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The A3100 doesn't actually make the best first impression.

Call us spoiled, but we're used to cameras at this price being a little sleeker - the A3100 has slightly tubby dimensions and we can't say we're fans of how it feels in the hand.

The screen on the back protrudes inelegantly from the back of the camera, and while we agree that looks aren't everything, the A3100 isn't overly charming for a camera that costs the better part of £200.

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It atones elsewhere though. The 2.7-inch TFT has a resolution of 230,000 pixels, and is excellent. It's crisp and bright, and we had no trouble using it outside. And, while the menu system will be familiar to anyone who's used Canon's compacts before, it's easy to pick up and use from scratch.

You choose the camera's mode via a dial on the top. All the usual suspects are here, including a fully automatic mode, and a scene mode offering nine settings for tricky situations such as bright snowy landscapes or night shots.

There isn't exactly a surplus of manual modes, although you can at least set white balance manually, or set your own exposure compensation from plus or minus two stops.

But for more complex effects, such as blurring light trails on a night shoot, you have to select the closest scene mode to the one you want and trust the camera to get it right.

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One unexpectedly effective addition is the A3100's face detection mode. This offers a fairly negligible advantage over the standard mode for portraits you take yourself - it makes sense to simply frame and focus a shot yourself - but the addition of the self-timer is a stroke of genius.

Set the A3100 up and set it to face self-timer mode and the camera will take a picture when it thinks a new face has entered the frame. If you've ever wreaked merry havoc attempting to navigate a tripod trying to include yourself in a timer shot, the A3100 has the answer. The system worked effectively in our tests.