Canon's PowerShot A-series digital cameras enjoy an almost legendary reputation for affordability, practicality, usability, 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 is the Canon PowerShot A2000 IS, which replaces the A720 IS. While the A2000 IS retains many the best features of its predecessors, it is a revolutionary departure from the basic design philosophy that has driven and defined earlier A-series digicams.
The A2000 IS represents a revolutionary change in corporate focus for Canon's über-practical and slightly stodgy A-series PowerShots. The A2000 IS doesn't bear any family resemblance at all to its predecessor, but it did manage to retain most of the best features of the A720 IS. For those unfamiliar with Canon's A-series digicams the most obvious differences between the two cameras include size (the A2000 IS is noticeably smaller and thinner than the A720 IS) and the lack of an optical viewfinder (the A720 IS had one, but the new model does not).
The A2000 IS provides 10.0 megapixel resolution, 17 shooting modes, a very good 6x optical zoom, a bright 3.0 inch LCD, and Canon's advanced Optical Image Stabilization (OIS) system which dramatically reduces camera shake, resulting in far fewer blurry pictures.
Even though the latest Canon DIGIC IV processor is now starting to turn up in cameras like Canon's new G10, you'll find the older DIGIC III processor here. That said, the A2000's DIGIC III processor does a great job providing enhanced performance (including quicker start-up, faster AF, more efficient processing, and faster shutter fire times) than most of its competitors. Among its other processor-side functions, the A2000's Face Detection AF mode automatically finds, focuses on, tracks, and optimizes exposures for up to nine faces in the frame – or shooters can lock on a single specific face and track it through a crowd.
The A2000 IS is an auto exposure only digicam featuring Auto, Program, and Easy modes and a short selection of automatic scene presets – each with a dedicated slot on the mode dial. The A2000 IS's menu system (accessed via a dedicated button beneath the compass switch) is logical, easy to navigate, and brutally simple since the camera permits only minimal user input. Push the menu button and the "Camera" or "Setup" sub-menus appear at the top of the menu page – most functions/options can be set once and then forgotten.
A complete list of the A2000's shooting modes runs as follows:
For a detailed listing of specifications and features, please refer to the specifications table found at the bottom of the review.
FORM, FIT, AND FEEL
Styling and Build Quality
Previous A-series digicams were very popular with photo enthusiasts and more serious shooters because they provided a high tweakability quotient, optical viewfinders, and a very useful range of manual exposure options.
While the A2000 retains the plastic body, AA poower and some basic styling cues from previous cameras in this line, from a design standpoint much has changed. The optical viewfinder is gone and that isn't the only major design shift – the A720 IS offered users shutter-priority, aperture-priority, and full manual exposure modes, but the A2000 IS doesn't provide any manual exposure capability, at all.
Ergonomics and Interface
Unlike previous A models, the A2000's metal alloy clad polycarbonate body is wedge shaped with rounded ends. The A2000 IS is attractive and fairly compact, but also noticeably different (thinner, about 25 percent smaller, and 15 grams lighter) than its predecessors.
The solid handgrip that was a prominent feature of earlier A-series digicams has disappeared entirely, making this camera less stable in handling but more easily pocketable than its predecessors.
The A2000's user interface is uncomplicated and very straightforward with large clearly marked buttons and a simple near intuitive control array. Operation is basic: all exposure options are minor variations on the auto mode theme. The four-way controller and FUNC button provide direct access to the most commonly changed/adjusted features and functions (exposure compensation, WB, ISO, My Colors, flash, macro mode, etc.).
All buttons are reasonably large and clearly marked and the A2000 IS's controls are sensibly placed and easily accessed. Most purchasers will have no difficulty using the camera right out of the box.
Like many current point-and-shoot digicams, the A2000 IS dispenses with an optical viewfinder in favor of a larger LCD screen. In my previous digital camera reviews I've consistently thumped digicams that eschew optical viewfinders, but after using the A2000 IS for the past six weeks I've changed my mind, if only a tiny bit.
In crowded venues (festivals, parades, outdoor concerts) it is often quicker and easier to watch the decisive moment come together on the LCD screen than it is through the optical viewfinder. Likewsie, when shooting macro/close-up compositions it is simpler to verify that your subject falls completely within the plane of focus with an LCD screen than it is with an inaccurate linked optical viewfinder. For portraits and urban shooting, I'd still prefer a traditional optical viewfinder, but in most other situations the A2000's screen is an acceptable substitute.
The A2000's 3.0 inch TFT LCD screen is bright, hue accurate, relatively fluid, and automatically boosts gain in dim/low light. The LCD screen is more than sharp enough for most compositional tasks and captured image review. Resolution is 230,000 dots, noticeably better than the A720's 115,000 dot LCD. The user-enabled LCD grid-line display is a nice (and useful) touch as well.
As with so many compact camera displays, the A2000's LCD is generally a pretty good framing and composition tool, but it is subject to fade and glare in bright outdoor light.
Timings and Shutter Lag
The A2000 IS is fairly quick, roughly equal to or slightly faster than most of its competition, even besting some more expensive compact models like the Nikon P6000 and Panasonic LX3.
Shutter Lag (press-to-capture, pre-focused)
|Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W300||0.02|
|Canon PowerShot A2000 IS||0.03|
|Fujifilm FinePix F60fd||0.05|
|Nikon Coolpix P6000||0.06|
|Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX3||0.08|
AF Acquisition (press-to-capture, no pre-focus)
|Canon PowerShot A2000 IS||0.38|
|Fujifilm FinePix F60fd||0.42|
|Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX3||0.46|
|Nikon Coolpix P6000||0.61|
|Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W300||0.67|
With these kind of numbers, experienced photographers should be able to capture action like this BMXer in mid-air by pre-focusing on the point where the action will occur – and then tripping the shutter just before everything comes together.
The A2000's boot up cycle is a bit less than 2 seconds and the camera can move its 6x zoom from the wide-angle end of the lens range to full telephoto in about 3 seconds. AF speed is dependably quick in all but the most difficult lighting. Shot-to-shot times in single shot mode are about average at between 3.0 and 3.5 seconds.
|Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX3||4||3.1 fps|
|Fujifilm FinePix F60fd||3||2.5 fps|
|Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W300||10||2.1 fps|
|Canon PowerShot A2000 IS||5||1.6 fps|
|Nikon Coolpix P6000||5||0.9 fps|
Note: Continuous shooting framerates are based on the camera's fastest full-resolution JPEG continuous shooting mode, using the fastest media type available (300x CF, SDHC, etc.), as tested in our studio. "Frames" notes the number of captures recorded per burst before the camera stops/slows to clear the buffer.
Although the framerate slows after the first five frames, in continuous mode the A2000 IS can capture 10 shots at the highest quality setting in about 13 seconds (1.3 fps), which is about average for cameras in this class.
The A2000 IS features the same TTL Contrast Detection 9-point AiAF (Advanced Intelligent Auto Focus) system as its predecessor. In all exposure modes the camera analyzes the scene in front of the lens and then calculates camera to subject distance to determine which of the 9 AF points is closest to the primary subject (closest subject priority) and then locks focus on that AF point. Users can also opt for the 1 AF point (center) AF for classic portraits or traditional landscapes.
In low light, an optional focus assist beam helps illuminate the subject for more accurate focusing.
Lens and Zoom
The A2000 IS features a 6x zoom that covers the same focal length range but it is a bit slower than the A720's zoom – with a maximum aperture of f/3.2, versus f/2.8 on the previous model. When the camera is powered up the zoom extends automatically and when the camera is powered down the zoom is fully retracted into the camera body and a built-in iris style lens cover closes to protect the front element.
Zooming is fairly smooth and operation is relatively quiet. Here's the skinny on the lens: 36-216mm, f/3.2 – f5.9, with 9 elements in 7 groups and 1 aspherical element.
This portrait nicely demonstrates just how good the A2000 IS's 6x zoom is.
The A2000 IS's built-in multi mode flash provides an acceptable selection of artificial lighting options, including Auto (fires when needed), On (fill flash), Red-Eye Reduction, Red-Eye Correction, Slow Sync, and Off. Canon claims the maximum flash range is about 11 feet and that appears to be a fairly accurate claim based on my very limited flash use.
In a key improvement, the A2000's average flash recycle time is between 4.0 and 5.0 seconds, which is almost twice as fast as the flash recharge rate for the A720 IS.
The A2000 IS's Optical Image Stabilization system reduces blur by quickly and precisely shifting a lens element in the zoom to compensate for minor camera movement. IS allows users to shoot at shutter speeds up to three f-stops slower than would have been possible without IS. Image stabilization can also be a very useful when shooting dimly lit indoor venues where flash is inappropriate.
The A2000 IS provides three IS modes: Continuous (IS on full time), Shoot only (IS is only activated when the picture is taken), and Panning (only stabilizes up-and-down motion) for horizontally panned exposures. A2000 IS users should keep in mind that leaving the camera in the continuous IS mode full-time noticeably reduces battery life.
Image stabilization is combined in this case with Canon's Motion Detection technology, which automatically charts camera and subject movement and then utilizes the motion/movement data from both sources to determine how much to boost sensitivity (between ISO 80 and ISO 800) to help counter camera/subject movement. Motion Detection works in concert with the A2000's OIS system and auto focus system to produce acceptable images under less than ideal conditions, but there really is no free lunch: as sensitivity increases so does noise.
The A2000 IS (like all A-series Canons) is powered by two alkaline, NiMH, or lithium AA cells. Canon claims alkaline AAs are good for up to 240 exposures, and NiMH rechargeable AAs are good for up to 500 exposures.
I rarely keep track of the number of exposures I shoot before the batteries go belly up, but based on my experiences with the A2000 IS I'd say those numbers are a bit optimistic (and don't factor in IS or regularly reviewing/deleting captured images). A more accurate "real world" assessment would be something like 150 to 180 exposures. Kudos to Canon, however, for including a pair of decent Panasonic LR6-AA alkaline cells in the box, as opposed to the super cheapie AAs that most manufacturers include if they give you any at all.
Where it really counts (in the image quality department) the A2000 IS delivers the goods, although there is a slight tendency toward overexposure. Outdoors in good light the A2000 IS produces dependably well exposed almost noise free images with hue-accurate, slightly oversaturated colors and somewhat harder than average contrast.
Chromatic aberration is remarkably well controlled, but some very minor color fringing is present, especially in the color transition areas between dark foreground objects and bright backgrounds. Images are highly detailed and surprisingly sharp, although in a very small percentage of my shots the AF system wasn't reliably accurate and the IS system infrequently dropped the ball – resulting in an occasional blurry image. In bright contrasty lighting, highlight detail was occasionally blown-out. Overall, though, the A2000 IS's image quality is noticeably better than the average for cameras of this type.
Exposure, Processing, and Color
Even though the A2000 IS doesn't look like earlier A-series digicams, under the hood it utilizes the same practical, easy to understand, and simple to use exposure system that made its predecessors so popular with consumers. Exposure is automatically managed by the camera's DIGIC III processor, which combines most primary camera functions (image interpolation and processing, auto exposure, white balance, JPEG processing, gain control, and power management) in one chip to improve efficiency and processing speed.
The image files produced by Canon's point-and-shoot digicams are optimized for the bold, bright, colors and balanced contrast that many refer to affectionately as "Canon Color." The A2000's color is surprisingly good for a compact camera, at least partially because face detection AF is linked directly to the camera's Auto WB system, providing enhanced color consistency and hue accuracy when shooting portraits. Reds are a little warm, blues are a bit bright, and greens are slightly vibrant, but most casual/amateur photographers probably won't consider this a fault.
The A2000 IS provides users with an acceptable selection of white balance options, including Auto (including Face Detection WB), Daylight, Cloudy, Tungsten, Fluorescent, and Fluorescent H, and custom.
Like all Canon consumer digicams the A2000's Auto WB setting produces colors that are slightly warmer than real world colors under incandescent light.
The A2000 IS's 6x zoom is surprisingly good – the lens displays some very minor corner softness, but no vignetting (dark corners). Barrel distortion (at the wide-angle end of the zoom range) is minimal, which is impressive since barrel distortion is a common fault with small, highly complex digicam zooms. Pincushion distortion is essentially invisible at the telephoto end of the zoom.
This shot of a wooden box filled with home-made soap bars nicely shows the A2000 IS's impressive lack of barrel distortion (check out the relatively straight bottom edge of the box).
For comparison, this very similar shot (made at the same time) with the Canon PowerShot A1000 IS shows slightly above average barrel distortion (check out the curved top edge of the wooden soap display box).
Sensitivity and Noise
The Canon PowerShot A2000 IS provides a nice range of sensitivity options, including Auto and High ISO Auto (incorporating Motion Detection Technology) settings, as well as manually user-set options for ISO 80 to 1600 (and even an ISO 3200 low-res scene mode).
ISO 80, 100% crop
ISO 100, 100% crop
ISO 200, 100% crop
ISO 400, 100% crop
ISO 800, 100% crop
ISO 1600, 100% crop
ISO 80/100 images are indistinguishable – both show bright colors, slightly hard edged native contrast, and very low noise levels. ISO 200 images were also very good, but with a little less pop. At the ISO 400 setting noise levels are noticeably higher and there's a perceptible loss of minor detail. ISO 800 images are noisy, but they should be alright for email, web use, or non-critical 3x5 or 4x6 prints.
ISO 1600 images are way too noisy to be useful for anything beyond record shots, however. ISO 3200 images are better than expected – but my expectations weren't too high given the significantly reduced resolution at this highest capture setting.
Additional Sample Images
I've been using A-series digicams 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 A-series fans are going to be very disappointed, and that's too bad because the A2000 IS is a first rate general use digicam: easily pocketable, feature rich, relatively quick, and capable of producing near pro-quality images.
I've been carrying the A2000 IS around for about six weeks now. I've used it to shoot the marine fish catalog for an on-line aquarium store, portraits (formal, informal, and environmental), action (skateboarders and BMX bikers), my neighbor's new litter of puppies, and several autumn events (parades, festivals, and a farmers markets). The A2000 IS handled all outdoor image-making chores with aplomb and amazingly good results. Indoors and in low/dim lighting, the A2000 IS starts to show a few warts like blocked up shadow areas, burnt out highlight areas, and muddy loking images due to increased noise levels at ISO 400 and higher.
Canon's A-series digital cameras have always dominated the middle ground between entry-level point-and-shoots and more expensive prosumer digicams like the Canon PowerShot G10, but not anymore: the A2000 is definitely more entry-level than advanced, and serious shooters will probably dislike the A2000's dearth of manual exposure options, lack of an optical viewfinder, and the disappearance of the trademark A-series handgrip. But with a long focal range for a pocketable camera, a huge 3.0 inch screen, amazing ease of use, and dependably impressive images in good light, beginners, casual photographers, family photographers, and weight/size conscious travelers will love the A2000.
|Sensor||10.0 megapixel (effective), 1/2.3" CCD|
|Zoom||6x (36-216mm) zoom, f/3.2-5.9
|LCD/Viewfinder||3.0", 230K-pixel TFT LCD|
|Shutter Speed||15-1/1600 seconds|
|Shooting Modes||Easy, Program, Scene, Movie
|Scene Presets||Portrait, Landscape, Night Scene, Foliage, Snow, Beach, Sunset, Fireworks, Aquarium, ISO 3200, Indoor, Kids & Pets, Night Snapshot
|White Balance Settings||Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Tungsten, Fluorescent, Fluorescent H, Custom|
|Metering Modes||Multi, Center, Spot, Face Detection
|Focus Modes||9-Point AF, Face Detection AF|
|Drive Modes||Normal, Continuous, Self-Timer
|Flash Modes||Auto, Forced On, Slow Synchro, FE Lock, Forced Off, Red-Eye Reduction|
|Self Timer Settings
||10 seconds, 2 seconds, Off
|Memory Formats||SD, SDHC
|Max. Image Size||3648 x 2736
|Max. Video Size
||640x480, 30 fps
|Zoom During Video||No
|Battery||2 AA batteries|
|Connections||USB, AV output|
|Additional Features||Face Detection, iSAPS, optical image stabilization, DIGIC III processor|