Canon A720 IS
A Capable Compact
by Jeff Dorgay
Published March 2008
If only cars got better, offered more performance and cost way less than they used to three or four years ago, we’d all be driving Porsches that got 50 miles to the gallon and cost $12,000. The good news for digicam buyers is this happens every day!
The Canon PowerShot A720 IS is a perfect example of this; 6x optical zoom, 8 megapixel sensor in a nice little compact case for $229. Memory cards cost more than this a year or two ago. It also includes Image Stabilization and quite a few different automatic modes to make basic picture taking as easy as falling out of bed.
I’ve spent quite a bit of time with a number of the other compact cameras in the Canon line this year and I must say that they are the ones to beat. Their cameras offer up a fantastic balance of performance and features that make sense for the average photographer along with a user interface that is very easy to navigate. If by chance you own a Canon DSLR, everything will be right where you are used to it.
The A720 IS, though still a compact, is not quite so thin that you are as worried about using it, yet will still slip into a pocket or purse without issue. It uses standard SD memory cards and AA batteries, which is claimed to be good for about 150 to 200 shots if you don’t get too carried away with the flash and playback. While I did not get a chance to test this camera with rechargeables, with only a modest use of the flash, I found myself draining a set of batteries around 100 shots, well before I could fill up a 2GB SD card.
A pair of NimH rechargeables are claimed to increase the capacity to about 500 to 600 shots. Considering what a pair of Duracells cost these days, the investment in a set of rechargeables should pay for themselves after one soccer game. On the subject of batteries, my biggest complaint with this camera (as it is with all of the PowerShot cameras that use AAs), when you attempt to remove the memory card, the batteries fall out unless you are anticipating it. Depending on where you are when this happens the first time, you may be in for a big surprise or lost batteries! This is one aspect of this otherwise great camera I wish Canon would correct.
More than the Basics
In addition to the ubiquitous Face Detection (which works awfully well in this budget compact), the A720 IS offers optical image stabilization instead of digital IS that is offered on some of the other cameras in this price range and the improvement is dramatic. You can shoot at 1/15th of a second with ease with the A 720 IS with very crisp results.
This camera also features a 6x optical zoom, but it does have a bit of barrel distortion at the wide angle setting. The lens offers the equivalent of a 35-210 mm lens on a 35mm camera and has a maximum aperture of f2.8 at the wide angle setting. Pictures taken wide open were very crisp, just a little bit distorted. However, this was easily cured with DXO Image Pro or a bit of careful manipulation with the Warp command in Photoshop.
Other welcome features were the standard Program, Aperture Priority and Shutter Priority modes I’m used to on my DSLR. One of my biggest complaints with most compacts is that the program settings are weighted too much towards a high shutter speed (to eliminate camera shake), but use the wide open aperture setting, so the images are out of focus anyway! Having the aperture priority setting allows you to stop down a couple of stops and get a very reasonable compromise to assure picture quality.
The light meter on the A720 IS has evaluative, center weighted and spot modes. All provided excellent exposure accuracy and the spot mode is particularly good in high contrast situations. The autofocus performance was also exceptional for a camera in this price range; the A720 IS spent almost no time zeroing in on its target and locking in.
A Great Overall Performance
As cool as it is to say you have a 12 megapixel camera that fits in the palm of your hand, I prefer image quality and exposure control over sheer megapixel count and this is exactly what the Canon offers. I was blown away by how good the pictures taken in the ISO 80-400 range were for such an inexpensive compact (at the highest quality setting, of course). Things get quite a bit noisier at 800 and 1600 is marginal at best.
While this camera is only 8 megapixels, that is still more than enough to make a good 8 1?2 x 11 inch print, even with some cropping. And let’s face it, most of us just use portable digicams to blast pics to family and friends over the Internet anyway. Canon’s Digic III image processor did a great job when the color balance was set to auto, but most importantly did a fantastic job when shooting under lighting conditions that had a mix of natural and artificial light.
- Size/Weight: 4.41- in. W x 2.67-in. H x 2.21-in, D/ 10.5oz.
- Image Sensor: CCD.
- Maximum resolution: 8.0 MP effective.
- Zoom: 6x optical, 4x digital.
- Lens Focal Length: 5.8mm – 34.8mm (35mm equiv. of 35mm — 210mm).
- Focusing capability: 18-in. to infinity, normal mode, down to .39-in. in macro mode.
- Display: 2.5-in. TFT.
- Manual Exposure Control: Yes.
- Exposure Metering: Center weighted, adaptive, and spot modes.
- Provided Accessories: Pair of AA alkaline batteries, neck strap, USB cable, AV cable, 32MP SD card, Digital Camera Solution CD-ROM.
- Power Source: 2 AA batteries.
- Warranty: 1 Year.
- Contact: www.canonusa.com.