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Canon PowerShot A20

Canon's "value priced" 2 megapixel camera has 3x zoom, takes great pictures!

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Page 2:Executive Overview

Review First Posted: 5/10/2001

Executive Overview
The Canon PowerShot A20 features a compact body design, easy-to-use menu interface, and a 2.11-megapixel CCD that delivers clear, sharp, colorful images. Although slightly larger than Canon's Digital ELPH models, the PowerShot A20 is very portable, measuring just 4.3 x 2.8 x 1.5 inches (110.3 x 71.0 x 37.6 mm), which is small enough to fit into a large shirt or coat pocket or average size purse. The slightly larger camera size provides a more substantial hand grip and a longer lens extension than the PowerShot S100 or S300. The built-in, retractable lens cover slides quickly out of the way when the camera is powered on in Shooting (Record) mode, and the telescoping lens extends 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 the information display appears whenever a control button is pushed, even if the LCD monitor is not in use). The A20 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 setting. Focus is automatically controlled, with Normal, Macro, or Infinity focus modes available by pressing the right arrow button on the back panel. (Infinity is only available in Manual mode.) There's also an Autofocus Assist light (an orange light emitted by the flash) to aid focusing in dark situations. The 2.5x 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 into a panoramic image.

The A20 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 automatic noise reduction system for exposures slower than 1/6 second (which works quite well). 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 on the back of the camera 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 A20'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 1,600 x 1,200, 1,024 x 768, and 640 x 480 pixels, with selectable compression levels of Superfine, Fine, and Normal. You can download images directly from the camera 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 3x zoom lens make the Canon A20 a worthy traveling companion, slipping into a pocket, purse, or backpack with ease. Though exposure is automatically controlled, the A20 does offer a nice range of features with which to experiment, as well as the freedom to leave the camera in control of all operations. The 2.11-megapixel CCD captures sharp images with good color and resolution, making the A20 an excellent option for those consumers who want a high-quality digicam with the convenience of automatic exposure control and portable size.

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