Like most Canon PowerShot A-series cameras, the A720 IS performs quite fast when not using the flash. After a scant 1.4-second wait from power-on to capturing its first shot, the camera could take a new photo every 1.8 seconds thereafter with the onboard flash disabled. With the flash turned on, that wait balloons to 4.3 seconds. The shutter feels responsive, lagging only 0.5 second with our high-contrast target and 1.2 seconds with our low-contrast target. In burst mode, the camera captured 15 pictures in 10.8 seconds for an average rate of 1.4 frames per second.
The A720 IS's photos look exceptional, particularly at low sensitivity levels. Shots taken at ISO 200 or lower appear remarkably crisp and show impressive fine detail. At ISO 400, you can start to make out distinct noise on a computer monitor, though prints will still come out clean. ISO 800 shots produce noise that shows up on large prints, but they remain at least somewhat useable. Noise significantly jumps at ISO 1600, rendering shots nearly unusable. Very few compact cameras successfully pull off ISO 1600 or higher shots, so I can't judge the A720 IS too harshly for it.
Surprisingly broad depth-of-field and solid white balance contribute to the camera's excellent picture quality. Both small text and fine textures appear crisp and full of detail, even when stretching across multiple planes. Slight fringing appeared on off-white and yellow edges, though not to the point that the photos suffered. In general, if you stick to ISO 400 or lower, the A720 IS will produce great pictures.
It takes too long for its flash to recycle and you should only use ISO 800 as a last resort, but otherwise the Canon PowerShot A720 IS presents an excellent value for its price range. Its lower-sensitivity pictures look remarkably clean and crisp, it shoots quickly when the flash isn't in use, and it's filled with manual exposure controls that experienced photographers, and those learning the ropes, will appreciate. Whether you want a solid, flexible main camera, or a secondary camera to use alongside your digital SLR, the A720 IS makes a great choice.