Bridge cameras are usually aimed at the keen enthusiasts that don't want to lug around a DSLR and loads of lenses. The powershot A series is a low specification version of the bridge camera. However, the Powershot A720 IS has 8Mp and a 6x zoom stuffed into its tiny body.
Canon Powershot A720 IS Specification
- Resolution: 8Mp
- Lens: 6x optical zoom with optical Image Stabiliser
- Processor: DIGIC III with Face Detection AF/AE/FE
- Autofocus: 9-point AiAF and FlexiZone AF/AE
- Presets: 19 shooting modes
- Screen: 2.5in wide-view LCD
- Sensitivity: High ISO1600
The Canon Powershot A720 IS with 8Mp, 6x optical zoom and maximum ISO1600 is £229 and similar in specification to the Kodak Z885 at £135 with 8Mp, 5x optical zoom and upto ISO3200. Alternatively, the Olympus Mju 830 at £205 has 8Mp, 5x optical zoom and maximum ISO1600 rating. The Olympus is not a bridge camera and is part of a very well known range whilst the Kodak is very competitively priced.
Canon Powershot A720 IS Modes and features
Following on in the footsteps of previous A series powershot models, the A720 has a nice grip to clutch onto and a lens sticking out with removable bezel for lens attachments.
The shutter release is situated on top of the grip with the zoom wrapped around it. The power button and Mode dial also sit atop the camera with the Mode dial hanging over the back slightly so it can be used by the thumb.
The Mode dial has the usual suspects of PASM, Auto and a few preset programmed modes that save you having to go into the Scene menu. The modes available on the dial are Portrait, Landscape, Night shot, Kids & pets and Party & indoors. It also has the access to the rest of the Scenes available on the camera as well as a Panoramic option and Movie.
The back of the camera has a 2.5in screen and two small LEDs to show focusing and downloading when you use the optical viewfinder. That's right, there's an optical viewfinder that we can use like we're some kind of prehistoric caveman.
The camera also has a switch at the top right to flick between Camera or Playback operation. This means that the pictures already taken can be reviewed by choosing the Blue arrow, powering up the camera and the lens won't pop out and get in the way.
The other operational buttons are laid out like a corn circle with four buttons positioned as four corners of a square and the navigation array in the middle.
The top left button is for exposure compensation and also doubles as the Delete button when in Playback mode. The top right button is used solely for the Print direct feature and it is useful to point out at this point that the Playback arrow is coloured blue so that any other operation icons coloured in blue will only work in Playback.
The Navigation pad also gives access to the Flash options and focus overrides. Auto, Macro and Manual focus are the three focus options available with the Manual focus being operated using the left and right navigation arrows. For those of you who might be worried about not seeing if it is in focus on the screen, the centre of the screen enlarges to show the image in detail and will focus live for you.
The Function button in the centre of the navigation pad is a quick access key to common features like ISO, White balance, Drive, Metering and file size. Some of these features will only be available in the Manual modes.
The Display button can be found at the bottom of the camera and will flick between showing or not showing information on the screen and even turning it off to save power. This then allows you to go back to the old school tactics of actually using the optical viewfinder.
Finally, the Menu button sits in the corner like a scolded child. The menu is the access to the main areas of the camera and allows fundamental changes to both Camera settings and the core mechanics of the camera. This sounds all very intelligent, but it just means things like turning the sound off.
When the Menu button is pressed, two tabs pop onto the screen. The Camera tab changes things like the AF zone and size. You can also change things like the Digital zoom, Flash sync and Red eye. Safety FE is set to on as default and this feature is a particular dislike of mine. It is a feature that if you are in Aperture priority and use flash, the camera will adjust the aperture to make the exposure correct whether you want it to or not.
Some other features are the Safety MF which is like Safety FE but for the Manual Focus. AF assist beam, Review time and Converter are also available. The Converter option is for using lens converters on the removable bezel. It allows the camera to compensate for the wide or telephoto adapters.
The Set up mode allows more in-depth access to the camera and flipping over to the set up tab will show access to the Sound and volume controls and Start up image. Other options are available are adjustments to the Date & time, file numbering, Language and Print method. These are just a small selection of the options available in the Set up menu.
Canon Powershot A720 IS Build and handling
Despite a plastic casing, the A720 IS is quite a sturdy model. The battery door feels quite secure and has a lock on it, but upon opening the door, the batteries do have a possibility of falling out. The card is securely fastened in and has to be pressed in before it will pop back out.
The optical viewfinder is a little awkward to use. It's very small and obscure to look through and you get a feeling of looking through a pipe.
Everything else is built to a good standard quality. That means whilst the lens is not the USM that you will get with a more expensive model, it is good quality and will serve your purposes well.
What I dislike about the build is the layout of the shutter release. Because the camera is so compact, the index finger has to sit at an awkward angle and can become uncomfortable.
Canon Powershot A720 IS Flash options
Only three options are available in the Flash menu and these are Auto, Flash off and Flash on. However, the menu offers the Red-eye reduction options as well as a rear curtain synch feature.
The distance guidelines are 30cm - 3.5m at wide angle and 55cm - 2.5m at telephoto which is just about standard.
Canon Powershot A720 IS Performance
In the ten second burst the camera managed to take 14 images but needed an additional four seconds to download the surplus information. The tests I performed of the shutter lag gave a mixed bag. The most common results I got were of 0.8 of a second which is a reasonable response.
With bonfire night upon us, the Powershot A720 IS has a perfect opportunity to show its true qualities. I want long exposures to test the cameras image stabiliser and the camera has coped admirably with minimum shake considering the available light.
One problem I noticed is that when I was using the camera in the dark as part of the testing, the picture I had shot could take several seconds to download and the camera will go black as though it is frozen. It could take anything up to 10 seconds to download a single image which is not very good.
Our colour testchart shows a boost in Blue and especially Red as that has also affected the skin tone turning it more pink than skin. Yellow is bright as is White, but Black could be blacker.
The new Canon models have been fitted with a colour enhancing feature which can boost or subdue the colours in the image as well as the usual Black & white or Sepia conversions. A definite difference can be seen on the autumn leaves of the trees. I love the Vivid colour result on this type of shot, but it won't work on portraits.
Seen previously on the Canon Powershot S5 IS , the macro mode on the Powershot A720 IS is excellent, getting down to near point blank range.
The Blue has a significant boost as does Red and it affects the Skin tone giving a more pinkish tone.
The Macro is as formidable as the other Canon bridge cameras with a near point blank range.
Taken on a day with no particular sun, the colours are drab compared to the Vivid version.
The Vivid mode in the Function menu saturates all colours and makes this scene look great with the autumn trees.
Neutral mode does the opposite by knocking reducing colour. Desaturating portraits is very popular, so could be used for that.
The face detection works well and a square will appear over the face and track the subject for off centre compositions.
The flash has worked well giving decent highlights without flattening the skin too much.
Regular portrait mode gives a balanced image if not a little on the cool side which is down to a confused white balance.
1/60 sec at f/2.8, the flames are frozen to garner detail in the fire and metering from the light of the fire has silhouetted the people in front of it.
| 1/4sec at f/8, the flames have blurred. This image was handheld, though. It is a good example of the Image stabiliser.
A decent sky is showing and the camera has shown good attention to detail.
Canon Powershot A720 IS Noise test
There is only a small difference in sharpening of the image between ISO80 and ISO100 and the same goes for ISO200, but closing into full size, very faint purple blobs can be detected, however, this will not be apparent on regular viewing.
The purple seems to take a back seat with ISO400 as grainy noise is starting to sharpen and become more prevalent in low key and mid-range areas. ISO800 shows the purple coming back and breaking down amidst the graininess of the noise.
Rounding up the ratings, ISO1600 shows significant decay with purple and blue blobs in low key areas and graininess all over. Sufficient detail has been retained in the petals throughout all ISO ratings, which is a good result.
Canon Powershot A720 IS Verdict
The ISO80 test.
The ISO100 test.
The ISO200 test.
|The ISO400 test.
The ISO800 test.
The ISO1600 test.
There is no denying that the Canon Powershot A720 IS is a capable camera and will cope with nearly every outcome that you may need it for.
The only thing that really annoyed me about the Canon Powershot A720 IS was the download time when out and about.
Should you find yourself in the market for a compact that is designed like a prosumer, fitted with all the stuff that a prosumer has, but without the build quality or price, then this camera has plenty of good features to keep you happy.
Canon Powershot A720 IS Plus points
Decent noise results
Canon Powershot A720 IS Minus points
Slow download times
Optical viewfinder is too small
The Canon Powershot A720 IS costs around £229 and will be available soon.
Take a look at more cool Canon products here.