of the most popular cameras of 2003 has been the Canon PowerShot
A70 (see our review).
It's received positive reviews from camera review sites (like
this one) and users alike. Due to its popularity, finding an
A70 proved difficult for many consumers, who would show up at
Best Buy to find them out of stock. What made the A70 so desirable?
In my opinion, it's because Canon "gets it". They created
a lower cost camera which not only took good quality pictures,
but also offered full manual controls, support for add-on lenses,
and an AF-assist lamp -- items rarely found on cameras in that class.
could Canon improve on the A70? They started by -- not surprisingly
-- bumping up the resolution to 4.0 Megapixels. Then they took
one of the most appealing features from the PowerShot G3 and
G5: the swiveling LCD. And those are the major changes between
the A70 and the new PowerShot
A80 ($399 street price), reviewed here.
Canon have another hit on their hands? Find out now in our review!
in the Box?
PowerShot A80 has a good bundle. Inside the box, you'll find:
4.0 (effective) Mpixel Canon PowerShot A80 camera
AA alkaline batteries
featuring Canon Digital Camera Solutions and ArcSoft Camera
page camera manual + add'l software manual (both printed)
includes a 32MB CompactFlash card with the camera, a good starting
point. Even so, you'll definitely want a larger card right away.
You can use any Type I CompactFlash card (I recommend sticking
with name brands), which are available in capacities of up to
else you'll want to buy is a set of batteries and a fast charger,
since Canon includes alkaline batteries in the box. I highly
recommend buying at least two sets (of four) NiMH rechargeables,
2000 mAh or better. Canon estimates that you'll be able to take
675 pictures (with 50% LCD use), or spend 280 minutes in playback
using their 1600 mAh rechargeable batteries, so you'll do even
better than that with higher capacity cells. Either way, the
battery life on the A80 is quite good. And, if you're ever in
a jam, you can always pop in alkaline batteries to get through
A80 has a built-in lens cover, so there is no lens cap to worry
thing I love about the A70 is just how expandable it is -- and
the A80 is the same way. You won't find very many lower-end cameras
that allow you to use conversion lenses.
courtesy of Canon Inc.
the diagram above shows, you can get wide-angle ($99), telephoto
($129), or close-up ($105) lenses for the A80. Before you use
any of those, you'll need to buy the LA-DC52D conversion lens
adapter ($20). The wide-angle adapter gives you an effective
wide end of 26.6 mm, while the telephoto adapter boosts the total
zoom to 200 mm. The close-up lens reduces the minimum distance
to the subject to 4 cm at wide-angle, and 8 cm at telephoto.
The conversion lens adapter will also let you attach any 52mm
courtesy of Canon Inc.
cool accessory is the WP-DC900 waterproof case ($240), which
will let you take your A80 up to 40 meters underwater!
accessories include a battery/charger kit ($45), AC adapter ($65),
and a soft case. The one item that you can't use on the A80 is
an external flash.
A80 is PictBridge-enabled for direct printing to photo printers
that support that system, and it also can be directly connected
to select Canon printers.
ImageBrowser in Mac OS X
includes version 14 (!) of their excellent Digital Camera Solutions
software, as well as ArcSoft's very capable Camera Suite, with
the A80. The main programs in the DCS software package are ImageBrowser/ZoomBrowser
(Mac/PC names), PhotoStitch (a great panorama creation product),
and RemoteCapture (which lets your Mac or PC control the camera
over the USB connection).
is a panoramic photo, taken with the A80, that I stitched together
using PhotoStitch. As you can see, it's not perfect -- though
using a tripod would've certainly helped here (this was an unplanned
PhotoImpression in Mac OS X
ArcSoft package includes PhotoImpression 4 for Mac and Windows,
as well as VideoImpression (1.7 for PC, 1.6 for Mac). Despite
its somewhat cheesy interface, PhotoImpression is a nice program
for retouching and organizing your photos.
software bundle continues to be a lot nicer than what the competition
includes with their cameras. Best of all (for us Mac users, at
least), all the software is Mac OS X native.
camera manuals also are some of the best out there. You'll get
a full, printed camera manual (that actually makes sense), as
well as a separate manual for the bundled software as well.
it's just me, but the build quality on the A80 seems a lot nicer
than on the A60 and A70. There's a lot more metal to it, and
it feels great -- not cheap at all. The A80 is not what I'd call
a compact camera -- rather it's somewhere between compact and
midsize. It's a little too big to fit in your pocket, but you'll
never tire of carrying it around.
with its predecessor, the A80 is very easy to hold and operate,
even with one hand.
official dimensions of the camera are 4.1 x 2.5 x 1.4 inches
(W x H x D, without protrusions), and it weights just 250 grams
empty. The A70's numbers were 4.0 x 2.5 x 1.2 inches and 215
grams, respectively. So the A80 has bulked up a bit.
take a closer look at the A80 now!
A80 has an F2.8-4.9, 3X optical zoom lens. The lens has a focal
range of 7.8 - 23.4 mm, which is equivalent to 38 - 114 mm. The
A80 uses a bayonet-style system for conversion lenses: just press
the button to the lower-left of the lens, unscrew the ring, and
pop on the conversion lens adapter.
the top-right, you can see the A80's built-in flash. The flash
has a working range of 0.45 - 4.4 m at wide-angle, and 0.45 -
2.5 m at telephoto. As I mentioned earlier, you cannot use an
external flash with this camera.
below the flash is the AF-assist lamp. Canon has been including
these for years now, and there are still major manufacturers
who omit this necessity on their cameras.
now to the top-left of the lens, you'll see the microphone.
biggest change on the A80 has to be its new rotating LCD display.
It can be rotated in the positions shown above and below, and
anywhere in-between. This feature, first seen on Canon's G-series
cameras, is a real help when you're trying to shoot over peoples'
heads, for example.
the LCD in a more normal position. At 1.5" in size, it's on the
small side. The LCD has 67k pixels, though you wouldn't know
it, as the screen is sharp. You cannot adjust
screen brightness. [updated 11/15/03]
above the LCD is the good-sized optical viewfinder. It lacks
a diopter correction knob, which is helpful for those without
the LCD are two buttons: "set" is the "OK" button
in the menu, while "menu" invokes the menu system.
To the left of that, under a plastic cover, is the DC-in port,
which is where you'll plug in the optional AC adapter.
to the right of the LCD, you'll find a switch, two buttons, and
the four-way controller. I'll start at the bottom and work my
disp[lay] button toggles the LCD on and off, as well as what
is displayed on it (you can customize this info in the setup
menu). The func[tion] button opens up the function menu (described
below) and it also deletes a photo.
The function menu
function menu is where you'll change the shooting settings on
the camera. The available options on this overlay-style menu
compensation (+2EV to -2EV in 1/3EV increments)
output (1/3, 2/3, full) - only available in full manual mode
balance (Auto, daylight, cloudy, tungsten, fluorescent, fluorescent
(Single-shot, continuous, high speed continuous, self-timer
[10 and 2 sec])
(Auto, 50, 100, 200, 400)
effect (Off, vivid, neutral, low sharpening, sepia, black & white)
(Evaluative, center-weighted, spot)
size/compression - see chart later in review
you can see, the A80 has a manual white balance feature, which
lets you shoot a white or gray card to get perfect white balance
in any lighting. In fact, the A80 has a full suite of manual
controls, as you'll see later.
regular continuous shooting mode will take photos at around 1.6
frames/second, showing each image on the LCD as it is taken.
High speed mode is faster: 2.4 frames/second, but you won't get
the LCD preview of each shot. I was able to take seven shots
in a row in regular mode, and five at high speed (at Large/Superfine
photo effect feature lets you change the color between regular,
vivid, and neutral. You can use photo effects in any of the camera
to the tour now. Above the func button is the four-way controller,
which is used for menu navigation and more. The "more" includes:
- Flash (Auto, flash on, flash off) - redeye reduction is activated
in the menu system
- Focus (Macro, manual)
the camera's 9-point autofocus system just won't do it for you,
the A80 offers a manual focus mode. A meter displaying the current
focus distance is shown on the LCD , and you use the left/right
directions on the four-way controller to adjust it. The camera
will also digitally enlarge the center of the frame, so you can
ensure that your subject is in focus.
final item on the back of the A80 is a switch, which moves the
camera from record to playback mode.
the top of the PowerShot A80, you'll find the power button, mode
dial, shutter release button (with zoom controller around it),
power button is nice, in that you have to hold it down for a
second to turn the camera on or off. So you won't accidentally
turn it on when you're putting it away.
mode dial is chock full of options, and even has some nice new
on this later
help making panoramic shots
taking photos at slower shutter speed, like to blur water
or action. Tripod recommended.
mode, many options are locked
chooses shutter speed and aperture. All menu options are
choose the shutter speed and the camera picks the appropriate
aperture. You can choose from a number of speeds ranging
from 15 sec - 1/2000 sec. The 1/2000 shutter speed is only
available 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.
your favorite camera settings to one of two spots on the
mode dial -- nice!
nice to see that Canon includes some useful scene modes (like
action), for folks who don't want to mess with the manual settings.
The custom settings options on the mode dial is also a nice touch
-- the lack of this feature was one of my few complaints about
zoom controller moves the lens from wide-angle to telephoto in
1.5 seconds. It's not as precise as it could be, though.
only thing to see here are the I/O ports for A/V and Digital
(USB) output, which are kept under a plastic cover.
this side, you'll find the CompactFlash slot, which is behind
a plastic door of average quality. This is a Type I slot, which
mans that you can not use the Microdrive.
included 32MB CF card is shown at left.
we reach the bottom of the camera. Here you'll find the battery
compartment and a plastic tripod mount. I wish the tripod mount
was metal, as most of the rest of the camera is.
the Canon PowerShot A80
PowerShot A80 extends its lens and "warms up" in just
two seconds -- very speedy for a camera with a zoom lens.
A80 generally locked focus in under a second, which is about
average. If the autofocus has to hunt, or if the AF-assist lamp
is used, it may take longer. The camera was able to lock focus
on subjects around the office in dim light.
lag is minimal at fast shutter speeds, and noticeable at slower
shutter speeds (where you should be using the flash or a tripod
speed is very good: under 1.5 seconds pass before you can take
another shot, assuming you turned off the post-shot review feature.
If you have the review feature turned on, half-pressing the shutter
release will ready the camera for another shot.
a shot is taken, you can press the function button to quickly
delete the photo you just took.
a look at the image size and quality choices available on the
shots on 32MB card
2272 x 1704
1600 x 1200
1024 x 768
640 x 480
no TIFF or RAW mode available on this camera, unlike some of
Canon's more expensive cameras. The camera names files as IMG_####.JPG,
where # = 0001 - 9900. The camera maintains the numbering even
if you erase or format the card.
A80 uses the same menu system as other PowerShot cameras. It's
basic, and easy to use. Note the some of the options below are
only available in P/A/S/M mode. Here are the available menu options:
(on/off) - turns multi-point autofocus on and off
zoom (on/off) - enlarges the center of the frame when using
zoom (on/off) - using this reduces photo quality
(Off, 2-10 sec) - for showing image on LCD after it is taken
display (on/off) - whether image on LCD is reversed when LCD
is rotated (to face the subject)
settings (C1, C2) - saves your favorite settings to the C1
or C2 spot on mode dial
A80 also has a setup menu, with the following options:
(on/off) - turn the beep sounds off
- set the volume for the various sound effects the A80 makes
power down (on/off)
off (10, 20, 30 sec, 1-3 min) - delay before LCD is turned
number reset (on/off) - maintain file numbering
rotate (on/off) - automatically rotate portrait photos
units (Meters, feet)
(English, Deutsch, Français, Nederlands, Dansk, Suomi,
Italiano, Norsk, Svenska, Español, Chinese, Japanese)
system (NTSC, PAL)
is also a "My Camera" menu, which allows you to customize
the startup screen and various noises that the camera makes.
You can import your own sounds, or you can turn them all off,
enough about menus, let's do photo tests now.
A80 did an excellent job with our 3" tall macro subject.
Color and detail are both spot-on. The "smoothness" is
impressive as well. In macro mode, you can get as close as 5
cm at wide-angle, and 25 cm at telephoto. The recordable area
is 56 x 42 mm and 87 x 65 mm, respectively.
that's not close enough, get the close-up lens, which lowers
the minimum distance to 4 cm at wide-angle, and 8 cm at telephoto.
got two night test shots for you in this review. The first one,
above, is pretty nice, except for purple fringing and the fact
that I can't seem to take a level shot anymore. I was surprised
see this much purple fringing at an aperture of F4.5. One way
to reduce it is to use a higher F-number (thus smaller aperture).
ability to select a shutter speed as slow as 15 seconds allows
you to take shots like this.
here's the other shot. The purple fringing is again noticeable,
and this one was taken at F4.9! One thing that's not visible
here is any noise, and that's good.
of noise, here's a look at how adjusting the ISO sensitivity
affects the amount of noise in your photos. Why would you use
a higher ISO? Quite simply, it lets you use a faster shutter
speed, which may be necessary if you don't have a tripod.
you can see, noise levels are fairly low until ISO 200. Once
you hit ISO 400, things are pretty grainy.
A80 turned in a good performance in the redeye test. There's
a tiny bit of red, but mostly it's just the flash reflection
that you see here.
distortion test shows mild barrel distortion and the slightest
hint of vignetting (dark corners). Luckily I did not see any
of this phenomenon in my real world photos. I should add that
I had a heck of the time getting the color right on this test
shot -- most cameras do fine, but I had to use custom white balance
to get this to look right.
the PowerShot A80's photo quality was very good, with accurate
color, and incredible detail. There were two issues that bothered
me, though. The first is the camera's tendency to "blow
out the sky" in certain situations, with this and this being
examples (the A70 did this too). The second issue is purple fringing
(seen here, plus in
previous two examples). In much the same way as the PowerShot
G5, the A80 has more of this than it should -- and the night
shots at F4.x apertures show that it doesn't go away easily.
Neither of these issues are deal breakers in my opinion -- these
problems weren't common, but I noticed it enough to knock off
a few points for photo quality. One thing to keep in mind is
that the A80 costs $399, and the photos are pretty darn good
for that price.
don't let me words be your only guide -- look at our photo
gallery, and see if the quality meets your expectations!
A80 has an average movie mode that would've been great two years
ago. You can record up to 3 minutes of video at either 320 x
240 or 160 x 120, both at 15 frames/second. Sound is also recorded.
are saved in AVI format, using the M-JPEG codec.
cannot use the zoom lens during filming.
you thought my Canon SD10 sample movie was dull, wait until you
see this one:
to play movie (3.0MB, AVI format)
Can't view it? Download QuickTime.
A80 has the same, excellent playback mode as seen on other Canon
A80 has all the basic playback features that you'd expect. That
includes slide shows, DPOF print marking, image protection, thumbnail
mode, and zoom and scroll.
zoom and scroll feature (my term) lets you blow up the picture
up to 10X, and then scroll around in the zoomed-in area. This
feature is well-implemented on the A80 -- it's super fast.
Sound Memo feature lets you add a 60 second sound clip to an
image, in WAV format.
can also rotate your photos in playback mode using the Rotate
viewing a movie, you can use the Movie Edit tool to trim unwanted
footage from the beginning
or end of the clip.
A80 provides plenty of information about your photos, including
a histogram. You can toggle what is shown by pressing the Disp
camera moves through images at an average clip -- just under
two seconds elapse between high res photos.
Does it Compare?
the A70 before it, the Canon PowerShot A80 is one of the most
appealing cameras in its class. Canon took the A70, added a higher
resolution (4MP) CCD, a nicer metal body, and a rotating LCD
display -- producing a camera unmatched for the $399 price. Photo
quality is very good, though I was frustrated with the occasional
purple fringing and blown highlights. The A80 has every manual
control that one would need, ranging from shutter speed to white
balance to focus. Enthusiasts will also like the ability to save
your favorite settings to a spot on the mode dial. The camera's
performance is better than average in all areas, and its AF-assist
lamp lets it focus in dim lighting. If the manual controls are
too much for you, the A80 offers some nice scene modes, including
an action mode. The A80 supports wide-angle, telephoto, and close-up
conversion lenses, and there's an underwater case available as
well. Downsides are few, here -- I already mentioned the photo
quality issues. The only other things that I can mention are
the outdated movie mode, plastic tripod mount, and omission of
rechargeable batteries in the box. It's hard not to like the
PowerShot A80 -- it's a camera I strongly recommend.
good photo quality, aside from issues discussed; great detail,
color, low noise
save favorite settings to mode dial
rotating LCD display
solid, easy to hold body
add-on lenses, underwater case
of the best software bundles out there
I didn't care for:
highlights in some images
much purple fringing, even at higher F-numbers
rechargeable batteries included
mode is outdated
other cameras in this class include the Canon PowerShot S45 and S400
Digital ELPH, Casio
Exilim EX-Z4U, Fuji FinePix F700 (I suppose), Kodak
Easyshare DX6440, Kyocera
Finecam L4v, Minolta DiMAGE F300 and S414,
Nikon Coolpix 4300 and 4500,
Olympus C-4000Z and Stylus
Lumix DMC-LC43, Pentax Optio 450 and S4,
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-P92 and DSC-P10,
and the Toshiba
PDR-4300. I've listd a lot of cameras there, but keep in
mind that most of them are missing the manual controls of the
always, I recommend a trip down to your local reseller to try
out the PowerShot A80 and it's competitors before you buy!
how the photo quality stacks up in our photo
another review at Steve's
Feedback & Discussion
you have a question about this review, please send them to Jeff.
Due to my limited resources, please do not e-mail me asking
for a personal recommendation.
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