A more or less entry-level camera with simplified controls, the PowerShot A20 nevertheless provides a range of functions, including the ability to set exposure compensation and white balance levels. Its comfortable, solid-feeling metal body gives a sense of confidence in its engineering, while the relatively few buttons shouldn't scare off the technologically shy.
The A20 has a 2.1-megapixel CCD sensor with a maximum resolution of "1600x1200 which, together with its 3x autofocusing optical zoom lens, can take crisp pictures suitable for reproduction at up to A4 size. The camera comes with an 8MB Compact Flash card which can hold seven pictures at maximum resolution and quality, or up to 87 highly compressed pictures at 640x480 resolution.
Available picture modes include fully automatic shooting, semi-manual (which lets you adjust some limited parameters), self-timed, macro, and stitch assist mode for making panoramic views. The flash can be set to run automatically, forced on or off, or run in red-eye mode for portraits.
Four non-rechargeable alkaline batteries are supplied in the box - there is no charger or AC power supply in the basic package. The manual claims that the alkaline batteries will last for up to 500 shots with the LCD monitor off, or 250 with the monitor on - however, our testing indicates that these figures might be optimistic. With packs of four alkaline AA batteries selling for $8 a pop, it makes sense to invest in a set of rechargeable NiMH (Nickel Metal Hydride) AA batteries and charger. These are available from Canon in the form of the CBK100 kit at $110; alternatively, comparable generic equipment can be bought from large electronics outlets. The ACK-600 AC adaptor for indoor use, which can run the camera without the need for batteries, costs $96.
The A-20 package includes the cable and necessary software for USB connection to a computer, as well as a video output cable for displaying your pictures on a television set. The printed instruction manual is clear, and the camera is easy to operate.
A wide range of optional accessories is available, including a waterproof case (WP-DC2000), as well as a conversion lens adapter that can take a wide-angle converter or a close-up lens. The camera can connect directly to photo printers like Canon's CD-300 (see PC World's August issue, page 82) or CP-10 (see below) for printing without a computer.
Once you've taken a picture with the A20 or its lesser relative the A10, or with the Digital Ixus 300, you can use Canon's Card Photo Printer CP-10 to produce a credit-card sized colour print directly from the camera. According to Canon, these tiny prints are all the rage in Japan, and the company hopes Australian consumers will likewise fall in love with them, as they did with its Digital Ixus mini-camera.
Though this printer is small and portable - it measures 47x108x125mm (HxDxW), and weighs only 510g - it uses a fair bit of power, so it needs the included mains power supply and doesn't run from batteries. Consequently, the unit is not quite as mobile as a digital camera, but you can print your photos anywhere a power point is available. You can also buy an optional car battery adaptor from Canon.
The CP-10 uses a dye-sublimation thermal transfer printing method, with a protective coating applied to the surface of the print. It prints on special paper at a resolution of 300x300dpi, with 256 shade gradations for each colour. The maximum size of a borderless print is 86x54mm, though smaller prints can be made on a special self-adhesive stock which carries eight labels per page.
After setting up the printer, using the supplied cable to connect with a compatible camera, I was able to produce a fine little print in under a minute. The colours were rich and the contrast was excellent, and there was no graininess visible to the naked eye. Technically, this is a very good printer, and if you want the ability to make tiny colour prints wherever you go, and can afford it, this one will do the trick.
Canon PowerShot A20
Canon Card Photo Printer CP-10.
Price: $599; Phone: (02) 9805 2000; URL: www.canon.com.au