The monitor screen is nice and bright, and with a resolution of 230k dots it is sharp enough, but it lacks Canon’s usual excellent anti-glare surface and does become quite hard to see in bright sunlight. The angle of view is excellent in all directions except downwards, which unfortunately means that if you hold the camera over your head to shoot over a crowd the colour inverts and the monitor image becomes very difficult to see.
The 4x zoom lens has a focal length range equivalent to 35-140mm, which isn’t as wide-angled as most current snapshot cameras, but does provide a good range for general photography. The maximum aperture of f/2.7 – f/5.6 is a little faster than average but not enough to provide any real advantage. The lens barrel is plastic and does feel a bit vulnerable when extended to its maximum length of nearly 4cm, but it does fold away almost flush with the camera body when not in use.
The A3100 IS is a point-and-shoot snapshot camera with a rather sparse range of features, but it does offer a little creativity. The main shooting modes are Program Auto with a full range of menu options, Full Auto in which only image size, flash mode and self-timer can be selected, and Easy Auto, in which everything is done automatically with no menu options available at all, however if you need this setting you probably shouldn’t have bought a camera with anything as complex as actual buttons on it. In Program mode shooting options include evaluative, centre-weighted and spot metering, and the autofocus system offers a choice between centre-zone or the somewhat unpredictable Face AiAF “intelligent” mode.
Other creative options include a limited range of colour settings with vivid, natural, sepia, monochrome and a custom mode with adjustable RGB balance. There are also a few options in playback mode, including cropping, resizing, rotating, red-eye correction and a few slideshow options.
The video recording mode is a bit basic by recent standards, with a maximum resolution of 640 x 480 at 30fps, recording in the low-quality Motion JPEG format. Optical zoom cannot be used while recording, and audio is recorded in mono through a small and very tinny microphone mounted beside the lens. Video quality is distinctly average, but the audio quality is very poor, with a lot of background noise and no directionality.