We've provided this printable version of our review for your convenience. Please remember that your shopping clicks support this site. If you think this camera is a good choice for you, please consider returning to the link below to check prices and make a purchase via our shopping links.

Also note that this is just one of the pages from this review. Full reviews have several pages with complete analysis of the many test shots we take with each camera. Feel free to download and print them out to see how the camera will perform for you.

Full Review at: http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/A720IS/A720ISA.HTM

 

Canon PowerShot A720 IS Exposure


Color

Saturation & Hue Accuracy
Generally good color accuracy and overall saturation, despite slight hue shifts and some slight oversaturation.

In the diagram above, the squares show the original color, and the circles show the color that the camera captured. More saturated colors are located towards the periphery of the graph. Hue changes as you travel around the center. Thus, hue-accurate, highly saturated colors appear as lines radiating from the center.

Saturation. The Canon PowerShot A720 IS oversaturates strong red and blue tones a little, but holds bright yellows and greens in check, without undersaturating them either. Despite the slight oversaturation, color looked great in our test shots, with a pleasing, natural vibrancy. Most consumer digital cameras produce color that's more highly saturated (more intense) than found in the original subjects. This is simply because most people like their color a bit brighter than life.

Skin tones. Here, with the color balanced properly for the light source, the Canon A720's skin tones were a little warm, with some reddish tints. Since most people prefer skin tones to be warmer rather than cooler, the A720 IS performs fairly well. Where oversaturation is most problematic is on Caucasian skin tones, as it's very easy for these "memory colors" to be seen as too bright, too pink, too yellow, etc.

Hue. The PowerShot A720 IS showed a few color shifts relative to the correct mathematical translation of colors in its subjects, pushing cyan toward blue, red toward orange, and yellow toward green. Despite these shifts, overall color was still pleasing. Hue is "what color" the color is.



See full set of test images with explanations
See thumbnails of all test and gallery images

Sensor

Exposure and White Balance

Indoors, incandescent lighting
Good color with the Manual and Incandescent white balance settings, though a hint warm. Average positive exposure compensation required.

Auto White Balance
+1.0 EV
Incandescent White Balance
+1.0 EV
Manual White Balance
+1.0 EV

Color balance indoors under incandescent lighting was very slightly warm and yellow with the Auto white balance setting, but still not bad. The Manual and Incandescent options produced more accurate results. We chose the Manual option as the best overall, because it had slightly less of a magenta cast than the Incandescent setting. The Canon A720 IS required an average amount of positive exposure compensation here, at +1.0 EV, though even here, the white shirt borders on being too bright. Overall color with the Manual white balance setting is excellent, though with just a hint of magenta, and the blue flowers are just a little dark with hints at purplish tints. (Many digital cameras reproduce these flowers with a dark, purplish tint, so the Canon A720 IS actually performed a little better than average.) Our test lighting for this shot is a mixture of 60 and 100 watt household incandescent bulbs, a pretty yellow light source, but a very common one in typical home settings here in the U.S.

 

Outdoors, daylight
Good exposure and color outdoors. Contrast is slightly high and highlights do blow out, but shadow detail is good.

Auto White Balance,
+0.7 EV
Auto White Balance,
Auto Exposure

Outdoors, the Canon PowerShot A720 IS performed very well, with good exposure and overall color. Though contrast was a little high under the harsh outdoor lighting, the shadows and held onto a lot of fine detail, despite some visible noise and noise suppression. Highlights, on the other hand, were blown out, especially in the white window of the house shot; though only part of Marti's shirt blew out. The camera's contrast adjustment on the outdoor house shot did a good job of producing a more even exposure. Color looked good on both the house and portrait shots, with vibrant hues and natural tones.

See full set of test images with explanations
See thumbnails of all test and gallery images

Resolution
High resolution, 1,500 to 1,600 lines of strong detail.

Strong detail to
1,600 lines horizontal
Strong detail to
1,500 lines vertical

Our laboratory resolution chart revealed sharp, distinct line patterns down to about 1,600 lines per picture height in both directions, though vertically, lines are better at 1,500. Extinction occurred right at about 2,000 lines. Use these numbers to compare with other cameras of similar resolution, or use them to see just what higher resolution can mean in terms of potential detail.

 

See full set of test images with explanations
See thumbnails of all test and gallery images

Sharpness & Detail
Sharp images overall, with minimal edge-enhancement and only slight noise suppression.

Good definition of high-contrast elements, with only a small amount of edge enhancement. Subtle detail: Hair
Noise suppression can blur detail in areas of subtle contrast, as in the darkest parts of Marti's hair here, but this is a pretty good performance.

Sharpness. The Canon A720 IS captures sharp images with very good detail definition. Some slight edge enhancement artifacts are visible on high-contrast subjects such as the crop above left, but performance is very good here. Edge enhancement creates the illusion of sharpness by enhancing colors and tones right at the edge of a rapid transition in color or tone.

Detail. The crop above right shows only moderate noise suppression, with the darkest areas of Marti's hair showing slightly limited detail, though individual strands are distinguishable in the more moderate shadows. A very good result. Noise-suppression systems in digital cameras tend to flatten-out detail in areas of subtle contrast. The effects can often be seen in shots of human hair, where the individual strands are lost and an almost "watercolor" look appears.

ISO & Noise Performance
Low to moderate noise at the normal sensitivity settings, though a big jump in noise with strong blurring at the highest settings.

ISO 80 ISO 100 ISO 200
ISO 400 ISO 800 ISO 1,600

Noise levels are low to moderate at the Canon PowerShot A720 IS' lower sensitivity settings, with good results up to ISO 200. At ISO 400, noise jumps with brighter pixels, blurring fine detail a little. At ISOs 800 and 1,600, noise is much higher with stronger blurring, as you might expect. Results are still passable at ISO 800, considering the higher sensitivity, but at 1,600, noise pixels dominate the image.

Extremes: Sunlit and low light tests
High resolution with strong overall detail under harsh sunlight, though slightly high contrast. Very good low-light performance, capable of capturing bright images under average city street lighting and even darker conditions.

+0.3 EV +0.7 EV +1.0 EV

Sunlight. The Canon PowerShot A720 IS performed pretty well under the deliberately harsh lighting in the test above, though contrast is high. Shadow detail is pretty good considering the high contrast, though the highlights on the white shirt are a bit too bright. Still, despite some noise and a little noise suppression in the shadows, detail is good. The camera required about average compensation to get proper exposure of skin tones, at +0.7 EV, though again, the white shirt is a little too hot. Consider reducing the contrast setting with the Canon A720 IS, and be sure to use fill flash in situations like the one shown above; it's better to shoot in the shade when possible.

Because digital cameras are more like slide film than negative film (in that they tend to have a more limited tonal range), we test them in the harshest situations to see how they handle scenes with bright highlights and dark shadows, as well as what kind of sensitivity they have in low light. The shot above is designed to mimic the very harsh, contrasty effect of direct noonday sunlight, a very tough challenge for most digital cameras. (You can read details of this test here.)



  1 fc
11 lux
1/2 fc
5.5 lux
1/4 fc
2.7 lux
1/8 fc
1.3 lux
1/16 fc
0.67 lux
ISO
80
Click to see A720ISLL00803.JPG
1.6 sec
f3.0
Click to see A720ISLL00804.JPG
3.2 sec
f3.0
Click to see A720ISLL00805.JPG
6.2 sec
f2.9
Click to see A720ISLL00806.JPG
12.1 sec
f2.9
Click to see A720ISLL00807.JPG
12.1 sec
f2.9
ISO
100
Click to see A720ISLL01003.JPG
1.3 sec
f3.0
Click to see A720ISLL01004.JPG
2.6 sec
f3.0
Click to see A720ISLL01005.JPG
5 sec
f3.0
Click to see A720ISLL01006.JPG
9.7 sec
f2.9
Click to see A720ISLL01007.JPG
12.1 sec
f2.9
ISO
200
Click to see A720ISLL02003.JPG
0.7 sec
f3.0
Click to see A720ISLL02004.JPG
1.3 sec
f3.0
Click to see A720ISLL02005.JPG
2.6 sec
f3.0
Click to see A720ISLL02006.JPG
5 sec
f2.9
Click to see A720ISLL02007.JPG
9.7 sec
f3.0
ISO
400
Click to see A720ISLL04003.JPG
0.3 sec
f3.0
Click to see A720ISLL04004.JPG
0.7 sec
f3.0
Click to see A720ISLL04005.JPG
1.3 sec
f3.0
Click to see A720ISLL04006.JPG
2.6 sec
f2.9
Click to see A720ISLL04007.JPG
5 sec
f3.0
ISO
800
Click to see A720ISLL08003.JPG
1/6 sec
f3.0
Click to see A720ISLL08004.JPG
0.3 sec
f3.0
Click to see A720ISLL08005.JPG
0.7 sec
f3.0
Click to see A720ISLL08006.JPG
1.3 sec
f2.9
Click to see A720ISLL08007.JPG
2.6 sec
f3.0
ISO
1600
Click to see A720ISLL16003.JPG
1/11 sec
f3.0
Click to see A720ISLL16004.JPG
1/6 sec
f3.0
Click to see A720ISLL16005.JPG
0.3 sec
f3.0
Click to see A720ISLL16006.JPG
0.7 sec
f2.9
Click to see A720ISLL16007.JPG
1.3 sec
f3.0

Low light. The Canon PowerShot A720 IS performed well on the low-light test, capturing bright images at the lowest light level almost down to the lowest sensitivity setting. At ISO 80, the image at 1/16 foot-candle was a little dim. Color balance was good with the Auto white balance setting. The camera's autofocus system worked well also, as it was able to focus on the subject almost down to the 1/8 foot-candle light level unassisted, and down to the darkest light level with the AF assist enabled. (To get low light shots like this, a useful trick is to just prop the camera on a convenient surface, and use its self-timer to release the shutter. This avoids any jiggling from your finger pressing the shutter button, and can work quite well when you don't have a tripod handy.)

How bright is this? The one foot-candle light level that this test begins at roughly corresponds to the brightness of typical city street-lighting at night. Cameras performing well at that level should be able to snap good-looking photos of street-lit scenes.

NOTE: This low light test is conducted with a stationary subject, and the camera mounted on a sturdy tripod. Most digital cameras will fail miserably when faced with a moving subject in dim lighting. (For example, a child's ballet recital or a holiday pageant in a gymnasium.) For such applications, you may have better luck with a digital SLR camera, but even there, you'll likely need to set the focus manually. For information and reviews on digital SLRs, refer to our SLR review index page.

Flash

Coverage and Range
Slightly dim exposures at the default exposure setting; the camera required less than average exposure compensation for the normal flash exposures. Pretty good range, though not quite strong enough for the 6x optical zoom.

35mm equivalent 210mm equivalent
Normal Flash +0.7 EV Slow-Sync Flash +1.3 EV

Coverage. Flash coverage was slightly uneven at wide angle, with some falloff in the corners of the frame. The flash was almost out of range for our viewfinder accuracy/flash coverage target at telephoto (thanks to the camera's 6x optical zoom range). Indoors, under incandescent background lighting, the Canon A720 IS' flash underexposed our subject slightly at its default setting, requiring a +0.7 EV exposure compensation adjustment to get bright results. The camera's Slow-Sync flash mode required a little more positive compensation at +1.3 EV, though overall coverage is more even. However, the longer shutter speed results in a strong orange cast from the background lighting.

Flash Range: Wide Angle
6 ft 7 ft 8 ft 9 ft 10 ft 11 ft
Click to see A720ISFL06W.JPG
1/64 sec
f2.9
ISO 100
Click to see A720ISFL07W.JPG
1/64 sec
f2.9
ISO 100
Click to see A720ISFL08W.JPG
1/64 sec
f2.9
ISO 100
Click to see A720ISFL09W.JPG
1/64 sec
f2.9
ISO 100
Click to see A720ISFL10W.JPG
1/64 sec
f2.9
ISO 100
Click to see A720ISFL11W.JPG
1/64 sec
f2.9
ISO 100
12 ft 13 ft 14 ft 15 ft 16 ft
Click to see A720ISFL12W.JPG
1/64 sec
f2.9
ISO 100
Click to see A720ISFL13W.JPG
1/64 sec
f2.9
ISO 100
Click to see A720ISFL14W.JPG
1/64 sec
f2.9
ISO 100
Click to see A720ISFL15W.JPG
1/64 sec
f2.9
ISO 100
Click to see A720ISFL16W.JPG
1/64 sec
f2.9
ISO 100

Flash Range: Telephoto
6 ft 7 ft 8 ft 9 ft 10 ft 11 ft
Click to see A720ISFL06T.JPG
1/64 sec
f4.9
ISO 100
Click to see A720ISFL07T.JPG
1/64 sec
f4.9
ISO 100
Click to see A720ISFL08T.JPG
1/64 sec
f4.9
ISO 100
Click to see A720ISFL09T.JPG
1/64 sec
f4.9
ISO 100
Click to see A720ISFL10T.JPG
1/64 sec
f4.9
ISO 100
Click to see A720ISFL11T.JPG
1/64 sec
f4.9
ISO 100
12 ft 13 ft 14 ft 15 ft 16 ft
Click to see A720ISFL12T.JPG
1/64 sec
f4.9
ISO 100
Click to see A720ISFL13T.JPG
1/64 sec
f4.9
ISO 100
Click to see A720ISFL14T.JPG
1/64 sec
f4.9
ISO 100
Click to see A720ISFL15T.JPG
1/64 sec
f4.9
ISO 100
Click to see A720ISFL16T.JPG
1/64 sec
f4.9
ISO 100

ISO 100 Range. At wide angle, flash shots at ISO 100 remained bright out to a distance of about 10 feet, decreasing in brightness from that point on. At full telephoto and ISO 100, the target was bright to about eight feet and darkened gradually from there.


Manufacturer-Specified Flash Range
Wide Angle Telephoto
Click to see A720ISFL_MFR110WA0320.JPG
11.0 feet
Auto ISO 320
Click to see A720ISFL_MFR082TA0200.JPG
8.2 feet
Auto ISO 200

Manufacturer Specified Flash Test. In the wide angle shot above, the PowerShot A720 IS performs exactly as Canon says it will, slightly overexposing the target at the rated distance with its ISO set to Auto (which selected ISO 320). At telephoto, the image is slightly underexposed, though the camera only boosted ISO to 200 to compensate. Had the camera reversed its automatic ISO selection, it might have been just right in both shots. Our standard test method for flash range uses a fixed setting of ISO 100, to provide a fair basis of comparison between cameras. We've now also begun shooting two shots using the manufacturer-specified camera settings, at the range the company claims for the camera, to assess the validity of the specific claims.

Output Quality

Print Quality
Good print quality, great color, good 13x19 inch prints. ISO 400 images are soft but usable at 11x14, ISO 800 shots are good at 8x10, ISO 1,600 shots are usable at 4x6.

The Canon A720 IS had enough resolution to make good looking 13x19-inch prints from ISO 80 and 100 shots. 11x14 prints were a little sharper, though. At ISO 200, 11x14-inch images started to show a little chroma noise that became mostly negligible at 8x10. In an unusual twist, the chroma noise gets processed out at ISO 400, though overall detail is a little softer at 11x14 as a result, and is better at 8x10. ISO 800 images still look pretty good at 8x10. ISO 1,600 shots are surprisingly good at 5x7, though quite grainy; at 4x6 you only notice the grain if you get close. So a pretty good performance for the 8-megapixel Canon A720 IS.

Note: Testing hundreds of digital cameras, we've found that you can only tell just so much about a camera's image quality by viewing its images on-screen. Ultimately, there's no substitute for printing a lot of images and examining them closely. For this reason, we now routinely print sample images from the cameras we test on our Canon i9900 studio printer, and on the Canon iP5200 here in the office. (See the Canon i9900 review for details on that model.)