Conclusion - Pros
- Good resolution, clean and detailed results
- Natural, accurate color
- Good edge-to-edge sharpness
- Useful 35-210mm equiv. 6x zoom lens
- Fast, reliable focus
- Reliable exposure and white balance
- Sophisticated and comprehensive range of features and controls
- Excellent build quality for a budget camera
- Very little purple fringing
- Compact and lightweight
- Big bright screen
- Excellent battery life from 2x NiMH batteries
- Low noise at ISO 50-200
- Good balance of noise reduction and detail retention at ISO 400
- Excellent macro mode
- Optional add-on lenses, filters and slave flash
- Good value for money
Conclusion - Cons
- Clipped highlights and occasional exposure problems in bright, contrasty conditions
- Occasional clipping of very bright reds and yellows in bright conditions
- Zoom is a bit jumpy (not enough steps between 35 and 210mm)
- No ISO button
- Slow flash recycling (and fairly slow shot-to-shot times in general)
- Low screen resolution
- No image stabilization means 210mm end of zoom needs bright light
- ISO 800 setting of limited use due to high noise levels
Canon's A series PowerShots have proved very popular with photographers, thanks to the winning combination of keen pricing, a full and comprehensive feature set and solid build quality. The A700 is no exception, and will no doubt prove just as popular. Image quality leaves little room for complaint, aside from the highlight clipping in contrasty situations, and the lens seems to be surprisingly good considering its wide 35-210mm range and small size. Of course the usefulness of such a long telephoto is reduced slightly by the lack of image stabilization - the ISO 800 setting is too noisy to be an alternative to optical blur reduction - but for occasional use, especially in good light, it's nice to have the option to 'zoom in' properly every now and again.
Like every A series PowerShot I've ever tried, the A700 offers an awful lot of bang for your buck, and more importantly, is a frill-free but very reliable photographic tool with remarkably reliable focus, exposure and color in a wide variety of shooting situations. If you're looking for a compact camera with full photographic control and like the idea of a bit extra at the long end of the zoom then the A700 is a fairly easy choice (mainly due to the lack of direct competition).
So would I buy one? That's a more difficult question. At the moment the A700 sits pretty much in a class of its own; there are equally compact, similarly-priced cameras with big zooms on the market, some (such as the Panasonic LZ5) with the added benefit of image stabilization. But none offers the level of photographic control or the added versatility of add-on lenses (and flash), and my experiences with the A700 would indicate that you can get away without image stabilization at focal lengths of up to 210mm equiv. in most daytime shooting situations. Because of this (and if you can live without the tilting screen) I'd certainly choose the A700 over the A610 or A620.
But the question must be who is this camera aimed at? The added zoom range is a bonus, but the lack of image stabilization means there are better cameras out there for anyone who is likely to be shooting at the long end of the zoom on a regular basis. More casual users looking for a quick and easy snapshot camera would be better looking at something like the Ixus / Elph range, which don't suffer from the long flash recycle times and are more pocketable. More serious users wanting a big zoom might be better sacrificing the pocketability and going for something like the Panasonic FZ7, which doesn't cost a great deal more. If you sit in the middle then the A700 is probably perfect.
In conclusion the A700 is, like the other cameras at the top of the A series range, ideal for anyone looking for a camera that offers real photographic control in a compact and affordable package. If you were considering a 3X or 4X zoom compact camera and don't have a huge budget then the A700 is - though far from perfect - a nice alternative that has much to offer.