, although given that its £350 price tag puts it well into advanced compact territory we’re a little disappointed not to find the full range of PASM controls available. Indeed, the 1100 HS is very much from the point-and-shoot stable. You do get a Program mode that allows for a good range of user input in areas like metering, My Colours colour profile, white balance and ISO. However, aperture and shutter combinations are calculated and decided entirely by of the camera at all times, giving you limited creative control.
There’s no kind of simplified background defocus tool either, which means there’s no way to control depth-of-field. And no dedicated ‘Sports’ shooting mode either, at least not at the camera’s full 12.1MP resolution. There is a High-speed Burst mode that shoots at 8fps, but this reduces resolution to a rather measly 3MP. Canon has seen fit to offer the likes of Portrait, Handheld NightScene and Kids&Pets scene modes though, all of which can be directly selected from the shooting mode menu. And of course, there is a fully automatic Smart Auto mode too, which thankfully (though rather oddly at first) is accessed directly via a physical two-way switch on top of the camera.
One other useful, if not particularly new feature, is Smart Shutter mode. This allows the camera to be triggered by a smile, a blink or even when a new face enters the frame – which could be useful for group portraits. Last but not least, is the all-new Movie Digest mode that records a brief three-second movie clip every time a still image is taken, automatically combining all of these clips into a single movie that reflects all of the still images taken that day. It’s an interesting idea and one that Nikon appears to be keen to pursue too via the Motion Snapshot feature in its new J1 and V1 CSC models.
Video recording abilities are well catered for, with the 1100 HS able to record 1080p Full HD movies at 24fps with stereo audio, with resultant files encoded in the H.264 format. Should you need to save space on your memory card then the 1100 HS also offers 720p and 640 x 480 recording options. In addition, the 1100 HS also supports Apple’s 720p iFrame encoding format that allows videos to be edited in software such as iMovie and Final Cut without prior conversion. Last but not least, are a couple of slow-motion video modes that record at 120fps and 240fps at a reduced maximum resolution of 640 x 480 and 320 x 240, respectively.