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Design

Despite its plastic body the A20 is surprisingly solid, everything has a good quality feel and is positioned where it should be, the hand grip despite its proportions is just about big enough to be useful and some users may well find holding the A20 more comfortable than the smaller IXUS 300.

Another difference between the A20 and A10 are the colour scheme used for the case, the A10 has a blue toned body and a blue hand grip. Control layout is simple and straight forward enough, buttons are noticeably larger than the IXUS 300 and more clearly labelled.

Good to see that Canon haven't compromised with the automatic lens cover, it's something we've seen on their camera since the earliest PowerShot models and it's welcome here on what is considered their entry level digital camera range.

Comparing the A20 to the IXUS 300 and Nikon's Coolpix 880 you can see that the A20 is bulkier than the IXUS and roughly the same height as (though wider than) the Coolpix 880. It's not pocketable but then it's not so big as to be a problem.

Pretty basic design but it works, the camera feels quite comfortable in your hand, it's well balanced and all the controls are located in logical places which give the camera an instant familiarity to both existing digital and film camera users.


Main LCD Display

The A20 appears to utilize the same 1.5" LCD found on the IXUS 300, the primary difference is that it's protected by a plastic window rather than the excellent anti-reflective material used on the IXUS. Having said that the LCD is remarkably bright for its size and is still fairly good even in sunlight.


Viewfinder

As with the IXUS the A20's viewfinder is typical of all viewfinders found on compact digital cameras, it's relatively small with no parallax error lines, just a set of brackets to indicate the center of the frame / left and right focus points. There's also no dioptre adjustment.

The lights beside the viewfinder indicate:

Green Steady (top) Good AF Lock
Green Blinking (top) Compact Flash activity / camera busy
Orange Steady (top) Flash charged / will use flash
Orange Blinking (top) Shake warning
Yellow Steady (bottom) Macro focus mode


Battery Compartment / Batteries

The A10 and A20 are the first digital cameras since the PowerShot 350 (pre 1996) which take standard AA batteries, all other models from the PowerShot 600 all the way through to the IXUS 300 have had either NiCD, NiMH or Lithium-Ion proprietary battery packs and chargers. This change is likely only to be seen at this "entry level", it helps Canon keep the price of the overall kit down and makes the camera "easier" for the beginner. Sadly supplied with a set of Alkaline's (which will most likely go straight into your TV remote) you'll want to get a decent set of NiMH rechargeable batteries (at least 1500 mAh) and a charger.

The compartment itself is held closed by a spring loaded catch which must be pulled across while unclipping the door, a good enough mechanism. The A10 and A20 also have an unusual polarity layout, grouping the batteries together in twos; -ve, -ve, +ve, +ve; instead of the "traditional" -ve, +ve, -ve, +ve.


Compact Flash compartment

The Compact Flash compartment door is in the rear of the hand grip, the A10 and A20 just like the IXUS 300 only support CF Type I (that is they don't support Type II or the IBM Microdrive). That said, the price of Type I CF cards are coming down month by month and you shouldn't have to pay more than $80 for a 64 MB card (something you'll probably have to consider as Canon only supply an 8 MB card with the camera).


Connections

Hidden behind a rubber (boo hiss) cover on the left side of the camera you'll find the AV out (yes, audio and video), Canon's tiny "digital connector" which enables USB connectivity via the supplied cable and a DC-IN connector (something the IXUS 300 doesn't have).

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