Compared to... Nikon Coolpix P50

It's hard not to look at the Canon A720 IS and immediately think of the Nikon P50. The two cameras are so similar in size and shape that they would surely be asked to play each others' cousins, were one to inexplicably make a movie staring cameras, rather than actors.

In addition to the visual similarities, both cameras are built around 8MP sensors and offer a degree of manual control (though the extent varies), and a form of image stabilization (with the Canon offering an optical, rather than purely mathematical, shake compensation system). The major difference between them is that the lenses cover very different ranges, with the Canon going all-out for reach (35-210mm equivalent), while the Nikon's 28-100mm equivalent lens concedes a lot of reach but offers true wide-angle.

Studio scene comparison (A720 IS @ ISO 80, P50 @ ISO 64)  

  • Canon A720 IS: Aperture Priority mode, ISO 80, Default Image Parameters,
    Manual white balance, +0.33 EV compensation
  • Nikon P50: Program mode, ISO 64, Default Image Parameters,
    Manual white balance, +0.70 EV compensation
  • Lighting: Daylight simulation, >98% CRI
Canon A720 IS
Nikon P50
ISO 80, 1/60 sec, F4.5
ISO 64, 1/64 sec, F4.1
3,385 KB JPEG
2,017 KB JPEG

Even at base sensitivity, the Canon's image is showing a distinct edge over the Nikon. Nikon do have a habit of applying less sharpening as the default setting in its cameras but I suspect most customers of these cameras would prefer the 'ready-to-go,' super-sharp, punchy image that the Canon is producing. It's pretty hard to find fault with the Canon at base ISO.