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A700 - Digital Camera Quick Review
Canon have this
to say about the camera:
"Test the limits
of your creativity with the richly featured PowerShot A700. A high performance
6x optical zoom lens and 6.0 Megapixel resolution combine for stunning
shots from any distance. The PowerShot A700 packs a powerful 6x optical
zoom lens into a remarkably compact space. A real-image optical viewfinder
helps with quick composition and framing accuracy."
You can find more information on their website.
The Camera: a visual tour: (Photos of the camera taken with the Polaroid i1032)
Size Comparison: Compared to a Pentax 35mm film camera - a medium/compact sized 35mm film camera.
Compared to the Canon Powershot A710 IS: Announced only 6 months after the A700, the A710 is an appealling camera, especially as it's now available for only £190.
Specifications / Features:
Average box contents - There is limited memory provided with the camera, and unfortunately the full manual is on CD. Some kind of case would be useful, as would some rechargable batteries and a charger.
Battery usage: Battery life seemed good, I was able to take over 320 photos between charge when using 2100 mAh Rechargable Ni-Mh AA batteries.
Operation and Options: The camera
mode is selected with the mode dial on top and the photo / play switch
on the back. The modes available using the top dial are: Auto, Program,
Shutter priority, Aperture priority, Manual, Portrait, Landscape, Scene
mode, Panoramic, Video.
Screen / LCD display in photo mode: The screen has an average resolution of 115,000 pixels, and updates smoothly - the colours appear accurate. There is no live histogram available in photo mode (only in playback) but the screen is clear and the text and menus are easy to read. Optical Viewfinder: There is a small optical viewfinder - not tiny like some compact cameras, but still fairly small.
Function menu: This is the main way of changing settings on Canon cameras giving you quick access to: ISO, White Balance, Drive mode, My Colours, Flash strength, Evaluative, Compression, Image size.
Scene modes: (available in scene mode) Kids and Pets, Indoor, Foliage, Snow, Beach, Fireworks, Colour Accent, Colour Swap, Night snapshot.
Setup menus: Lets you switch digital zoom on / off, switch auto rotate on / off, setup and format memory cards, and customise the cameras screens and sounds.
Playback menus: There are limited controls in playback mode, but the most commonly used are available such as slideshow, rotate, print setup etc.
Picture Size / Quality: The camera takes the following size pictures, and the following number of pictures will fit in the (16mb) provided memory:
As shown in the table above, higher quality images take a large amount of memory, and you can't fit very many photos in the provided memory, so a high capacity memory card is definitely recommended. There is a good choice regarding image size, compression, and aspect ratio, with a 16:9 aspect ratio available. It would be nice to see a 3:2 aspect ratio mode.
A large memory card is relatively cheap, and highly recommended, I would recommend at a bare minimum a 256mb memory card, and preferably a 512mb memory card, especially considering the relatively low prices - the larger the memory card, the more photos you will be able to take. If you are likely to be away from a computer for a long time (such as when going on holiday) then the largest memory card you can afford would definitely be worth investing in. This camera takes only secure digital memory. Listed below are links to memory cards that will work with the Canon Powershot A700:
latest prices for SD memory cards at Amazon.co.uk: 256mb: £6.70,
1gb (1000mb): £14.45,
2gb (2000mb): £27.61
Speed: The camera is quick to switch on and take photos, being ready in just over 1 second, it takes roughly 2.1 seconds to switch on, focus and take the photo, this is quite quick. Focusing is quick in average light at around 0.4 - 0.5 seconds set to wide angle, but slower when using the focus assist lamp. Shutter response is very quick at around 0.1 seconds. Shot to shot time is average at around 2.0 seconds between shots (with review switched on), with flash switched on this shot to shot time is around 6.0 seconds. High speed continuous shooting allows you to take continuous shots at roughly 2 frames per second (with flash off). Playback mode is very quick, and its easy to zoom upto 10x on your last shot and check for blur with the zoom control. Moving from picture to picture is very quick, however it shows you a blurred version first and then shows you a sharper version a second later. Moving around the different menu options is rapid. The screen updates in photo mode are generally very quick and smooth.
Ease of use: Using the camera is fairly straightforward, simply switch it on and start taking photos, however, when you want to use some of the more advanced features of the camera it can becomes more complicated, due to some of the hidden functions (such as the sharpness, contrast, and saturation controls in the Custom Colours menu). Switching between the modes is easy thanks to the mode dial on the top of the camera and once you find all the options the camera becomes fairly easy to use, and it is fairly easy to use the more basic functions of the camera - for example it's easy to switch between the photo, and playback modes. The Canon way of using the Function menu as the main controls and the Menu button to access setup options can take some time to get used to, especially if you are used to cameras from other brands.
Ergonomics and Buttons: (Feel, placement, labels, etc) The buttons are fairly easy to use, and they are in a good position and in easy reach for using the camera with one hand although it would be nice to have direct access to the ISO setting as per some of the newer Canon cameras, such as the Digital IXUS 850 IS. The buttons feel good, the zoom control is easy to use and I am personally a big fan of the zoom control surrounding the shutter release. The buttons are labelled fairly well, it's just the left and right directions that lack clear labelling. I thought the camera felt good ergonomically, with a decent sized handgrip although it would be nice to see some rubberised areas to aid grip, as the surface of the camera is very smooth. All of the compartments and covers seem well positioned and are fairly easy to open, although some people found the battery compartment (with built in lock / latch) difficult to open.
Image Quality: Here are some real world sample photos taken in various settings, such as Inside, Outside, Macro, to demonstrate the quality of pictures taken and also show different features of the camera. Larger versions of these photos, plus more test photos are available in the Canon Powershot A700 Sample Photo Gallery!
Inside: The camera has good, accurate colour - It took a good "Heather and Flower" photo - and there is very little red-eye. There is some more red-eye in the group photo but not much. The flash does a good job even when the subject is quite far away. The camera did a good job at focusing most of the time even in low-light, thanks to the focus assist lamp. Colour is quite well saturated.
ISO Noise Test: Noise is generally a bad thing - it removes detail, and gives a grainy effect over the image. With digital cameras noise can be a real problem as digital camera noise is often made out of blue, red or green dots. As the ISO setting increases, pictures tend to have more noise. Noise is most noticeable in dark areas of photos. The camera has an Automatic mode for ISO levels, and manual ISO settings (ISO: 80, 100, 200, 400, 800).
Below you'll find the noise test image, plus actual pixel crops from the image taken at different ISO settings, compared with the 6 megapixel Fujifilm FinePix F30.
ISO Noise Test Photos - Flash is off. Fujifilm Finepix F30 on the left, Canon Powershot A700 on the right. The Canon was picked as a comparison as it has a wide range of photographic options. Any tonal difference is due to automatic white balance or metering differences.
FinePix F10 was groundbreaking in regards to low noise at high ISO
settings, and the F30 has great abilities in this area. Most digital
cameras have low noise at ISO100 and ISO200 and you start to see problems
at ISO400. Compared to the Canon Powershot A700 noise is significantly
lower and pictures appear smoother. The Canon performs quite well and
ISO 80 - 100 produce the best results. ISO200 and 400 can be used and
produce acceptable results, leaving ISO800 to be used in very low light
situations as long as you don't mind the additional noise. However, compared
to the excellent Fujifilm FinePix
F30, noise on the Canon Powershot A700 appears very high.
Outside: The camera has excellent, rich, saturated colours, (whilst still remaining accurate) with good contrast and detail. On default settings colour isn't quite as saturated and images are (perhaps overly) bright - setting the camera to Vivid mode and setting exposure compensation to -1/3 gives excellent results. The quality was set to maximum to minimise any jpeg artefacts.
Zoom: This camera has a 6x optical zoom lens and a built in 4x digital zoom - in the case of this camera the digital zoom basically takes a smaller area of the photo and enlarges it using software blurring the image so that it is not pixellated. Generally it's best to avoid using digital zoom as it degrades the quality of the image and, often, better results can be obtained by using a photo package such as Adobe Photoshop. I've included examples below to show what the optical and digital zoom is capable of.
Exposure: The photos of the clock tower are exposed well with some detail in the dark areas as well as the lighter areas - exposure in other photos was generally very good. I didn't notice any purple fringing or vignetting in these photos.
Lens noise and zoom: The lens is fairly quiet in operation, but noticable. The lens gives good control over how you frame your subject with at 14 steps between wide and telephoto zoom.
Quality issues: I couldn't find purple fringing in any of the photos!
Macro: the macro mode allows you to be roughly 1cm away from from the subject, this is with the lens set on wide-angle. The camera helps you find the "sweet spot" and will show the macro symbol greyed out if you zoom in too far. The camera does a good job toning down the flash however best results are achieved using manual white balance and more natural lighting.
The custom white balance helps get better colours in the macro mode - the closest the camera can get to the subject is excellent at around 1cm. Noise seems low in this photo and detail and colour is very good.
Video mode: The camera features a high resolution VGA 640 x 480 video mode at 30 fps with sound, as well as a 320 x 240 video mode at 60 / 30 fps. Video quality and length seemed quite good even in low light, although compression isn't very high so you can't fit very long movies on your memory card - for example you can only fit 8 minutes 30 seconds at VGA resolution, 30fps onto a 1gb memory card, and only 24 minutes at 320x240, 30fps.
Summary: I've been using the Canon Powershot A700 for nearly 6 months now and taken thousands of photos with it - this camera has consistently produced excellent results and been able to take great photos in every situation, including WWE shows! Image quality is excellent with great colours, and the 6x optical zoom lens is an excellent feature, especially as the camera is not much bigger than a lot of other 3x optical zoom lens cameras. If you want a good optical zoom, but don't want the bulk normally associated with ultra zoom cameras, then the A700 (and A710 IS) is an excellent option. The camera only takes 2 AA batteries, yet battery life is still very good, and has the added bonus of allowing you to buy replacement batteries in any local shop, no matter where in the world you are. The manual white balance will let you get great macro photos, and full manual controls mean you can take some great night photos. The only thing missing from this camera is image stabilisation - thankfully Canon have released the A710 IS, and if it's as good as the A700, then it's bound to be excellent! The A700 is Highly Recommended! Although if you can't find it anymore, then go out and buy an A710 IS.
What I like:
What I don't like:
Additional Test Images are viewable in the Canon Powershot A700 Sample Photo Gallery.