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Canon Powershot A700 - Digital Camera Quick Review
Review Date: 05/12/2006
Rating: Highly Recommended

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Introduction: Announced on the 21st of Febuary 2006, the Canon Powershot A700 is a compact 6 megapixel digital camera with a 6x optical zoom lens and a large 2.5" screen. The 6x optical zoom Canon lens is equivalent to 35 - 210mm on a 35mm camera. The Canon Powershot A700 was / is available from around £209, this makes it good value for money for a compact digital camera with good optical zoom. The camera is enclosed in a sturdy metal and plastic body and is available in silver. The A700 can record video in 640 x 480 resolution at 30fps with sound. The body measures:Approx. 94.5 x 66.5 x 43.4mm (without protruding parts), and weighs approx. 200g. excluding battery and memory card. The Canon Powershot A700 has been replaced by the Canon Powershot A710 IS - the A710 upgrades the megapixels to 7, and adds optical image stabilisation - it's available for around £190 making it even better value for money than the A700!

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)


Front - Camera off.


Front view - camera on, focus assist lamp, optical viewfinder, flash, 6x optical zoom lens (wide), lens ring, lens ring release button.


Back / right: On the right is the strap loop. On the back is the 2.5" screen, optical viewfinder, Photo / Play button, exposure compensation button, print, 4-way controller with middle Func / Set button, display and menu button.


Top: On/off, Mode dial, zoom control, shutter release, speaker, the lens is zoomed out to telephoto.


Bottom - Plastic tripod mount, battery / memory card compartment with lock.


Left: DC in, AV out, and USB socket with plastic cover.

Size Comparison: Compared to a Pentax 35mm film camera - a medium/compact sized 35mm film camera.


Size comparison.


Size comparison.


Size comparison, compared to the 10 megapixel Casio Exilim EX-Z1000.

A700 size next to Finepix F30 - taken with the Lumix FZ3
Size comparison, compared to the 6 megapixel Fujifilm FinePix F30.

Canon Powershot A700 size vs Powershot G7 - taken with the Finepix F30
Size comparison, compared to the 10 megapixel Canon Powershot G7.

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.

Canon A700 vs A710 IS - taken with the Finepix F30
Size comparison, compared to the 7 megapixel Canon Powershot A710 IS. The Canon Powershot A710 IS is slightly redesigned, with a darker colour and slightly rounded edges. The camera also has a 7 megapixel sensor (compared to 6 on the A700), and adds optical image stabilisation to the 6x optical zoom lens.Both cameras feature ISO80 - ISO800, and a 2.5" screen with 115,000 pixels.

Specifications / Features:

  • 6 megapixel CCD sensor
  • 6x Optical Zoom Lens (35 - 210mm, F2.8 - F4.8)
  • Store images on Secure Digital (SD) memory cards
  • 2.5" LCD - 115,000 pixels
  • DIGIC II Processor
  • Movie mode: Records 640 x 480 at 30fps with sound - digital zoom available
  • ISO: Auto/80/100/200/400/800
  • Shutter speeds: 15 - 1/2000 sec.
  • ~1cm macro mode

Box Contents:

  • Digital Camera
  • 2 AA alkaline batteries
  • AV Cable,
  • USB Connection Cable,
  • AC Adapter
  • Wrist Strap,
  • 16mb SD Memory Card
  • Software CD-ROM
  • Manual CD-ROM

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.

Camera 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:

Size Number of Photos Stored / Quality
  SuperFine Fine Normal
L 6mp (2816x2112) 5 8 18
Widescreen (2816x1584) 7 12 25
M1 4mp (2272x1704) 7 13 26
M2 2mp (1600x1200) 14 26 (Postcard) 50
S VGA (640x480) 56 87 138

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:

Find the latest prices for SD memory cards at Amazon.co.uk: 256mb: £6.70, 512mb: £5.99, 1gb (1000mb): £14.45, 2gb (2000mb): £27.61
Need more help deciding what memory card to buy? Have a look at our guide to digital camera memory cards or our article what size memory card should I buy?

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:

Heather and Flower (ISO80) Group photo

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.

Fujifilm FinePix F30 Canon Powershot A700

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.

Fujifilm FinePix F30 Canon Powershot A700
ISO80 - N/A ISO80 - Actual Pixels 1/2 f3.2
ISO100 - Actual Pixels 1/4 f3.2 ISO100 - Actual Pixels 1/4 f3.2
ISO200 - Actual Pixels 1/4 f3.2 ISO200 - Actual Pixels 1/8 f3.2
ISO400 - Actual Pixels 1/8 f3.2 ISO400 - Actual Pixels 1/15 f3.2
ISO800 - Actual Pixels 1/17 f3.2 ISO800 - Actual Pixels 1/30 f3.2
ISO1600 - Actual Pixels 1/32 f3.2 ISO1600 - N/A

The Fujifilm 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:

Beach shade Heather in France

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.

Wide-angle 6x Optical Telephoto Full Optical + Digital Zoom

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.

Other Image 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.

Timex Watch Macro Actual Pixels

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.

Conclusion

Image Quality: I was extremely impressed by the camera's image quality - the camera has good detail and excellent colour (accurate, and well saturated with lots of options to fine tune to your liking). Images have good saturation and contrast, with fairly low noise at the lower ISO settings. The higher ISO setting of ISO800 is probably best avoided. Indoors photos were good, with noise kept fairly low, and red-eye was quite low. I didn't notice purple fringing in any of the photos. The camera was good at focusing indoors thanks to the focus assist lamp. I did not notice any vignetting, barrel or pincushion distortion, and there did not seem to be any corner softness. There is a very good range of image sizes, aspect ratio, and compression options. Auto white balance, metering, and exposure seemed to be very good (although benefitted from -1/3 or -2/3 exposure compensation). The camera gives you good control over image quality with custom white balance, sharpness*, contrast*, saturation* options and other colour options (such as Vivid etc). The only thing missing from this camera is optical image stabilisation which would help when using the camera in low light or when using the telephot end of the lens. The video mode is good with high resolution, and high frame rate. The macro mode is excellent allowing you to get very close to the subjec with good detail and colour. (9/10) *Available in the Custom Colour Menu.

Everything else (the camera as a whole): The camera is compact for a camera with a 6x optical zoom lens, and has a decent sized handgrip on the right hand side. The layout and size of the buttons is good and make the camera easy to use. The camera is fairly easy to use, once you get used to the menu system on Canon cameras. There is a good choice of features and options included some advanced features such as manual exposure, aperture and shutter priority, manual focus, as well as manual white balance. The camera has a lot of family friendly features such as numerous scene modes making it suitable for beginners as well. The camera speed is generally very quick, apart from the flash recharge time, which is noticably slow. The screen size and resolution is good at 2.5" with 115,000 pixels, and the quality appears good. Battery life is good. The video mode is good at 640 x 480 at 30fps with sound. The camera has a lot of built in features that to some may seem like gimmicks, but to other may seem excellent, such as colour swap, lighter and darker skin tone, you can decide whether these are useful features or not. The camera can be "upgraded" or expanded further with the addition of optional lenses, such as the wide-convertor kit for wide-angle shots, or telephoto convertor for even greater zoom power. (9/10)

Value for Money: The Canon Powershot A700 at around £200, is good value for money, and has now been replaced by the Canon Powershot A710 IS - available from £190. Alternative compact digital cameras with 6x optical zoom lens or more include the Ricoh Caplio R5 (7.1x wide-angle), Panasonic Lumix DMC-LZ3 (6x), and the Kodak Easyshare C875 (5x). (8/10) See more digital camera reviews sorted by megapixels here.

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.

Canon Powershot A700 Rating: Highly Recommended (9/10)
A710 IS available for £190 or Get the best price below!

What I like:

  • Excellent image quality - excellent colour
  • Good ISO range (80 - 800)
  • Good control over image quality (Vivid colour is a good choice)
  • Takes 2 AA batteries - great for travelling
  • 6x optical zoom lens
  • Compact body fits in pockets
  • 16:9 wide-screen aspect ratio's available
  • Excellent Canon software (ZoomBrowser EX and PhotoStitch for Panoramics etc)
  • Excellent macro mode
  • Good value for money
  • Very low purple fringing
  • Low red-eye

What I don't like:

  • Plastic tripod mount - positioned to the far left of the camera causing the camera to lean over when on smaller tripods.
  • No optical image stabilisation.
  • Best results acheived using - 1/3 or 2/3 exposure compensation (to avoid over-exposure)
  • Flash occassionally over-exposes subject if too close - set flash to -1/3 or 2/3 to avoid
  • ISO isn't stored in the JPEG EXIF data - and is only displayed if manually set!
  • Tiny 16mb SD Memory card provided.
  • Slow flash recharge time.

Additional Test Images are viewable in the Canon Powershot A700 Sample Photo Gallery.

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