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Canon PowerShot A800 review: Canon PowerShot A800

Canon PowerShot A800

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Joshua Goldman
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Joshua Goldman

Managing Editor / Advice

Josh Goldman helps people find the best laptop at the best price -- from simple Chromebooks to high-end gaming laptops. He's been writing about and reviewing consumer technology and software for more than two decades.

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5 min read

Editors' note: Several design elements, features, and shooting options are identical between Canon's PowerShot A800 and the PowerShot A495 we reviewed earlier, so parts of this review are taken from that one.

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7.0

Canon PowerShot A800

The Good

The <b>Canon PowerShot A800</b> is a no-frills point-and-shoot that takes AA-size batteries. It's easy to use and produces nice photos despite its low price.

The Bad

The A800 has slow shooting performance and a low-resolution LCD that's very difficult to see in bright sunlight.

The Bottom Line

Considering its bargain price, you'll get excellent photos from the Canon PowerShot A800. Just don't expect anything more than that and you'll be fine.

Canon's 2010 A-series entry-level point-and-shoots didn't show a lot of diversity. That changed for 2011, though, as each model has noticeable feature differences beyond megapixels and scene modes. The lowest-end model, the A800, has the honor of being Canon's first camera to have a starting price under $100.

While the A800 has few shooting features, slow shooting performance, and an all-plastic body, it probably produces the best photos you're likely to get at its price. If you can't afford to step up to the A1200 or just don't need anything beyond a good automatic camera for the occasional snapshot, the A800 is a sound purchase.

Key specs Canon PowerShot A800
Price (MSRP) $89.99
Dimensions (WHD) 3.7x2.4x1.2 inches
Weight (with battery and media) 6.6 ounces
Megapixels, image sensor size, type 10 megapixels, 1/2.3-inch CCD
LCD size, resolution/viewfinder 2.5-inch LCD, 115K dots/None
Lens (zoom, aperture, focal length) 3.3x, f3-5.8, 37-122mm (35mm equivalent)
File format (still/video) JPEG/Motion JPEG (AVI)
Highest resolution size (still/video) 3,648x2,736 pixels/ 640x480 pixels at 30fps
Image stabilization type Digital
Battery type, CIPA rated life AA size (2; alkaline included), 300 shots
Battery charged in camera No
Storage media SD/SDHC/SDXC
Bundled software ZoomBrowser EX 6.7 (Windows; ImageBrowser 6.7 (Mac)

Given that the A800 has the same lens, sensor, and image processor as last year's A495, I expected the photo quality to be the same--and it is. The camera produces excellent automatic snapshots for the money and actually does better than some more expensive models. As with many inexpensive cameras, it produces the best results below ISO 200, sharp with plenty of fine detail. But even at ISO 800, noise and noise suppression are well-balanced, making 4x6 prints possible. When photos are viewed at 100 percent, you will see noise, particularly in darker areas of photos. However, it's nothing that would keep me from recommending this model. Basically, the more light you have, the better off you'll be, but as long as your subjects aren't moving, you'll get nice photos indoors and out.

Canon PowerShot A800 ISO comparison
The A800 produces much better photos than its price would suggest.

The lens has minor barrel distortion at its widest position and no discernible pincushion distortion when zoomed out. Center sharpness is very good, though there was some softness in the very corners. The amount of purple fringing in high-contrast areas is average for its class: visible when photos are viewed at full size, but not likely to destroy a photo.

Colors are great from the A800: vivid, bright, and pleasing. Exposure is generally very good, though clipped highlights aren't out of the question. The auto white balance indoors is warm, so if you don't like what you're seeing, I suggest using a preset or taking a manual reading. The Movie mode is VGA-only with no use of the optical zoom while recording; digital zoom is available, but I'd use it sparingly. The video quality is good enough for a quick clip to post online, but not much else.

General shooting options Canon PowerShot A800
ISO sensitivity (full resolution) Auto, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600
White balance Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Tungsten, Fluorescent, Fluorescent H, Custom
Recording modes Auto, Program, Scene, Movie
Focus modes Normal, Macro, Infinity, Face AiAF, Center AF
Macro 0.4 inch (Wide); 9.8 inches (Tele)
Metering modes Evaluative, Center-weighted average, Spot
Color effects Normal, Vivid, Neutral, Sepia, Black & White, Custom
Burst mode shot limit (full resolution) Unlimited continuous

You typically don't get a lot of shooting options once you head below $150, and that's the case here. The A800 has a very reliable full auto that uses scene recognition to adjust settings; a Program mode with options for white balance, focus, metering, ISO, and color effects; and 13 special scene modes like Fireworks, Long Shutter, Foliage, and Kids & Pets. There's a Low Light setting that captures 2-megapixel shots at ISOs from 500 to 3200, although I wouldn't bother using it, as the results, even at small sizes, just aren't good. Canon also includes Face Self-Timer, which, when activated, will wait to take a shot until the camera detects an additional face in the frame.

If you like taking a lot of close-up macro shots, the A800 is a great option for the money. You can get very close--down to 0.4 inch--and get sharp shots with nice fine detail when shooting at ISO 100.

Shooting performance is pokey. It takes 2.1 seconds for the camera to go from off to first shot captured. Shutter lag is a little long in bright lighting conditions: 0.5 second from pressing the release to capture. In dim lighting, the shutter lag is 0.7 second. Shot-to-shot times are painful, though: 4 seconds without flash and jumping to a lengthy 7.4 seconds with it on. Lastly, its continuous shooting time is only 0.4 frame per second. Basically, if you're hoping to catch shots of an active toddler, an athlete in action, or a fast-moving pet, this camera isn't a good option.

The A800, which is available in red, black, and silver, is chubby, but still reasonably compact. It's not very wide or tall, but is more than an inch thick--it'll fit in a pants pocket, but it might be a tight squeeze. From the front, the camera looks reasonably stylish with nice rounded corners. Keep in mind, though, that it's an entry-level camera made out of plastic, so it doesn't always feel high-quality, especially with the batteries out.

Canon keeps the controls straightforward and simple, and the menu systems are likewise uncomplicated. On top are the power and shutter release buttons with the remaining controls on back to the right of the LCD. At the top is a zoom rocker, followed below by a button for playback; four-way control pad with select button; and shooting mode and Menu buttons. The Menu button pulls up two tabs of general settings, whereas the select button (labeled Func. Set) opens shooting-mode-specific options. Overall, it's easy to control and should be simple enough for beginners out of the box.

The lens is narrow at 37mm (35mm-equivalent) and it has an optical zoom of 3.3x, standard for cameras in its class. The LCD is small and low-resolution and although it gets fairly bright, it can still be tough to see in sunlight.

This model is powered by AA-size batteries, something many people find convenient. However, you'll only get about 200 shots out of the A800 before they'll need replacing. Getting two NiMH AA-size batteries should more than double your shot count, though.

Conclusion
The Canon PowerShot A800 is the kind of low-end camera that many people have stopped picking up in favor of a smartphone. However, if you don't have one of those or simply want a better camera for occasional snapshots, the A800 is the entry-level camera to get. Just make sure your subject isn't moving.

Find out more about how we test digital cameras.

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7.0

Canon PowerShot A800

Score Breakdown

Design 7Features 7Performance 6Image quality 8
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