Canon PowerShot A1200 (Silver)
Typical Price: $129.99
CNET Editors' Rating: 4.0 / 5
The good: The Canon PowerShot A1200 IS is inexpensive while still offering very good features and photo and video quality.
The bad: The camera's shooting performance is slow.
The bottom line: As long as you're not in a hurry and your subject is stationary, the Canon PowerShot A1200 is an excellent little camera for the money.
Design, Features & Performance (out of 10)
Editors' note: Several of the design, features, and shooting options are identical between the Canon PowerShot A1200 and the
Canon all but abandoned optical viewfinders on its PowerShot cameras; the high-end G12 was the only one. That changed at CES 2011, though, with the announcement of the Canon PowerShot A1200, an entry-level point-and-shoot with a real-image zoom viewfinder.
Along with the viewfinder, this budget-friendly 12-megapixel compact is powered by AA-size batteries, has a large selection of shooting options, uses an f2.8 28mm-equivalent wide-angle lens with a 4x zoom, and captures 720 HD-resolution movie clips. About the only thing missing is optical image stabilization, but you can counteract hand shake by using the viewfinder.
Like most cameras in its price range, though, the A1200 is slow, so I wouldn't recommend it for regularly shooting active kids and pets. It also isn't great at higher ISO sensitivities, so low-light photos without a flash aren't the greatest. Still, given the cost, they're hardly disappointing.
|Key specs||Canon PowerShot A1200|
|Dimensions (WHD)||3.8x2.5x1.2 inches|
|Weight (with battery and media)||6.5 ounces|
|Megapixels, image sensor size, type||12 megapixels, 1/2.3-inch CCD|
|LCD size, resolution/viewfinder||2.7-inch LCD, 230K dots/Yes, optical|
|Lens (zoom, aperture, focal length)||4x, f2.8-5.9, 28-112mm (35mm equivalent)|
|File format (still/video)||JPEG/H.264 (.MOV)|
|Highest resolution size (still/video)||4,000x3,000 pixels/ 1,280x720 at 24fps|
|Image stabilization type||Digital|
|Battery type, CIPA rated life||AA-size batteries (2), 200 shots (alkaline)|
|Battery charged in camera||No|
|Storage media||SD/SDHC/SDXC Memory Card, MultiMediaCard, MMCplus Card, HC MMCplus Card|
|Bundled software||ZoomBrowser EX 6.7/PhotoStitch 3.1 (Windows); CameraWindow DC 8.4 transfer utility; ImageBrowser 6.7/PhotoStitch 3.2 (Mac)|
For its sub-$110 price, the A1200 is capable of turning out some excellent photos. But like most compacts, this really depends on how much light you have--the more, the better. At and below ISO 200, photos have great color and generally look sharp with good detail. At ISO 400, a sensitivity regularly used for shooting indoors without flash, photos get softer-looking, but noise and noise suppression are well balanced making 4x6 prints possible. There is a noticeable increase in noise at ISO 800 resulting in faint yellow blotches, and colors start getting slightly washed out. They're still pleasing enough for Web use at small sizes, though. However, everything that happens at ISO 800 increases at 1,600; use it for when you absolutely need to control motion blur and don't have a enough light or can't use the flash. Basically, this camera is great with a lot of light and very good indoors with bright lighting and/or a flash, but I wouldn't recommend it for regularly shooting in low-light conditions.
There is slight barrel distortion at the wide end of the A1200's lens and maybe a hint of it with the lens in telephoto, too. Center sharpness is very good, and though it softens a touch as you move out, it was still remarkably consistent edge to edge and in the corners compared with other budget cameras I've tested. Also, there was very little fringing in high-contrast areas of photos.
Color performance is excellent from the A1200: bright, vivid, and accurate. Exposure is also very good. Highlights will blow out on occasion. The auto white balance indoors is a little warm, but otherwise it's good and you can always take advantage of the presets or manual white balance if you're not happy with the results.
Video quality is on par with a basic HD pocket video camera; it's good enough for Web use and nondiscriminating TV viewing. Panning the camera will create judder that's typical of the video from most compact cameras, and you'll notice motion trailing on fast-moving subjects. The zoom lens does not function while recording, but you do have a digital zoom; I suggest not using it as the results are not pleasant.
|General shooting options||Canon PowerShot A1200|
|ISO sensitivity (full resolution)||Auto, 80, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1,600|
|White balance||Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Tungsten, Fluorescent, Fluorescent H, Custom|
|Recording modes||Program, Live View Control, Auto, Easy, SCN, Creative Filters, Discreet, Movie|
|Focus modes||Normal AF (Face, Tracking, Center), Macro, Infinity|
|Macro||1.2 inches (Wide)|
|Metering modes||Evaluative, Center-weighted average, Spot|
|Color effects||Vivid, Neutral, Sepia, Black & White, Custom (contrast, sharpness, and saturation)|
|Burst mode shot limit (full resolution)||Unlimited continuous|
Shooting modes are geared for point-and-shoot use, so no semimanual or full manual modes. The most control you get over settings is in Program mode, letting you select things like white balance, ISO, and metering. It's also the only mode with access to the camera's My Color options like Vivid and Sepia, as well as a Custom option with adjustments for contrast, sharpness, and saturation. On the other hand, you have the new Live View Control mode, which enables you to adjust brightness, color, and tone with onscreen sliders and see what the photo will look like as you make the changes.
If you just want to point and shoot, there's Canon's Smart Auto, which determines the appropriate settings based on the scene you're shooting. An Easy mode works similarly, but it heavily limits settings. There's a new Discreet mode, too, that shuts off all sound and lights so you can shoot without accidentally disturbing the subject or those around you.
The Scene mode has all the usual suspects: Portrait, Landscape, Kids & Pets, Low Light, Beach, Foliage, Snow, Fireworks, and Long Shutter (exposure settings from 1 to 15 seconds). Oddly, there's no panorama option, which is a pretty popular option these days. Canon does include its Smart Shutter option in the Scene mode, though, providing a smile-activated shutter release and Wink and Face Detection self-timers. Wink allows you to set off the shutter simply by winking at the camera, and with the Face Detection option, the camera will wait until it detects a new face in front of the camera before it fires off a shot. Both work well. Also, since there is no optical image stabilization, there is a Blur Reduction mode that captures 2-megapixel photos using a high ISO sensitivity to keep shutter speed as fast as possible.
Canon's Creative Filters are now all located under a spot on the mode dial, where you can select Toy Camera Effect, Monochrome, Super Vivid, Poster Effect, Fish-eye Effect, and Miniature Effect. While some may find these to be a bit goofy, they can be a lot of fun to play with, if only to add some interest to what would otherwise be a boring shot. I particularly liked the results from the Toy Camera Effect, which has Standard, Warm, and Cool settings.
If you like to shoot close-ups, the A1200 can focus as close as 1.2 inches from a subject. The 12-megapixel resolution allows you to inspect fine details, but they're still a little soft and could use some sharpening with photo-editing software. Also, the f2.8 aperture does create a shallow depth of field in macro, which can make for some nice photos.
Shooting performance is overall slow. From off to first shot takes 2.4 seconds. The wait between subsequent shots averaged 3 seconds; using the flash basically doubles that time. Shutter lag--the time from pressing the shutter release to capturing a photo--is 0.5 second in bright lighting and 0.9 second in low-light conditions. The continuous shooting speed is pretty slow, too, at 0.7 frames per second with focus and exposure set with the first shot. The performance might not be a problem if most of your photos are of stationary subjects. But, if you're trying to capture active children and pets or sports, it'll be tricky to get the shot you want with this camera.
Canon has improved the fit and finish of the A-series cameras for 2011. For as inexpensive as the camera is and being made almost entirely of plastic, the A1200 still looks good. Its two AA-size batteries add weight as well as allow for a wider grip on the right side. The optical viewfinder is, again, a rarity on an entry-level compact. The area visible is about 80 percent of what will be in your image, but it's very nice to have. The 2.7-inch LCD covers 100 percent, and is bright with good color, should you want to use it for framing instead.
The controls and menus are straightforward, too. The buttons are flat, but they're big and easy to press. Plus, a display button allows you to quickly shut off the LCD so you don't waste battery life when using the viewfinder.
On the right side is a Mini-USB port for connecting to a computer as well as an AV output for an optional AV cable and DC in jack for an optional AC power adapter. The battery and SD memory card compartment is in the bottom of the camera behind a locking sliding door. Battery life is average with alkaline batteries; you get about 200 shots. However, you can extend that count greatly by only using the viewfinder or switching to NiMH rechargeable batteries.
The Canon PowerShot A1200 is an excellent option for those just looking to take a good snapshot. After slowly watching optical viewfinders disappear from Canon compact cameras (and everyone else's), it's great to see one available on something other than a high-end camera. The convenience of AA batteries is a plus, too. And although some will miss having full control over shutter speed and aperture, they're of limited value in this camera. Instead you get the additions of the Live View Control and Creative Filters modes that let you do some cool things with little or no effort. As long as you don't need speedy shooting, it's a bargain.
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
|Time to first shot||Typical shot-to-shot time (flash)||Typical shot-to-shot time||Shutter lag (dim)||Shutter lag (typical)|
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Find out more about how we test digital cameras.
|Product Description||Canon PowerShot A1200 - Digital camera|
|Product Type||Digital camera - Compact|
|Dimensions (WxDxH)||3.9 in x 1.2 in x 2.5 in|
|Supported Flash Memory||SDHC Memory Card, MultiMediaCard, SD Memory Card, MultiMediaCardplus, SDXC Memory Card|
|Sensor Resolution||12.1 megapixels|
|Shooting Modes||Frame movie mode|
|Min Focus Range||1.2 in|
|Focal Length||5 mm - 20 mm|
|Red Eye Reduction||Yes|
|Microphone||Microphone - Built-in - Mono|
|Viewfinder||Optical - Real-image zoom|
|Display||LCD display - TFT active matrix - 2.7 in - Color|
|Supported Battery||2 x AA Alkaline battery ( Included ), 2 x AA NiMH rechargeable battery ( Optional )|
Average User Rating: 4.0 / 5
User Rating Breakdown
5 Star: 1
4 Star: 7
3 Star: 3
2 Star: 1
1 Star: 3
Great Point and Shoot
Rating: 4 / 5
on March 12, 2011
2 out of 2 users found this review helpful
Pros: Compact form
Takes AA batteries
Fully automatic point and shoot
Cons: Optical viewfinder does not capture full seen and shows significant spherical distortion
No image stabilization so low light pictures may turn out blurry, even for the steadiest of hands
Video isn't a replacement for a camcorder
Summary: This is a great, compact point and shoot budget camera that is worth the retail price of $109 and is definitely a steal if on sale. The camera is a point and shoot in every sense of the word so there are no manual options. However, the camera lives up to the powershot brand and takes great pictures in all automatic modes. Like many other cameras, the camera has various scene modes that let you choose the setting, and then the camera takes care of the rest. In daylight, the camera takes clear pictures with little to no noise which is typical for most Canon Powershots. In low-light, with the lack of image stabilization, most pictures turned out blurry. With adequate stabilization, such as a tripod or resting the camera on a table, low-light pictures turned out clear with little noise.
This camera also takes 720p video which is useable. The extra resolution does not seem to be a significant increase because videos still come out to look about the same as videos shot from my old Canon SD500. Most of the time, even with adequate light, the video seems darkened. Video also comes out shaky because of the lack of image stabilization. There is also no optical zoom during recording so the focal point is fixed after you press record. There is however, digital zoom which allows for some usability.
This camera is a great throw-back to old cameras that took standardized batteries and had viewfinders. The AA are a plus, but the optical viewfinder is almost unusable because it doesn't show the whole picture. In addition, looking through the viewfinder almost makes it look like you're looking through a marble because there is significant distortion (does not show up in the pictures). Overall, when considering the price of the camera, it is a great value that takes clear images in various scenes. The video is ok to use on occasion, but is not a substitute for a real camcorder. The only thing that this camera is really missing is optical image stabilization which would have probably brought it up to 5 stars.
Sensitive to low light - caution.
Rating: 3.5 / 5
on May 31, 2011
1 out of 2 users found this review helpful
Pros: The HD video option is 720 - impressive in the sunlight. Auto mode is very quick and intelligent. This is a great camera for Mom and Dad.
Cons: This is a point and shoot camera. Low light pictures, forget about it. You may want to upgrade. The flash is not powerful enough. Indoors i.e. low light the HD becomes grainy and looses sharpness. Most importantly: This camera saves video in .MOV format.
Summary: This purchase is a huge disappointment for video in low light. Also, editing these files with windows movie maker is not an option. Why would Canon change a good thing? It was only $103.00. Overall pictures are great in the bright light, this is usually when Mom and Dad are awake. This is not a camera for taking pictures at an evening concert. You will need to purchase the optional flash offered by Canon.
Good camera until it says lens error within 29 months.
Rating: 2.5 / 5
on May 29, 2013
0 out of 0 users found this review helpful
Pros: I chose it because of the optical viewer and standard AA batteries. Works well, optical viewer is nice, though I used it less than I anticipated. Automatic exposure works well.
Cons: Failure of lens moving renders camera unusable after 29 months of normal use. I never dropped it and was careful with it.
Battery compartment is somewhat clumsy to open. Macro option not always sharp.
Summary: Would not advise to buy this camera because of battery usage and early lens failure. Batteries don't last very long. and low battery message appears even when batteries are not low yet, some fiddling with the batteries makes it work again. Apart from that a decent camera for household use. Nice wide angle and 4x optical zoom.
A Perfect Traveler's Camera
Rating: 3.5 / 5
on February 28, 2012
0 out of 0 users found this review helpful
Live and Program modes
Effects found on higher end cameras
Great for macro shots
HD quality video recording capability
28mm wide angle
Cons: Grainy pictures on low light scenes
Noise evident above 200ISO
No AV cable included
Summary: This is the kind of camera you stash in a glove compartment or in the pocket of your backpack, ready for a spontaneous scene that's better preserved by a camera than a camphone. It's cheap enough for you not to cry if it breaks and it takes great pictures even if you care less about composition, lighting or angles. Don't dream that it can beat even a budget DSLR when it comes to resolution, contrast or depth of field, but it gives you enough control to tweak your settings that can make your pictures look like it was done by a pro. As it is, it's a great budget camera you will not regret buying.
Nifty little camera!
Rating: 4 / 5
on December 31, 2011
0 out of 0 users found this review helpful
Pros: Price, Batteries, Size, Weight, Viewfinder
Cons: Automatic Mode
Summary: This is a great little camera for the price. I got this as a gift to replace my very old 7.1 MP Sanyo digital point-and-shoot camera. At first, I was disappointed with the quality of pictures taken with this camera, but I was only using the Auto mode. I don't recommend it! This camera takes much clearer photos using the Program mode, which also allows you to tweak the different settings such as the ISO speed. In Auto mode, it detects and sets your ISO by itself, and in my case it was doing a terrible job at it.