Canon's PowerShot A-series digital cameras have a near legendary reputation for practicality, useful features, durability and dependability, excellent image quality, and remarkable ease of use. Because of this high degree of consumer respect and confidence, A-series Canons have consistently been U.S. and International sales leaders.
The newest member of the A family (and the series flagship model) is the Canon PowerShot A2000 IS, which replaces the A720IS. While the A2000 IS retains many the best features of its predecessors, it is a serious departure from the basic design philosophy that defined earlier A-series digicams.
The A2000 IS provides 10 megapixel resolution, a very good 6x optical zoom (equivalent to 36-216mm), image stabilization, a 3 inch LCD, and face detection AF that's linked directly (via the DIGIC III processor) to the Auto Exposure and Auto WB systems. Earlier A models were very popular with photo enthusiasts and more serious shooters because they provided a high tweakability quotient, a useful range of manual exposure options, and optical viewfinders; however, the A2000 IS, like many current point-and-shoots, eschews the optical viewfinder in favor of a larger LCD screen. The loss of the optical viewfinder isn't the only major change: the A720 IS offered users shutter priority, aperture priority, and full manual modes, but the auto-exposure A2000 IS doesn't provide any manual exposure capability.
Ergonomically, the polycarbonate bodied A2000 IS is attractive and fairly compact - noticeably smaller and thinner than its predecessors. The hefty handgrip that was a prominent feature of earlier PowerShot A models has disappeared entirely, making this camera less stable in use but more easily pocketable than its predecessors.
The A2000's user interface is uncomplicated and the menu system is logical. The four-way controller and FUNC button provide direct access to the most commonly adjusted features and functions: exposure compensation, white balance, ISO, color modes, flash settings, and macro mode. All buttons are reasonably large and clearly marked, and the A2000's controls, though less numerous than on earlier A models, are sensibly placed and easily accessed. Most purchasers will have no difficulty using the camera right out of the box.
I've been using PowerShot A cameras since the introduction of the groundbreaking little A20, and the redesigned A2000 IS is substantially different in terms of looks and usability from its predecessors - clearly targeted toward casual photographers rather than photo enthusiasts. I suspect that many loyal Canon fans are going to be very disappointed, and that's too bad: the A2000 IS is a first rate point-and-shoot that's capable of producing near pro quality pictures. In addition to using the A2000 IS as a general use camera, I've been using it to shoot a commercial job (the complete marine fish catalog for an on-line aquarium store) with amazingly good results.
A full review of the Canon PowerShot A2000 IS is on the way; check back soon for more on Canon's latest flagship compact.