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2003-05-05My review: Canon Powershot A200 and, er, caves

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It's nice. It's very nice... and, of course, by "nice" I don't just intend the 'popular' usage which translates as "I lack a descriptive vocabulary or the impetus to use it"... this wonderful little camera is extremely precise. Click on the picture to the right for an idea of how dirty my keyboard is - very little of which is visible to the naked eye, but the macro mode on the Powershot provides excellent two-megapixel captures even at five centimetres away (I've chopped the photo down to 1024x768 and compressed it down a little further to under 50Kb.) Note that even the screen-printing of the key letters is crisp, and there isn't much overexposure even though I'm taking a photo right next to shiny white plastic. Whilst the Canon is highly configurable, its default automatic settings provide simple point-and-click functionality. (Also bear in mind that this is the 2nd photo taken with the camera.)

Styling is perfectly functional; the lens-cover is integrated into the main body and there's the option of optical viewfind or miniature TFT for composing images. It runs from two AA batteries (with reasonable life), takes regular CompactFlash and comes with 8Mb of that, a strap & USB cable.

What it doesn't come with is a power adaptor or case. The case you'll definitely need: that TFT screen looks pretty fragile. Rather than pay Canon for an obscenely priced 'household power source', however, I recommend you invest in a 'nice' cheap USB CompactFlash card reader, avoiding you having to drain batteries to transfer photos.

Technical specifications are also very 'nice'... tho note that they don't include an optical zoom (whereby a motor would project the lens forward - a digital zoom, by contrast, simply interpolates data into the photo once taken. For 'interpolate', read: 'guesses'. You can do this better yourself with software.) This doesn't really bother me because I'm used to basic cameras... and a flash only has a functional range of a couple of metres, meaning that it wouldn't necessarily be of much use. I chose this camera for its price, macro mode and image quality. Just under £160 including 64Mb of CompactFlash, the case and delivery from www.ebuyer.com, incidentally. The card reader is in the mail from an eBay auction (for under a tenner), and I already have a battery charger and NiCD batteries. Something else this camera doesn't do (not well, anyway) is capture video. If you want that, buy a decent webcam or a proper digital camcorder. The next part of my own plan is to eBay my existing two cameras (and some other odds...)

Having just had a weekend to play with this (a group of us visited the Welsh National Showcaves Centre at Dan-Yr-Ogof), you can see more (reduced size) photos over on this new gallery. Colours are good with the automatic flash level in use, in what were often dark environments. I've taken over 70 photos (using the screen to check them rather than compose) and am still on the second set of batteries. The centre itself is pleasant for a day out, although a little pricey for what's on offer (no student discount.)

In other news, our absent flatmate has returned, more or less in one piece, after unfortunately catching something icky the day after getting to France (hence the absence)... no, it wasn't SARS, nor does the medical profession consider her infectious (although the Oxford English Dictionary might beg to differ in another definition... :D )

Now, if you'll excuse me, I really ought to go and clean my keyboard... :smokin:


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