So, what do I want out of my next laptop and what must it include?
Canon PowerShot A710 IS
- Sharp pictures, Low chromatic aberration, Great colour, Fast operation, No burst mode buffer
- Minor noise issues
The Powershot A710 IS captures great pictures, operates extremely quickly and sports an attractive design that will appeal to many people. It does have some minor noise issues, but the rich feature set and quick burst mode make it an ideal choice for the budding photographer.
Price$ 549.00 (AUD)
We recently looked at the first of Canon's new range of compacts, the Digital IXUS 900 Ti, but were a little disappointed, as it wasn't up to standard in several of our tests. Fortunately, with the Powershot A710 IS, Canon has done a much better job, continuing the Powershot line's reputation for being outstanding advanced cameras. This model offers great image quality, a robust feature set and lightning quick response times, making it an ideal all purpose device for the budding photographer.
Featuring a 7.1 megapixel sensor, the most notable element of the A710 IS is image quality. With a score of 1512 in Imatest's sharpness test, it produced some very fine pictures. There were no hints of colour fringing, and edges were clean and smooth. We also noticed a distinct lack of purple fringing, even in high contrast situations, making this a great camera for shooting in direct sunlight outdoors.
The sharp pictures are further improved by the camera's strong chromatic aberration performance. Scoring .068% in this test, our shots exhibited little to no visible chromatic aberration. Some minor blue halo effects were apparent in certain areas of high contrast, but they are virtually invisible unless the pictures are significantly magnified. The A710 IS was one of the strongest performers we've seen for quite a while in this test.
Colour results, while not quite as strong, were still impressive, with Imatest awarding a score of 7.14. Our shots showed some minor over-saturation of reds, but other shades, including blue, green, yellow and the whole greyscale spectrum, were well rendered. Even though this score isn't the best we've come across, most consumers will be more than satisfied with the colour reproduction.
Finally came our noise test, and this is the one area the camera didn't quite perform up to standard. Our test shots indicated there were some minor noise issues, and Imatest confirmed this, with a .83% rating for noise. However we should stress, while the noise was visible in our test shots, it was some of the smallest, finest grains we've seen. It did have an impact on our shots, but not to any serious degree, and at most of the common printing magnifications it isn't going to be an issue. At higher ISO sensitivities however, this is a different story. Running its highest setting of ISO 800, it scored a mammoth 2.45, which is an exceptionally poor result, even for a compact. Our shots were laced with extremely obtrusive and blotchy chroma noise that really made them unusable.
All the usual features are present: ISO sensitivities up to 800, white balance presets (including an underwater mode) along with a custom option, several metering choices and some basic scene modes for novice users. The burst mode operates at a fairly standard three frames per second, but the buffer seems to last forever. During testing the camera didn't slow down until the SD card was full.
One of the big improvements Canon has made with the A710 IS over the previous model, the A700, is the addition of image stabilisation (IS). With a 6x optical zoom, the IS technology is a welcome addition, and our testing indicated it worked quite well. While most cameras at zoom levels over 3x begin to show signs of hand-shake without stabilisation, none was present in our shots with this camera, even at full 6x zoom.
Design wise, the A710 IS follows the typical Powershot styling, although it now has a slightly arched shape along the top that peaks in the middle and angles down on either side. While it is mostly constructed of plastic, it feels reasonably sturdy, although not as solid as some of its metal counterparts. Coloured in a unique blue-silver motif, it looks quite good, and should please most buyers.
Like the design, the controls also follow a typical Powershot layout, with a feature filled scroll wheel and function button doing the majority of the work. Grouping all imaging settings together is a great move, making the navigation process simple and intuitive. While some new users may struggle to understand all the functions represented on the wheel, after a few hours it all makes perfect sense, and with the controls nicely placed, the A710 IS is very easy to use.
Use of the camera is further assisted by its incredibly speedy operation. With a shutter lag of .04 of a second, shot-to-shot time of 1.6 seconds and 1.7 seconds from start-up to first photo, the A710 IS is one of the speediest cameras we've seen. Everything from image capturing to navigating through menus is lightning fast.
Canon quotes the battery life at 360 shots running on standard AA batteries. We still dislike that Canon has elected to continue along this route with the Powershot series, rather than upgrade to lithium-ion batteries. Although AAs do offer an easy solution when you run out of power on the road, they add significantly to the overall cost of running the package.
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