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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 3:Design

Review First Posted: 5/10/2001

The Canon PowerShot A20 is a very portable 2.11-megapixel digicam, measuring 4.3 x 2.8 x 1.5 inches (110.3 x 71 x 37.6 millimeters) and weighing approximate 9 ounces (250 grams) without batteries. The molded plastic body has an attractive metallic champagne color on the front panel and a light gray finish on the back. It's compact and durable enough to travel just about anywhere, with a retractable lens cover that protects the 3x zoom while not in use, and eliminates the need for a separate lens cap. When the camera is powered on, the shutter-like cover slides open and the lens telescopes from the body into its operating position. This telescoping design keeps the 1-inch lens from protruding beyond the front surface of the camera when it's not in use, and makes it a little easier to slip into a pocket or purse. The A20's user interface is sensibly laid out, with well-marked external controls that are well within reach of the user's thumbs, and most suitable for two-handed control.

The front of the camera houses the telescoping lens, built-in flash, and optical viewfinder window. When the camera is powered on in one of the three Shooting modes, the lens is uncovered and projects about an inch from the body. A large, sculpted hand grip runs the along the right side of the camera, giving your fingers a significant hold on the body. The flash also serves as an AF Assist light, emitting a soft orange light that helps the camera judge focus in low-light situations. The orange light also blinks during the Self-Timer countdown -- slowly for the first 8 seconds and more quickly for the last two seconds. Canon has designed an ingenious method of attaching auxiliary lenses to the A20's telescoping zoom. A notched ring at the base of the lens barrel is loosened by the dust cap on the Canon LA-DC52 lens adapter, enabling you to attach the adapter in its place. The full adapter covers the lens mechanism when extended, and provides a set of 52mm filter threads to accommodate Canon's wide-angle and close-up lens converters.

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

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

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

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

The A20 offers a reasonably flat bottom panel, though there are a few minor ridges and indentations. The plastic, threaded tripod mount is too close to the battery compartment to allow quick battery changes while mounted on a tripod, though the side access of the DC-In slot ensures that you can connect the accessory AC adapter in the studio. The battery compartment door slides forward before opening outward, with a sliding lever in the center of the door that unlocks the door before it can be opened.

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