Unsurprisingly the A620 bears a close family resemblance to the A95 that preceded it, with the most significant external changes being the larger screen and lens, and the shuffling around of some of the rear panel controls. It's a little curvier and a little larger too, though only by a few millimeters (both cameras are considerably larger than the A510 / A520 models that sit below the A620 in the range). External controls are fairly minimal considering the huge feature set, with most everyday shooting functions accessed via the excellent FUNC menu - although I was very disappointed to see that unlike other recently released Canon compacts, there isn't a dedicated ISO button.
In your hand
First impressions of the A620, like the A95 before it, are that this is a very solid camera indeed. The front and top are encased in lightweight metal, the rear and grip are plastic. The grip is a little larger than the A95's, which makes the excellent handling of that model even better. The large shutter release and zoom lever are well placed for single-handed shooting. You cannot fault Canon when it comes to the build quality of the A620; it does not feel in any way like a budget camera, and, like the A95 before it, what it lacks in sex appeal it makes up for in fit and finish.
As with all A series PowerShots, the A620 is powered by AA batteries (four). Rechargeable (NiMH) batteries are not supplied in the box, so you'll need to budget for at least one set. The good news is that battery life is superb - Canon quotes 500 shots (using the CIPA standard, LCD monitor on) from a fully charged set of NiMH cells, and up to 1500 shots if you turn the LCD off and use the viewfinder. Our experience bore this out. Impressive.
The A620 completes Canon's migration to SD/MMC storage for its compact camera range (the A95 was CompactFlash). The card slot sits under a fairly sturdy hinged door at the base of the grip.
Despite being bigger, the screen is slightly lower resolution than the A95's LCD (115,000 pixels, as opposed to 118,000), which no doubt helps keep the price and battery consumption down. That said, it's bright and clear and gains up (brightens) very quickly if light levels drop. The screen shows very nearly 100% of the scene, and our only complaint is that - like most screens - it can be difficult to see in bright daylight.
The screen uses Canon's familiar 'vari-angle' design to allow it to be tilted to virtually any angle, and to be stored 'face in' to the camera body when not in use. Click on the thumbnail (left) to see the range of movement on offer.
The optical viewfinder is nothing to write home about; small with no dioptre adjustment and only showing around 80 per cent of the frame.That said it is fairly bright and clear. If you do decide to use the optical viewfinder you can, however, extend the battery life to almost 1500 shots on a single set of NiMH cells - and reduce shutter lag. Two LEDs to the right of the viewfinder indicate focus and flash status.
The small built-in flash is slightly more powerful than the A95's, and works well. There are three flash modes available; auto, on (forced), and off. You can turn red eye reduction and slow synch (including options for 1st or 2nd curtain synch) on or off using the on-screen menus. Canon sells an add-on slave flash unit (the HF-DC1), which attaches to the camera via a bracket and extends the flash range to 30 feet.
One of the most significant changes over the A95 is a longer zoom range - the A620 sports a 4x optical zoom (covering a useful 35 - 140mm equiv. range). It's nice and fast at the wide end of the zoom (F2.8), and better than previous models at the long end (F4.1). As with previous A series cameras the ring around the base of the lens can be removed to allow the attachment of wide or tele converters.
The large shutter release sits on top of the grip. It has a nice positive feeling and a distinct 'half way' point, meaning you won't accidentally take a shot when trying to activate the AF. The zoom lever is a large circular 'collar' around the shutter release. The zoom action is a bit on the 'jumpy' side, which can make fine framing a little awkward (there are only 7 steps over the entire 35-140mm range).
On top of the camera, behind the shutter release, sit the main power (on/off) switch, activity light and mode dial. This is pretty standard Canon stuff - idiot-proof Auto mode, manual and semi automatic exposure modes, movies, stitch assist and scene modes, and of course the now-ubiquitous Canon 'My Colors' mode.
The four-way controller is used to navigate the on-screen menus. In record mode the up key also changes flash mode, and the down key toggles auto, macro and manual focus modes.