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Design and Handling

The A720 IS will look familiar to anyone that's seen a Canon 'A-Series' camera before. It's a silver box with rounded corners and a bulge at one end. Whether you choose to want to look at it as an archetypal piece of design or an example of aesthetic laziness is up to you. Certainly it's a perfectly sensible shape for a camera to be but don't expect your friends to even notice that you've bought a new camera. Then again, the A-Series range is about value and flexibility, rather than posing credibility.

One of the ways the costs have been kept down is the quality of materials used to build it. The A720 IS is constructed from inexpensive plastics and it feels like it the moment you pick it up. It's easily scratched and will look pretty battered, pretty quickly. But this is a digital camera, not some over-styled bling thing.

Handling

The A720 IS does what its forebears have done so well. It's a sensible size, it fits comfortably in the hand and it'll fit in a coat pocket or handbag though is probably a bit too big to take everywhere. It's a nice shape to hold, though the rather inexpensive-feeling plastic can get a bit slippery.

Key body elements

The mode dial gives direct access to the A720's modes - P, Av, Tv and M for people wanting to engage with the camera's settings, Auto and five scene modes for those that don't (Plus another 7 slightly more obscure ones under the SCN option). There are also options for taking panoramas and video.
The A720 features a 2.5 inch, 115,000 pixel screen. This is pretty low resolution by contemporary standards but is perfectly usable. This is, after all, an inexpensive camera.

The lens is one area in which corners don't appear to have been cut. On paper it is as bright and has the same zoom range as the much more expensive G9. The two do not share the same focal lengths or construction though, which isn't surprising, since the G costs around three times as much.
A removable ring around the lens base allows you to attach converters should you want a wider - or longer - zoom range.

Canon now has different types of four-way controller on each of its different camera ranges. The A-Series doesn't feature a rotating element that the SX, Ixus and G-series cameras do. Oddly, though, the left and right direction have not had any functions assigned to them. (And there are plenty of features that could have been provided with direct access).
The A series uses SD standard memory and takes two AA batteries. These add convenience but offer shorter battery life than a dedicated Li-ion battery would. Again, it keeps the purchase price of the camera down.
A rubber cover keeps dust off the 3.5mm A/v socket, the USB connector and the A/c power input socket.

Controls & Menus

The A720 IS features essentially the same user interface that has underpinned every Canon compact for the last couple of years. Canon has tended to gently tweak its existing interface, rather than radically overhauling, meaning that it's familiar to existing owners and benefits from an evolutionary approach.

The views during record mode are quite standard: Just the image, Image plus shooting information or either of the above with grid lines to aid composition and borders to show a 3:2 aspect ratio. The grid is turned on from the menu, not the display button. The Func/Set button gives you access to the image control settings you're likely to want to change. Such as White Balance. (Note the always-useful Aquarium setting)
The A720 IS also offers flash compensation mode, to help avoid 'pasty white faces in the dark' shots. There are also options to tweak the colors that the camera will record. You can make them more vivid, choose your own settings or discard them completely in 'Black and White' mode.
The camera settings menu is the longest on the camera and deals with the fine detail of how the auto focus and flash behave. You won't need to come here too often but it lets you do things like force the print button to do something useful. The really low-level settings appear in the setup menu. Other than formatting cards, you'll rarely have to venture into here.
Playback mode is also pretty standard. You can view just the image, the image with limited details or this screen with full shooting information and a histogram. Which is pretty useful, especially if you use the Manual mode. Minor tweaks, such as red-eye correction can be applied from the playback menu. It's all pretty straightforward. And you can probably guess what the print menu does.
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