As the 19th century drew to a close, photography was the province of professionals like William Henry Jackson and Timothy O'Sullivan. The large, unwieldy, and slow tripod-mounted glass plate cameras of the day were expensive and developing/printing pictures was complex, time consuming, and messy. The introduction of George Eastman's boxy little Kodak "Brownie" roll film camera in 1888 changed all that. The "Brownie" was inexpensive, simple to use, didn't have to be mounted on a tripod, and was, for it's day, very compact.
My last two test cameras were the Canon "A" series flagship (the A2100 IS) and Canon's lowest cost "A" series model, the Powershot A480. What was most interesting about the two cameras was not their differences, but their similarities. Canon is the most modular of the major camera makers and their product development folks have a broad catalog of proven components (zoom lenses, LCD screens, processors, etc.) to draw from when creating new models. The A480 is a very good example of just how well this modular design philosophy works.
The A2100 IS and the A480 share loads of nifty features, almost identical operation, and both have the ability to produce excellent images with little effort on the part of the shooter. The bargain priced A480 may be the 21st century equivalent of the "Brownie" box camera, but this digicam for the masses is much smaller, much faster, substantially more capable, exponentially more powerful, and much simpler to use than it's illustrious ancestor.
The A480 (which replaces the A470) is easily pocketable (twenty-five percent smaller than its predecessor), features 10 megapixel resolution, a 3.3x (37-122mm equivalent) optical zoom, a 2.5 inch LCD, the same AiAF 9 point Auto Focus system with advanced face/motion detection technology found in more expensive Canon digicams, a DIGIC III processor (the A2100 IS features the new DIGIC IV), and comes in four colors - silver, red, blue or black.
After a week of carrying the A480 with me pretty much all the time (and everywhere I go), I'm impressed. There really isn't anything new here, but there isn't anything to complain about, either - the A480 is fairly basic, but it seems to be a competent and dependable digital picture maker. The A480 does more than any camera in its class - and it does it very well for about a hundred and thirty bucks.
More to come: Stay tuned for our full review of the Canon Powershot A480.