Canon PowerShot A3300 IS review

3.5 out of 5
£149

For

Solid feel build, decent pixel count, easy to use feature set, most of the latest must haves are here

Against

Not Full HD video, no HDMI output

On the look out for an entry level snapshot, and have a bit over £100 to spend? The A3300 IS has a suggested asking price exactly £20 more than its PowerShot “A” family doppelganger in the A3200 IS, give or take a couple of body colour options.

So, while many of our findings for the S3200 IS will inevitably be the same here, what do we get for the modest extra spend that separates these two metal bodied, 720P HD video-shooting peas from the same not unattractive pod?

Design

Well, in topping the A series of PowerShot point and shoots, the A3300 IS boasts a class leading 16 megapixel resolution (instead of the A3200’s 14.1 megapixels), a 3-inch LCD (instead of 2.7-inch) plus a slightly different array of colour choices for starters. This model is available in red, the striking can’t-miss-it electric blue we had in for review, plus silver and pink.

So the price of a takeaway for two buys you a couple of million extra pixels if needed, and a marginally wider LCD - neither of which in our opinion make a great deal of difference on an auto everything snapshot model. Dimensions are a pocket or purse friendly 95.1 x 56.7 x 23.9mm and the camera weighs a manageable 149g.

Under the bonnet of the A3300 IS there is a Digic 4 processor powering everything along with the camera powering up in 1-2 seconds, plus the usual retractable zoom lens, here 5x optical starting out at a wideangle 28mm in 35mm film terms supported by an integrated lens shift optical image stabiliser (hence the “IS” suffix) to reduce instances of camera shake/image blur when shooting at the telephoto end of the focal range (140mm), or in lower light without flash. Canon claims this allows A3300 IS users to shoot in just 1/8th of the amount of light that would be required to get similar results without such stabilisation.

Whatever, the camera doesn't feel so flimsy, nor is it so slimline, that a bit of wobble is going to be a problem anyway. Despite the budget price tag it feels surprisingly robust and solid when gripped in the palm.

Features and control

As this isn’t a camera that’s about manual features or true photographic control, Auto mode, or rather here “Smart Auto” dominates proceedings. This compares scenes and subjects before the lens with no fewer than 32 on-board settings, and, using the likes of face/subject detection technology by way of identification, pretty competently selects the most appropriate one.

As we’ve found on previous occasions this proves a reliable “wingman” when all you want to do is concentrate on subject rather than settings. But if even that sounds too complex, then there is an easy mode denoted by a heart icon on the shooting dial that removes most of the icons from the screen and deactivates various options to make taking a picture as straightforward as possible. That aside, on-screen prompts and “hints and tips” when the user makes various selections means that this is a model you can pick up and start shooting with without prior knowledge or digestion of the manual.

Also an expected feature of a point and shoot these days however is a group of creative effects filters. On the PowerShot A3300 IS, like the A3200 IS, we get six. These are the pinhole-camera style “toy camera”, plus monochrome, tilt and shift lens ape-ing miniature effect, perspective warping fish eye, super vivid and poster effect. Plus, as with past PowerShots miniature effect can also be applied to video recordings, whereby the camera records either 1.5, 3 or 6 frames per second to create the impression of a start-stop, time-lapse video.

Newer here and found on the familiar bottle top-like shooting mode dial part sunk into the top plate, though with its right hand edge exposed for easy adjustment, is a Live View control. As on the S3200 IS, what this allows is the individual adjustment of brightness, colour and tone, via three separate exposure compensation-type sliders that appear on screen, with the results of your tweaks shown in real time before the shutter release button is pressed. Such adjustments are more usually buried away within the menus, so it’s interesting and informative that Canon has chosen to bump some manual control to the fore on what is a camera on which most users will purely point and shoot. Reminds us of the Olympus Pen series in that respect.

Also of interest, and again located via a twist of the top plate shooting mode dial, is a new ”discreet” mode that automatically disables the flash and operational bleeps for shooting in places where flash is often banned - such as in cathedrals, museums and stately homes. The AF assist lamp is also disabled at the same time however; something that’s arguably more crucial seeing as most such places are by their nature dimly lit. Still, it’s useful to have such a setting at your fingertips rather than have to delve into various menu settings to achieve the same end.

Performance

Powered by a lithium ion battery offering 230 shots from a full charge, 20 images fewer than the A3200 IS. Picture quality wise, most of our observations of the S3200 IS model apply to the S3300 IS. Which is to say we very much enjoyed using the manual slider settings in Live mode and seeing the results of boosting saturation in real time, so we could backtrack if it looked like we were overdoing the effect before the shutter release button was actually pressed. This “gimmick” was the one we found ourselves using the most on the camera.

Otherwise images are commendably sharp and clear and colours natural, though we were blessed with clement weather for our test period - conditions in which snapshot cameras most commonly excel. Again, as with the S3200 IS we can’t use the optical zoom when recording video because of the sound of the lens making its operational adjustments, which is a shame but not a deal breaker at this price.

Verdict

The A3300 IS will appeal to those for whom the highest pixel count possible is a major draw. While we’re hard pressed to see the detail an extra two million pixels bring (except perhaps marginally more image noise at higher ISOs), the slightly larger 3-inch screen on this camera compared with its slightly cheaper sibling is arguably more advantageous on a daily basis. Otherwise save yourself the extra £20 over the PowerShot S3200 IS and go out and spend it on a curry instead.