Although the 1100D sits firmly at the bottom of Canon DSLR range, it’s still capable of knocking out well exposed, nicely saturated pics with no bother. The body feels small and light with a solid grip, but it’s very plasticky and certainly not a rugged piece of kit – a lack of weather sealing means this is no rain-proof playmate.

Under the hood, this 1100D draws on many of the tried and tested components found way up Canon’s food chain, such as the tip-top metering system from the classy EOS 7D. And that family pedigree shows in the 1100D’s still image quality.

Dial M for manual

Almost all of the camera’s major controls fall readily to your right thumb. Settings are varied via a four-way controller, a Quick Controls view and a slew of intuitive menus, but annoyingly, it’s not possible to make any changes without looking at the camera’s non-articulated 2.7in screen.

Shoot a moving target

When shooting stills through the viewfinder, the 9-point Auto Focus system is quick and readily locks onto moving targets. Just don’t expect the same speed and accuracy in Live View and Movie mode.

With default settings, all the Scene and Creative Auto modes will produce well balanced JPEGs, and low-light shots are tidied up automatically with clever noise reduction and enhancement filters, even up to ISO 3200. With a touch of post processing, prints up to A3 size will blow your socks off.

All my own stunts

For action sequences you can shoot continuously in JPEG mode at up to 3 frames per second – not scorchingly quick, but at least you can blast away until the SD card is full.

Switch to RAW file capture and things become tricky. After just 3 RAW files have been leased off in swift succession, image data processing slows to the pace of a dead snail, which is a real shame. After conversion, RAW files will always squeeze out sharper, richer, more rewarding pics than in-camera compressed JPEGs. The image-stabilized 18-55mm kit lens is fine as far as it goes, but doesn’t excel. Don’t even consider the non-IS version.

Autofocus compromised the video star

HD video is recorded at 720p resolution, not full 1080p. Video autofocus is painfully slow, and as there’s no external audio input you’re stuck with an internal mono microphone which picks up focus whine and makes a royal mess of your ambient soundtrack. There’s no facility to take a still image during video capture either. Not for a developing Roger Deakins, then.

Suck it and see

The 1100D is a reliable starting point for beginners. The camera is discrete (as long as you don’t buy a red one), all-day-portable, and produces great still images, although its video capability won’t get anyone excited.

But the awkward truth is that you simply don’t need a DSLR to create beautiful photographs. Save a wad and contemplate the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX9V. Otherwise, if you absolutely must change lenses, play with the Nikon D3100 and the Pentax K-r for a couple of hours, and pick your favourite. Both do more for the same money as this Canon.

Stuff says... 

Canon EOS 1100D review

A cheap and cheerful entry-level snapper but its competitors could serve you better
Good Stuff 
Quality shines through in stills
Light and portable
Bad Stuff 
Compacts do more with less
Slow, noisy autofocus in video