Operation and controls

Canon has found a formula for camera operation and control that works well, and the A700 will be very familiar to anyone who's used a Canon compact in the last few years. The control layout is almost identical to the other models a the top of the A series range. As mentioned earlier I was disappointed to see that the ISO button (seen on the latest Ixus / Elph models) still hasn't made its way onto the A700. As first seen on the A610 and A620, there is a dedicated AE compensation button (which also switches between apertures and shutter speeds in manual mode).

Despite being a 'budget' model the A700 - like the other top end A series cameras before it - has a real wealth of photographic features, and though most advanced options are only accessible via menus (rather than via external controls), the interface is well designed and fast to use.

Rear of camera

The rear view of the A700 will find most Canon users in fairly familiar territory - it's very similar to the A610 / A620, and offers a similar set of controls to the more expensive G and S series cameras. Although I personally would like to see a couple more external controls (for drive mode, white balance and ISO setting for example), the excellent FUNC menu design means these settings are never more than a couple of button presses away. One thing you can't miss is the larger screen, which now dominates the rear of the body, though many potential purchasers will be disappointed to see the loss of the tilt 'n' swivel function.

Top of camera

The A700 really is a very compact camera, and it has a much shallower grip than the last A series models (though this doesn't seem to affect handling too badly unless you've got very large hands). As you can see, the top of the camera is home to the main power switch, mode dial and zoom control / shutter release.

Display and menus

Canon's menu and on-screen display system has - despite minor appearance tweaks here and there - remained admirably consistent across camera ranges and generations. There's nothing particularly new here - but then why change a system that works?

Pressing the DISP button cycles between three preview settings; off (use the optical viewfinder), preview image only (no information displayed) and - as shown above - full information. There's plenty of information ranged around the edge of the preview image. Note that the amount of information displayed will depend which mode you are shooting in. There is also an optional grid, which can help keep things straight.

Half press the shutter and the camera will set the focus and exposure, indicating the focus point chosen (in AiAF mode), plus the shutter speed and aperture chosen by the AE (auto exposure) system.

The Program Shift function seen on the A620 is not available on the A700.

In shutter and aperture priority modes the setting is changed using the left and right arrow keys. In manual exposure mode the +/- button toggles the setting changed by the left/right arrow keys between the shutter speed and aperture. Half press the shutter and the display shows how far you are from the metered exposure as an EV value.
Novice photographers get a selection of subject-based 'scene' modes (accessed from the SCN position on the mode dial). Changing subject mode is again a simple matter of pressing the left and right arrow keys. A manual focus option (activated by pressing the Macro/down arrow twice) has the option - not turned on in this shot - to magnify the central portion of the preview for more accurate focus assessment.
AE-compensation - available in all auto exposure modes except the 'idiot-proof' AUTO - is a simple case of pressing the +/- button and using the left/right arrow keys to change the value. The screen brightens or darkens to reflect the effect of any AE-compensation in use. The record menu is where you find controls you're likely to need much less frequently, including focus mode, red eye reduction, digital zoom and so on.
Pressing the FUNC menu brings up the usual array of shooting options, covering everything from AE compensation to white balance, sensitivity, picture effects, drive mode, metering and image size/quality. It's fast, and doesn't clutter up the screen. Note the new ISO 800 setting (HI is auto ISO that goes up to 800, if you're wondering). Canon has moved the 'My Colors' options onto the FUNC menu, meaning they are available in most modes. As usual you have colour effects (vivid, neutral, sepia, black and white, 'positive film', lighter skin tone and darker skin tone) - plus custom control over contrast, saturation, sharpness and color balance. The more esoteric options (color accent and color swap) have been consigned to the scene mode.