Canon Powershot A75 Review

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Canon PowerShot A75

Steve's Conclusion

Building on the success of the highly popular Canon PowerShot A70, the PowerShot A75 incorporates all of the key features of the A70 and adds a number of upgrades such as a new Special Scene mode (SCN) on the command dial, which allows you to select any of six scene modes to insure proper exposure of special shooting conditions. There's also a new Print/Share button that speeds printing (to Direct Print and PictBridge compliant printers) and transferring images to your PC. Many of us find today's ultra-compact cameras too small to comfortably handle. The Canon "A" series is a mid-size compact that's positioned between the diminuitive Digital ELPH and the larger "G" series. We liked the size and ergonomics of the A70 and were glad to see that Canon retained them with the A75.

The A75 features a high-quality 3x optical zoom lens, a 9-point AiAF auto focus system (instead of the 5-point AF system on the A70) with a low-light focus assist illuminator, Canon's DIGIC image processor, the ability to capture motion video at resolutions of 640 x 480, 320 x 240, and 160 x 120 with sound, a 1.8 inch TFT color LCD that is very usable in all light conditions, uses readily-available CompactFlash memory cards, and is powered by standard AA-type batteries.

The image capture options are Auto (Point and Shoot mode), Program ("Auto" with all the override options), Shutter-speed priority, Aperture priority, Manual, and the Scene modes: Portrait, Landscape, Night Scene, Fast Shutter, Slow Shutter, and SCN (Special Scene mode) which adds six new scene modes to choose from Foliage, Snow, Beach, Fireworks, Underwater (when used with the optional WP-DC30 underwater case), and Indoor. The Stitch Assist mode lets you create a panorama with up to 26 individual images taken in left-to-right or right-to-left orientation. A great panorama requires that the exposure and white balance is locked after the first shot and that each picture has about 20-35% overlap from the previous picture. The A75 automatically locks the exposure and using the onscreen prompting, makes the overlapping process very easy. The final step is to use the included Photo Stitch software to merge the sequential shots into a wide and gorgeous panorama. And last is Movie mode, which allows you to capture movies at 640 x 480 with sound for up to 30 seconds or 320 x 240 and 160 x 120 at up to 3 minutes with sound. As with most digicams that record video with sound, you cannot use the motorized zoom during recording.

The A75's image size choices are: 640 x 480 for use on a web page or as an e-mail attachment, Postcard(1600x1200) this is a special 3:2 ratio mode for making 4x6 in. prints, 1024 x 768, 1600 x 1200, and 2048 x 1536 which is sufficient for 8 x 10 inch prints. There are three JPEG quality levels for each image size; SuperFine, Fine or Normal. There is no uncompressed TIFF mode but nowadays nobody misses it, the SuperFine JPEGs use very little compression and produce excellent prints. You can also select a flash mode; Auto fires whenever more light is needed, Red-eye reduction is ideal for "people" pictures, slow-sync (in Night Scene) is 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 backlit situations.

The A75 has excellent image quality. The color saturation and white balance is nearly bulletproof in most shooting conditions. When needed, the "one-push" white balance feature makes it quick and simple to manually set the proper color temperature in mixed-lighting conditions and with the six new scene modes you're sure to get the proper exposure for unusual shooting conditions. The A75 has several color effects that include Vivid, Neutral, Low Sharpening, Sepia tone and Black & White. There was little need to post-process the vast majority of the pictures that we shot. The focus is sharp and well defined especially when shooting closeup objects.

Timing and performance was impressive, it's obvious that Canon's new DIGIC processor does its job well. It takes about three seconds to power up and be ready to take the first shot. In the Large SuperFine mode it takes about three to four seconds to process and store an image. And going from Record to Play or vice-versa takes about two to three seconds. The all-important shutter lag (delay from pressing shutter until picture is actually captured) is about 0.5 to 0.7 seconds, a little faster than average thanks to its robust autofocus system. Sequential shooting wasn't quite as fast as the specs, we achieved about 2 frames per second as the camera captured eight frames in just a fraction over four seconds. This mode always varies depending on the shutter speed and will most likely be used outdoors with good lighting and fast shutter speeds. Our timing was with the Preview option disabled and the LCD turned off. The buffer flush after a burst of eight shots was less than ten seconds and the camera was able to take another shot in just under two seconds and could maintain that pace indefinitely. (Timing tests based on the use of a medium-fast 24X CF card.)

The A75's zoom lens is sharp and relatively fast with a maximum aperture of F2.8 in wide angle. There is a little barrel distortion at full wide angle but almost no pincushioning at full telephoto. The zoom mechanism is smooth and quiet. Canon has auxiliary wide angle, telephoto and super-macro lenses that are easily attached after removing the dress ring around the lens barrel. The lens adapter used to mount these lenses can also be used to hold 52mm filters in front of the lens. The Canon AiAF autofocus system is accurate and fast even when shooting macros at two inches or in dim light to total darkness thanks to its focus assist lamp. Canon is one of the few manufacturers that has realized that cameras need help focusing in low light conditions. This AF assist lamp also serves as the red-eye reduction light and the self-timer warning light.

I was happy to see the continued use of standard AA type batteries to power the A75. Many of Canon's other cameras use a proprietary lithium-ion battery pack. It's nice to be able to use rechargeable or "off the shelf" batteries. There's a multitude of high-capacity NiMH rechargeable batteries to choose from as well as rapid and portable chargers. You can use alkalines in this camera but they only yield about 1/3 the number of pictures that you can get with high-capacity NiMH. The battery life (when using NiMH) was very good even when using the color LCD all the time and frequently reviewing the pictures and making menu changes.

The Powershot A75 is an excellent choice for beginners who need a simple point-n-shoot camera that takes better than average pictures and its advanced features will also appeal to more experienced photo enthusiasts. This camera is a great combination of well rounded performance, image quality and ease of use, all at a very affordable price.

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