By Jon Deragon, Visca Consulting
Tuesday, November 6, 2003; 3:00pm EST
Digital cameras have now become a standard option when deciding what camera to purchase. Leaps in technology have made these cameras relatively inexpensive; they allow you to selectively keep the pictures you want; have increased convenience for computer users; (depending on the model) excellent image quality; and saves you from costly trips to the local camera store for photo finishing.
Canon has been a major player in the consumer digital camera market literally since its conception a number of years ago. With a complete range of cameras from basic beginner point and shoot to highly sophisticated professional cameras. Right in the middle of their product line is the new PowerShot A20. A digital camera offering advanced features, ease of use and a price verging on "cheap", making it suitable for just about anyone.
Underneath the clean ergonomic design is 2.1 mega pixels of image quality. Which is ample for most uses. With the more advanced 3.2 mega pixel cameras, unless you can afford a massive CompactFlash card (memory card to hold the pictures in) then you are very limited to the number of shots you can take. Something this camera excels in for its price range is the 3x optical zoom (actual lens zooming) and 2.5 digital zoom (image pixel enlarging). A somewhat small but very clear and fast refreshing 1.5" TFT screen lets you take shots viewing a screen (alternatively you can use the viewfinder), view past shots and do menu functions.
The camera includes built-in flash, with no expandability for external flash. Powering this device is convenient, as you can use either 4 standard AA batteries or rechargeable Ni-MH batteries. It was a seriously unpleasant surprise when the camera did not include rechargeable batteries and charger, only regular disposable alkaline batteries. However the ability to use commonly found AA batteries that are standard around the world is good when you are somewhere you cannot charge your Ni-MH batteries due to power grid differences. Note that the Ni-MH last significantly longer than regular AA batteries and are highly recommended if you are going to be taking a lot of pictures.
Included is a 8MB CompactFlash to store you're pictures, meaning at its maximum "super fine" quality setting of 1280x960 you can take only 7 pictures, and on its low "normal" quality 640x480 mode, a more acceptable 87 pictures can be stored. We would have liked to see at least a 16MB card included. Access to the CompactFlash slot, the video out, digital out and batteries is easy and fitted with good quality parts. Another sad omission was any case to put the camera in.
The camera works in two modes, automatic and manual. Automatic lets you take the pictures and the camera figure out how best to take them, adjusting things such as exposure settings and focus. While the manual mode puts the control over settings to the user. Using the on-screen menus, buttons and mode jog was easy, intuitive and quick to achieve desired results. Presets such as macro mode, night time, action shot and more let you specify to the camera what type of shot you are going to take for optimum picture quality. Start up time when turning on the camera was good. Taking pictures is as simple as slightly pressing the trigger; the camera will adjust lighting, focus and other settings and signal when ready; and pressing the trigger all the way down takes the picture. The camera is highly responsive, quick picture to picture time and allows for burst modes of 2.5 pictures per second. A panoramic mode allows you to "stitch" pictures vertically together to create the effect of a large panoramic picture.
Reviewing the pictures you have taken is easy. Single picture mode to see them full screen or picture wall mode gives an overview of the pictures on the CompactFlash. A "zoom mode" allows you to zoom in on pictures to see more detail. Once you get the image over to your computer using either the USB cable provided or buying a media card reader (so that you can connect the CompactFlash card with your computer) the included software gives you complete control over the process.
Image quality varies in our tests. Under bright light conditions such as daytime shots, outdoors shots and the like are excellent, vivid image quality and colour make the pictures look stunning. However, we have noticed some indoor shots and darker environment shots to be fuzzy and inaccurate dark colours. Moving the camera just slightly during indoor shots can cause excessive blurring of the picture. This is not something, however, exclusively characteristic of this camera, as other cameras do have similar blurring issues, especially lower price models.
Overall, the $599CAD price puts it somewhere in the middle of the pack of cameras available on the market today. We were happy with the features such as 7.5x zoom, 2.1 mega pixels, vivid screen and excellent outdoor picture quality. We were not impressed with how little is included with the camera, such as the lack of rechargeable batteries, case and the low capacity 8MB CompactFlash card. We were also not happy with the quality of some indoors pictures taken. When you look at the total package though, it is a reasonable price for the amount of technology you get, rather than the accessories you get. In the end, the PowerShot A20 does deserve to go on your short list of camera purchase options.
About The Author
Jon Deragon is president and founder of Visca Consulting, a firm specializing in web site design, development and usability for businesses of all sizes. His many years in the technology industry has enabled him to write quality, in-depth product reviews to assist businesses make more informed technology purchases. He welcomes any questions or comments you may have regarding his company's services, this review or interest in having your company's products reviewed.
http://www. viscaconsulting. com/