Digital Camera Home > Digital Camera Reviews > Canon Digital Cameras > Canon PowerShot A80

The Imaging Resource

Quick Review

Canon PowerShot A80 Digital Camera

Camera QuickLook
Review Date
12/28/2003 
User Level
Novice to Experienced
Product Uses
Family / Travel / Special Events
Digicam Design
Point-and-Shoot or Manual control
Picture Quality
Very Good, 4.1-megapixel CCD
Print Sizes
4x6, 5x7, 8x10 inches
Availability
Now
Suggested Retail Price
(At introduction)
$399

 

Introduction

Review Links
Overview
Picky
Details
Design
Operation
Test Images
Specifications
Conclusion

The Canon PowerShot A80 is the latest in a long line of high-quality digicams from Canon. 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. The 4.1-megapixel PowerShot A80 updates this extensive line by improving on an already well-received model, the 3.3-megapixel PowerShot A70.

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 PowerShot A70 updated the A40, with a larger CCD, more manual controls, and a slightly different control layout. Now, the Canon PowerShot A80 continues the series with a 4.1-megapixel CCD, larger AF point spread, and a rotating LCD monitor. 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 A80 has a full range of creative effects, and the benefit of Canon optics with its 3x zoom lens. The A70 was a definite bargain with its competitive price and heavy feature set, and the A80 looks to be just as much of a deal. Read on for more details.

Camera Overview
The Canon PowerShot A80 looks very similar to the previous A70 model, and indeed features many of the same exposure options and features. However, this newest addition to the PowerShot A-series boasts a larger CCD at 4.1 megapixels, for a larger maximum resolution of 2,272 x 1,704 pixels. The increased resolution allows printing to 8x10 inches and slightly larger with great detail. (Lower resolutions are also available, including an email-friendly size.) Other enhancements over the A70 include a rotating LCD monitor, nine-point AiAF system, and two Custom shooting modes, which let you save individual sets of exposure options that can be quickly recalled. The A80's all-plastic, two-toned silver body is lightweight and compact, although just a little too large for the average shirt pocket. Still, the A80 should easily fit into larger coat pockets and purses, and comes with a wrist strap for more security while shooting. Like many Canon digicams, the A80 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 A80 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 7.8-23.4mm lens, the A80 offers a 3x optical zoom range equivalent to a 38-114mm 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 A80 uses Canon's AiAF (Artificial Intelligence Auto Focus) system, which judges focus based on a nine-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 A80 also offers a manual focus mode, displaying a numeric distance scale on the LCD display. A bright orange AF Assist Beam 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 A80 also offers as much as 3.6x 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 A80 has both a real-image optical viewfinder and 1.5-inch LCD monitor for composing images. The LCD monitor lifts out of a compartment on the rear panel and flips out to face the front of the camera. It can then swivel 270 degrees. In addition to the selection of viewing angles, another benefit is that you can flip the LCD monitor around to face the rear and then close it up in the compartment, thus protecting it from incidental scratches. (When you do so, the LCD is automatically powered off and the lens aperture closed to conserve power and protect the CCD sensor). The LCD monitor's information display includes detailed exposure information, including shutter speed and aperture settings in the manual shooting modes.

Like the A70 before it, the A80 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 or vertically. They 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 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 A80 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 A80'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 A80 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 A80 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 at startup or to button functions. For further camera customization, the A80 features two Custom modes (C1 and C2 on the Mode dial), which let you save a set of exposure settings for quick recall. For example, if you're shooting at a wedding and moving between indoor and outdoor scenes, you could easily save the exposure settings for both conditions and then switch between the two presets.

The A80 stores images on CompactFlash memory cards, and comes with a 32MB starter card. I highly recommend purchasing a larger-capacity CompactFlash card right away, given the A80's maximum 2,272 x 1,704-pixel resolution. The camera uses four AA-sized batteries for power, either alkaline or NiMH type. Four alkaline batteries come with the camera, but I 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 rear of the camera, but good-quality rechargeable batteries really eliminate the need for it. The A80 features a USB jack for quickly downloading images to a computer, and comes with two software CDs, one loaded with Canon Digital Camera Solution Disk version 14.0 and the other loaded with ArcSoft Camera Suite version 1.2 (both 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 A80 is DPOF (Digital Print Order Format) compatible, with a range of print settings available through the Playback menu. The camera can also print directly to several of Canon's accessory photo printers.

Basic Features

  • 4.1-megapixel CCD delivering image resolutions as large as 2,272 x 1,704 pixels.
  • 1.5-inch color LCD monitor.
  • Real-image optical viewfinder.
  • Glass, 3x 7.8-23.4mm lens (equivalent to 38-114mm zoom on a 35mm camera).
  • 3.6x 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 and shutter speed.
  • Shutter speed range from 1/2,000 to 15 seconds, depending on aperture.
  • 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

Offering a complete range of auto and manual exposure controls, the A80 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 4.1-megapixel CCD captures high quality images, quite suitable for printing as large as 8x10-inches (and slightly larger) 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 A80 fun too. Like the A70 before it, the A80 is 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 A80 could be the camera for you.

 

Design

The A80's compact body has a solid feel, thanks to a combination of plastic body and metal decorative panels, plus a healthy heft. Measuring 4.1 x 2.5 x 1.4 inches (103 x 65 x 35 millimeters), the A80 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 A80 has a modest heft, with its 12.9-ounce (368-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 A80'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 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 one of the connector compartments, covered by a flexible, rubbery-plastic flap that snaps in and out of place. (This compartment shares the rubbery flap with a second one on the rear panel, and the flap wraps around the corner.) 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) and A/V Out jacks.

The A80's top panel features a Mode dial, with 14 shooting positions divided into three basic categories: Auto Exposure, Image Zone, and Creative Zone. The Shutter button is located diagonally in front 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. Directly beside the Power button is a small LED, which lights green when the camera is powered on.

The rest of the exposure controls are located on the camera's rear panel, along with the optical viewfinder and rotating LCD monitor. The LCD monitor lifts off of the rear panel to face forward, and can also swivel 270 degrees to face several viewing angles. 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-way multi-controller that navigates settings menus, pressing up, down, left, and right. The top edge also controls flash mode, while the bottom edge accesses Macro and Manual Focus modes. Below the multi-controller are the Function/Erase and Display buttons. The Set and Menu buttons are just beneath the LCD monitor. Also on the rear panel is the DC In jack, covered by a flexible, rubbery flap that wraps around from the side of the camera.

The A80'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 back of the camera. Thus, for studio use, there's a convenient way to get power to the camera while on a tripod. The location of the CompactFlash door on the side of the camera is also conducive to use on a tripod.

 

Camera Operation

While the A80'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 main pages of options. That said, the majority of external controls do require the LCD display to be active. Regardless, the A80'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 A80's user interface shouldn't take more than an hour to get comfortable with.

Record Mode LCD Display: In Record mode, the A80's LCD reports various exposure settings, including camera modes, the resolution and quality settings, number of available images, etc. Half-pressing the Shutter button reports the aperture and shutter speed settings, in all modes except Manual. Pressing the Display button cycles through the available display modes, including the image with information, no display at all, and the image only.

Playback Mode LCD Display: In Playback mode, the LCD reports the image series number, resolution and quality setting, file name, and the date and time of image capture. Pressing the Display button once pulls up an enhanced information display, with a histogram for checking the exposure. A third press cancels the information overlay entirely.


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 (see previous image): Surrounding the Shutter button on the top panel, this lever controls the optical and digital zoom while in Record mode. In Playback mode (when not using the playback zoom), 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/4.9 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. As with aperture-priority mode, the maximum aperture varies with the zoom setting from f/2.8 to f/4.9. The fastest shutter speed varies with the aperture and zoom setting:
      • 1/1000 at all apertures
      • 1/1250 at f/3.2 (wide) or f/5.6 (tele) to f/8
      • 1/1600 or 1/2000 at f/4.5 - f/8 (wide) or fixed at f/8 (tele)
    • Custom 1 and 2 (C1 and C2): These positions recall previously-saved exposure settings.
  • 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, 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.


Multi-Controller Rocker Button
: This four-way rocker button isn't marked with arrows, but actuates left, right, up, and down, simulating 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
: Directly below the Multi-Controller, 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 in three steps from Low to Full. In Manual mode, the flash fires only a single pulse, handy when you want to use the A80 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 High Speed Continuous Shooting modes, and the two Self-Timer modes (a two- 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 2,272 x 1,704; 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 320 x 240 and 160 x 120 pixels.

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


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


Menu Button
: Underneath the lower right corner of the LCD monitor, 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
: To the left of the Menu button, 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:

  • C1 and C2: These custom modes instantly call up a previously-saved set of exposure options.
  • Manual (M): Provides complete control over all exposure settings, including shutter speed and lens aperture (available shutter speeds depend on the aperture and lens zoom settings).
  • 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 or vertically, 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 nine focus areas arrayed 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.
  • MF-Point Zoom: Turns the MF Point zoom option on or off. If on, the center of the frame is enlarged on the LCD display for better viewing while adjusting the manual focus.
  • 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 variable 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 in one second steps.
  • Reverse Display: Designates whether images are displayed in reverse when the LCD monitor is open and tilted 180 degrees.
  • Save Settings: Saves the currently-set camera settings in both the Function and Record menus as either C1 or C2, for instant recall via the C1 and C2 options on the Mode dial.

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 or 270 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 to a computer later.

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

  • Mute: Turns the camera's start-up, operation, self-time, shutter and playback sounds on and off.
  • Volume: Displays the volume settings for the camera's start-up, operation, self-timer, shutter, and playback sounds.
  • Power Saving: Accesses the camera's Auto Power Down and Display Off settings. Power Down can be enabled or disabled, and Display Off can be set to 10 / 20 / 30 seconds, or 1 / 2 / 3 minutes.
  • Date/Time: Sets the camera's internal calendar and clock.
  • Format: Formats the CompactFlash card, erasing all files (even those marked for write-protection).
  • File No. Reset: Resets file numbering with each new CompactFlash card. If disabled, the camera continues numbering in sequence, regardless of memory card.
  • Auto Rotate: Specifies whether images appear vertically in the LCD monitor when the camera is held vertically.
  • 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, nature scene and user. You can apply your User image in Playback mode by pressing the Display button and choosing an image from the CompactFlash card. The image is copied to the camera's internal memory, and is still displayed when the CompactFlash card is removed.
  • 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 apply User sounds in Playback mode by pressing the Display button and choosing a sound from the CompactFlash card. The sound is copied to the camera's internal memory, and is still displayed when the CompactFlash card is removed.
  • Operation Sound: Sets the sound when any control or switch is use (except the Shutter button). Options include Beep, Loud beep, Boing, Chirp and User. See the Startup Sound item for a description of User sounds.
  • 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, Howling and User. See the Startup Sound item for a description of User sounds.
  • 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, Bark and User. See the Startup Sound item for a description of User sounds.

 

In the Box

The PowerShot A80 arrives with the following items:

  • Wrist strap WS-200.
  • Four AA-type alkaline batteries.
  • USB cable IFC-300PCU.
  • AV cable AVC-DC100.
  • 32MB CompactFlash card FC-32M.
  • Two software CDs.
  • Instruction manual, software guide, and registration kit.

 

Recommended Accessories

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...

 

Specifications

See camera specifications here.

 

Picky Details

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

 

Sample Pictures

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

Outdoor
Indoor
Indoor Flash
 

 

 

House
Musicians
Macro
 

 

 

Davebox
Resolution
Viewfinder Accuracy

 

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 A80'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 A80's images compare to other cameras you may be considering.

  • Color: Excellent color. Throughout my testing, the A80 produced very good color, with accurate, believable results in virtually all cases. Saturation was about right, and hue accuracy was very good. (Although the blue flowers were a little dark in the outdoor portrait shot, they were surprisingly accurate under my very difficult indoor lighting.) I noticed slight oversaturation in some of the additive primaries (strong reds and blues), and skin tones were generally natural and accurate (though slightly pinkish). 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, a very nice job.

  • Exposure: Better than average exposure accuracy. The A80's metering system did a pretty good job throughout my testing, although contrast was high in the high-key outdoor portrait shot, as well as in the outdoor house shot. Exposure was very good on the indoor portrait shot, without flash, requiring about average positive exposure compensation to achieve a good exposure. On my "Davebox" test, the A80 had no trouble distinguishing the subtle pastel tones on the Q60 target, and maintained great detail in the deep shadows. Overall, the A80 showed better than average exposure accuracy.

  • Resolution/Sharpness: Good resolution, but slightly soft, good for an entry level model, not up to the standard of high-end four-megapixel models though. The A80 performed well on the "laboratory" resolution test chart. It started showing artifacts in the test patterns at resolutions as low as 650~700 lines per picture height, in both horizontal and vertical directions. I found "strong detail" out to at least 1,150 lines. "Extinction" of the target patterns didn't occur until about 1,450 lines.

  • Closeups: Very good macro performance, but the flash overexposes up close. The A80 did very well in the macro category, capturing a minimum area of only 2.30 x 1.73 inches (59 x 44 millimeters). Resolution was very high, showing a lot of fine detail in the dollar bill. Although the coins and brooch are soft due to shallow depth of field at such a short shooting distance, detail is still pretty good in them, and it's very good in the details of the dollar bill. There's some softness in all four corners, but it isn't very strong. The A80's flash did have some throttling down for the macro area, however, overexposing the shot. (Plan on using external illumination for any really close work.)

  • Night Shots: Excellent low-light shooting capabilities, with low noise and good color. With full manual exposure control and a maximum exposure time of 15 seconds, the A80 performed very well in the low-light category. In my testing, the camera captured bright images down to the 1/16 foot-candle (0.67 lux) limit of my test at ISO settings of 100 and above, with good color at all four ISO settings and all light levels. Noise was low throughout most of the series, and even at ISO 400, I found the A80's noise to be quite acceptable. Since average city street lighting at night equates to a light level of about one foot-candle, the A80 ought to perform very well in even darker situations.

  • Viewfinder Accuracy: A tight optical viewfinder, but great accuracy with the LCD monitor. The A80's optical viewfinder is a bit tight, showing only 80 percent of the final frame area at wide angle, and about 82 percent at telephoto. The LCD monitor proved much more accurate, showing 98 percent accuracy at wide angle, and 99+ percent at telephoto. Given that I like LCD monitors to be as close to 100 percent accuracy as possible, the A80's LCD monitor performed very well, but I'd like to see a bit more accurate optical viewfinder accompanying it.

  • Optical Distortion: A good lens for a midrange camera. Optical distortion on the A80 was slightly less than average at the wide-angle end, where I measured an approximate 0.7 percent barrel distortion. The telephoto end fared much better, as I measured only half a pixel of barrel distortion, a level of about 0.03 percent. Chromatic aberration was low, showing about five pixels of very faint 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.) Overall, a good-quality lens for a mid-range camera - not up to the level of the lenses on the G3/G5 series, but quite adequate for enlargements to 8x10 and even 11x14.

  • Battery Life: Excellent battery life. The A80 displayed excellent battery life, with a worst-case run time of almost 3 hours, with 1600 mAh capacity cells. Battery life was an astonishing 18 hours when the LCD was left off in capture mode. Regardless of the A80'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.

Conclusion

Free Photo Lessons

Check out the Free Photo School program for lessons and tips on improving your photographs!
Simple pro lighting and use tips let you snap stunning photos. Check out our free Photo School area!

The PowerShot A80's "little brother" PowerShot A70 offered a rich set of features and excellent image quality at an attractive price. Following in its footsteps, the PowerShot A80 offers the same great features, though now with higher image quality from its 4.1-megapixel CCD. Other enhancements include a swiveling LCD monitor, broader AF point range, and two Custom exposure modes. The A80's feature set accommodates both novice and experienced user levels alike, with a friendly interface that's quick to grasp, and its image quality is first-rate. If you're looking for a great "all around" digicam, the A80 certainly deserves serious consideration. Easily a "Dave's Pick!"

 

Related Links

More Information on this camera from...

Megapixel.net:
Canon PowerShot A80, Canon Digital Cameras, Digital Cameras

DCViews:
Canon A80 review

 

Reader Comments!
Questions, comments or controversy on this article? Click this link to see what other Imaging Resource readers have had to say about Canon PowerShot A80, or add comments of your own!


Follow Imaging Resource:

Purchase memory card for Panasonic Lumix DMC-XS3 digital camera
Top 3 photos this month win:

1 $300 Adorama Gift Certificate

2 $200 Adorama Gift Certificate

3 $100 Adorama Gift Certificate