Canon Powershot A95 Review

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Canon Powershot A95

Steve's Conclusion

Building on the success of the highly popular "A" series from Canon, the PowerShot A95 combines a 5.0-megapixel imager and a high-quality 3x optical zoom lens with other features like Canon's DIGIC image processor, a 9-point AiAF auto focus system with a low-light focus assist illuminator, and a "vari-angle" 1.8 inch TFT color LCD that can rotate 360°, offering versatility in composing your shots. With its Aperture and Shutter speed priority modes, beginners will be able to explore the different realms of photography. While the more advanced photo enthusiast will appreciate its Manual mode.

This is a mid-sized point-n-shoot that's positioned between the diminutive Digital ELPH and the larger "G" series. If you're like many of us that find today's ultra-compact cameras too small to comfortably handle, then this is definitely your alternative. We liked the size and ergonomics of the previous A series cameras and were glad to see that Canon retained them with the A95. Its relatively large hand grip makes one-handed shooting a breeze. The A95 features a metal-clad body, and it seems quite durable (but I don't recommend dropping it to find out.) Controls are well placed and your thumb falls naturally in place between the rotating Mode dial and the 4-way controller. The menu system is very easy to navigate, and one thing I really like about these cameras is the FUNCtion or "short cut" menu. This is very useful when wanting to quickly change ISO speed, drive mode, white balance, etc.

Timing and performance was impressive, it's obvious that Canon's DIGIC processor does its job well. From powerup to first image captured measures approx. 3 seconds. The all-important shutter lag (delay from pressing shutter until picture is actually captured) was approx. 1/10 of a second when pre-focused and 6/10 of a second including autofocus. Shot-to-shot delay averaged 1.6 seconds without using the flash and 3.4 seconds with the flash. The A95 offers two continuous or burst modes to choose from (Standard, High-Speed.) Using Standard mode, I was able to capture 14 frames in about 8.7 seconds. High-Speed captured 12 frames in about 5.3 seconds. It then takes about 12 seconds for the camera to process its buffer. When using these modes, times vary depending on the shutter speed, and they will most likely be used outdoors with good lighting and fast shutter speeds. 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 takes about one second. Our tests were done using a RiDATA 52X/PRO. 512MB CompactFlash card, Program AE mode, Large SuperFine quality, preview off, flash off, and all other settings at default (unless noted.) Times may vary depending on lighting conditions, camera settings, media, etc.

The Canon 3x optical 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 pin cushioning 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. The AiAF 9-point autofocus system is accurate and fast even when shooting macros at two inches or in dimly lit rooms 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 very pleased with the A95's image quality in Large SuperFine mode. In fact, it rivals the image quality of the more expensive 5-megapixel cameras on the market. The majority of our indoor and outdoor samples were sharp, well exposed, and the Auto white balance setting is very accurate. Only under extreme mixed-lighting conditions did I need to use the "one-push" white balance feature, which makes it quick and simple to manually set the proper color temperature. With its pre-programmed scene modes, you're sure to get the proper exposure for unusual shooting conditions. The focus is sharp and well defined especially when shooting closeup objects in Macro mode, and flash does a good job of "throttling down" to ensure your subject is not over-exposed.

I was happy to see the continued use of standard AA-type batteries to power the A95. Many of Canon's other cameras use a proprietary (and expensive) 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 of the time and frequently reviewing the pictures and making menu changes.

Bottom line - the Powershot A95 holds the "top of the line" position of Canon's "A" series. It will make an excellent choice for anyone who wants an easy-to-use camera that captures beautiful pictures and has the advanced features to satisfy the needs of the more experienced user. For 2004 Canon offers a complete lineup of entry-level cameras for every budget and resolution need. Be sure to read our reviews of the 3-megapixel PowerShot A400 and PowerShot A75, and the 4-megapixel PowerShot A85.

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