Timing & Performance

The A10's achilles' heel was its lack of responsiveness and overall sluggish performance, so does the A20 represent a big leap forward? In a word, partially. There's no doubt that some aspects of the camera's performance have been improved significantly, but the A20 still struggles to keep up with the best ultra-compact models when it comes to important things like focus, shutter lag and shot-to-shot times (with or without flash). Basically the A10 was so slow that it needed a 400% boost to catch up with the best of its peers, it only got a 100% boost. At the long end of the zoom in anything but perfect lighting the time from pressing the shutter can take anything up to 1.5 seconds; this simply isn't acceptable for anything other than a totally static subject.

That said the A20 is, if you don't push it too hard, perfectly usable; the focus is a lot more assured than it was on the A10, and the zoom action has been improved immeasurably (though it still lurches from one end to the other in only 6 steps). Some playback functions are actually slower (thanks to the larger files) but we can live with that (performance when actually taking pictures is the important thing).

As we said when reviewing the A10, how much of an impact the pedestrian performance will have on you depends on the type of photography you will be using the camera for; if it's a pocket camera for taking out walking, no problem; if it's a party camera or a camera for catching snaps of the kids at play, you're going to miss a lot of shots.

Timing Notes

All times calculated as an average of three operations. Unless otherwise stated all timings were made on an 10MB JPEG image (approx. 3,500 KB per image). The media used for these tests was a 1.0 GB Sandisk Extreme III card.

Action Details
Time, secs
Power: Off to Record   2.3
Power: Off to Play   1.8
Power: Record to Off All activity ceased 1.6
Power: Play to Off When lens is extended 1.5
Power: Play to Off When lens is retracted 0.4
Record Review Image displayed 1.4
Mode: Play to Record   1.1
Mode: Record to Play   0.5
Play: Magnify To full magnification (8x) ~2.3
Play: Image to Image Time to display each saved image ~0.3 *1
Play: Thumbnail view 3 x 3 thumbnails ~0.4
Zoom from Wide to Tele 38 to 114 mm (3x) ~0.9
Half-press Lag (Focus time) Wide angle ~0.6 *2
Half-press Lag (Focus time) Telephoto ~0.7 - 1.1 *2
Pre-focus Lag (S1>S2) LCD live view ~0.2
Full-press Lag (0->S2) LCD live view, wide angle ~0.9 *3
Off to Shot Taken LCD live view ~5.0
Shot to Shot Flash off ~2.7
Shot to Shot Flash on ( red eye reduction on / off) 3.6 / 4.0
*1 Low res previews are loaded in around 0.3 seconds, so you can scroll through images fairly quickly. To load the full image (which can, for example, be magnified or edited) takes around 1.0 seconds.
*2 Focus speed drops significantly when light levels fall. Figures shown are for area AF with the focus limiter on (turning it off extends focus times).
*3 Switching to PF (Pan Focus) mode when shooting outdoors allows a full press lag of only 0.2 seconds.

Continuous drive mode

The A20 has a single standard burst mode that we measured at around 0.8 frames per second (in other words one shot every 1.15 seconds). This is far from class-leading but it probably enough for most typical users, and you can keep shooting until the card is full; there appears to be no limit to the length of burst.

File writing / playback performance

The A20 takes around 2.7 seconds to write a 3.5MB best quality 10MP file to the card and around 1.3 seconds to display it (though the use of low resolution previews makes playback seem much faster). Neither figure is very impressive, but then speed is not this camera's forte.

Battery life

The A20's small rechargeable battery is good for 150 shots (using the CIPA standard) - in real world use you'll get a few more or less depending on how much you use the screen and flash or activate the SR preview often. Either way it's pretty poor for a compact camera in 2007, when similar cameras from other manufacturers often offer twice as many shots per charge. If you like to take a lot of pictures you'd better budget for another battery.