Canon Powershot A700 Review
The PowerShot A700 is the flagship of Canon's "A" series cameras. The A700 is an affordable point-n-shoot model that offers 6-megapixels of resolution, 6x optical zoom lens, high-quality 640x480 movie mode, 2.5" LCD and 22 exposure modes. Its Auto mode is perfect for the newbies, while its Program AE and creative scene modes let novice users be a bit more adventures. And, Canon didn't forget about the photo enthusiast either, with Shutter priority, Aperture priority, and even a full Manual mode.
Ergonomics are good. Its body offers a well built feel in your hands, with the controls being placed right at your finger tips. The enlarged hand-grip that we have seen on past "A" series models, ensures a firm grip and makes one handed shooting a breeze. As usual, the menu system is logically organized, and thanks mostly to the FUNCtion menu, making changes to camera settings is quick and easy. The A700 features a beautiful 2.5-inch color LCD. While the surface is a bit more reflective than we have seen on many of Canon's models, I found it works very well outdoors in bright sunlight as well as in marginal lighting. There's also an eyelevel optical viewfinder, something that you don't see on many models these days, that is great when wanting to conserve battery life or when shooting burst sequences of fast moving subjects (the LCD briefly shows the last image captured, making it difficult to use.)
One of the first things you'll notice when you pick up this camera and start playing with it is the powerful zoom range. The A700 features a Canon 6x optical zoom lens that covers a 35mm equivalent rage of approx. 35-210mm. While it does favor the telephoto end, at the 35mm wide angle extreme, you'll have no problems capturing pleasing landscapes as well as group portraits at family or sporting events. And, the 210mm telephoto end will help bring your distant subjects much closer and offers a great deal of versatility for shot composition. This is a nice piece of glass that helped produce tach sharp images throughout the zoom range. I noticed moderate barrel distortion present at full wide angle as well as slight pincushioning at the telephoto extreme, respectively. Purple fringing, also know as Chromatic Aberrations, was very well controlled, with minimal amounts around brightly lit objects.
Shooting performance was awesome for a point-n-shoot in this class. From power up to first image was captured measured just 1.5 seconds, and waking the camera from sleep mode to image capture took only 1 second. Shutter lag, the delay between depressing the shutter button and capturing an image, was less than 1/10 of a second when pre-focused, and only 2/10 of a second including autofocus. When using single drive mode and shooting a sequence of images, the shot to shot delay averaged approx. 1.7 seconds without the flash, but increases to between 4-6 seconds when using the flash, depending on subject distance and battery life.
The A700 also offers a continuous (burst) mode, that Canon claims can capture images at a rate of 2.3fps. I found it was a bit more impressive than their claim, capturing 10 images in 3.9 seconds; a frame rate of approx. 2.5 fps. This means you will have no problems when taking burst sequences at your kid's sporting events. And thanks to the inclusion of an optical viewfinder, you won't have to deal with the problem of the LCD briefly displaying the last image captured, which makes it difficult to follow moving subjects. All tests were done using a Lexar 32x 1GB SD card, Large/SuperFine image quality, Program AE mode, review off, flash off, and all other settings at default, unless noted otherwise. Times may vary depending on camera settings, lighting conditions, media, etc.
I was very pleased with the overall image quality of the A700's 6-megapixel Large SuperFine mode. Our outdoor samples were beautiful, showing good exposure and color saturation. Thanks in part to the Canon 6x optical zoom lens, just about every single shot I took was nice and sharp from edge to edge. In fact i saw almost no signs of edge blurring or softness; a common trait of consumer models. Noise is nonexistent at the lower ISO settings (80 or 100), but does become more noticeable as the sensitivity is increased. While ISO 800 is filled with visible imager noise, I feel the ability to use higher than normal shutter speeds in marginal lighting conditions makes up for the decrease in image quality. Though you may not want to make prints larger than the typical 4x6, the ability to capture spontaneous moments when you just can't use the flash is much more important. You can see the noise for yourself by looking at the ISO examples on our samples page.
Our indoor results were also pleasing. Although the built-in flash is only rated at about 11 feet, I found it worked very well in small to mid sized rooms. When shooting individual portraits, it produced well exposed images with natural skin tones. The camera also controlled the flash output well when using the Macro focus mode, by "throttling down" to ensure the subject was not overexposed. You can also adjust Flash Compensation is Program, TV, and AV modes or even change the flash output power in Manual mode.
The A700's movie mode produced good results. There are several modes to choose from (Standard, Compact (160x120), Fast Frame rate, Color Accent and Color swap), as well as resolutions of 640x480 or 320x240. The frame rate when using standard mode is selectable between 30 and 15fps. Overall, our movie samples were great. There was minimal amounts of compression noise, and the AF system did well at keeping up with fast moving subjects. I was also surprised that the microphone did so well outdoors, even when it was a bit windy.
Battery life was surprising when you consider that it uses only two AA-type cells. Canon claims that alkaline batteries will allow you to capture approx. 100 shots (LCD on), 240 shots (LCD off), and 180 minutes of continuous playback time. We here at Steve's highly recommend the use of NiMH cells, and according to Canon, they will allow you to shoot approx. 400 shots (LCD on) or 800 shots (LCD off), and 300 minutes of continuous playback time (the mAh rating of these cells was not specified.) Using a single set of 2500 mAh cells, I was able to capture over 100 shots and several movie clips as well as conduct some of our other tests before the cells were exhausted.
Bottom line - The Canon PowerShot A700 is an awesome consumer digital camera. One that I would highly recommend to anyone in the market for a fair priced model with loads of user friendly features and outstanding image quality and performance. Its 6x optical zoom will blow away the competition's typical 3x zoom, and with 6-megapixels, you can create beautiful 13x19-inch or larger prints. With an MSRP of only US$349, it offers an excellent value and is sure to be a very popular model this year.
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