The Canon A-series has evolved quite a bit in the last few years. A-series cameras have long been intended for casual or novice users, with solid automatic functions and a little opportunity for adjustment should the photographer grow bolder and more adventurous over time. That hasn't changed. What has changed is the form factor and shape. The A-series has grown sleeker, more stylish, and more compact. It's still not completely pocket friendly, but it has come a long way.
The Canon Powershot A2100 IS is the current top-of-the-line A-series digital camera, their flagship point-and-shoot model, which blends accessible features with an affordable price tag. It's a decent camera, user-friendly for beginners and those who want quick-and-easy photography on the go.
The A2100 IS has a 12.1-megapixel sensor and a 6x image stabilized optical zoom lens. It's primarily an automatic camera, and has 'intelligent auto' capabilities.
Design: A Subtle Slant
The A-series was known for the bump grip, a rounded protrusion on the right hand side of the camera that made for a handy place to grasp. It was also large and kind of annoying at times, preventing you from putting the camera in a pocket without some degree of difficulty. It also housed the AA batteries; previous A-series models required four AAs, which required a lot of room. The A2100 still uses AA batteries, but only two of them, which reduces the size of the camera. The A2100 loses the bump grip, and replaces it with a gradual sliding slant that is wider on the ride side, where the batteries are, and very slim, almost ultracompact slim, on the left-hand side. The wide right-side is still comfortable enough to grip, not as steady as the old bump grip was, but the trade off is definitely worth it.
The top of the camera is fairly standard: a large, responsive zoom lever, on-off button, and the mode dial. The mode dial is rather thick and locks tightly into place when you select a mode. The downside is that its solid locking makes it a little hard to turn and change modes, especially on the fly. Changes must be made deliberately and carefully. The back of the camera is occupied by a large, 3-inch LCD display and the standard array of buttons providing access to playback, menus, 'Face Select' mode, and the basics like flash, macro, timer, and white balance. The layout is nice, intuitive, and the buttons are kept very close to the body of the camera. They don't stick out and are easy to use.
The body is made of plastic and is lightweight. Still, it feels solidly built and durable.
Performance: Good Images
The Canon A2100 IS uses the DIGIC IV image processor, which Canon claims to be faster and more efficient than previous versions. This processor is present in most newer Canon models and the A2100's 12-megapixel sensor puts it in league with the SX200 IS or the SD780 IS.
The image quality of photos taken with the A2100 IS was good. Nothing mind blowing, but definitely a satisfactory experience. As you can see in the sample photos provided with this review, colors are bright and clear, and the images look very crisp. Macro mode, as seen in the photograph with the fire hydrant, is very good, capable of capturing slight details and nuances that might otherwise be missed.
The intelligent auto mode on the A2100 IS was helpful, but did not seem as responsive or quick-to-action as on other cameras that have this feature, like the Panasonic FS15 or Sony W290. Face-detection auto focus is responsive and can grab most faces head-on, but the 'Face Select' mode, which allows you to specify one face to track around a scene, was difficult to use and its value was not ever fully apparent.
All in all, the A2100 IS performs like you'd expect a Canon digital camera to perform. It's solid, strong, and consistently good. Since it's a camera aimed at beginners, it's not outfitted with lots of bells and whistles, it's designed to be appealing, approachable and easy-to-use.
Conclusion: A Fine Choice for Novices
Novice photographers who simply wish to take simple shots of their families or friends will enjoy the simplicity of the A2100 IS. It's perfect for snapping memories of birthday parties, vacations, or other special events, as it lets you let the camera do all the work and not have to worry about wide variations in quality.