Canon A700 Review

 
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Canon A700 Optics

With a range from 35 - 210mm equivalent focal lengths, the Canon PowerShot A700's 6x zoom lens reaches out quite a bit further than the 3-4x zooms more common on consumer point & shoot digital cameras. In our shooting with it, the maximum 210mm equivalent telephoto focal length struck us as a nice compromise between the desire for more telephoto capability and the practical limits of hand-holding a non-stabilized lens.

That said, the Canon A700 faces stiff competition in the market, where more and more cameras are appearing with image-stabilized optics. Under normal daylight illumination, it's no problem at all to hold the A700 steady enough to get sharp photos, but when the sun starts to go down or hides behind clouds, it can be challenging to hold the camera still enough without a tripod. For daylight shots (or darker ones with a tripod), there's no question that the longer zoom is nice to have.

When it came to optical quality, our test results with the A700 were a very pleasant surprise: It showed average amounts of barrel and pincushion distortion (not bad for a long-ratio zoom lens), but much better than average corner sharpness and chromatic aberration than we normally find in consumer cameras. Overall, the Canon A700 does very well in the optics department, the one fly in the ointment being an optical viewfinder that's excessively tight, showing only about 77% of the final frame area. (Happily though, the LCD monitor is essentially 100% accurate.)

Lens

Zoom
A generous 6x optical zoom range, with good performance.

Canon PowerShot digital camera image Canon PowerShot digital camera image
35mm
210mm
4x Digital Zoom

The PowerShot zooms over the equivalent of a 35-210mm range, fairly unusual for its class (where 3x zoom predominate). The 4x digital zoom takes it out to 24x total with the loss of quality that digital zoom creates.

Macro
A small macro area with good detail and high resolution. Flash does not throttle down well at this range, so plan on using external flash for macro shots.

Canon PowerShot digital camera image
Standard Macro Macro with Flash

The PowerShot's macro setting performs well, capturing a small minimum area of 0.87 x 0.65 inches (22 x 16.5 millimeters). Detail is strong and resolution high, with only a moderate amount of softening in the corners from the lens. (Most cameras have some softening in the corners in macro mode.) Note, however, that Macro focuses only at the wide angle end of the zoom range, requiring you to move the lens very close to the subject and consequently blocking much of the available light. The flash, not surprisingly, doesn't throttle down well, so plan on using external lighting for your closest macro shots with the A700.

Distortion
Moderate barrel distortion.

This is the tendency for the lens to bend straight lines outward (like a barrel--usually at wide angle) or inward (like a pincushion--usually at telephoto). The A700's 0.80% barrel distortion at wide angle is average among the cameras I've tested. At the telephoto end, the A700's 0.22% pincushion distortion is also about average.

Barrel distortion at 35mm is 0.80%
Canon PowerShot digital camera image
Pincushion distortion at 210mm is 0.22%
Canon PowerShot digital camera image

Chromatic aberration
Quite low, small effect on images at edges.

Canon PowerShot digital camera image Canon PowerShot digital camera image
Wide: low, top left @ 200% Wide: low, top right @ 200%
Tele: quite low, top left @200% Tele: quite low, top right @200%

The Canon A700 showed much lower chromatic aberration than we're accustomed to seeing in cameras of its class. Small amounts of CA were visible in the corners at wide angle focal lengths, with even smaller amounts present at the telephoto end of the lens' range.

Corner Sharpness
Very slight softening in the corners of the frame, much less than average.

Wide: slightly soft
in the upper left corner.
Wide: sharper at center.
Tele: slightly soft
in the top left corner.
Tele: sharp at center.

The Canon A700 showed only a slight loss of sharpness in the corners of the frame, quite a bit less than is average among cameras of its class. The center of the frame was slightly sharper at wide angle than telephoto, but the difference between the two was minor indeed.

Viewfinder

Coverage
Optical viewfinder is very tight and skewed to the upper right. Very good accuracy from the LCD monitor.
Canon PowerShot digital camera image Canon PowerShot digital camera image
Wide Angle, optical viewfinder Telephoto, optical viewfinder
Canon PowerShot digital camera image Canon PowerShot digital camera image
Wide Angle, LCD monitor Telephoto, LCD monitor

The A700's optical viewfinder was quite tight, showing only about 77% frame accuracy at both wide angle and telephoto lens settings. However, the LCD monitor showed close to 100 percent frame accuracy.

The images above were taken from our standardized test shots. For a collection of more pictorial photos, see our Canon PowerShot A700 Photo Gallery.

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Note: For details, test results, and analysis of the many tests done with this camera, please click on the tabs at the beginning of the review or below.

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