Conclusion - Pros
- Good resolution
- Clean and detailed results across the frame and zoom range
- Useful 35-210mm equiv. 6x zoom lens
- Effective image stabilization
- Fairly light noise reduction means less fine detail is lost at higher ISO settings (though see below)
- Fast, reliable focus
- Reliable exposure and white balance and accurate color (though a bit too 'vivid' by default)
- Sophisticated and comprehensive features and controls
- Good range of in-camera tonal and color adjustments
- Excellent build quality for a 'budget' camera
- Very little purple fringing
- Compact and lightweight
- Big, fairly bright (though low res) screen
- Excellent battery life from 2x NiMH batteries
- Good balance of noise reduction and detail retention at higher ISO settings
- Excellent macro mode
- Excellet movie quality
- Optional add-on lenses, filters, 40m underwater case and slave flash
- Good value for money
Conclusion - Cons
- Highlight clipping and occasional over-exposure in bright, contrasty conditions
- Combined card / battery compartment can make changing cards without losing the batteries fiddly
- Zoom is a bit jumpy (not enough steps between 35 and 210mm)
- No dedicated button for ISO and no custom modes / shortcuts
- Our sample had occasional auto orientation errors (landscape shots being tagged for rotation unnecessarily)
- Slow flash recycling (and fairly slow shot-to-shot times in general)
- Low res and very slightly laggy screen
- Images a bit soft viewed at 100% - benefit from a little sharpening
- ISO 400 and 800 do look quite noisy
Canon's A series PowerShots get better with each generation, and - thanks to the inclusion of extensive photographic control and technologies such as DIGIC II and image stabilization has lifted cameras like the A710 IS firmly out of the 'entry level' bracket they originally occupied.
The A710 IS takes the formula established with the A700 - well-priced, compact camera with big zoom and full photographic control - and adds the one thing that was missing, an effective optical image stabilization system. And in doing so it makes a good camera immeasurably better. The extra megapixel offers little if any real advantage; the resolution is increased slightly at ISO 80, but at higher ISO settings the slightly stronger NR soon gets rid of that.
Whilst there are other small cameras with big, stabilized lenses (most notably from Ricoh and Panasonic) the A710 IS has virtually no direct competitors thanks to an extensive feature set that offers enough to tempt the more serious photographer. Like all recent A series models it offers an awful lot of camera for what is (for Canon at least) a very low price. The output quality is surprisingly good, exposure (mostly) and focus reliable, and the amount of photographic control on offer is superb. The ability to further expand the A710's abilities with add-on lenses is also a definite plus point.
Of course it's not all good news; you have to watch the exposure and use AE compensation more than I'd like in bright, contrasty outdoor conditions - something Canon really needs to address. And the screen may be big and fairly bright, but it's not fantastic - the slight lag and low resolution are the compromises you have to accept if you're not shelling out for an S or G series. You also don't get custom modes, shortcut buttons or an external ISO control, or (less crucially) the latest fancy transition and playback effects.
But you do get a nicely designed, nicely built camera with more than enough features to keep most users happy. It's no surprise the more recent A series PowerShots have often been dubbed 'Mini Gs'.
Canon has carved out a nice little niche with the A series; workmanlike (I would say unglamorous, but the A710 IS has significantly improved styling), solid, dependable and affordable photographic tools that just take good pictures without too much effort. The A710 IS even manages to be truly compact, and it has something most A series models don't; character. It's the first A series I've used that I didn't simply admire for its reliability and excellent price/performance ratio. The A710 IS is actually a very nice, rewarding camera to use - sort of like a perky little brother to the PowerShot S3 IS.
If you don't mind it not being the fastest 'social' snapshot camera in the world (the flash recycling puts paid to that) and don't mind taking control of the manual controls (at least the AE compensation) when shooting on very bright days, this may well be just the camera you've been looking for.
Without the metering / clipping issues this would be an easy Highly Recommended. As it stands its unique combination of features and keen pricing just saves it from a lower rating. I wouldn't hesitate to recommend it to the more experienced photographer on a budget wanting a compact camera packed with goodies, perhaps less wholeheartedly so for the absolute beginner wanting true 'point and shoot' infallibility.
|Detail||Rating (out of 10)|
|Ergonomics & handling||8.5|
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