Canon Powershot A200 Review

Steve's Digicams

Steve's Conclusion

Canon's new PowerShot A200 is an excellent choice for those desiring an easy to use and compact size 2.0 megapixel camera. If you want the smaller digicam then check out the PowerShot S200. Some users find these ultra-compact cameras a little too small so the new A200 and the Powershot A40 fill the gap between the "S" series and the much larger PowerShot G2. But don't let the size fool you, the A200 has a robust image processor, good flash output and control, a 1.5-inch color LCD that is highly readable and a good introductory price of $299 (as of 6/2002).

The PowerShot A200 is a step up from the larger and more creative controllable PowerShot A30 which has a max. resolution of 1.2 megapixel. It's now more than just an automatic "point-n- shoot" type of camera. An A200 feature that is a Canon (not industry) standard is the Focus Assist Illumination in low light levels. There is nothing more aggravating than attempting a shoot in low light and finding out that the camera can't focus. The A200'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 almost every digicam they make.

User exposure options are "Auto" (Point and Shoot mode) and Manual where you can adjust exposure compensation, white balance, and set creative modes like Vivid, Natural, Low Sharpening, Sepia 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 up to 8 x 10. 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- syncro 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 backlit situations. Flash range is not excessive but adequate at a maximum of 6.7 ft / 2m (at ISO 100.)

The new Canon print color management firmware is called EXIF 2.2 (also called Exif Print). Under Exif 2.2, the digital still camera can record data tags for specific camera settings and functions such as whether the flash was on or off, if the camera was in landscape, portrait or night scene mode, etc. Referencing some or all of this information, an Exif Print compatible printer can process images intelligently based on specific camera settings and the shooting environment. The A200 is Exif 2.2 compliant when used with any of Canon's "S" series photo bubble jet printers like the S820D, S900, S9000 and the S820 running the latest driver software. Drivers for other Canon Bubble Jet printers are available.

The image quality of the A200 is noticeably better than many of the other 2.0-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. We were very impressed by the images and their sharpness (see sample photos page). The lens is sharp and relatively fast with a maximum aperture of F2.8. The Canon AFiF autofocus system is accurate and fast even when shooting macros at TWO inches or in the 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 A200's robust autofocus system. In the Continuous mode in Large / Fine quality settings with the LCD monitor OFF we could record almost three frames per second.

I was happy to see that Canon continued using standard AA type batteries to power the A200. 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 1700mAH 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 n' shoot -- you're done. And confident of a good image. Not bad at all for just $299(06/2002)!

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