Canon PowerShot A720 IS
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The Canon PowerShot A720 IS ($249) is an update to the PowerShot A710, one of my favorite cameras from 2006. The A720 isn't a huge leap over its predecessor, though some of the new features are appreciated. Here are the most notable new features:
Everything else is about the same, and that's fine, as the A710 was already an excellent camera. That means that the A720 has a 6X optical zoom lens, optical image stabilization, a 2.5" LCD display, full manual controls, conversion lens support, and much more.
Canon has several models in their A-series, and differentiating the models can be difficult. I put together this chart to help you figure things out:
I hope that helps a little! One thing I want to point out is that the A650 and A720 do not use the exact same lens. They share the same maximum aperture and focal length, but otherwise they're different lenses.
The A710 was one of my favorite low priced, big zoom cameras. Will the A720 do just as well? Find out now, our review starts now!
What's in the Box?
The PowerShot A720 has an average bundle. Inside the box, you'll find:
Canon includes a 16MB memory card along with the A720, which holds just three photos at the highest image quality setting. So, unless you have a larger memory card sitting around, you'll need to buy one right away. The A720 supports all kinds of different memory card formats, including SD, SDHC, MMC, MMCplus, and HC MMCplus (which I didn't even know about until now). I would recommend a 1GB card as a good starter size. Buying a high speed card is a good idea, though you don't need to go overboard.
Like its predecessor (along with most of the other A-series cameras) the A720 is powered by two AA batteries. The alkalines that come in the box will quickly find their way into the trash, so you'll want to pick up a four pack of NiMH rechargeables plus a fast charger right away. Once you've got those installed, here's what kind of battery life you'll get out of the camera:
Kind of a mixed group there, with some cameras using AA batteries, and others using lithium-ion. The A720 got an 11% boost in battery life over its predecessor, and it's above average for the group as a whole.
As you may know, I'm a big fan of cameras that use AA batteries. They're cheaper than their proprietary li-ion counterparts, and you can buy off-the-shelf batteries when your rechargeables die.
The PowerShot A720 has a built-in lens cover, so there's no clunky lens cap to deal with.
Like most of the cameras in the PowerShot A-series, the A720 has plenty of optional accessories. They include:
That's an impressive selection if you ask me!
CameraWindow in Mac OS X
Included with the A720 is version 31.0 of Canon's Digital Camera Solutions software suite. Canon has given their software a refresh, with the ImageBrowser (Mac) and ZoomBrowser (Windows) products now up to version 6. The Mac version is now Universal, so it runs at full speed on Intel-based Macs.
The first part of the Browser software that you'll probably encounter is Camera Window (shown above), and you'll use it to download photos from your camera.
ImageBrowser in Mac OS X
Once that's done you'll find yourself in either ImageBrowser or ZoomBrowser, depending on your computer. Here you can view, organize, e-mail, and print your photos.
ImageBrowser edit window in Mac OS X
Double-click on a thumbnail and you'll bring up the edit window. 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 option for those who want a quick fix.
PhotoStitch in Mac OS X
A separate program called PhotoStitch can, well, stitch together separate photos into one giant panorama. The interface is simple, the process takes minutes, and the results are impressive, as you can see. You can use the A720's Stitch Assist mode to line up the photos side-by-side with just the right amount of overlap.
Canon has consolidated their manuals a bit this year. Instead of separate basic and advanced manuals, you'll now find a thick user manual in the box. While the manual won't win any awards for its user-friendliness, it is complete, and will answer any question you may have about the A720. There are two additional manuals included with the camera: one for direct printing via PictBridge, and the other for the bundled software.
Look and Feel
If you've seen the PowerShot A710, then you've seen the A720. The design is identical, with the color scheme being the only difference. The A720 is made almost entirely of plastic, but despite that, it feels solid in your hands. There's a decent-sized grip for your right hand, and there's enough room for your fingers to rest without touching any buttons. Speaking of buttons, the A720 doesn't have too many, and those that are present are centrally located.
Now, here's a look at how the A720 IS compares to other cameras in its class in terms of size and weight:
(W x H x D, excluding protrusions)
Canon PowerShot A650 IS
4.4 x 2.7 x 2.2 in.
26.1 cu in.
300 g Canon PowerShot A710 IS
3.8 x 2.6 x 1.6 in.
15.8 cu in.
210 g Canon PowerShot A720 IS
3.8 x 2.6 x 1.7 in.
16.8 cu in.
200 g Canon PowerShot G9
4.2 x 2.8 x 1.7 in.
20 cu in.
320 g Fujifilm FinePix F480
3.8 x 2.2 x 0.9 in.
7.5 cu in.
140 g GE E850
3.9 x 2.4 x 1.0 in.
9.4 cu in.
155 g HP Photosmart Mz67
3.9 x 2.5 x 1.7 in.
16.6 cu in.
220 g Kodak EasyShare Z885
3.5 x 2.5 x 1.2 in.
10.5 cu in.
161 g Nikon Coolpix P50
3.8 x 2.6 x 1.8 in.
17.8 cu in.
160 g Panasonic Lumix DMC-LZ7
3.9 x 2.5 x 1.3 in.
12.7 cu in.
184 g Samsung S850
4.1 x 2.5 x 1.0 in.
10.3 cu in.