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Quick Review

Canon PowerShot A70 Digital Camera

Camera QuickLook
Review Date
04/10/03
User Level
Novice to Experienced
Product Uses
Family / Travel / Special Events
Digicam Design
Point-and-Shoot or Manual control
Picture Quality
Good, 3.3-megapixel CCD
Print Sizes
4x6, 5x7, 8x10 inches
Availability
Now
Suggested Retail Price
$349

Introduction

Review Links
Overview
Picky
Details
Design
Operation
Test Images
Specifications
Conclusion

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 early 2001, Canon has released a full complement of new digital cameras, all designed and engineered to live up to Canon's competitive standards. The 3.3-megapixel PowerShot A70 updates this extensive line by improving on an already well-received model, the PowerShot A40.

Last year, Canon's PowerShot A40 topped the charts on the IR website for popularity, outstripping all other camera models. This was particularly impressive given that my readers generally gravitate toward higher-end models. This year, the A70 updates the A40, with a larger CCD, more manual controls and a slightly different control layout. Featuring a full 12 shooting modes, the A70 offers not only manual and full-auto exposure control, but five preset Scene modes as well. The A70 extends the maximum shutter speed to 1/2,000 second, and adds a new Custom white balance setting. Best of all, the camera accommodates a wide range of users with its variable level of exposure control. Experienced shooters will appreciate the Manual, Aperture Priority, and Shutter Priority modes, while novices will find the Auto, Program AE, and Scene modes useful. Plus, the A70 has a full range of creative effects, and the benefit of Canon optics with its 3x zoom lens. Will the A70 enjoy the same exceptional popularity as did the A40? Only time will tell, but it does seem as though Canon has once again brought together all the right elements.

Camera Overview
With a compact body similar in design to previous Canon PowerShot "A" models, the PowerShot A70 updates the A-series with a wide range of shooting options -- from fully manual operation to programmed, automatic, and several preset exposure modes. A 3.3-megapixel CCD delivers high-resolution images suitable for printing as large as 8x10 inches with good detail. (Lower resolutions are also available, including an email-friendly size.) The A70's all-plastic, two-toned silver body is lightweight and compact, although just a little too large for the average shirt pocket. Still, the A70 should easily fit into larger coat pockets and purses, and comes with a wrist strap for more security. Like many Canon digicams, the A70 features a shutter-like lens cover and a retracting lens that keeps the camera front fairly smooth when the camera is powered off. Without a lens cap to keep track of, the A70 is quick on the draw (you just have to wait a couple of seconds for the lens to extend forward before you can shoot).

Equipped with a 5.4-16.2mm lens, the A70 offers a 3x optical zoom range equivalent to a 35-105mm lens on a 35mm camera. Aperture ranges from f/2.8 to f/8.0 depending on the zoom setting, and can be manually or automatically adjusted. The A70 uses Canon's AiAF (Artificial Intelligence Auto Focus) system, which judges focus based on a five-point area in the center of the frame. Whatever portion of the subject is closest to one of the AF points is what determines the overall focus. You can alternately choose to base focus on the center of the frame only. The A70 also offers a manual focus mode, displaying a numeric distance scale on the LCD display. An AF Assist light on the front panel helps the camera focus in dark shooting conditions, and can be deactivated if necessary. In addition to the optical zoom, the A70 also offers as much as 3.2x digital zoom. However, I always remind readers that digital zoom often decreases the overall image quality because it simply enlarges the center pixels of the CCD image. The A70 has both a real-image optical viewfinder and 1.5-inch LCD monitor for composing images. The LCD monitor's information display includes detailed exposure information, including shutter speed and aperture settings in the manual shooting modes.

The A70 provides a full range of exposure control, from Manual to Auto exposure modes, and a handful of preset scene modes as well. All exposure modes are accessed by turning the Mode dial on top of the camera. Canon divided the dial into three exposure types: Auto, Creative Zone, and Image Zone. Shooting in Auto mode puts the camera in charge of everything except the Flash and Macro modes. Exposure modes in the Creative Zone include Program AE (P), Shutter Speed-Priority AE (Tv), Aperture-Priority AE (Av), and Manual Exposure (M). Program AE lets the camera choose the aperture and shutter speed settings, but gives you control over all other exposure options. Aperture and Shutter Speed Priority modes allow you to set one exposure variable (aperture or shutter speed) while the camera chooses the best corresponding variable. Manual mode gives you full control over all exposure options.

Exposure modes in the Image Zone include Portrait, Landscape, Night Scene, Fast Shutter, Slow Shutter, Stitch Assist, and Movie. Portrait, Night Scene, and Landscape all make automatic camera adjustments to optimize settings for specific shooting conditions. The Portrait mode uses a large aperture setting to focus on the subject, while maintaining an out-of-focus background. Landscape mode slows the shutter speed and maximizes depth of field with a small aperture setting. Night Scene mode illuminates your subject with flash and uses a slow shutter speed to evenly expose the background. Fast Shutter mode uses a fast shutter speed to freeze action, while Slow Shutter mode uses a slower shutter speed to blur moving objects (such as waterfalls or fountains). The Stitch-Assist mode is Canon's answer to panorama shooting, in which multiple, overlapping images can be captured horizontally, vertically, or in a clockwise grouping. Images are then "stitched" together on a computer using Canon's bundled PhotoStitch software or other image editing software. Movie mode allows you to capture up to three minutes of moving images and sound at approximately 15 frames per second, with available resolutions of 640 x 480, 320 x 240, or 160 x 120 pixels.

The White Balance setting adjusts color balance, with settings for Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Incandescent, Fluorescent, and Fluorescent H (for daylight fluorescent lighting). There's also a Custom setting to manually set color balance based on a white or gray card. Exposure Compensation increases or decreases the overall exposure, from -2 to +2 exposure equivalents (EV) in one-third-step increments. An ISO adjustment offers 50, 100, 200, and 400 ISO equivalents, as well as an Auto setting. By default, the A70 uses an Evaluative metering mode, which links the metering area to the focus area (when AiAF is activated). Also available is a Spot Metering option, which bases the exposure on the center of the subject, and Center-Weighted, for a larger area in the center of the frame. The A70's flash operates in either Auto, Forced, Suppressed, or Slow Synchro (in Night Portrait mode only) modes, with an available Red-Eye Reduction setting through the Record menu.

A creative and fun Effects menu lets you play around with image color, offering Vivid and Neutral color settings, as well as Sepia and Black and White options. A Low Sharpening option softens the image. Continuous Shooting mode works like a motor drive on a 35mm camera, capturing a rapid burst of images for as long as the Shutter button is held down (or until the memory card runs out of space). Actual frame rates will vary depending on the image size and quality selected. The A70 also features a 10-second self-timer, which delays the shutter for about 10 seconds after the Shutter button is pressed, letting you run around and jump into the shot. (You can also set the delay interval to two seconds.) The A70 also features the My Camera menu, which lets you customize camera settings to your own preferences. For example, you can set the image that appears at startup, or assign a fun sound to button functions.

The A70 stores images on CompactFlash memory cards, and comes with a 16MB starter card. I highly recommend purchasing a larger-capacity CompactFlash card right away, given the A70's maximum 2,048 x 1,536-pixel resolution. The camera uses four AA-sized batteries for power, either alkaline or NiMH type. Four alkaline batteries come with the camera and battery life is generally excellent, but I still strongly advise picking up a couple of sets of rechargeable batteries and a charger, and keeping a spare set freshly charged at all times. Click here to read my "battery shootout" page to see which batteries currently on the market are best, or here for my review of the Maha C-204F charger, my longtime favorite. The optional AC adapter is useful for preserving battery power when reviewing and downloading images, and plugs straight into a DC In jack on the side of the camera, but good-quality rechargeable batteries really eliminate the need for it. The A70 features a USB jack for quickly (570 KB/second) downloading images to a computer, and comes with two software CDs, one loaded with Canon Digital Camera Solution Disk version 12.0 and the other loaded with ArcSoft Camera Suite version 1.2 (compatible with Macintosh and Windows systems). Additionally, an AV Out jack and the included video cable lets you connect the camera to a television set. The A70 is DPOF (Digital Print Order Format) compatible, with a range of print settings available through the Playback menu.

Basic Features

  • 3.2-megapixel CCD delivering image resolutions as large as 2,048 x 1,536 pixels.
  • 1.5-inch color LCD monitor.
  • Real-image optical viewfinder.
  • Glass, 3x 5.4-16.2mm lens (equivalent to 35-105mm zoom on a 35mm camera).
  • 3.2x digital zoom.
  • AiAF autofocus and a manual focus mode.
  • AF Assist light for low-light focusing.
  • Full Automatic, Program AE, Shutter Priority, Aperture Priority, and Manual exposure modes, as well as five preset exposure modes.
  • Manually adjustable aperture setting ranging from f/2.8 to f/8.0, depending on lens zoom position.
  • Shutter speed range from 1/2,000 to 15 seconds.
  • Built-in flash with five operating modes.
  • CompactFlash memory storage.
  • Power supplied by four AA batteries or optional AC adapter.

Special Features

  • Movie mode (with sound).
  • Sound caption recording.
  • Stitch-Assist mode for panoramic shots.
  • Continuous Shooting and 10-second Self-Timer modes.
  • Creative Effects menu.
  • White balance (color) adjustment with seven modes.
  • ISO adjustment with four ISO equivalents and an Auto setting.
  • Low Sharpness setting.
  • Evaluative, Center-Weighted, and Spot metering options.
  • DPOF (Digital Print Order Format) compatibility.
  • USB cable for connection to a computer (driver software included).

Recommendation

Midrange Point & Shoots
If you're interested in the camera in this review, here are some competing models that may also interest you. (Camera names that aren't links are those we haven't reviewed yet. - Stay tuned.)
Three Megapixel, 3x zoom
Canon A70 Prices
Fuji A303 Prices
Kodak DX4330 Prices
Minolta Xi (subcompact) Prices
Nikon 3100 Prices
Olympus 560 Prices
Olympus 550* Prices
Pentax 330GS Prices
Sony P72 Prices
* - model phasing out
Confused?
Check out Dave's Picks!

With a complete range of auto and manual exposure controls, the A70 is perfect for novice users and experienced amateurs alike. The full automatic controls keep things simple for novices, while offering the opportunity to gradually step up to more control. Plus, the range of preset exposure modes ensures that less-experienced photographers will get good pictures in difficult shooting situations. The 3.2-megapixel CCD captures good quality images, quite suitable for printing as large as 8x10-inches with good detail. The compact design should fit well into a larger coat pocket or purse, and the lens design protects it when closed, while keeping the camera body smooth and low-profile. In addition to the range of exposure controls, a menu of creative effects makes the A70 fun too. The A70 is unusual, in that it's marketed and priced as an "entry level" camera, but its features and capabilities extend far beyond that category. If you're looking for an inexpensive camera that you can grow with (and that shoots excellent photos), the A70 could be the camera for you.

 

 

Design

The A70's compact body has a solid feel, thanks to a combination of plastic body and metal decorative panels, plus a healthy heft. Measuring 4.0 x 2.5 x 1.2 inches (101 x 64 x 32 millimeters), the A70 probably won't fit into your shirt pocket. It will, however, find its way into larger coat pockets, purses, and hip packs, good for travel. The A70 has a modest heft, with its 11.6-ounce (327-gram) weight, with batteries and CompactFlash card, but isn't at all uncomfortable to carry. The two-toned silver body is sleek and understated, yet sophisticated enough for any age group.

The A70's front panel features the telescoping 3x zoom lens, which extends an additional 3/4-inch when fully extended. Also on the front panel are the optical viewfinder window, small microphone, flash, and a light emitter lamp that serves multiple purposes, including autofocus assist, red-eye reduction, and the self-timer countdown. On the lower right side of the lens (as viewed from the rear) is a small button that releases the ring around the lens barrel. Removing the ring allows you to attach a lens adapter for extended telephoto, wide angle, or macro capabilities. There's also a large hand grip on the front panel, created by the large battery compartment.

On the right side of the camera (as viewed from the rear) is the CompactFlash card slot, covered by a hinged, plastic door. The door slides toward the back panel before opening outward. At the top of the right side is the eyelet for attaching the wrist strap.

On the opposite side of the camera is the connector compartment, covered by a flexible, rubbery-plastic flap that snaps in and out of place. When opened, the flap remains connected to the camera body, and folds out of the way to accommodate cables. Inside the compartment are the Digital (USB), A/V Out, and DC In jacks. Also inside the compartment is the CR1220 battery slot, which pulls out from the camera body and holds the small CR1220 lithium battery that powers the camera's internal memory (preserving the clock and calendar settings, as well as current exposure settings, when the main AA batteries are removed).

The A70's top panel features a Mode dial, with 12 shooting positions divided into three basic categories: Auto Exposure, Image Zone, and Creative Zone. The Shutter button is located to the right of the Mode dial, with a Zoom lever surrounding it. Behind the Shutter button and Zoom lever is the camera's speaker. A Power button is on the other side of the Mode dial.

The rest of the exposure controls are located on the camera's back panel, along with the optical viewfinder and LCD monitor. The eye-level optical viewfinder features two LED lamps that report camera status. A Mode switch puts the camera into Playback or Record modes, and is adjacent to the top right corner of the LCD monitor. Below the Mode switch is a four-button pad that operates similarly to the round arrow pads found on other digital cameras. Although the keys don't feature arrows, they operate in the same manner when navigating settings menus. The top button also controls flash mode, while the bottom button accesses Macro and Manual Focus modes. Lining the bottom of the LCD display are the Set, Menu, Display, and Function / Erase buttons.

The A70's bottom panel is reasonably flat, with a sliding door to access the battery compartment and a threaded plastic tripod mount at about center. Because the battery door and tripod mount are so close to one another, it would be difficult to make quick battery changes while working with a tripod, something I always look at, given the amount of test shooting I do in the studio. On the other hand, Canon's AC adapter plugs into the side of the camera. Thus, for studio use, there's a convenient way to get power to the camera while on a tripod.

Camera Operation

While the A70's user interface may seem slightly cryptic at first approach, it's actually quite efficient. Most camera functions are controlled externally, and a few of the external control buttons serve multiple functions. When you do need to enter the LCD menu system, navigation is very straightforward with only two pages of options. That said, the majority of external controls do require the LCD display to be active. Regardless, the A70's external controls cut down on the amount of time spent searching menu screens, and I particularly like the "Function" menu which has become standard on Canon digicam models in the 2003 model year. Combined with the instruction manual, the A70's user interface shouldn't take more than an hour to get comfortable with.



External Controls


Shutter Button
: Resting in the center of the Zoom lever, this button sets focus and exposure when halfway pressed, and fires the shutter when fully pressed.

Zoom Lever: Surrounding the Shutter button on the top panel, this lever controls the optical and digital zoom while in Record mode.

In Playback mode, the "W" side displays a nine-image index display of all images on the memory card, and accesses a "Jump" function that lets you scroll through index display screens quickly. Alternatively, the "T" position enlarges the currently displayed image as much as 10x, so that you can check on fine details.


Mode Dial
: Also on the camera's top panel, this large, notched dial is used to select the camera's shooting modes. Canon divides these functions into three categories: Auto, Image Zone, and Creative Zone. The options are as follows:

  • Auto: The camera controls everything about the exposure, except for Flash and Macro modes, image size and quality settings.
  • Creative Zone
    • Program AE (P): Places the camera in control of shutter speed and lens aperture, while you maintain control over everything else (i.e., white balance, ISO, metering, exposure compensation, flash, etc.).
    • Shutter-Speed Priority AE (Tv): Allows you to control the shutter speed settings from 1/2,000 to 15 seconds, while the camera controls the aperture. All other exposure settings are available.
    • Aperture Priority AE (Av): Allows you to set the lens aperture from f/2.8 to f/8.0, while the camera controls the shutter speed. The maximum aperture depends on the zoom setting, ranging from f/2.8 at the wide angle end to f/4.8 at the telephoto position. In this mode, you maintain control over all other exposure variables.
    • Manual (M): Provides complete control over all exposure settings, including shutter speed and lens aperture.
  • Image Zone
    • Portrait: Uses a large aperture setting to blur the background while keeping the primary subject in sharp focus.
    • Landscape: Employs a small aperture setting to keep both the background and foreground in focus. (May use a slower shutter speed, so a tripod is recommended.)
    • Night Scene: Uses slower shutter speeds and flash to even out nighttime exposures. The slow shutter speed allows more ambient light to be recorded in the low-light areas, while the flash freezes the subject. The Red-Eye Reduction mode can be used with this exposure mode to eliminate Red-Eye in night portraits.
    • Fast Shutter: Uses fast shutter speeds to stop action and maintain sharp focus on moving subjects.
    • Slow Shutter: Uses slow shutter speeds to blur fast-moving subjects.
    • Stitch-Assist: Allows you to record a series of images, either horizontally, vertically, or in a clockwise, 360-degree pattern, to be "stitched" together into one large image or panorama on a computer.
    • Movie: Records as long as three minutes of moving images with sound, at approximately 15 frames per second.


Power Button
: To the left of the Mode dial, this button turns the camera on or off.


Mode Switch
: Adjacent to the top right corner of the LCD monitor on the rear panel, this switch selects between Record and Playback modes.


Four-Button Function Pad
: These four buttons are arranged in a diamond pattern on the rear panel, next to the LCD monitor. Although not marked with arrows, they serve as the left, right, up, and down arrow keys to navigate through settings menus. In Record mode, the left and right buttons adjust available exposure settings, as well as manual focus, when enabled. The top button controls flash mode, while the bottom button accesses Macro and Manual Focus modes.

In Playback mode, the left and right buttons scroll through captured images. When an image has been enlarged, all four arrows pan within the view.


Function / Erase Button
: Beneath the lower right corner of the LCD monitor, this button displays the following Function menu while in Record mode:

  • Exposure Compensation: Increases or decreases the exposure from -2 to +2 exposure equivalents (EV) in one-third-step increments. Not available in Manual mode, since the user controls the exposure variables directly there.
  • Flash Output: (Manual mode only, takes the place of the Exposure Compensation option): Adjusts the overall flash intensity from Low to Full, in Manual mode only. In Manual mode, the flash fires only a single pulse, handy when you want to use the A70 with conventional "slave" triggers for external flash units.
  • White Balance: Controls the color balance of images. Options are Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Tungsten, Fluorescent, Fluorescent H, and Custom (manual setting).
  • Drive Mode: Accesses Continuous Shooting and the two Self-Timer modes (a 2 or 10 second delay).
  • ISO Speed: Sets the camera's sensitivity to Auto (except in Manual), or to 50, 100, 200, or 400 ISO equivalents.
  • Photo Effect: Enables Vivid Color, Neutral Color, Low Sharpening, Sepia, or Black-and-White picture effects.
  • Light Metering System: Sets the metering mode to Evaluative, Center-Weighted, or Spot.
  • Resolution: Specifies the image resolution and quality settings. Still image resolutions are 2,048 x 1,536; 1,600 x 1,200; 1,024 x 768; and 640 x 480 pixels. Quality options (activated by pressing the Set button) are Superfine, Fine, and Normal. Movie resolutions are 640 x 480, 320 x 240, and 160 x 120 pixels.

In Playback mode, this button displays the single-image erase menu.


Display Button
: To the left of the Function / Erase button, this button controls the information and image display modes in Record and Playback modes.


Menu Button
: Directly to the left of the Display button, this button calls up the settings menu in Record and Playback modes. It also dismisses the menu screen and backs out of menu selections.


Set Button
: The final button in the series beneath the LCD monitor, this button confirms menu selections. It also switches between available exposure adjustments in Manual mode.


Battery Compartment Latch
: Nestled in the center of the battery compartment door on the bottom of the camera, this sliding switch unlocks the door, so that it can slide forward and open.


Lens Ring Release Button
: Tucked under the lens on the camera's front panel, this button releases the lens ring. Once unlocked, the lens ring can then be turned and removed to accommodate accessory lens kits.



Camera Modes and Menus

Record Mode: Marked on the Mode switch with the red camera icon, this mode sets up the camera for capturing still and moving images. The following exposure modes are available:

  • Manual (M): Provides complete control over all exposure settings, including shutter speed and lens aperture.
  • Shutter-Speed Priority AE (Tv): Allows you to control the shutter speed settings from 1/2,000 to 15 seconds, while the camera controls the aperture. All other exposure settings are available.
  • Aperture Priority AE (Av): Allows you to set the lens aperture from f/2.8 to f/8.0 (depending on the zoom setting), while the camera controls the shutter speed. In this mode, you maintain control over all other exposure variables.
  • Program AE (P): Places the camera in control of shutter speed and lens aperture, while you maintain control over everything else (i.e., white balance, ISO, metering, exposure compensation, flash, etc.).
  • Auto: The camera controls everything about the exposure, except for Flash and Macro modes, and image size and quality settings.
  • Portrait: Uses a large aperture setting to blur the background and keep the primary subject in sharp focus.
  • Landscape: Employs a small aperture setting to keep both the background and foreground in focus.
  • Night Scene: Uses slower shutter speeds and flash to even out nighttime exposures. The slow shutter speed allows more ambient light to be recorded in the low-light areas, while the flash fully exposes the subject.
  • Fast Shutter: Uses fast shutter speeds to stop action and maintain sharp focus on moving subjects.
  • Slow Shutter: Uses slow shutter speeds to blur fast-moving subjects.
  • Stitch-Assist: Allows you to record a series of images, either horizontally, vertically, or in a clockwise, 360-degree pattern, to be "stitched" together into one large image or panorama on a computer.
  • Movie: Records as long as three minutes of moving images with sound, at approximately 15 frames per second.

Record Menu: Pressing the Menu button in Record mode pulls up the following options (not all options are available in all modes):

  • AiAF: Turns the AiAF system on or off. If on, the camera judges focus based on the subject's proximity to five focus areas in the center of the image. If off, the camera bases focus on the very center of the frame.
  • Red-Eye Reduction: Turns the Red-Eye Reduction pre-flash on or off, which works with all flash modes.
  • AF Assist Beam: Turns the AF Assist light on or off. If on, the light automatically illuminates in dark shooting conditions.
  • Digital Zoom: Turns the 3.2x digital zoom on or off.
  • Review: Turns the instant image review function on or off, with available image display times from two to 10 seconds.

Playback Mode: This mode lets you review captured images and movies on the memory card, as well as erase them, protect them, or tag them for printing and transfer. The traditional green Playback symbol denotes this mode on the Mode switch. Pressing the Menu button displays the following options:

  • Protect: Marks the current image for write-protection, or removes write-protection. Protected images cannot be deleted or manipulated, except through card formatting, which erases all files.
  • Rotate: Rotates the current image 90 degrees clockwise.
  • Sound Memo: Records a short sound clip to accompany a captured image.
  • Erase All: Erases all files on the memory card, except protected ones.
  • Auto Play: Automatically plays all captured images in a slide show.
  • Print Order: Determines how many copies of the current image will be printed, with options for creating an index print, imprinting the date and time, and imprinting the file number.
  • Transfer Order: Marks images to be transferred via email.

Setup Menu: This menu is available in all exposure modes, simply by pressing the Menu button and selecting the Setup tab.

  • Beep: Turns the camera's beep sounds on and off.
  • Auto Power Down: Toggles the camera's automatic shutoff function, which turns off the camera after a length of inactivity.
  • Date/Time: Sets the camera's internal calendar and clock.
  • Format: Formats the CompactFlash card, erasing all files (even those marked for write-protection).
  • Shutter Volume: Controls the volume of the camera's shutter sound.
  • Playback Volume: Adjusts playback volume for recorded movies and voice captions.
  • Startup Volume: Adjusts the volume of startup sounds.
  • Operation Volume: Controls the volume of camera sounds for specific operations.
  • Self-Timer Volume: Controls the volume of the self-timer countdown beep.
  • File No. Reset: Resets file numbering with each new CompactFlash card. If disabled, the camera continues numbering in sequence, regardless of memory card.
  • Distance Units: Sets the manual focus indicator to Meters/Centimeters or Feet/Inches.
  • Language: Sets the camera's menu language to one of 12 choices. English is the default setting.
  • Video System: Designates the camera's video-out signal as NTSC or PAL.

My Camera Menu: This is the third menu tab on the menu screen, and appears in every mode.

  • Theme: Selects a common theme for each My Camera menu settings item. Four options are available, the first one being Off. When a theme is selected, all of the following settings automatically adjust to that theme.
  • Startup Image: Sets the startup image when you turn on the camera to: Black screen, Canon logo, Canon logo w / sunset, and nature scene. You can also apply your own image using the Canon software.
  • Startup Sound: Sets the startup sound when you turn on the camera to: No sound, Musical tone (1), Musical tone (2), or Birds chirping. You can also apply your own sounds using the Canon software.
  • Operation Sound: Sets the sound when any control or switch is use (except the Shutter button). Options include Beep, Loud beep, Boing, and Chirp.
  • Self-Timer Sound: Sets the sound that signals you when the shutter release is two seconds away. Options include Fast beeps (1), Fast beeps (2), Telephone ring, and Howling.
  • Shutter Sound: Sets the shutter sound that you hear when you depress the Shutter button (there is no shutter sound in Movie mode). Options include Beep, Shutter sound, Boing, and Bark.

Test Images

See the full set of my sample pictures and detailed analysis here. The thumbnails below show a subset of my test images. Click on a thumbnail to see the full-size photo.

Outdoor
Indoor
Indoor Flash

House
Musicians
Macro

Davebox
Resolution
Viewfinder Accuracy

 

"Gallery" Photos
For those readers interested in a set of less "standardized" photos from the P10, here are some thumbnails of more random shots snapped with it. Click on one any of the thumbnails below for a larger view. Click on the larger view again to see the original image from the camera. (Photos in this gallery were shot by Gibbs Frazeur or Stephanie Boozer. Thanks Gibbs and Stephanie!)

NOTE: that these are big files, so be aware that (a) they'll take a while to download, and (b) they'll chew up a pretty good chunk of bandwidth on us. (Read the "support this site" blurb at the top the carrier pages, and think about it while you're waiting for the images to download.

NOTE TOO: Some browsers have difficult with very wide images, and distort them a lot when they display them. (I don't know about others, but IE 5.0 on the Mac definitely does this. If the full-sized images appear to be stretched horizontally, you may need to just download them to your hard drive and view them in an imaging application, or possibly try another browser.)

Click to see YIMG_1087.JPG
YIMG_1087.JPG
1,761.8 KB
Shutter: 1/1000
Aperture: F3.2
Exposure EV: 13.3
ISO Speed: 100
Click to see YIMG_1088.JPG
YIMG_1088.JPG
1,151.9 KB
Shutter: 1/200
Aperture: F2.8
Exposure EV: 10.6
ISO Speed: 100
Click to see YIMG_1089.JPG
YIMG_1089.JPG
2,126.9 KB
Shutter: 1/800
Aperture: F2.8
Exposure EV: 12.6
ISO Speed: 100
Click to see YIMG_1091.JPG
YIMG_1091.JPG
447.9 KB
Shutter: 1/640
Aperture: F3.2
Exposure EV: 12.6
ISO Speed: 100
Click to see YIMG_1093.JPG
YIMG_1093.JPG
2,165.3 KB
Shutter: 1/1000
Aperture: F4
Exposure EV: 13.9
ISO Speed: 100
Click to see YIMG_1098.JPG
YIMG_1098.JPG
1,808.7 KB
Shutter: 1/1000
Aperture: F4
Exposure EV: 13.9
ISO Speed: 100
Click to see YIMG_1100.JPG
YIMG_1100.JPG
1,476.2 KB
Shutter: 1/800
Aperture: F3.5
Exposure EV: 13.2
ISO Speed: 100
Click to see YIMG_1103.JPG
YIMG_1103.JPG
447.9 KB
Shutter: 1/1000
Aperture: F3.2
Exposure EV: 13.3
ISO Speed: 100
 


Specifications

See camera specifications here.

User Reviews

Picky Details

Cycle times, shutter lag, battery life, etc. can be found here.

Test Results
In keeping with my standard test policy, the comments given here summarize only my key findings. For a full commentary on each of the test images, see the A70's "pictures" page.

As with all Imaging Resource product tests, I 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 A70's images compare to other cameras you may be considering.

  • Color: Throughout my testing, the A70 produced very good color, with accurate, believable results in virtually all cases. Saturation was appropriate, and hue accuracy was very good. I noticed slight oversaturation in the additive primaries (strong reds, greens, and blues), but it was slight indeed, and skin tones were generally natural and accurate. White balance was very good under virtually all light sources, even the very difficult household incandescent lighting of my "indoor portrait" test, although that light source required either the Incandescent or Manual white balance options, as the Auto setting had quite a bit of trouble. Overall, an excellent job in the color department.

  • Exposure: The A70's metering system did a good job throughout my testing. Surprisingly, it even managed a good exposure on the high-key outdoor portrait shot, which almost always requires at least some positive exposure compensation. It did underexpose the indoor portrait shot somewhat, both with and without flash, requiring some positive exposure compensation to achieve a good exposure. On my "Davebox" test, the A70 had no trouble distinguishing the subtle pastel tones on the Q60 target, and maintained great detail in the deep shadows. Overall, better than average exposure accuracy.

  • Resolution/Sharpness: The A70 performed well on the "laboratory" resolution test chart, with good results from its 3.2-megapixel CCD. It started showing artifacts in the test patterns at resolutions as low as 700 lines per picture height vertically, and around 600 lines horizontally. I found "strong detail" out to nearly 1,200 lines horizontally, although severe artifacts crept in as low as around 950 lines vertically. Picking a single number, I'd call it at around 1,100 lines, but feel compelled to note that it isn't actually that high for vertical detail. "Extinction" of the target patterns didn't occur until about 1,300 lines.

  • Closeups: The A70 performed well in the macro category, capturing a minimum area of 2.98 x 2.23 inches (76 x 57 millimeters). Resolution is high, with strong detail in the dollar bill, coins, and brooch. There's more softness in the corners here though, visible in all four corners of the frame. (This is a very typical failing in digicam macro modes, caused by "curvature of field" in the lens system, when operating at macro focusing distances.) The camera's flash had trouble throttling down for the macro area, and overexposed the shot. - Plan on using external illumination for your macro shots with the A70.

  • Night Shots: With a maximum shutter time of 15 seconds, and fully adjustable ISO settings, the A70 has great low-light shooting capabilities. Its autofocus-assist illuminator is a great help for focusing in dim shooting conditions as well. The camera produced clear, bright, usable images down to the 1/16 foot-candle (0.67 lux) limit of my test, with good color at all four ISO settings. The camera automatically employs a Noise Reduction system at longer exposure times, which did a great job of controlling image noise. Even at ISO 400, while noise was high, it had a tight, fine grain that made it less objectionable than it might otherwise have been. (Actually, the image noise in the long exposures below is much better than in the indoor portrait shot, where the exposure time was too short for the special long-exposure noise reduction to kick in.)

  • Viewfinder Accuracy: The A70's optical viewfinder is pretty tight, showing only 81 percent of the frame at wide angle, and 79 percent at telephoto. The CCD in the production model I tested also appeared to be rotated slightly, as images framed with the optical viewfinder were slanted. The LCD monitor actually proved to be just slightly loose, since my standard lines of measurement were just out of frame in the final images. Given that I like LCD monitors to be as close to 100 percent accuracy as possible, the A70's LCD monitor did quite well, but I really wish that its optical finder was more accurate.

  • Optical Distortion: Optical distortion on the A70 is slightly better than average at the wide-angle end, where I measured an approximate 0.7 percent barrel distortion. (This is close to the 0.8% average I've found among cameras I've tested, but I'd really like to see much less geometric distortion in digicam images than that.) The telephoto end fared better, as I measured only two pixels of barrel distortion, corresponding to about 0.1% distortion. Chromatic aberration is very low, showing only about two or three pixels of coloration on either side of the 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.) The most evident shortcoming I noticed in the A70's lens design is higher-than-average flare, particularly in the corners of its images, but present to a lesser extent across the frame as well.

  • Battery Life: The PowerShot A70 showed really excellent power consumption and battery life, particularly when the LCD is left off. Alas, the rather tight optical viewfinder means that you'll have to rely on the LCD screen for critical framing, which drops the battery life from exceptional to merely excellent. Regardless of the A70's long battery life though, I still strongly recommend that you purchase several sets of high-capacity NiMH AA cells and a good charger to go along with them. To see which NiMH cells are best, see my battery shootout page. Read my review of the Maha C-204F charger, to learn why it's my longtime favorite.


In the Box

The PowerShot A70 arrives with the following items:

  • Wrist strap.
  • Four AA-type alkaline batteries.
  • USB cable.
  • AV cable.
  • 16MB CompactFlash card.
  • Two software CDs.
  • Instruction manual, software guide, and registration kit.

Recommended Accessories

  • Larger capacity CompactFlash card.
  • Rechargeable batteries and charger.
  • AC adapter kit.
  • Soft case.
  • Lens accessory kits.

Recommended Software: Rescue your images!
Just as important as an extra memory card is a tool to rescue your images when one of your cards fails at some point in the future. I get a lot of email from readers who've lost photos due to a corrupted memory card. Memory card corruption can happen with any card type and any camera manufacturer, nobody's immune. A surprising number of "lost" images can be recovered with an inexpensive, easy to use piece of software though. Given the amount of email I've gotten on the topic, I now include this paragraph in all my digicam reviews. The program you need is called PhotoRescue, by DataRescue SA. Read our review of it if you'd like, but download the program now, so you'll have it. It doesn't cost a penny until you need it, and even then it's only $29, with a money back guarantee. So download PhotoRescue for Windows or PhotoRescue for Mac while you're thinking of it. (While you're at it, download the PDF manual and quickstart guide as well.) Stash the file in a safe place and it'll be there when you need it. Trust me, needing this is not a matter of if, but when... PhotoRescue is about the best and easiest tool for recovering digital photos I've seen. (Disclosure: IR gets a small commission from sales of the product, but I'd highly recommend the program even if we didn't.) OK, now back to our regularly scheduled review...

Conclusion

Midrange Point & Shoots
If you're interested in the camera in this review, here are some competing models that may also interest you. (Camera names that aren't links are those we haven't reviewed yet. - Stay tuned.)
Three Megapixel, 3x zoom
Canon A70 Prices
Fuji A303 Prices
Kodak DX4330 Prices
Minolta Xi (subcompact) Prices
Nikon 3100 Prices
Olympus 560 Prices
Olympus 550* Prices
Pentax 330GS Prices
Sony P72 Prices
* - model phasing out
Confused?
Check out Dave's Picks!
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As I mentioned at the outset, Canon's PowerShot A40 topped the charts on the IR website for popularity last year, outstripping all other camera models. - And for good reason: The A40 offered a rich set of features and excellent image quality at an attractive price. This year, the PowerShot A70 appears poised to follow in the A40's footsteps. Relative to last year's model, the A70 offers a good bit more resolution (3.2 vs 2.0 megapixels), a slightly expanded shutter-speed range, a slightly more accurate optical viewfinder, and a significantly improved user interface. I did see a good bit more lens flare on the A70 than on the A40, puzzling since the two lenses appear to be identical. (Perhaps a change in the optical coatings?) Also, while improved, the A70's optical viewfinder accuracy is still lower than I'd like to see. These two complaints aside though, I have nothing but praise for the A70. To my eye, Canon has managed an almost perfect combination of features, image quality and price for the mid-level consumer market. If you're looking for a great "all around" digicam, the A70 certainly deserves your serious consideration. Highly recommended.

 

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