The biggest place the A710 IS lags, feature-wise, is in its sensitivity settings. It tops out at ISO 800, which isn't bad. But with so many cameras, even budget snapshooters, pushing up to and past that mark, we would've expected to see Canon's flagship A-series camera go up to ISO 1600.
Given the A-series' track record, we weren't surprised to find that it performed well in our Labs' tests. It took 1.6 seconds to power up and capture its first image, and 1.8 seconds to capture subsequent images without flash. Activating the flash almost doubled that time, resulting in 3.5 seconds between shots in our tests. Shutter lag in our high-contrast test measured 0.35 second, jumping to 1.2 seconds in the low-contrast test--both very respectable numbers for a camera of this class. Continuous shooting was average, yielding an average of 1.7 frames per second for VGA-size JPEGs and 1.5fps for 7.1-megapixel JPEGs.
Image quality was very good in our tests. Colors were accurate, if a touch flat, and the camera was able to capture a healthy amount of detail. Exposures were generally accurate, with only minor blooming in extreme highlights, impressive shadow detail, and little or no fringing.
Noise wasn't noticeable at ISO 80 and was only minutely present at ISO 100, manifesting itself as extremely slight mottling of solid fields of dark colors--something that most people would not notice in prints, even at full size. By ISO 200, noise spread to a wider range of colors but still remained mostly as a light grain that most people would dismiss; it didn't appreciably detract from image detail and would likely be completely minimized when printed. By ISO 400, noise was more apparent and took away a mild amount of finer image detail. For example, the 1/16-inch markers on the measuring tape in our test scene began to blur together at this point. By ISO 800, noise was very noticeable, as a fine snowy grain. While not as objectionable as the heavily colored grain some cameras produce, it was hard to miss and was enough to make the numbers on the measuring tape unreadable. Still, prints were usable at smaller sizes, in which the grain served mostly to rob contrast and obscure shadow detail.
Once again, Canon has delivered a great value with it's A series in the form of the A710 IS. With its addition of image stabilization, you should be able to shoot a couple of shutter-speed stops slower than you normally would, making the long end of the zoom lens even more convenient, and the camera's usable ISO 800 setting will let you capture images in situations when IS is not the answer. Plus, for average situations, the camera's image quality is quite good for the money. Most casual shooters and simple snapshooters will find that the A710 IS is plenty of camera for their needs, and its versatile controls make it a nice spare camera for more advanced shooters, as well.