As the Powershot A620 is one of our favourite cameras ever (it's the one we recommend when most people ask us 'what camera should I buy?') the comparatively poor, although still very reasonable performance of Canon's latest model, the A530, left us concerned. Thankfully the A700 has put Canon back on track in our eyes. Whilst not quite the epitome of photographic glory that the A620 was, the A700 offers superb images, full functionality and a big 6X zoom lens, making it a very attractive package for the budding amateur.
- Great shots, Quick, Lots of features
- No exposure controls in most modes
Another great Powershot entry by Canon, the A700 fulfils all the requirements of an advanced model, offering lots of functions, superb image quality, a big zoom and decent battery life.
Price$ 579.00 (AUD)
Where Canon has always succeeded before is their beautiful images and the A700 continues this tradition. Our testing software, Imatest, delivered a score of 1363 for its sharpness test, which is exceptionally high for a six megapixel model. There was a small degree of over-sharpening, but it really wasn't noticeable enough to be a problem. This translated to smooth, seamless photographs with clear edges that made the shots look vibrant and realistic. Our outdoors shots of foliage highlighted this perfectly. Most cameras with weaker sensors have problems adequately representing thick patches of leaves, but the A700 reproduced them perfectly.
Colour is the other key area in any picture, and whilst its performance wasn't quite up to the same level as sharpness, the A700 did a pretty good job. With an Imatest score of 6.88 it isn't the best we've seen, but if you look at the graphs you'll see that red was really the only problem area and the rest of the spectrum was very well represented. In our test shots we couldn't notice any real problems, with a nicely balanced set of colours across the range.
Imatest also delivered a score of 0.99% for image noise, which is a tiny bit above average, but not high enough to pose a visible problem. Furthermore, the A700 scales ISO levels very well. Typically cameras will produce clean snaps up to ISO200, but anything higher tends towards the unusable. The A700 is equipped with ISO settings up to 800 and even on the maximum our pictures were more than acceptable. They tended to be covered in a very fine white fuzz, as opposed to the thick, blotchy noise present on most other models. A big bonus for those who need to shoot in low light or high speed situations.
However the high ISO level is but a taste of what Canon have packed into this model. With all the bells and whistles, the A700 has pretty much everything you're going to need, including shutter speed up to 1500, custom white balance and even wide-screen shooting. The continuous shot mode is impressive, boasting a two frames per second shooting rate until the card fills up, and there is the usual assortment of video recording and pre-set scene modes to round out what is a very nice package. The one noticeable absence is exposure compensation, which is bizarrely absent from the manual and automatic shooting modes. This probably won't be a big deal for some, but it is a strange thing for Canon to exclude.
Another small let down was the shot to shot time. The A700 operated rather sluggishly in our tests, with about two and a half seconds between snaps with the flash on although this was reduced to just over a second by turning the flash off. Power on time was considerably better; taking about 1.5 seconds until first shot, but what was really surprising was the shutter lag, which came in at roughly .04 of a second. That beats just about all the other cameras we've had in recently. Very, very impressive.
Design wise the A700 follows the standard Powershot styling, complete with side grip and a chunky body. The shell is mostly plastic, which makes it less durable than some of the big zoom models from Olympus or Fujifilm, but it's more than adequate unless you plan on drop kicking it around. We do, however, think someone should inform Canon that there are no laws against using a colour other than "Canon-Silver" on digital cameras, as their continuing dedication to this colour scheme could surely only come out of not knowing there are other options.
Aesthetics aside, the controls are fairly easy to access and we like that all the necessary camera functions have their own dedicated menu, but there is nothing revolutionary here. Canon has added a slight angle to the top of this model, which seems to be for comfort purposes but we noticed no real difference. One improvement that did catch our attention, however, was the ability to see the settings under which you took each photo. When in review mode, you can have the camera display the pertinent settings like ISO value, shutter speed and aperture for each photo, allowing you to identify which settings work best for you.
We were disappointed when we discovered the A700 takes AA batteries rather than our beloved lithium ions, but it proved to be quite a resilient model. We managed just over 450 shots before the batteries died, which is impressive for an AA based model.
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