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Canon PowerShot A10

Canon introduces a "value priced, full featured" 1.3 megapixel with 3x zoom lens and great image quality!

Review First Posted: 5/16/2001



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MSRP $399 US

 

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1.3 megapixel CCD for 1280 x 960 images
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3x optical zoom lens
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Excellent color!
*
Uses standard AA batteries (Use NiMH)



Manufacturer Overview
Canon U.S.A. has long been a strong contender in the film and digital camera markets, well-known for its high-quality optics, technical innovations, and aggressive product development. Since the beginning of this year (2001), Canon has released a full complement of new digital cameras, all designed and engineered to live up to Canon's high standards. On the high end, the PowerShot Pro90 IS incorporates a 3.34-megapixel CCD; 10X optical zoom lens with image stabilization; CompactFlash I and II compatibility, plus IBM's high-capacity MicroDrives; and no less than 12 (!) EOS-based shooting modes, including several manual options. Just weeks after the Pro90 IS, Canon introduced its second ultra-compact and ultra-cool digicam, the 2.1-megapixel PowerShot S300 Digital ELPH -- successor to the S100, but with a new retractable 3x zoom lens. (The Canon "ELPH" design originally debuted as the "world's smallest" APS film camera in 1994. In 2000, it was redesigned for digital capture, maintaining the super-sleek, ultra-compact physique that made the original ELPH so popular.) Along side the ELPH, Canon introduced two new digicams for the amateur market -- the PowerShot A10 and A20 -- identical except for their 1.3- and 2.1-megapixel CCDs, respectively. We have to say, after spending many hours putting the A10 through its paces, we were duly impressed with its price, performance, and image quality. It appears that Canon is continuing to hold its competitive edge in all levels of the digicam marketplace.


High Points



Executive Overview
The Canon PowerShot A10 features the same compact size and distinctively smooth styling as its higher-end sibling, the PowerShot A20. Though the A10 has a smaller CCD than the A20 (1.32 megapixels vs. 2.11 megapixels), it still offers the same easy-to-use menu interface and well-designed exterior features that we enjoyed on the A20. Measuring just 4.3 x 2.8 x 1.5 inches (110.3 x 71.0 x 37.6 mm), the A10 is only slightly larger than Canon's popular Digital ELPH models -- making it very portable and small enough to fit into a large shirt or coat pocket, or average-size purse. The built-in retractable lens cover slides quickly out of the way when the camera is powered on in Shooting (Record) mode, with the telescoping lens extending approximately one inch. The lens remains inside the body when the camera is powered off or when reviewing images in Playback mode.

A real-image optical viewfinder and 1.5-inch color TFT LCD monitor are provided for composing images. The LCD monitor features a detailed information display that operates independently of the image display (meaning that it is engaged whenever a control button is pushed, even if the LCD monitor's image display is not in use). The A10 is equipped with a 3x, 5.4-16.2mm lens (equivalent to a 35-105mm lens on a 35mm camera) with maximum aperture settings of f/2.8-f/4.8, depending on the zoom position. Focus is automatically controlled, with Normal, Macro, or Infinity focus modes available. (Infinity is available only in Manual mode.) There's also an Autofocus Assist light (an orange light emitted by the flash) to aid focusing in dark situations. The 2x Digital Zoom is enabled by zooming past the 3x optical zoom range whenever the LCD monitor is activated, though it visibly reduces image quality as it enlarges only the central portion of the image.

Exposure is automatically controlled at all times, with three separate Shooting modes available on the Mode dial: Automatic, Manual, and Stitch-Assist. In Automatic mode, the user has control over Resolution, Compression, Flash, Self-Timer, and Normal or Macro focus modes. Manual mode expands the user controls to include Exposure Compensation, White Balance, Infinity focus, and Continuous Shooting. Stitch-Assist is Canon's panoramic mode, allowing you to take a series of up to 26 images to be "stitched" together on a computer.

The A10 uses an evaluative metering system to determine exposure, which is linked to the focus area (a large portion of the center of the image). Shutter speeds range from 1/1,500 to one second, with an effective automatic noise reduction system for exposures slower than 1/6 second. The camera's light sensitivity is rated at ISO 100, though it increases to ISO 150 at low light levels. Exposure is adjustable from -2 to +2 exposure equivalents (EV) in one-third-step increments, allowing you to lighten or darken the exposure as needed. White Balance options include Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Incandescent, and Fluorescent settings, accommodating most light sources. The Drive button accesses the Continuous Shooting and Self-Timer modes. Continuous Shooting, which is only available in Manual mode, captures a rapid series of images as fast as 2.5 frames per second. The Self-Timer features a 10-second countdown, triggered by a full press of the Shutter button. The A10's built-in flash operates in Auto, Red-Eye Reduction, On, Off, and Slow Synchro modes, controlled by an external Flash button.

Images are stored as compressed JPEGs on CompactFlash Type I memory cards (an 8MB card is supplied with the camera). Resolution options include 1,280 x 960, 1,024 x 768, and 640 x 480 pixels, with selectable compression levels of Superfine, Fine, and Normal. You can download images to a computer via the included USB cable and Canon's Digital Camera Solution Disk software (Version 4.0), which is supplied on the accompanying software CD. The Solution Disk provides image organization and correction tools; the PhotoStitch software is for piecing together panoramic images; and a Remote Capture utility enables you to remotely operate the camera from a computer.

Four AA batteries power the camera (alkaline or NiMH), and an external AC adapter is available as an accessory. An NTSC video cable also accompanies the camera (PAL for European models), enabling you to review or compose images on a television.

Its compact size and straightforward user interface make the Canon A10 an excellent choice for consumers who want a reliable point-and-shoot digicam. The freedom of automatically controlled exposure, plus a basic range of exposure adjustments, offer consumers flexible shooting options and the ability to experiment with the camera's operation. Overall, the A10 captured nice images, with good color and quality, handling most average shooting situations well. Plus, its portable size makes it convenient for busy consumers.


Design
The Canon PowerShot A10 is a very portable point-and-shoot style digicam, measuring 4.3 x 2.8 x 1.5 inches (110.3 x 71 x 37.6 mm) and weighing approximately 9 ounces (250 grams) without batteries. Nearly identical in design to the PowerShot A20, the only aesthetic difference between the two models is the color accent on the molded polycarbonate bodies. The A10's front panel is a metallic silver, with a light blue finger grip, while the A20 is a warm-toned champagne color, with a golden brown finger grip. Compact and durable enough to travel just about anywhere, the A10 has a retractable lens cover and a telescoping lens design that eliminates the need for a separate lens cap and protects the 3x zoom while not in use. The A10's user interface is sensibly laid out, with well-marked external controls that are within reach of the user's thumbs (most suitable for two-handed control). The only difference between the two cameras' external controls is that the A10 has no Video Out terminal for displaying images on TV.


The front panel of the PowerShot A10 houses the telescoping lens, built-in flash, and optical viewfinder window. When the camera is powered on in one of the three Shooting (Record) modes, the lens is uncovered and projects about an inch from the body. A large, sculpted hand grip runs along the right side of the camera, giving your fingers a significant hold on the body. The flash also serves as an AF Assist light, emitting a soft orange light that helps the camera judge focus in low-light situations, and as the Self-Timer countdown, blinking slowly for the first 8 seconds and more quickly for the last two. Canon offers a set of auxiliary lenses that attach to the A10's telescoping zoom. A notched ring at the base of the lens barrel is loosened by the dust cap on the Canon LA-DC52 lens adapter, enabling you to attach the adapter in its place. The full adapter covers the lens mechanism when extended, and provides a set of 52mm filter threads to accommodate Canon's Close-up Lens 250D and Wide-angle Conversion Lens (24.5mm equivalent).


The right side of the camera houses the CompactFlash slot, CR2016 battery compartment, and a wrist strap attachment eyelet. The memory card slot is covered by a hinged plastic door that slides forward before opening outward. We found the door a little difficult to maneuver, as the grip pad on the front of the door was difficult to push with just one finger. We had to hold the camera with both hands, even on a tripod, and use a thumb to slide the door open. (A vertical, raised bar grip may be more effective on this door design. It's a minor gripe, but one we felt worth mentioning.) The CR2016 battery slot can only be opened when the CompactFlash slot door is open, and is most easily removed by sliding a coin or knife under the cover and flipping it upward. The battery casing slides right out with the battery inside. (The CR2016 battery powers the camera's internal clock and calendar, so that information is not lost when the AA batteries die.)


The left side of the camera houses the jack connector compartment. Protected by a soft rubber door, which is held in place by two rubber hinges, the door flips open to reveal the Digital (USB) and DC In connector jacks.


A large, silver Shutter button is the only control on the camera's top panel, located right next to the wrist strap attachment eyelet.


The remaining camera controls are on the back panel, along with the LCD monitor and optical viewfinder eyepiece. Controls along the bottom and right sides of the LCD monitor include (counterclockwise, bottom to top): the Flash / Set, Drive / Self-Timer, Macro / Infinity Focus, Menu, and On / Off buttons, and Exposure Compensation / White Balance, and Display buttons. A large Mode dial in the lower right corner controls the camera's operating mode, and a Zoom lever in the upper right corner sets the optical and digital zoom. On the left side of the optical viewfinder eyepiece are two LED lamps that report camera status. The top LED lamp glows green when the focus and exposure are set, or when the camera is ready to communicate with your computer, and it flashes green when the camera is processing an image. If the top LED lamp glows orange, the flash is charged. A flashing orange LED lamp indicates a low-light shooting situation and the potential for a blurred photograph from camera movement (this also brings up the shaking hand icon on the LCD monitor). The bottom LED lamp lights yellow when the Macro mode is enabled and the Shutter button is halfway pressed (also noted by a small macro symbol next to the LED lamp).


The A10 has a reasonably flat bottom panel, with a few minor ridges and indentations. The plastic, threaded tripod mount is too close to the battery compartment to allow for quick battery changes while mounted on a tripod, though the DC-In side access ensures that you can connect the accessory AC adapter in the studio. The battery compartment door slides forward before opening outward, with a sliding lever in the center of the door that unlocks the door before it can be opened.


Viewfinder
The A10 sports a real-image optical viewfinder as well as a color LCD monitor for composing images. The optical viewfinder window features a set of autofocus target marks in the center of the finder, which define the autofocus and exposure area. Though the optical viewfinder does not offer a diopter adjustment, it does have a fairly high eyepoint, which should accommodate most eyeglass wearers. Two LED lamps on the left side of the viewfinder eyepiece report a range of camera information. The bottom LED glows yellow when the camera is in the Macro focus mode and the Shutter button is halfway pressed. The top LED lamp lights green when focus and exposure are set, and flashes green when the camera is processing. If the top LED lamp glows orange, the flash is charged. A flashing orange LED lamp indicates a low-light shooting situation and the potential for image blurring from camera movement (using a flash or tripod is recommended).

The 1.5-inch, color LCD monitor features a low-temperature, polycrystalline silicon, TFT display with roughly 120,000 pixels. A Display button adjacent to the LCD monitor controls the image display, turning it on and off. An information display operates independently of the Display button, appearing on-screen whenever the LCD monitor is activated or a control button is pressed, even when the LCD image display is turned off. The information display reports the current camera settings, including Shooting mode, Exposure Compensation, White Balance, and Resolution and Compression, as well as Flash, Drive, Macro / Infinity modes, and the number of remaining images. After a few seconds, the display disappears, and is called up again with the next press of a control button.

In Playback mode, the Display button cycles through various levels of information display. The first page shows no information. The second reports the file number, date and time of exposure, quality setting, and the number of images on the card. A third page shows select exposure information, such as Shooting mode, Macro, Drive, Flash, Exposure Compensation, and White Balance. Also in Playback mode, the LCD monitor offers a nine-image index display and a playback zoom, which enlarges images for closer inspection. Once an image is enlarged, you can use the arrow keys to scroll around and check on framing or other details.


Optics
The PowerShot A10 features a high-quality Canon 3x, 5.4-16.2mm zoom lens that is equivalent to a 35-105mm lens on a 35mm camera. The maximum aperture setting is f/2.8 at the wide-angle setting and f/4.8 at the maximum telephoto range. Aperture settings and shutter speeds are automatically controlled, with no settings reported on the LCD display. Focus ranges from 2.5 feet (76 cm) to infinity in normal mode. In Macro mode, focus extends from 6.3 inches to 2.5 feet (16 to 76 cm) with the lens at wide angle, and from 10.2 inches to 2.5 feet (26 to 76 cm) with the lens at telephoto. Focus is automatically determined via a through-the-lens, three-point AiAF (Artificial Intelligence Auto Focus) system, which gauges focus from three areas in the center of the frame. The Macro / Infinity button on the back of the camera not only places the camera in Macro or Normal focus modes, but also accesses Infinity focus in Manual mode, which is good for shooting fast-moving subjects from a distance. This setting decreases shooting time, as you don't have to wait for the camera to set focus.

The A10's built-in flash doubles as an autofocus (AF) assist light, which is automatically activated whenever the camera is focusing in low-light situations (though we sometimes noticed it operating in fairly well-lit shooting situations). The AF assist light emits a dull, orange light that falls on the central portion of the subject, providing additional light for more accurate focusing. We found that the AF assist worked very well, as we obtained clearly focused images in our low-light testing, even at the lowest light level. The A10 doesn't offer an adjustable focus lock, but you can manually lock focus by framing the portion of the subject you want in focus in the center of the frame, halfway depressing the Shutter button, then recomposing the shot (while continuing to depress the Shutter button halfway), and firing the shutter.

Though the A10 lens does not feature filter threads for attaching accessory lenses, Canon does offer a wide-angle and close-up lens converter kit, which attaches to the camera via a small adapter. The adapter connects to the inside of a small ring at the base of the lens. The ring features a series of small grip notches that allow it to be loosened and removed by the Lens Adapter Dust Cap, creating a space for the adapter to attach. The Conversion Lens Adapter LA-DC52, which fits over the fully extended lens, supplies a set of 52mm threads at the end to attach filters or lenses.

In addition to the 3x optical zoom, the A10 also offers a 2x digital telephoto, which is not available in Stitch-Assist mode. Digital zoom is automatically enabled by zooming past the optical zoom range whenever the LCD monitor is active. The amount of digital zoom is reported in blue numbers on the right side of the LCD display. Keep in mind that digital zoom decreases image resolution, and often increases noise levels. In our testing, we noticed that the A10's digital telephoto did a fairly good job of maintaining detail. Resolution was decreased and details softened somewhat, but the A10's digital zoom performed better than many we've seen.

Optical distortion on the A10 is moderate at the wide-angle end, as we measured a 0.62 percent barrel distortion. The telephoto end fared much better, as we didn't even see one pixel of pincushion distortion. Chromatic aberration is also very low, showing only a half-pixel of coloration on either side of the black target lines. (This distortion is visible as a very slight colored fringe around the objects at the edges of the field of view on the resolution target.)


Exposure
The A10 offers a relatively uncomplicated user interface, and a control layout that is very similar to other Canon PowerShot cameras. The numerous external controls decrease reliance on the camera's menu system, though the LCD's information display is automatically activated whenever a control button is pressed. This still saves on battery power, however, because the information display automatically turns itself off after a few seconds, shutting down the LCD monitor in the process (as long as it was previously inactive).

The Mode dial on the camera's back panel controls the operating mode, placing the A10 in Playback mode, or Automatic, Manual, and Stitch Assist Shooting modes. Exposure is automatically controlled at all times, with only limited user controls. For example, Automatic mode provides control over Flash, Focus, Drive, Resolution, and Compression settings, while Manual mode gives the user control over White Balance and Exposure Compensation, in addition to the settings available in Auto mode. Stitch Assist mode provides all of the available controls except for Auto Flash, Red-Eye Reduction, Digital Zoom, and Continuous Shooting. Basic exposure decisions, such as shutter speed and aperture setting, remain under automatic control in all three Shooting modes.

An Instant Review function displays the captured image on the LCD screen for two or 10 seconds, adjustable through the Setup menu. The Instant Review screen gives you the option of deleting an image, without recording it to the CompactFlash card, simply by pressing the Exposure Compensation / White Balance button. This pulls up the Erase screen, with an option to cancel the action. You can also turn the Instant Review function off, which should save on battery usage.

Shutter speeds range from 1/1,500 to one second, and lens apertures from f/2.8 to f/4.8 (depending on the telephoto setting), although neither setting is reported on the LCD information display. To determine exposure, the camera uses an evaluative metering system linked to the focus area, or center of the image. One notable feature of the PowerShot A10 is its automatic noise reduction for exposures longer than 1/6 second. We found this to be quite effective in our low-light test shots, which showed very low noise levels.

Light sensitivity is rated at an ISO 100 equivalency, and is automatically raised to ISO 150 in low-light situations. This boost wasn't enough to impact our low-light test shots, however, as we were only able to obtain bright, usable images at eight foot-candles or 88 lux (common street lighting at night equates to about one foot-candle, or 11 lux).

The A10's White Balance settings include Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Tungsten, and Fluorescent options, accommodating most common light sources. Pressing the Exposure Compensation / White Balance button twice displays the White Balance menu, navigable with the right and left arrow buttons under the LCD monitor. A single press of the same button displays the Exposure Compensation adjustment, which allows you to lighten or darken the image from +2 to -2 exposure equivalents (EV) in one-third-step increments. A 10-second self-timer is accessible by pressing the Drive button twice. Once in Self-Timer mode, a half-press of the Shutter button locks focus and exposure, while a full press triggers the countdown. The Self-Timer lamp (an orange light emitted by the flash) blinks every second for the first 8 seconds of the countdown and blinks more rapidly for the last two seconds. A timer also beeps audibly in sequence with the orange light.


Flash
The A10's built-in flash has a working range of 2.5 to 13.8 feet (0.76 to 4.2 meters) at the wide-angle setting, and from 2.5 to 8.2 feet (26 to 76 cm) at telephoto. In Macro mode, Canon reports that the flash is effective for the telephoto shooting range, which is 10.2 inches to 2.5 feet (26 to 76 cm), but that the flash may be too bright for the closer shots allowed by the wide-angle lens setting, 6.3 inches to 2.5 feet (16 to 76 cm). In our testing, however, we found the flash very effective at the wide-angle Macro setting.

The flash has five operating modes, controlled by the Flash button on the camera's back panel: Auto, Red-Eye Reduction, On, Off, and Slow Synchro. The Automatic flash fires the flash in low-light situations or when a subject is backlit. Red-Eye Reduction mode works in the same manner, although it fires a small pre-flash before the full flash to reduce the occurrence of red-eye effect (a red reflection from the flash in the subject's pupils). The On and Off flash modes are self-explanatory. Slow Synchro mode works with a slower shutter speeds (usually one-second), which allows more ambient light into an image to balance the background with the subject.

In our testing, we found the A10's flash brightest at 8 feet from the target, with decreased (though still fairly bright) intensity as far as 10 feet. Flash intensity continued to decrease in brightness from 11 feet to 15 feet, though the flash was weakly effective at the 15-foot distance.

The A10's flash also serves as the AF Assist light and Self-Timer lamp by emitting a soft, orange light. When used as an AF Assist light, the flash shines the orange light on the central portion of the subject, helping the camera determine focus. During the self-timer countdown, the orange light blinks until the shutter is released.

Stitch-Assist Mode (Panorama)
The A10 features Canon's popular Stitch-Assist mode, which allows you to create panoramic images by shooting a series of images and then "stitching" them together on a computer. As many as 26 consecutive images can make up a panoramic series, all captured using framing guidelines provided on the LCD monitor (to help line up each shot correctly). A shot confirmation after each image allows you to re-shoot an image if necessary. Auto and Red-Eye Reduction flash modes, as well as the Digital Zoom, are not available in Stitch-Assist mode. Canon also notes that a television cannot be used as a viewfinder when shooting in Stitch-Assist mode. PhotoStitch software is included on the software CD accompanying the camera.

Continuous Shooting Mode
Accessed via the Drive / Self-Timer button on the camera's back panel, the Continuous Shooting mode allows you to capture a series of images at approximately 2.5 frames per second. The camera snaps images continuously for as long as the Shutter button is held down, or until the CompactFlash card is full. Images are immediately recorded to the camera's buffer memory. Once the buffer memory is full, images are recorded to the CompactFlash card. The series will resume if you continue to hold down the Shutter button, but only after the buffer has been cleared. Shot-to-shot cycle times vary depending on the image size and quality settings, whether or not the LCD monitor is enabled, and the amount of image information to be recorded. The flash is available in this mode, but decreases the shot-to-shot cycle time to allow the flash time to recharge. Continuous Shooting is available in Manual mode only.


Shutter Lag/Cycle Times
When you press the shutter release on a camera, there's usually a lag time before the shutter actually fires. This time is to allow the autofocus and autoexposure mechanisms time to do their work, and can amount to a fairly long delay in some situations. Since this number is almost never reported on, and can significantly affect the picture taking experience, we now routinely measure it using Imaging Resource proprietary testing. reported on, and can significantly affect the picture taking experience, we now routinely measure it.

Canon PowerShot A10 Timings
Operation
Time (secs)
Notes
Power On -> First shot
4.5
Faster than average for cameras with telescoping lenses.
Shutdown
2.4/4.4
Shorter time is for lens retraction, longer is for max time after a shot until you can remove the card. Faster than average overall.
Play to Record, first shot
3.2
A bit faster than average.
Record to play, max/min resolution
2.45/3.3
About average.
Shutter lag, full autofocus
1.01
About average for a low- to midrange camera
Shutter lag, prefocus
0.068
Amazingly (!) fast.
Cycle Time, max/min resolution
2.06/3.10 - 1.67
First 11 shots at max. res. at intervals of 2.06 seconds, 3.10 after 11 shots, due to the full buffer. Min. res. 1.67 seconds all the time (we shot 12 frames, buffer never filled). (NO benefit from high-speed CF cards though.)


Like its higher resolution sibling the A20, the PowerShot A10 was a surprisingly fast little camera, with good shutter lag in full autofocus mode, and absolutely astonishing speed when prefocused by half-pressing and holding the shutter button before the exposure. Cycle times are very good as well, as the camera apparently has about 11 frames of buffer memory, providing cycle times of just over two seconds for that many shots at the highest resolution/quality setting. (Shutter lag and cycle times were both just slightly slower than those of the A20, but not dramatically so: We'd expected them to be identical, as we thought the two cameras would have the same processor in them, but this may not be the case.) Startup and shutdown times are both faster than average. Overall, a surprisingly nimble camera, particularly for its price point.


Operation and User Interface
The A10 features a straightforward user interface similar to that of other Canon PowerShot digicams. Though it is somewhat reliant on its LCD display for confirming mode changes and menu settings, the LCD works very efficiently to minimize power drain. Even when the image display is turned off, simply pressing a control button activates the information display, allowing you to change the setting without turning on the image display. Once you've made the change, the information display automatically disappears and shuts off the LCD monitor after a few seconds.

We liked the fact that Exposure Compensation and White Balance are both controlled by an external button (as opposed to sifting through pages of menu options). The Mode dial also simplifies operation by allowing you to quickly change the Shooting mode without having to enter an on-screen menu. Overall, the A10's user interface is very intuitive and quick to learn, although the limited number of arrow buttons (left and right only) makes menu navigation a little quirky. (You have to scroll to the menu item you want to change, press the Set button, and then continue to scroll through the choices available in that menu item, and press the Set button again until you've navigated through all of the submenus and are able to confirm your selection.)

Control Enumeration


Shutter Button: Located on top of the camera, this large, silver button sets focus and exposure when halfway depressed, and releases the shutter when fully depressed.


Zoom Lever: Positioned in the top right corner of the camera's back panel, this lever controls the optical zoom in any Shooting (Record) mode. When the LCD monitor is active in either Automatic or Manual mode, this lever also controls the 2x digital telephoto.

In Playback mode, the wide-angle end of the button activates the nine-image index display mode, allowing you to select single images. A second press of the wide-angle end allows you to scroll page by page through the index display. Pressing the telephoto end from this point returns you to the normal nine-image index display page. A second press enables the playback zoom function, which enlarges the captured image.


Mode Dial: Dominating the lower right corner of the back panel, this notched dial controls the camera's operating mode, offering the following options (clockwise): Playback, Automatic, Manual, and Stitch-Assist.


Display Button: The top button on the right side of the LCD monitor, the Display button controls the image display in any Record mode, turning it on or off.

In Playback mode, the Display button cycles through three image information display screens: 1) no information; 2) basic image information, including the file name, image number, resolution and compression setting, and date and time it was recorded, and 3) the full information display, including shooting mode, macro or infinity focus, drive, self-timer, flash, exposure compensation, and white balance (in addition to the information in #2).


Exposure Compensation (EV) / White Balance Button: Just below the Display button, the EV / WB button controls the Exposure Compensation and White Balance adjustment menus in Manual and Stitch-Assist shooting modes. The first press displays the Exposure Compensation bar, which is adjustable (using the Arrow and Set buttons) from -2 to +2 exposure equivalents (EV) in one-third-step increments. A second press pulls up the White Balance page, with options for Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Tungsten, Fluorescent, and Black-and-White settings. A third press returns to normal display.

In Playback mode, pressing this button allows you to delete the currently selected image (using the Set button), with an option to cancel.


Power Button: Located diagonally from the lower right corner of the LCD, this button turns the camera on and off.


Menu Button: To the left of the Power button, pressing Menu pulls up the settings menu in each camera mode, and turns it off again when you've completed your menu selections.


Focus / Right Arrow Button: To the left of the Menu button, the right arrow button controls the Focus mode while the camera is in any Shooting mode. Pressed once, it changes the focus to Macro (close-up) mode. In Manual mode, a second press of the button changes the focus to Infinity mode, while a third press returns to the Normal focus mode. This button is also marked with a right-pointing arrow, which allows the user to navigate through menu options captured images.

In Playback mode, when the Playback Zoom is enabled, this button scrolls to the right within an enlarged image. Also in Playback Zoom, pressing this button while holding down the Set button allows you to scroll down within the enlarged image.


Drive / Left Arrow Button: On the left side of the Focus button, the left arrow button controls the camera's Drive mode when in Automatic or Manual modes. In Automatic mode, the default setting is Single Capture and pressing the button once activates the Self-Timer mode. In Manual mode, the settings go from Single Capture, to Continuous Shooting, to Self-Timer. Also marked with a left-pointing arrow, this button allows the user to scroll through menu options and captured images.

In Playback mode, with Playback Zoom enabled, this button scrolls to the left within an enlarged image. Also in Playback Zoom, pressing this button while holding down the Set button allows you to scroll up within the enlarged image.


Set / Flash Button: Directly below the lower left corner of the LCD monitor, this button controls the flash mode in Automatic, Manual, and Stitch-Assist modes. Pressing the Flash button cycles through five modes: Auto, Red-Eye Reduction, On, Off, and Slow Synchro modes (except in Stitch-Assist mode, where it cycles through On, Off, and Slow Synchro only). When a settings menu is displayed, this button is used to access and confirm menu selections.

In Playback mode, when Playback Zoom is enabled, holding down the Set / Flash button, while simultaneously pressing the right or left arrow keys, allows you to move up and down within an enlarged image.


Camera Modes and Menus

Stitch-Assist Mode: Marked on the Mode dial with the dual frame, panorama symbol, this mode allows you to capture as many as 26 sequential images to be "stitched" together into one panoramic image on a computer. All of the exposure features are available, with the exception of the Auto and Red-Eye Reduction flash modes, digital zoom, Continuous Shooting, and the Self-Timer.

Manual Mode: Labeled on the Mode dial with a red camera symbol and an "M," Manual mode increases the user's exposure control to include White Balance and Exposure Compensation settings, as well as the Continuous Shooting mode.

Automatic Mode: The first Shooting mode on the Mode dial, labeled with only a red camera symbol, Automatic places the camera in complete control over exposure settings. The user can set the Flash mode, Focus mode, the Self-Timer, image Resolution and Compression, and Zoom.

Playback Mode: Indicated by the traditional playback symbol on the Mode dial (an arrow head inside a box), Playback mode allows you to scroll through captured images, delete them, protect them, set them up for printing on a DPOF device, rotate them, enlarge them to inspect details, or view images in an automatic slide show.

Record Menu: The following menu options are available by pressing the Menu button in any record mode:


Playback Menu: This settings menu is displayed by pressing the Menu button in Playback mode:



Image Storage and Interface
The A10 uses CompactFlash Type I memory cards for image storage; an 8MB card comes standard with the camera. Upgrades are available separately to memory capacities as high as 128MB. The CompactFlash slot is on the right side of the camera, and is covered by a sliding plastic door that we found difficult to open at times. The card inserts with the electrodes going in first, and the front of the card (indicated by an arrow) facing the back of the camera. A small button beside the slot ejects the card by popping it up slightly, allowing you to pull the card the rest of the way out.

Although individual CompactFlash cards cannot be write-protected or locked against erasure or manipulation, the A10 allows you to protect individual images through the Playback menu. Once protected, images cannot be erased or manipulated in any way, except through card formatting. The Playback menu also allows you to rotate images in the LCD display, play them back in an automated slide show, erase them, and set them up for printing on DPOF compliant printers.

Three image resolution sizes are available: 1,280 x 960, 1,024 x 768, and 640 x 480 pixels. Each resolution size also offers three JPEG compression settings, including Superfine, Fine, and Normal. Both settings are changed through the settings menu in any record mode. The number of available images is reported on the LCD's information display, in addition to the selected size and quality settings.

The table below summarizes the compression ratios and number of images which can be stored on the included 8MB memory card with each size/quality combination.

Image Capacity vs
Resolution/Quality
8MB CompactFlash Card
Super Fine
Fine
Normal
Large Resolution 1280x960 Images 10
16
32
Approx.
Compression
5:1
7:1
15:1
Medium Resolution 1024x768 Images
16
24
46
Approx.
Compression
5:1
7:1
14:1
Small Resolution 640x480
Images
35
50
87
Approx.
Compression
4:1
6:1
10:1


A USB cable and interface software accompany the A10, for quick connection and image downloading to a PC or Macintosh.


One of the first things any new digicam owner will need is a larger memory card for their camera: The cards shipped with the units by the manufacturers should really be considered only "starter" cards, you'll definitely want a higher capacity card immediately. - Probably at least a 32 megabyte card for a 1.3 or 2 megapixel camera, 64 megabytes or more for a 3, 4, or 5 megapixel one. (The nice thing about memory cards is you'll be able to use whatever you buy now with your next camera too, whenever you upgrade.) To help you shop for a good deal on memory cards that fit the A10, we've put together a little memory locater, with links to our price-comparison engine: Just click on the "Memory Wizard" button above to go to the Canon memory finder, select your camera model , and click the shopping cart icon next to the card size you're interested in. You'll see a list of matching entries from the price-comparison database. Pick a vendor & order away! (Pretty cool, huh?) Video Out
The A10 does not feature a Video Out connector jack.


Power
The PowerShot A10 is powered by four AA batteries, either alkaline or rechargeable NiMH. Canon warns against using manganese or lithium batteries, which may overheat or cause explosions or leaks, and NiCd batteries, because their performance is unreliable. Four AA alkaline batteries accompany the camera, but we highly recommend picking up a couple of sets of rechargeable NiMH batteries and keeping a spare set freshly charged at all times (Canon offers a CBK100 charger and rechargeable NiMH batteries as an option). Canon estimates that a freshly charged set of Canon NB-1AH AA NiMH batteries should record roughly 350 shots with the LCD monitor on, or 1,000 shots with the LCD off (or provide 240 minutes of playback time). A red battery icon flashes in the LCD display whenever the batteries are getting low.

Because the A10 offers an optical viewfinder as well as an LCD monitor, you can operate the camera more efficiently without the LCD monitor in use. While an information display automatically appears on the LCD screen whenever a control button is pressed (even when the LCD monitor is turned off), the display quickly disappears a few seconds after the adjustment is made. There's also an Auto Power Down feature, enabled through the Setup menu, which turns off the camera after a few minutes of inactivity. Canon offers an optional AC Adapter Kit for connection to the camera's DC In jack and a standard electrical power supply. This is highly recommended for time-consuming tasks such as downloading images to a computer.

The A10 also uses a CR2016 lithium battery to power its internal clock. If the LCD monitor displays the Set Date/Time menu when the camera is powered on, the CR2016 battery is running low.

Operating Mode
Current Drain
(At 4.3v)
Power
(Watts)
Capture Mode, w/LCD
510 mA
2.19 W
Capture Mode, no LCD
290/100 mA
1.25/0.43 W
Half-pressed shutter w/LCD
510 mA
2.19 W
Half-pressed w/o LCD
350 mA
1.51 W
Memory Write (transient)
n/a
n/a
Flash Recharge (transient)
610 mA
2.62 W
Image Playback
290 mA
1.25 W


The A10's power consumption was also somewhat lower than that of the A20, again suggesting different electronics. (The lower-res CCD would likely take a bit less power, but playback power is lower as well.) With a high-capacity set of AA NiMH rechargeable batteries, we'd estimate nearly three hours of run time in capture mode with the LCD on, and easily four hours in playback mode. This is excellent battery life, but we still suggest (as always) packing a second set of batteries.

About Batteries
We've gotten so many emails about power issues for digicams, that we're now inserting this standard notice in the reviews of all AA-powered cameras on our site: Don't even *think* about using alkaline AA batteries in a digicam! Despite their being packed in the box with many cameras, they simply don't have the juice to handle typical digicam demands. (Even the "high power" ones the battery manufacturers say are designed for devices like digital cameras.) Spend the $35-40 or so it takes to get a set (or two) of high-capacity NiMH rechargeable batteries and a good charger! The few dollars up front will save you literally hundreds of dollars in the long run, not to mention the hassle of wimpy batteries running out in the middle of the action. We suggest you buy two sets of batteries, so one can always be in the charger, ready to go, and so have two sets available for longer excursions. Good brands of batteries include Maha (our favorite), GP, Kodak, and Nexcell. Also, buy the highest capacity AAs the manufacturer makes, the few extra dollars for the extra capacity is usually well worth it. Getting a good charger is critical though, almost more so than buying good batteries. We recommend the Maha C-204F (see the photo at right), the charger we use the most in our own studio. - Read our review of it for all the details. Or, just click here to buy one, you won't regret it.


Included Software
Packaged with the A10 is a software CD containing Canon's Digital Camera Solution Disk Version 4.0, which is compatible with Windows 95/98/98SE/2000/Me/NT 4.0 and Macintosh OS 8.1 or higher. The Solution Disk software provides an image browser tool that handles image downloading, manages files (displays, moves, copies, etc.), sets up images for printing, and allows you to set up images for e-mail. The included PhotoStitch software allows you to connect panoramic sequence images by automatically arranging them in the correct order. The software also assists with cropping and alignment. A Remote Capture utility allows you to operate the camera from the computer and control various exposure features remotely. Remote Capture also offers a time-lapse function, which takes a series of still images at specified intervals.


In the Box
Packaged with the PowerShot A10 are the following items:



Test Results
In keeping with our standard test policy, the comments given here summarize only our key findings. For a full commentary on each of the test images, see the PowerShot A10's "pictures" page.

As with all Imaging Resource product tests, we encourage you to let your own eyes be the judge of how well the camera performed. Explore the images on the pictures page, to see how the A10's images compare to other cameras you may be considering.

Throughout our testing, the A10 produced excellent color, with good saturation. The automatic white balance system handled most of our lighting situations fairly well, though we noticed an orange cast in our Indoor Flash Portrait from the background incandescent lighting. On the Indoor Portrait without flash, the A10's incandescent white balance setting handled the tough lighting very well, producing a well-balanced image with just a hint of warmth to it. (The A10 left just a little more cast in the image than the A20 did, but it still did very well overall.) The large color blocks of our Davebox test target appeared quite accurate, though just slightly undersaturated, with blue tints in the red and magenta blocks. The A10 handled the difficult blues in the flower bouquet of our Outdoor test shot very well, though we noticed faint purple tints in the flowers in the indoor shots (this is a common problem for many cameras we've tested). We also noticed a slight oversaturation of red / magenta in the skin tones. As with the A20, we had only very minor quibbles with the A10's color performance, and were very pleased with its performance overall.

In our laboratory resolution test, the A10 resolved the target patterns cleanly (with no artifacts) out to 500 lines per picture height in both horizontal and vertical directions, with good detail showing to 650 lines in both directions, although artifacts became quite evident starting around 600 lines. "Extinction" of the target lines occurred at about 800 lines of resolution in both directions. Overall, a bit better than average among the other 1.3-megapixel cameras we've tested.

We found the A10's optical viewfinder to be fairly tight, showing only 75.6 percent of the final image area at wide angle, and about 79.4 percent at telephoto (at the 1,280 x 960-pixel resolution size). We also noticed that images framed with the optical viewfinder were slanted toward the lower left corner, indicating a slightly shifted CCD. The LCD monitor was much more accurate, showing approximately 99.06 percent of the final image area at telephoto (also at the 1,280 x 960-pixel resolution size). We were unable to measure the exact frame accuracy at the wide angle setting, as our standard lines of measurement were just outside of the frame in the final image, causing the LCD monitor to be a little loose at the wide angle setting. Since we generally like to see LCD monitors as close to 100 percent accurate as possible, the A10 did very well in this regard. Flash distribution is fairly even at the telephoto setting, with a small hot spot / reflection in the center of the target. At wide angle, flash distribution is slightly uneven, with falloff around the edges and in the corners of the frame.

The A10 had some difficulty with the low-light category, as the camera produced a bright, only somewhat usable image at the eight foot-candle light level (0.88 lux). Images were still usable (with post-exposure tweaking on the computer) as low as one foot-candle (11 lux), but became progressively darker from there. Noise was pretty low in all of the images, with a small grain pattern. To put the A10's low-light performance into perspective, an average city night scene under modern street lighting corresponds to a light level of about one foot-candle, meaning most night exposures will require use of the built-in flash.

The A10 doesn't get terribly close for macro shots, capturing a minimum area of 6.93 x 5.20 inches (175.97 x 131.98 mm). However, color, detail and resolution were all good, with great detail visible in the coins as well as on the brooch. The gray background showed moderate noise, and we noticed a small amount of barrel distortion from the lens' wide angle setting. The A10's built-in flash did a good job of throttling down for the macro area, maintaining good color and increased clarity. Flash coverage is a little uneven, with a large hot spot in the center of the image (a tiny reflection in the coin), and falloff along the edges and in the corners.

Despite limited exposure control, the A10 performed very well throughout our testing. Images show good resolution and detail, accurate color, and good quality overall. You'll need a flash for most low-light shots, and the camera doesn't focus as closely as some in macro mode. These minor limitations aside, the A10 should produce excellent photos under typical shooting conditions.


Conclusion
The Canon PowerShot A10 is an excellent option for novice and beginning photographers who want to make the move into digital photography. Its automatic exposure control takes the worry out of snapping quick, high-quality pictures, and it provides a fair mix of user selectable controls that allow for some creative input. The 1.3-megapixel CCD captures good quality images, with excellent color saturation and picture resolution. Despite some limitations in low-light shooting capabilities, the A10 was able to handle a variety of exposure situations, including indoor shots illuminated by available light. Overall, the A10 performed admirably when compared to the 2.1-megapixel PowerShot A20, giving up only the higher resolution CCD and video-out capabilities. This is a great camera, with good features and excellent image quality. With a list price under $400 at its introduction, it should prove very competitive in the consumer digicam marketplace. If you're a beginning digital photographer and seldom need prints larger than roughly 5x7 inches, it'd be hard to go wrong with the A10!

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