my opinion, one
of the most exciting cameras introduced at PMA wasn't a digital
SLR or loaded with pixels. Rather, it's a camera for the
rest of the world, the folks who are really moving the digital
camera market forward.
camera I'm describing is Canon's PowerShot
A70 ($349 street price), a 3.2
Megapixel camera loaded with features normally found on more
expensive cameras. Lower end cameras don't usually excite me,
but this was an exception. The A70 is much more than a re-badged
A40 with a few small changes -- it's more likely a totally new
camera. It uses the same new DIGIC processor as the high-end
giving it improved performance and photo quality. I'll cover
of the new features in the review.
those who want the same features but fewer pixels, Canon also
sells the PowerShot
A60 for $100 less (the A60 also lacks the VGA movie mode).
of which, let's begin!
in the Box?
PowerShot A70 has an above average bundle. Inside the box, you'll
3.2 Mpixel Canon PowerShot A70 camera
AA alkaline batteries
featuring Canon Digital Camera Solutions, ArcSoft Camera Suite,
page camera manual + software manual (both printed)
A70's bundle is saved from mediocrity by an excellent software
package. But more on that later.
find a 16MB CompactFlash card in the box. It's enough to get
started with, but you'll absolutely want a larger card right
it comes to batteries, Canon leaves it up to you. The A70 includes
four AA non-rechargeable alkaline batteries in the box, which
won't last long and end up in the trash. My recommendation is
or more sets of NiMH rechargeables (1800 mAh or better), plus
a charger, which will last longer and will be more economical
too. Canon estimates that you can take about 675 photos (or 280
A70 has a built-in lens cover
PowerShot A70 is somewhat unique in that it supports add-on lenses.
First you need to buy the conversion lens adapter (LA-DC52C)
though. Once you've done that, you can use wide-angle, telephoto,
and closeup lenses with your A70.
cool accessory is the WP-DC700 underwater case, which lets you
take the A70 30 meters underwater. Two other accessories include
a soft camera case and an AC adapter.
A70 supports direct printing to Canon's CP-10, CP-100, and some
best part of the A70's bundle, in my opinion, is Canon's excellent
includes their Digital Camera Solutions software, as
as ArcSoft's Camera Suite, with the A70. The main programs in the
DCS software package are ImageBrowser/ZoomBrowser (Mac/PC names),
PhotoStitch (a great panorama creation product), and Remote Capture
(which lets your Mac or PC control the camera over the USB connection).
Canon's software continues to be head and shoulders over the
competition, in my opinion.
Best of all (for us Mac users, at least), the main programs (ImageBrowser,
PhotoStitch, Remote Capture) are Mac OS X native!
camera is also recognized automatically by Mac OS X and Windows
is also one of the best at creating camera manuals. Unlike the "VCR
manuals" produced by some other manufacturers, Canon's manuals
are well laid-out and easy to read. There are thick, printed manuals
for both the camera and the software.
PowerShot A70 has slimmed down considerably since the A40. It's
starting to look a little like the PowerShot G3 as well.
The camera is mix of metal and plastic, and it feels pretty solid
(so did the A40). It's a small camera, but certainly
as tiny as something like a Digital ELPH.
dimensions of the A70 are 4.0 x 2.5 x 1.2 inches (W x H x D),
and it weighs 215 grams empty. The A40's numbers are 4.3
x 2.8 x 1.5 inches and 250 grams, respectively.
I'm not mistaken, the A70 has the same lens as its predecessor.
That lens is an F2.8, 3X optical zoom lens, with a focal range
of 5.4 - 16.2 mm. That's equivalent to 35 - 105 mm.
I mentioned, the A70 supports add-on lenses. To use them, you
press the button to the lower-left of the lens, and remove the
plastic ring around it. You then screw in the lens adapter, and
attach the conversion lens to it.
the upper-left of the lens is the built-in flash. The flash has
a working range of 0.46 - 4.2 m at wide-angle, and 0.46 - 2.5
m at telephoto. The A70 does not support external flashes.
that is the autofocus illuminator, which is always a welcome
sight. This orange lamp helps the camera focus when lighting
other item of interest in the front of the camera is the microphone.
little rant first... I hate mirrored camera parts -- it makes
it that much harder to photograph. With that out of the way,
A70 has a 1.5" LCD display, the same size as the A40. The
images on the LCD are bright, sharp, and fluid, though the resolution
could be better. The brightness is not adjustable.
the LCD is the optical viewfinder, which is average-sized.
There is no diopter adjustment
for those of us with less than perfect vision though.
the LCD are four buttons. Set is the "OK" button for the menus.
The Menu button opens and closes the main menu. Display turns
the LCD on and off, and the info shown on it. The Function button
opens an overlay-style menu in record mode, and can be used to
delete a photo either in playback mode, or immediately after
one is taken.
function menu has the following options:
compensation (-2EV to +2EV, 1/3EV increments)
Balance (Auto, daylight, cloudy, tungsten, fluorescent, fluorescent
(Single shot, continuous shooting, self-timer [2/10 secs])
(Auto, 50, 100, 200, 400)
effect (Off, vivid color, neutral color, low sharpening, sepia,
black & white)
(Evaluative, center-weighted, spot)
Size/Quality - see chart later in review
A70 has more white balance options than probably any lower-end
camera I've tested. This includes a custom mode where you can
shoot a white or gray card to get perfect white balance.
While some higher end Canon models have two continuous shooting
modes, the A70 has one. In this mode, you can take pictures at
a rate of 2.2 frames/sec, though it seems to start slowly. I took
11 pictures in a row at the highest quality setting.
effects let you quickly change the color of your photos --
you can see some of them above (these are from the PowerShot
S50, but you get the idea). You can use photo
in any mode, including movie mode.
rare feature for a low-cost camera is true manual focus, and
the A70 has it. You turn it on via the four-way switch (more
on that in a second) and then use the left/right buttons to adjust
it. A meter is shown on the LCD giving you the approximate focus
distance, but the center of the image isn't enlarged like on
some cameras -- a helpful feature.
we can continue with our tour. To the right of the LCD you will
find the mode (record/playback) and the four-way switches. In
addition to menu navigation, the four-way switch can be used
for changing the flash (auto, forced, off) and focus (macro,
on top of the A70 are the power button, mode wheel, shutter release
button, zoom controller, and speaker.
options on the mode wheel include:
on this later
help making panoramic shots
mode, many options are locked
chooses shutter speed and aperture. All menu options are unlocked.
choose the shutter speed and the camera picks the correct
You can choose from a number of speeds ranging from 15 sec
- 1/2000 sec. The 1/2000 shutter speed is only
above F4.5 at wide-angle and F8.0 at telephoto.
pick the aperture, the camera picks the appropriate shutter
speed. The choices range from F2.8 - F8.0 and will vary
depending on the focal range used.
pick the aperture and shutter speed. See above for values.
of all, bravo to Canon for including these full manual controls
on an inexpensive camera. However, I do miss the Custom setting
that their more pricey cameras have -- this lets you save your
favorite settings onto a spot on the mode wheel. Can't have everything
zoom controller moves the lens from wide-angle to telephoto in
about 1.5 seconds. The zoom moves at one speed only, so it can
be hard to be precise. I also noticed that horizontal lines sometimes
appeared on the LCD when zooming (and only then).
is one side of the PowerShot A70. Under a rubber cover, you'll
find the USB and A/V out ports, plus the DC-in port for the optional
a somewhat flimsy plastic cover on this side of the camera is
the CompactFlash slot. This is a Type I slot, which means no
included 16MB card is shown.
here is the bottom of the camera. You can see the plastic tripod
mount, which is located at the center of the camera. The battery
compartment is down here as well, and it holds four AA batteries.
the Canon PowerShot A70
A70 takes just 2.5 seconds to extend the lens and "warm
up" before you can start taking pictures -- pretty snappy.
If you desire, you can change the startup screen and sounds,
Or better yet, turn them off.
the shutter release button halfway and the camera generally focuses
in less than a second. It will take a little
the AF-assist lamp is used (about 1.3 sec in my test). The AF
illuminator helped the A70 focus well in low light.
camera uses Canon's 5-point AiAF autofocus system. The camera
picks one of five areas of the frame to focus on (you can't pick
where like on some cameras). If you want to use the center of
the frame to focus on, you can do that too via the menu system.
A70 had very little shutter lag, even at slower shutter speeds.
In most cases you won't notice it, but when shutter speeds get
near tripod territory, you'll notice a slight delay.
speed is excellent. You will wait for just 1.5 seconds before
you can take another shot.
the Delete button as the picture is being written to the memory
card, and you can delete it.
here's a look at the image size and quality choices available
Images on 16MB card
(2048 x 1536)
(1600 x 1200)
(1024 x 768)
(640 x 480)
A70 does not support TIFF or RAW file formats.
are named xxx_####.JPG, where x = 100 - 998 and # = 0001 - 9900.
The file numbering is maintained even if you replace and/or format
onto the menus!
A70 has an easy-to-use menu system, similar to those found on
other PowerShot cameras. Here's a look at the record mode menu:
(on/off) - turns on the 5-point autofocus system
zoom (on/off) - using the 3.2X digital zoom will reduce photo
(Off, 2-10 sec)
too much to see here!
is also a setup menu on the A70, so let's take a look at that.
are the interesting items:
volumes (for shutter, playback, startup, operation, self-timer)
number reset (on/off)
units (metric, imperial)
(English, Deutsch, Français, Nederlands, Dansk, Suomi,
Italiano, Norsk, Svenska, Español, Chinese, Japanese)
system (NTSC, PAL)
you so desire, you can customize the startup screen, beeps, and
phony shutter sounds that your A70 makes, providing your own sounds
and pictures if you want. You can also shut all of that off.
enough about menus, let's do photo tests now.
A70 did a nice job with our macro test. The colors on our famous
3" tall mouse are accurate, and the image is nice and sharp.
The camera has a
range of 5 - 46 cm at wide-angle, and 26 - 46 cm at telephoto
in macro mode. The recordable area is 55 x 41 mm at wide-angle
and 92 x 69
mm at telephoto.
got a little trigger happy up on Twin Peaks and thus have two
night shots for you. The first one (above) is the standard skyline
shot. This 2 second exposure came out pretty well, though there's
a bit of purple fringing in places. Noise levels are low, thanks
to the A70's noise reduction system.
the second night shot, I turned the tripod around facing Sutro
Tower. You can see the moon and some cars going by as well. This
is a 15 second exposure -- something unheard of on a $350 camera
just last month. There is more noise in this shot, but I'd say
it's acceptable given the long exposure.
area in which the A70 did not fare so well is the redeye test.
As you can see, it's pretty bad, even with redeye reduction turned
on. I wasn't entirely surprised, as the flash is quite close
to the lens, which is usually a good indicator of redeye. You
can fix this phenomenon in software, but most people would rather
new (and completely unscientific) distortion test illustrates
the noticeable barrel distortion at wide-angle, but there's
no sign of vignetting (darkened corners).
(Test was reshot
quality on the PowerShot A70 was very good in my opinion. Exposures
were good, as was the color. The only two issues that I noticed
were occasional purple fringing, and image softness that kind
of "muddied up" the details of things like grass and
photo is a good example of both issues. Neither of these
are deal breakers for me though, as they were pretty rare in
just take my word for it though -- have a look at the photo
gallery and let your own eyes be the judge!
A70 has a very nice movie mode. You can record at three resolutions:
640 x 480, 320 x 240, and 160 x 120. You can record for up to
30 seconds at the highest resolution, and 3 minutes at the two
smaller sizes. Do note that the included 16MB memory card can't
actually hold 30 seconds of 640 x 480 video -- you'll need a
are saved in AVI format, using the M-JPEG codec. Sound is recorded
along with the video.
cannot use the zoom lens during filming. As I mentioned earlier,
you can use the Photo Effects feature, so you can make a black
and white movie if you desire.
a sample movie for you, recorded at the 640 x 480 resolution.
Be warned, it's huge!
Updated 3/10/02: I've added a better sample movie with less panning
Click to play movie (5.9MB, 640 x 480,
view it? Download QuickTime.
always has done a great job with their playback modes, and the
A70 is no exception. Image protection, slide shows, DPOF print
marking, and thumbnail view mode are all here.
is the "zoom and scroll" feature.
can zoom into your images up to 10X, with many steps in between.
Scrolling around in the enlarged area is very snappy thanks to
the DIGIC processor.
between images is very quick as well -- a little over a second
between high res thumbnails. You
can find out almost everything about your photo, with the exception
of a histogram, by pressing the display button.
Does it Compare?
case you didn't notice, I really liked the PowerShot A70. In
fact, I've been interested in it since the time I was first told
about it, a few weeks before its introduction. The A70 isn't
just a low-cost camera, it's a full-featured camera too. It has
full manual controls, including shutter speed and aperture, focus,
and white balance. Performance and image quality are both very
good, as are the playback and movie modes. It also supports add-on
lenses and an underwater case. It's not perfect though. Images
were occasionally soft, and purple fringing showed up more than
I was expecting. Redeye seemed to be a problem. With the exception
of the software, the A70's bundle isn't great. If you are looking
that also happens to be inexpensive, the PowerShot A70 should
be high on your list.
good photo quality
- Robust performance
an AF illuminator lamp
controls for a cheap camera (in other words, it's a great value)
movie, playback modes
I didn't care for:
in images a little too soft; purple fringing occasionally a
diopter correction knob
histogram in record or playback mode
could be better (aside from software)
3 Megapixel cameras worth considering include the Canon
PowerShot S230, Casio Exilim
EX-Z3 and QV-R3, Fuji
FinePix A303, HP
Photosmart 735, Kodak EasyShare DX4330, DX6340 and LS633, Kyocera
Finecam S3L, Minolta
DiMAGE Xi, Nikon Coolpix 3100 and 3500, Olympus
D-560Z and Stylus
300, Pentax Optio 33L and
S, Sony DSC-P72 and -P8,
and the Toshiba
PDR-3310. A long list
I mentioned at the beginning of the review, the PowerShot
A60 is more-or-less the same camera, but with
a 2 Megapixel CCD and no 640 x 480 movie mode.
always, I recommend a trip down to your local reseller to try
the PowerShot A70 and it's competitors before you buy!
to see how the photo quality turned out? Check out our PowerShot
a second opinion?
out a review of the A70 over at Steve's
welcomes your comments or questions. Send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Due to my limited resources, please do not e-mail me asking
for a personal recommendation.