No, it won't attract much attention or turn any heads, but as long as these cameras are coming out, we'll be covering them. We spent a few (just a few) minutes with the A810 at CP+ 2012 in Japan to gather some initial impressions. Read on for more.
The A810 looks a lot like its predecessor, the A800. Its soft, round design looks neither sleek nor modern, and sort of suggests that the target demographic is old folks and children—easy to hold, and designed for super-simple operation. It'll be available in silver, black, and red shades.
The menu system is typical of a low-end Canon, and virtually unchanged from last year's A800. It's mostly intuitive, but not always obvious why some menu options are grayed-out while others are available. Since this camera is a true point-and-shoot, most users won't be spending much time in the menu system anyhow. 30 menu languages are available.
Operation is incredibly straightforward, with hardly any bells or whistles. This is meant for all automatic operation all the time. There is a program mode available, but it's confusing to access—maybe that's by design? Even with the help button and the Hints & Tips mode in the menu, it's best to just leave the A810 in automatic mode.
The bulky roundness of the battery grip makes the A810 pretty easy to hold, even with just one hand. Anyone who wants to access the controls in the bottom-right corner will need to use a two-handed grip, but again, most folks will just be aiming and pressing the shutter. The buttons themselves have a good tactile feedback compared to most low-end models. Next to last year's A800, the A810 is slightly smaller and a half-ounce lighter.
The A810 is designed almost entirely for automatic shooting. There's a dedicated Auto mode button on the camera. While there are other shooting modes available, all of them except for program mode would be considered scene presets or effects on more serious cameras. They include: Portrait, Face Self-timer, Low Light, Fisheye Effect, Miniature Effect, Toy Camera Effect, Monochrome, Super Vivid, Poster Effect, Snow, Fireworks, Long Shutter, Discreet, and iFrame Movie
Auto mode, according to Canon is equipped to handle 32 different shooting situations, up from the 19 that the A800 could accommodate.
In a first for the low-end of Canon's compact lineup, the A810 can record 720p HD video in MOV format with mono audio. Standard-def video clips are also available.
We wouldn't exactly call it a "burst" mode, but the A810 can shoot continuously at 0.8 frames per second in full res, and 2.7fps at reduced resolution in Low Light mode. There's also a timer with 2 second and 10 second options, as well as customizable settings—not something you see on such a cheap camera very often.
Playback mode is standard fare. Still and video options include Discreet, Auto Rotate, Rotate, Search Jump (Shot Date, 10 images, 100 images, Movies, Still Images), and Slideshow. Options that only apply to photos are Single, Index (4-100 Thumbnails), Magnification (Approx. 2x-10x), Information Display, Histogram, Overexposure Warning, Resume Playback, and a few editing options like Red-Eye Correction, i-Contrast, and Resize.
Maximum resolution clocks in at a bloated 16 megapixels in a standard 4:3 aspect ratio. Three smaller options are available, as is one widescreen resolution.
The A810 is autofocus-only, with no user-selectable options aside from the range (either normal, macro, or auto, which chooses from normal and macro) and a face detection option.
The user has no control over the aperture or shutter. The aperture range is f/2.8-6.9, while the shutter ranges from 1/2000 to 1 second (or up to 15 seconds in long shutter mode). Available metering modes include Evaluative, Center-Weighted Average, and Spot modes (and yes, users can choose those themselves or leave it up to the camera). Exposure compensation can stretch from +/-2 stops in increments of 1/3 EV. There's also an AE lock option, for those keeping track.
ISO stretches from 100 to 1600. Users can adjust it themselves in program more, or just leave it set to auto. This is unchanged from the A800.
White balance modes include Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Tungsten, Fluorescent, Fluorescent H, and a custom setting. It can also adjust to faces.
The A810 only offers digital image stabilization—no optical image stabilization is available.
Picture effects include Fisheye Effect, Miniature Effect, Toy Camera Effect, Super Vivid, and Poster Effect. Some of the regular scene modes include Snow, Fireworks, and Monochrome. They aren't organized into "effects" and "scene" categories like they would be in most higher-end cameras, and are instead just grouped into one disorganized menu.
The A810 is built around a 16-megapixel, 1/2.3-inch CCD sensor, which is a typical point-and-shoot sensor. The pixel count is unnecessarily high—more megapixels are usually a bad thing with cheap cameras like this, but the updated DIGIC 4 image processor (previously found in top-notch, top-dollar Canon compacts like the G12 and S95) could make it work just fine. The lens is a decent 5x zoomer, with a 28mm equivalent wide-angle.
The 2.7-inch, 230,000-pixel LCD is about as small and low-res as you'll find on a camera, but there are cameras that cost more than twice as much with the same screen, and it's an upgrade from the A800's 2.5-inch screen.
The built-in flash is effective to about 10 feet, which is very weak by modern standards but strong enough to light up a small room. Recycling time is said to be about 10 seconds, so don't rely on it for photographing action.
The A810 has one port, which serves double duty as a USB and A/V jack.
The A810 runs on 2 AA batteries. It's rated for 220 shots with alkaline and 500 shots with NiMH batteries. A separate power adapter is also available.
Like almost every other camera out there, the A810 records to SD/SDHC/SDXC media cards.
Well, all trends seem to indicate that the market for low-end, super-cheap point-and-shoots is shrinking rapidly, but Canon apparently still sees a market for a camera like the A810.
At $109, it's the most affordable PowerShot in Canon's lineup, and among the cheapest cameras, period. It's very easy to use and comfortable to handle. Most importantly, since it uses some of the same components as higher-end Canons did a year or two ago, it should take some decent pictures.
Speaking very honestly, it really isn't one of our top priorities to review low-end cameras like the A810. We didn't review the A800 last year, or whatever the bottom-end model was in 2010. More than ever, it doesn't make a whole lot of sense to spend time analyzing and testing these cameras, because not very many read reviews about them. We probably won't be running this one through our labs.
But from what we saw at CP+ 2012, the A810 looks like it's fine for the money. If you stumble across this review during your research and want an opinion, here it is: As long as your expectations are modest, it'll get the job done. It'll take pictures, and make it really easy to do so, but don't expect the control or photo quality you'd get from a more serious camera.
Meet the tester
Liam F McCabe
Managing Editor, News & Features@liamfmccabe
Liam manages features and news coverage for Reviewed.com. Formerly the editor of the DigitalAdvisor network, he's covered cameras, TVs, personal electronics, and (recently) appliances. He's a native Bostonian and has played in metal bands you've never heard of.
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