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DCRP Review: Canon PowerShot A700
by Jeff Keller, DCRP Founder/Editor
Originally posted: April 19, 2006
Last Updated: August 21, 2011

The Canon PowerShot A700 ($350) is a low cost camera offering a 6X zoom lens in place of the 3X or 4X lenses usually found on cameras this size. While it's name makes it sound like the top-end camera in Canon's A-series, that's up for debate. While it does offer more zoom than the other models, it has less resolution and doesn't offer a rotating LCD display like the PowerShot A620. Hopefully this chart will clear up any confusion that you might have about the various A-series cameras on the market:

Feature PowerShot A530 PowerShot A540 PowerShot A610 PowerShot A620 PowerShot A700
Street price
(at time of posting)
$194 $262 $234 $301 $318
Resolution 5.0 MP 6.0 MP 5.0 MP 7.1 MP 6.0 MP
Optical zoom 4X 4X 4X 4X 6X
Lens max. aperture F2.6 - F5.5 F2.6 - F5.5 F2.6 - F4.1 F2.6 - F4.1 F2.6 - F4.8
Focal length (35 mm equiv.) 35 - 140 mm 35 - 140 mm 35 - 140 mm 35 - 140 mm 35 - 210 mm
LCD size 1.8" 2.5" 2.0" 2.0" 2.5"
Rotating LCD? No No Yes Yes No
Manual focus point selection No No Yes Yes Yes
Supports conversion lenses? No Yes Yes Yes Yes
Supports underwater case? No Yes Yes Yes No
Supports Remote Capture No No No Yes No
Battery used AA (2) AA (2) AA (4) AA (4) AA (2)
Battery life
(battery used in test)
360 shots
(2500 mAh)
360 shots
(2500 mAh)
500 shots
(2300 mAh)
500 shots
(2300 mAh)
400 shots
(2500 mAh)

I hope that chart helps a bit. Ready to learn more about the PowerShot A700? Our review starts right now!

Since the cameras share much in common, I will be reusing portions of the PowerShot A540 review here.

What's in the Box?

The PowerShot A700 has an average bundle. Inside the box, you'll find:

Canon includes a 16MB Secure Digital (SD) memory card along with the A700, which holds just five photos at the highest quality setting. That means that you'll need to buy a memory card, which drives up the initial cost of the camera a bit. The PowerShot A700 uses Secure Digital memory cards, and I'd suggest a 512MB card as a good starter size. The camera takes advantage of high speed memory cards, so it's worth spending the extra bucks for one of those (60X or faster).

The camera uses two AA batteries for power, and Canon includes alkaline cells in the box, which will quickly end up in your trash can. So, I'd buy a four pack of NiMH rechargeables (2300 mAh or higher) plus a faster charger so you can get the most out of the A700. Here's how the camera performs against the competition in terms of battery life:

Camera Battery life, LCD on
(CIPA standard)
Battery used for test
Canon PowerShot A610/A620 500 shots 2300 mAh
Canon PowerShot A700 400 shots 2500 mAh NiMH
Fuji FinePix F650 150 shots NP-40
HP Photosmart R817 200 shots R07
Nikon Coolpix P4 200 shots EN-EL5
Panasonic Lumix DMC-LZ3/LZ5 390 shots Unknown NiMH
Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ1 250 shots CGA-S007

There aren't too many cameras in the A700's price range that offer a decent amount of zoom, so this list is fairly short. The A700 turns in impressive numbers, especially considering that it uses just two AA batteries.

Speaking of which, you may know that I'm a big fan of cameras that use AA batteries. Why? Two reasons. For one, NiMH rechargeables are cheaper than their lithium-ion equivalents. Second, if your rechargeables run out of juice in the field you can just drop in regular alkaline batteries to get through the day.

There's a built-in lens cover on the PowerShot A700, so there are no clumsy lens caps to worry about.

Like most of the A-series cameras the A700 offers plenty of accessories. They include:

Accessory Model # Price Why you want it
Wide-angle lens WC-DC58N $150 Brings the wide end of the lens down by 0.7X to 24.5 mm; requires conversion lens adapter
Telephoto lens TC-DC58N $100 Boosts focal range by 1.75X to a whopping 367.5 mm; requires conversion lens adapter
Close-up lens 250D (58 mm) $87 Lets you shoot close-ups between 18 and 25 cm away
Conversion lens adapter LA-DC52G $22 Required for conversion lenses; threaded for 58 mm accessories as well
External slave flash HF-DC1 $100 Boosts flash range and reduces redeye; since it's a slave flash, the DC1 fires when the onboard flash does
AC adapter ACK800 $40 Power the camera without wasting your batteries
Rechargeable battery kit CBK4-300 $58 Includes four 2500 mAh batteries and a charger

That's not too shabby!

ImageBrowser (Mac OS X)

Canon includes several software products with the A700, the first being the usual ImageBrowser/ZoomBrowser applications that come with all of their PowerShot models. ImageBrowser is for the Mac, while ZoomBrowser is for Windows PCs.

The "Browser twins" can be used for downloading images from a camera, and then viewing, editing, and printing them. Editing functions include trimming, redeye removal, and the ability to adjust levels, color, brightness, sharpness, and the tone curve. There's also an auto adjustment feature available.

The Remote Capture feature (which I've mentioned in other reviews) does not work with the A700.

ArcSoft PhotoStudio 4.3 for Mac OS X

Also included is ArcSoft PhotoStudio (v 4.3 for Mac, v5.5 for Windows), which is kind of like a "light" version of Adobe Photoshop. It's not bad, though I miss all the bells and whistles of the newer PhotoImpression software that's available these days.

Last year Canon reworked their camera manuals a bit. There's a basic manual which will get you up and shooting quickly. For more details you can open up the advanced manual, which should answer any question you might have. A separate software manual is also included. The manuals are complete, though not the most user friendly ones that I've found.

Look and Feel

At first glance, the PowerShot A700 looks a lot like the A620. Look closely at the label on the lens and you'll see one difference (6X vs 4X), and on the back of the camera you'll find another (non-rotating vs rotating LCD). I have to say that I'm a bit disappointed that the flagship A-series camera lacks the very useful rotating LCD found on the A610 and A620.

The A700 is midsize: too big for your jeans pocket but never a burden to carry around. It's made of a mix of metal and plastic, and it's pretty solid for the most part. The controls are well-placed, and frequently used buttons are within each reach of your finger.

Now, here's a look at how the A700 compares with some of the competition in terms of size and weight:

Camera Dimensions (W x H x D, excluding protrusions) Volume (bulk) Mass (empty)
Canon PowerShot A530/A540 3.6 x 2.5 x 1.7 in. 15.3 cu in. 170 g / 180 g
Canon PowerShot A610/A620 4.1 x 2.6 x 1.9 in. 20.2 cu in. 235 g
Canon PowerShot A700 3.7 x 2.6 x 1.7 in. 16.4 cu in. 200 g
Fuji FinePix F650 4.1 x 2.4 x 1.2 in. 11.8 cu in. 170 g
HP Photosmart R817 3.6 x 2.2 x 1.2 in. 9.5 cu in. 160 g
Nikon Coolpix P4 3.6 x 2.4 x 1.2 in. 10.4 cu in. 170 g
Panasonic Lumix DMC-LZ3/LZ5 3.9 x 2.4 x 1.8 in. 16.9 cu in. 183 g/186 g
Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ1 4.4 x 2.3 x 1.6 in. 16.2 cu in. 234 g

Despite what you'd expect, the A700 and its big lens isn't any larger or heavier than the A610 or A620. It's also about average for this class (not that really is a class).

Let's start our tour of the camera now!

The biggest feature on the A700 is undoubtedly its 6X optical zoom lens. The focal range of this F2.8-4.8 lens is 5.8 - 34.8 mm, which is equivalent to 35 - 210 mm. Conversion lenses and filters can be added by removing that metal ring around the lens (which is released by the button to its lower-right), attaching the optional conversion lens adapter, and then screwing on the lens of your choice.

To the upper-right of the lens is the built-in flash. The working range of the flash is 0.55 - 3.5 m at wide-angle and 0.55 - 2.5 m at telephoto, which is just okay. The A700 does support Canon's external slave flash, which I mentioned in the accessories section. This flash attaches via the tripod mount and fires when the onboard flash does.

To the left of the flash is the optical viewfinder. Next to that is the AF-assist lamp, which doubles as the self-timer lamp. The AF-assist lamp is used by the camera as a focusing aid in low light situations. To the lower-left of that is the A700's microphone.

On the back of the PowerShot A700 you'll find a large 2.5" LCD display which, as I just mentioned, doesn't flip out and rotate like on the A620. As was the case with the A540, the resolution on the screen is a bit low, with just 115,000 pixels (the A540 had even fewer). Despite the low pixel count, the screen was fairly sharp -- I didn't have a problem with it. Outdoor visibility was average, while in low light the screen was quite visible, as it brightens automatically in those situations.

Just above the LCD is an average-sized optical viewfinder. Unfortunately it lacks a diopter correction knob, which is used to focus what you're looking at.

Jumping to the upper-right of the photo we find the record/playback mode switch, with the exposure compensation + delete photo and Print/Share buttons below that. The exposure compensation feature has the usual -2EV to +2EV in 1/3EV increments range.

When connected to a compatible photo printer, just press the Print/Share button and the selected image will be printed. When you connect to a Mac or PC, you can transfer photos (in numerous ways), and even set your computer's desktop background -- right from the camera.

Below those buttons is the four-way controller, used for menu navigation, selecting manual exposure settings, and also:

Manual focus (center frame enlargement not shown)

In manual focus mode you'll use the left and right directions on the four-way controller to adjust the focus distance. A guide showing the distance is shown on the top of the LCD, and the center of the frame is enlarged so you can make sure that your subject is in focus.

Function menu

By pressing the center button on the four-way controller, you'll open up the Function menu. This menu has the following options:

There are two Auto ISO modes on the PowerShot A700. The difference is that the High ISO Auto mode will boost the sensitivity higher than the regular Auto mode. This lets you use a faster shutter speed, which will result in sharper photos. The catch is that the image will be on the noisy side. I'll have more on the camera's ISO performance later in the review.

The A700 has a custom white balance mode, which lets you use a white or gray card for perfect color in any lighting. This will come in handy when you're shooting in unusual lighting condition, like I do in many of the test shots later in the review.

The A700 has an excellent continuous shooting mode. With a high speed memory card you can keep shooting at 2 frames/second until the memory card is full. There's a brief blackout between shots on the LCD, though you should still be able to follow a moving subject.

The My Colors feature has been changed a bit since last year. Canon has combined the Photo Effects and My Colors menu, and two of the color options (Color Swap and Color Accent) have been relegated to the scene modes (I'll talk about those two modes below). The options above should be self-explanatory, though I should mention that the custom color option lets you adjust the saturation, contrast, sharpness, plus red, blue, green, and skin tone levels.

The last thing to see on the back of the A700 are two more buttons. The Display button turns the LCD on and off, and also toggles what is shown on it. The Menu button does just as it sounds.

On the top of the PowerShot A700 you'll find the power and shutter release buttons, the zoom controller, the mode dial, and the speaker.

The mode dial has quite a few options, including:

Option Function
Movie mode More on this later
Stitch Assist Helps you line up photos for later stitching into panoramas
Scene mode Pick the situation and the camera uses the appropriate settings. Choose from night snapshot, kids & pets, indoor, foliage, snow, beach, fireworks, color accent, and color swap. See below for more.
Night Scene More commonly used scene modes
Auto mode Fully automatic, most camera settings locked up
Program mode Automatic shooting, but with access to all menu options
Shutter priority (Tv) mode You choose shutter speed, camera picks aperture. Shutter speed range is 15 - 1/2000 sec
Aperture priority (Av) mode You choose aperture, camera picks appropriate shutter speed. Range is F2.8 - F8.0
Full manual (M) mode Choose both the shutter speed and aperture yourself; same ranges as above

As you'd expect from the flagship A-series camera, there are full manual exposure controls on the A700. You may not need them yet, but when you're ready to learn more about photography, the A700 is ready.

Color Accent (kept green, everything else is B&W) Color Swap (red washing machine)

The Color Accent and Color Swap options were moved from the My Colors mode to the Scene mode on the A700 (compared to last year's models). The Color Accent feature lets you select a color to highlight, and then all the other colors are turned to black and white. Color Swap does just as it sounds -- it swaps one color for another.

The zoom controller, which wraps around the shutter release, moves the lens from wide-angle to telephoto in about 1.9 seconds. I counted fifteen steps throughout the 6X zoom range.

On this side of the camera you'll find its I/O ports. They include A/V out, USB, and DC-in (for the optional AC adapter). The A700 supports the USB 2.0 High Speed standard for fast data transfer to your Mac or PC.

There's nothing to see on the other side of the camera. The lens is at the full telephoto position here.

On the bottom of the camera you'll find the battery and memory card compartment plus a plastic tripod mount (boo!). The door covering the battery/memory compartment is of average quality. You should be able to swap memory cards while the camera is on a tripod.

The A700 uses two AA batteries for power, and Secure Digital or MultiMedia memory cards for storage. A small watch battery stores camera settings and the date and time.

Using the Canon PowerShot A700

Record Mode

It takes just 1.6 seconds for the A700 to extend its 6X zoom lens and "warm up" before you can start taking pictures -- pretty snappy.

No live histogram to be found

Autofocus speeds were very good -- the A700 seemed a bit more responsive than the A540 that I recently reviewed. Typically, you'll wait about 0.2 - 0.4 seconds for the camera to lock focus, with longer (but not horrible) waits at the telephoto end of the lens. Low light focusing was very good, thanks to the A700's AF-assist lamp.

I did not find shutter lag to be a problem, even at the slower shutter speeds at which it can occur.

Shot-to-shot speed is excellent on the A700, with a delay of a little over a second before you can take another picture, assuming you've turned the post-shot review feature off.

You can delete a picture as it's been saved to the memory card by pressing the delete photo (exposure compensation) button.

Now, here's a look at the image size and quality choices available on the camera:

Resolution Quality Approx. file size # images on 16MB card
# images on 512MB card (optional)
2816 x 2112
Superfine 2.7 MB 5 176
Fine 1.6 MB 8 292
Normal 780 KB 19 603
2816 x 1584
Superfine 2.0 MB 7 235
Fine 1.2 MB 12 392
Normal 585 KB 25 794
Middle 1
2272 x 1704
Superfine 2.0 MB 7 237
Fine 1.1 MB 13 425
Normal 556 KB 26 839
Middle 2
1600 x 1200
Superfine 1002 KB 14 471
Fine 558 KB 26 839
Normal 278 KB 50 1590
640 x 480
Superfine 249 KB 56 1777
Fine 150 KB 88 2747
Normal 84 KB 138 4317

As you can see, a larger memory card is a wise investment if you buy the A700. I should also mention that there is a special "postcard" resolution (1600 x 1200) which is what you'll need to use if you want to print the date on your photos. You cannot do that at any other resolution.

There's no RAW or TIFF support on the PowerShot A700.

Images are named IMG_xxxx.JPG, where x = 0001 - 9999. The file numbering is maintained even if you replace and/or format memory cards.

Now, onto the menus!

The PowerShot A700 has a basic, easy-to-use menu system. Please note that some of these options are unavailable in the automatic or scene modes. The complete list of options in the record menu includes:

There are three autofocus modes to choose from. AiAF is your multi-point mode, with the camera automatically choosing between nine areas of the frame. The center AF mode does just as it sounds: always focuses on the center of the frame. The Flexizone feature lets you select the area of the frame on which to focus, and there are 273 positions to choose from.

The setup menu has these options:

An additional "My Camera'" menu allows you to customize the startup screen, beeps, and phony shutter sounds that your camera makes. The software included with the camera lets you use your own photos and sounds as well, if you desire. If these bother you, you can also turn them off.

Well enough about menus, let's do photo tests now.

The PowerShot A700 did a fine job with our usual macro test subject. The colors are spot on, and nicely saturated. The figurine has the "smooth" look that has become a trademark of Canon cameras of late.

The macro mode is only available with the lens fixed between 1X and 3X. When you're in that area, your subject can be between 1 and 55 cm away.

The A700 did a pretty good job with the night test shot as well. The camera took in plenty of light, thanks to its manual control over shutter speed. Purple fringing levels were low, and noise levels were average for a camera with this resolution.

I have two ISO tests in this review: one in low light and another in normal light. The low light ISO test uses the night scene above. Have a look:

ISO 80

ISO 100

ISO 200

ISO 400

ISO 800

As you can see, the noise levels in the ISO 80 and 100 crops are about equal. ISO 200 is a bit worse, though with a little clean-up in noise reduction software you can still use it for midsize prints. Details really start to disappear at the ISO 400 setting (though you can get a decent 4 x 6 after some noise reduction), and by ISO 800 they're just about gone.

There's mild barrel distortion at the wide end of the A700's 6X zoom lens. I didn't see any problems with vignetting (dark corners) or blurry edges in the test shot, or in my real world photos.

The A-series cameras have always had a problem with redeye, and the A700 continues this unfortunate tradition. While your results may vary, there's a pretty good chance that you'll encounter it as well.

Here's the other ISO test, this one taken in my studio under a pair of 600W quartz studio lamps. Since there's more light than in the night test shots (obviously), I expect noise levels to be lower here. I've cropped out an area of the test scene for easy comparison, but you should look at the full-size images if you want to really see the differences.

ISO 80

ISO 100

ISO 200

ISO 400

ISO 800

The PowerShot A700's ISO performance was the same as the A540 that I just reviewed, which isn't surprising, as they use the same sensor. You should be able to make large prints through ISO 200 without any problem. The ISO 400 image prints well at 4 x 6, and may be okay at larger sizes after a trip through NeatImage or similar. There was noticeable grain in the 4 x 6 inch print of the ISO 800 image, though it too could be usable (at that size) after some noise reduction.

I was very pleased with the photo quality on the PowerShot A700. Images were well-exposed, with accurate colors and minimal purple fringing. Sharpness was just about where I like it, with subjects having the trademark Canon smoothness. Noise levels were reasonable given the resolution of the camera.

Don't just take my word for all this, though. Have a look at the photo gallery, printing the photos if you'd like, and then decide if the A700's photo quality meets your expectations.

Movie Mode

The A700 has the nice movie mode that comes along with the DIGIC II processor. You can record VGA quality video (with sound) at 30 frames/second until either the memory card fills up, or the movie file size reaches 1GB (which takes just eight minutes). A high speed memory card is required for the high quality movie mode.

For longer movies you can either lower the resolution or the frame rate. Two other resolution choices are available: 320 x 240 and 160 x 120. For the 640 x 480 and 320 x 240 sizes you can choose from 30 or 15 frames/second, while the 160 x 120 size is fixed at 15 fps (with a 3 minute recording limit as well).

There's also a unique "Fast Frame Rate" mode, which lets you record up to 1 minute of 320 x 240 video at a speedy 60 frames/second. This is great for videos of fast moving subjects.

The My Colors features mentioned earlier (including Color Accent and Color Swap) can be used in movie mode as well. A movie editing feature lets you trim unwanted footage off the beginning or end of a clip.

You cannot use the zoom lens during filming (it will be locked when you start filming). The digital zoom is available, though. Movies are saved in AVI format, using the M-JPEG codec.

Here's a sample movie for you:

Click to play movie (16.7 MB, 640 x 480, 30 fps, AVI format)
Can't view it? Download QuickTime

Playback Mode

Playback menu Print menu

The A700's playback mode has all the usual features and more. You've got slideshows, image protection, image rotation, voice captions, thumbnail view, and zoom and scroll. A new "print menu" lets you tag photos from printing on a photo printer. The zoom and scroll (AKA playback zoom) feature lets you enlarge the picture up to 10X, and then scroll around in the zoomed-in area. It's nice and fast thanks to the camera's DIGIC II processor.

The A700 also has the cool but not terribly useful "rotate the camera and the image on the LCD rotates too" that I first spotted on the PowerShot SD550.

By default, the A700 doesn't give you much info about your photos. But press the display button and you'll get plenty of details, including a histogram.

The camera moves through images quickly, with a delay of about half a second between photos.

How Does it Compare?

The Canon PowerShot A700 is a low priced camera with more zoom than you'd expect in a camera this size -- 6X. The A700 is much like the A540 that I just reviewed (with the lens being the main difference), and it earns my recommendation as well.

The A700 is a midsize camera made of metal and plastic. It's pretty solid for the most part, though the door over the battery/memory card compartment could be stronger. The controls are all easy to reach, and Canon didn't go overboard with buttons. The camera features a 6X optical zoom lens, which is a lot more than you'll find on other cameras in this price range. While it's not quite an ultra zoom, you can turn it into one by purchasing the telephoto conversion lens. The A700 has a 2.5" LCD display, though the resolution could be better, and the screen doesn't flip-out and rotate like on the "lesser" A610 and A620. The screen was easy to see in low light situations, though.

The PowerShot A700 features both automatic and manual controls. For those just starting out you'll find an auto shooting mode, plus numerous scene modes. While you won't use them often, the My Colors features are fun to play around with. When you're ready to use manual controls, you'll find that the A700 has a full set of them, from exposure to white balance to focus. There's also a nice burst mode, which can take 2 pictures per second until the memory card is full (high speed card required). The movie mode is also very good, though you'll hit the 1GB file size limit in just eight minutes.

Camera performance was good in most areas. The A700 turns on quickly, focuses without much of a wait (it seemed faster than the A540), and shutter lag wasn't a problem. Low light focusing was very good, thanks to the camera's AF-assist lamp. Battery life was above average, with the A700 squeezing out 400 shots using two 2500 mAh NiMH batteries (using the CIPA standard).

Photo quality was very good. The A700 took well-exposed photos with accurate color, low purple fringing, and reasonable noise levels. The A700's 6 Megapixel sensor has pretty good ISO performance, allowing you to print 4 x 6's through ISO 400. The ISO 800 isn't terribly useful, though you may be able to squeeze out a smaller print after running the image through something like NeatImage. The one area in which the A700 ran into trouble was with regard to "redeye" in flash photos.

I don't have too many other complaints about the camera that I didn't already mention. I'm not a fan of the plastic tripod mount, and a larger memory card and rechargeable batteries in the bundle would've been a nice touch.

If you want a compact digital camera with more zoom power than other cameras in this class, then the PowerShot A700 is well worth a look. The 6X zoom comes in handy for occasional nature and sports shooting (though an ultra zoom will get you considerably closer to the action), and the A700's manual controls let you take some creative shots. Despite a few minor annoyances, the A700 earns an easy recommendation from me.

What I liked:

What I didn't care for:

There aren't many cameras in the A700's class, but here are a few similar models worth a look: the Canon PowerShot A620 (only 4X zoom, but more resolution and a rotating LCD), Fuji FinePix F650, HP Photosmart R817, Nikon Coolpix P4, and the Panasonic Lumix DMC-LZ5 and DMC-TZ1.

As always, I recommend a trip down to your local reseller to try out the PowerShot A700 and its competitors before you buy!

Photo Gallery

See how the photos turned out in our gallery!

Want another opinion?

Read more reviews at Digital Photography Review and CNET.

Feedback & Discussion

If 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.

To discuss this review with other DCRP readers, please visit our forums.


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