Like its stablemate, the , the compact Canon PowerShot A700 offers abundant manual controls, respectable image quality, and acceptable ISO 800 performance. Either camera should appeal to enthusiast photographers or serious beginners who want some control over exposure and focus. But the A700's biggest edge is its 6X zoom lens, a nice step up from the A540's 4X glass. Plus, the A700 includes macro focusing down to 0.4 inch, a higher-resolution 2.5-inch LCD, and a rear-sync flash that fires at the end of your exposure to keep car headlights from looking like laser beams. A tad larger than the A540 at 3.7 by 2.6 by 1.7 inches and 9 ounces (including SD memory card and two AA batteries), the Canon PowerShot A700 is easier to shoot in one-handed mode, since it's easier to shift your forefinger between the shutter and the zoom lever, both of which are mounted atop the grip. The top panel also hosts a speaker and a recessed power button with a green power LED that doubles as a position indicator for the 11-notch knurled mode dial. The dial lets you choose from the standard auto, program, manual, aperture-priority, shutter-priority, and movie modes, plus Portrait, Landscape, Night Scene, and Stitch Assist scene modes. It also offers an SCN setting to access nine other scene modes, including the unusual Color Swap. This mode lets you exchange one color range in your scene for another.
The small optical viewfinder is useful for framing when bright light washes out the 115,000-pixel 2.5-inch LCD.
Back-panel controls include a slider for alternating between recording and playback modes as well as a print-sharing button to mark images for DPOF (digital print order format) output. As with many other cameras, the EV button lets you adjust exposure plus or minus 2EV in 1/3EV increments. Flash options (up) and macro or manual focus choices (down) are just a key-press away. Information, such as drive, meter, and flash modes; image size and compression; exposure compensation; and shots remaining can be turned on or off with the display button.
Frequently accessed shooting options and setup features are divided between the function/set and menu buttons, respectively. Activating the 2- or 10-second self-timer requires a trip to the menu, but the setting is sticky, so you don't have to repeat the process to take several pictures in a row using the timer. The Canon PowerShot A700's 6X zoom range includes a moderately wide-angle 35mm (35mm equivalent) at the short end and a respectable 210mm telephoto at the long end. Fans of close-up photography will appreciate this camera's lens, which focuses down to 0.4 inch in macro mode. Manual focus activates an enlarged central LCD area and an indicator bar at the top of the frame. Most casual users will opt for either the 9-point automatic or the selectable single-point autofocus.
Exposure choices include evaluative, center-weighted, or spot metering. In spot mode, you can grab exposure information from the center of the frame or from your selected focus zone. Shutter speeds range from 15 seconds to 1/2,000 second, and f-stops cover f/2.8 to f/8 in automatic, manual, program, aperture-priority, and shutter-priority modes.
Dual automatic-ISO settings let you choose between standard Auto, which includes ISO 64 through ISO 400, and High ISO Auto, which uses ISO 800 when necessary. You can also manually select ISO settings between ISO 80 and ISO 800.
Canon's My Colors option lets you shift the colors via presets including Vivid, Neutral, Sepia, Black-and-White, Lighter Skin Tone, Darker Skin Tone, and Positive Film, which mimics film color transparencies, plus a user-definable Custom Color mode.
As with other A-series Canon PowerShot cameras, optional 1.75X telephoto and 0.75X wide-angle lenses as well as a 52mm filter adapter can fasten to a bayonet mount around the lens. A plastic collar covers the mount when not in use. Canon also offers a beefier HF-DC1 flash, which fits on a bracket that screws into the tripod socket and fires as a slave in cordless mode. Low shutter lag, fast response, the available shutter-priority mode, and a speedy but limited burst mode make the Canon PowerShot A700 a decent choice for fast-moving action and sports. Its speedy autofocus system snapped off a shot under bright, high-contrast lighting a mere 0.4 second after we pressed the shutter, while it took just 0.7 second under low-contrast illumination with the red focus-assist lamp. Continuous-shooting mode clocked 2fps regardless of resolution or compression, with seemingly no limit to the number of shots.
That's not the only thing fast about this camera. It powered up and grabbed a first shot in 1.8 seconds and turned in shot-to-shot times of 2.1 seconds after that. Activating the flash slowed between-shot pauses to 4.9 seconds in our tests. Red-eye-prevention mode only partially tamed red pupils in our test subjects. The flash displayed roughly average power for cameras in this class, providing even illumination out to 11 feet at the wide-angle setting with ISO set to auto but only 7 feet when the lens was zoomed out to telephoto. We occasionally saw ghosting when framing with the LCD, but it did a fine job of gaining up to maintain visibility under low light.
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
|Typical shot-to-shot time||Time to first shot||Shutter lag (typical)|
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
|Typical continuous-shooting speed|
As you might expect, since both cameras feature the same sensor as well as Canon's Digic II image processor, they had similar noise performance. Noise was low at ISO 80 and increased noticeably at ISO 400. While noise was more abundant at ISO 800, images were still usable.
Canon's A700 is versatile. Optional accessories let the camera grow with you and, along with the camera's many manual controls, make the Canon PowerShot A700 a decent choice for anyone who wants to learn more about photography while reserving the right to go fully automatic when needed. However, if you think you can settle for a 4X zoom instead of the A700's 6X lens, then you may want to consider Canon's own and put the cash saved toward accessories.