Canon Powershot A300 Review

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Canon Powershot A300

Steve's Conclusion

Canon's new Powershot A300 is an excellent choice for those desiring an easy to use and compact size 3.2 megapixel camera. But don't let the size fool you, the A300 has a robust DIGIC image processor, excellent flash output and control, a 1.5-inch color LCD that is highly readable and a very consumer-friendly price of just $199 (as of 4/2003).

The Powershot A300 is more than just an automatic "point-n-shoot" type of camera. An A300 feature that is a Canon (not industry) standard is the Focus-Assist Illuminator for low light levels. There's nothing more aggravating than attempting a shoot in low light and finding out that the camera can't focus. The A300's focus assist illuminator is a big help in this situation and I wish more digicam manufacturers would take a hint from Canon who uses illuminators in every digicam they make.

User exposure options are "Auto" (Point and Shoot) and Manual where you can adjust exposure compensation, white balance, and image adjustments like Vivid or Natural color, Low Sharpening, Sepia toned or B&W. Image size can be adjusted to : 640 x 480 for use on a web page or e-mail attachment, 1024 x 768 for 4 x 6 inch prints or 1600 x 1200 size for great 5 x 7 inch prints and 2048 x 1536 for 8 x 10 inch prints and up. There are three quality levels for each image size; SuperFine, Fine or Normal. You can also select a flash mode; Auto fires whenever more light is needed, Red-eye reduction is ideal for "people" pictures, slow-synchro can be used for night pictures where you want to illuminate a foreground subject but not lose the detail in the background and the always-on or fill mode is useful for eliminating harsh shadow in bright outdoor or back lit situations. Flash range is not excessive but adequate at a maximum of 6.7 ft / 2m (at ISO 100.)

The image quality of the A300 is better than many of the other 3.0-megapixel cameras. The color saturation and white balance is excellent. Indoor people pictures shot with the flash seemed to be a little extra saturated but that's the way most folks prefer them. The outside fill flash was also impressive. There was very little need to correct the vast majority of the pictures that we shot. The focus is sharp and well defined especially when shooting closeup objects. The lens is sharp even at the maximum aperture of F3.6. The Canon AFiF autofocus system is accurate and fast even when shooting macros at TWO inches or in total darkness thanks to a focus assist lamp.

Timing and performance was impressive with most numbers being a three. It takes just less than three seconds to power up and be ready to take the first shot as there is no zoom lens 'ratcheting' out into position. In the Large SuperFine mode it takes about three seconds to process and store an image. And going from Record to Play or vice-versa also takes less than three seconds. The all important shutter lag (delay from pressing shutter until picture is actually captured) is about 0.7 to 0.8 seconds which is a little faster than average and much faster than some thanks to the A300's robust autofocus system. In the Continuous mode in Large / Fine quality settings with the LCD monitor OFF we could record almost 2.2 frames per second.

Canon continues using standard AA type batteries to power the A300. Too many cameras these days use proprietary battery packs which are expensive and often obscure. It's nice to be able to use rechargeables or "off the shelf" batteries in an emergency. There's a multitude of brands of NiMH rechargeable batteries to choose from as well as fast AC or portable chargers. In a pinch you can even use a set of one-use alkalines but they always end up in the local landfill. Battery life when using high-capacity 2100mAH NiMH was very good even when using the color LCD frequently to check the pictures.

The bottom line is that this is an excellent camera for those that just want to take good pictures without fussing with any controls, or for those that want some creative control. Turn it on, point and shoot -- you're done, and confident of a good image. Not bad at all for just $199 (04/2003)!

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