Cameras

Canon PowerShot A3000 IS Digital Camera Review

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Introduction

For the price, the $150 Canon PowerShot A3000 IS delivers a lot of performance and a decent set of features. We found that it performed well, shooting images with very acceptable color accuracy and sharpness (although there was significant distortion at the wide angle settings). Although the image quality and features it offers are not up to the levels of more expensive cameras, it would be a good pick for the casual shooter.

Front

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Back

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Sides

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Top

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Bottom

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In the Box

Box Photo

The contents of the box of the A3000 IS

As well as the camera, you get:

• NB-8L battery

• CB-2L Charger

• USB cable

• Analog A/V cable

• Wrist Strap

• Getting Started manual

• Software CD

No memory card is included.

Color

We found that the A3000 captured pretty accurate color overall: in our tests, the colors on our test chart were mostly accurately represented. The only issues that we found were that some of the yellows oranges and blues were a little darker than they should be More on how we test color.

This color accuracy is comparable with other cameras: it isn't outstanding, but it also isn't much worse than others.

Color Modes

The A3000 IS offers five color modes: Vivid, Neutral, Sepia, Black & White and a custom mode. In the latter mode, you can tweak settings for contrast, sharpness and saturation.Unsurprisingly, we found that turning the color modes off provided the most accurate color, although the Neutral mode was pretty close. The difference between the two was that the colors were a lot less saturated in Neutral mode (about 85%, rather than the 107% with color modes turned off). The other color modes do what you would expect: Vivid boosts the saturation significantly (to about 125%) and Black & White and Sepia take black and white and sepia images respectively.

Noise

The A3000 is a little on the noisy side: we found that images shot in anything other than bright light (and thus at the lowest ISO settings) had significant noise in them. This noise became very significant at the higher ISO settings: images shot at 800 and 1600 ISO were very grainy. The bottom line is that this is not going to be a good camera for low light shooting; if you frequently shoot at night or in dim rooms without flash, go for one that has lower noise at high ISO levels. More on how we test noise.

In our first test, we look at how the camera deals with two different amounts of light: around 3000 lux (equivalent to a cloudy day) and 60 lux, which is about what you would get in a poorly lit room. The A3000 dealt well with the larger amount of light, but the lower light level caused it some serious issues, with the noise dramatically increasing at the highest ISO level of 1600. This means that images shot in low light will look rather noisy, as you can see later in this review in the sample photos section of this review.

When we compare this with the noise in our comparison cameras, we see that the A3000 performs as well as the other cameras at the lower ISO settings, but that the noise level at ISO levels of 800 and 1600 is significantly higher than the other cameras.

Related content

ISO

The A3000 IS has an ISO range of 100 to 1600 at the full resolution of the camera. The low light scene mode does boost the ISO range to a maximum of 3200, but at the cost of greatly reduced resolution: the camera shoots 2 megapixel images in this mode. Below are images of our still life shot at all of the full resolution ISO settings; click on any image to see the unedited original file.

NOTE: The images above are not used in our testing or scoring, but are included here to show real-world examples of the differences between cameras at the various ISO settings.

Resolution

In our resolution tests, we look at the performance of the lens and sensor: how much distortion does it introduce to the image? How sharp are the images across the frame? We found decent overall performance overall, but it is not without issues: we found moderate distortion at the wide end of the zoom range, and slight chromatic aberration at the longer end of the telephoto range. More on how we test resolution.

Distortion ()

All zoom lenses introduce some level of distortion, which turns straight lines into curves. The A3000 was particularly prone to this at the wider end of the zoom lens, where we saw just over 2 per cent distortion, enough to turn straight lines into curves. You can see this distortion in the images below, taken from the bottom of our test chart. The red line is added after shooting to show the original straight line.

Sharpness ()

We found that the images that the A3000 captured were fairly sharp, with fine details being pretty well captured. Many cameras have a problem where the sharpness in images is not consistent; the center of the image is sharp, but the edges are soft and fuzzy. We didn't find that issue on this camera: the sharpness of the images was pretty consistent across the frame and across the zoom range. The only issues that we saw was that the images taken at the long end of the zoom range were somewhat softer than those taken at the middle and wide points of the zoom range.

Chromatic Aberration ()

We saw little evidence of chromatic aberration in the images that this camera captures: across the zoom range, the CA was very low, only becoming visible at the edges of the images at the widest zoom setting.

Quality & Size Options

The A3000 IS provides a decent selection of image size and quality options, including 2 levels of JPEG compression (normal and fine) and 5 image sizes. There is, however, no way to capture RAW images (which contain the raw data from the image sensor, and thus are the highest quality) or a combination of RAW and JPEG.

Image Stabilization

The A3000 includes optical image stabilization, which moves an element of the lens to correct for camera shake. However, we found in our tests that this did not improve the sharpness of the images: images taken at our tested speed of 1/30 of a second were no sharper with the image stabilization turned on. More on how we test image stabilization.

Video Mode

The movie features of the A3000 IS are rather basic; videos can be captured at a maximum resolution of 640 by 480 pixels with mono sound. Movies can be of unlimited length, and are saved as Motion JPEG files. But you cannot use the optical zoom of the camera while recording: you are limited to the 4x digital zoom, which has a severe adverse effect on the image quality, especially in low light. You can use the optical zoom before recording, but not while recording is in progress, presumably because of the noise of the zoom mechanism. Overall, the movie mode of this camera is adequate for capturing occasional videos for uploading to YouTube, but we wouldn't recommend it for any serious or long-term use. If you want to capture video on a regular basis, spend the extra on a camera that captures higher resolution, sharper video.

Video Color

The color of the captured videos was rather disappointing: we found that the yellows and reds in particular were inaccurate, and that the color was very saturated, producing an almost cartoon-like look to some of the videos. More on how we test video color.

Video Sharpness

Given the limited resolution of the captured video, it is not surprising that we found that it was not very sharp: the video was soft and contained little detail. This was especially true with fast-moving objects or camera movement, where the video turned into a blurry mess. More on how we test video sharpness.

Playback Mode

There are five playback modes on offer with this camera: image only, simple info, detailed info, zoomed in and thumbnail.

Moving between images was easy, but the camera was a little slow to respond, making scrolling through a large group of images a little difficult. Basic slideshows can also be created with the camera, but you don't get a lot of control over how the images are shown beyond picking how long each image is shown and picking one of two transition effects.

In-Camera Editing

The editing features that are offered in this camera are very basic. Images can be resized to a smaller size, rotated and have red-eye removed, but that is all. There is no way to edit colors, crop images or do any other form of editing in the camera.Some other Canon models allow you to apply their color effects to images after they have been shot, but that feature is missing from this camera.

Direct Print Options

The usual suspects of DPOF and PictBridge are present on this camera: you can flag images for later printing with DPOF, or connect directly to a PictBridge printer with the included USB cable.

Viewfinder

There is no viewfinder on this camera: all images are previewed through the LCD screen.

Display

The A3000 IS comes with a 2.7-inch LCD screen with a resolution of 230k pixels. That is a little on the low side, and this is reflected in a slightly grainy look to images on the screen. Colors look good, though, and the screen is pretty bright. You might need to shield it in direct sunlight, but it works well in most lighting conditions.

LCD Photo

The LCD screen of the A3000

Flash

The small flash of the A3000 IS is located just above and to the right of the zoom lens. We found that the flash produced pretty even light, but didn't have a lot of power to penetrate into the darkness. Canon claims a range of up to 13.1 feet for the flash, but this seems a little optimistic: we found that it didn't adequately illuminate objects beyond 7 or 8 feet away.

Flash Photo

The flash of the A3000

Lens

The lens of the A3000 is a 4x zoom model, with a focal lenght range of 6.2 to 24.8mm. Translated into the equivalent of a 35mm film camera, that's a focal length of 35 to 140mm. That represents a decent range for general use: 35mm is wide enough to shoot a decent group portrait, while the 140mm telephoto will allow you to get reasonably close to the action. However, it won't provide the close-in shots that you might want for a football game or other sport.

Lens Photo

The aperture range of the camera is also rather limited, going from f/2.7 to f/8 at the widest zoom setting and f/5.6 to f/16 at the telelphoto end. The lack of a manual aperture control makes this less of an issue, though.

We also found that the auto focus mechanism of this camera was a little noisy: the lens makes an annoying buzzing noise as it focuses, which is quite distracting.

Battery

Power is stored in the NB-8L battery that comes with the camera. This can hold 740 mAh of charge, and Canon claims a battery life of around 240 shots, which seems to be about right based on our informal tests. At the very least, it should be enough to get you through a weekend of shooting without needing a recharge.

Battery Photo

The battery and memory card fit in the bottom of the camera

Memory

Images shot by the A3000 can be stored on an SD/SDHC card inserted above the battery. This camera supports SD, the newer SDHC and the latest SDXC memory card standard, which allows for memory cards that can hold up to 2TB of data. At present, the highest capacity SDXC cards available hold 64GB of data. There is no internal memory on this camera that can be used to store photos: the memory card is the only location available.

Jacks, Ports & Plugs

There is only one port on the A3000, which is under a cover on the left side of the camera. This single port doubles as a USB and analog video/audio connection with the included cables. If you loose the included USB cable, it can be replaced with any USB cable that has a USB mini plug. There is no HDMI output on this camera, and it cannot output digital audio or video.

Ports Photo 1

The single port of the A3000

Shooting Modes

The A3000 offers a good selection of shooting modes, including three auto modes. The first is Easy mode, where the camera controls everything (including turning the flash on and off) and the user just sets the zoom and presses the shutter. The Auto mode provides a little more control for the user, offering access to the image size and quality controls, as well as flash and self timer. The program mode provides access to the ISO, white balance, color mode, exposure and many other controls. There is no full manual mode or priority modes; there is no way for the user to set the shutter and aperture settings directly on this camera.

Auto Mode Features

Focus - The auto focus system of the A3000 is a little disappointing: we found that it was a little slow and noisy. Especially in low light, the camera was slow to focus and used the AF illuminator more than other cameras. There is an option in the on-screen menu to turn off the AF assist beam, but this does not seem to work; the camera still used the AF illuminator if this option was set to off. The focus mechanism was also a little noisy, producing an irritating buzzing squeak as it focused. You get some level of control over the focusing process: you can choose to use a center focus area (and if the camera uses a small or large area) or to set the camera to automatically detect faces and focus and expose for them.

There is no manual focus mode: instead, you get options for macro, normal and infinity.

Exposure - Up to 2 stops of exposure compensation both up and down can be applied, in 1/3 of a stop steps. There is no exposure bracketing or flash control available. but you do get some limited control over the flash exposure with the FE (flash Exposure) lock, which takes a shot before the real one to measure the amount of flash required.

Metering - The standard metering modes are on offer: evaluative, center weighted and spot. In addition, the face detection mode will use the detected faces for both focus and metering.

Aperture - The A300 has a reasonable aperture range, but there is no way to set the aperture directly: there is no aperture priority or full manual mode on offer.

Shutter Speed - In most modes, the shutter speed range of this camera is 1 to 1/1600 of a second. This can be extended out to 30 seconds in the low light scene modes. That's an acceptable range for a compact camera, but the maximum is not fast enough to freeze action.

Self Timer - A wide selection of options are available for the self timer. As well as the usual 2 and 10 second delays, there is a custom timer that can be set to take a shot between 1 and 30 seconds after shutter down, and to take up to 10 shots. In addition, a face detection mode will hold the shutter until it detects two faces, then pause for 3 seconds and take 3 shots, allowing you to set the camera, run over to your beloved and get in place for a nice couple shot.

Modes Photo

The scene modes menu of the A3000

Scene Modes

5 scene modes are also offered as options on the mode dial on the top of the camera: Portrait, Landscape, Night Snapshot, Kids & Pets and Indoor. In addition, the SCN setting on the mode dial provides access to an additional 9 scene modes, including Face Self Timer, which uses face detection to decide when to take a self-portrait.

Picture Effects

The My Colors mode allows you to apply a number of color effects to photos as they are captured. Examples are shown below.

Manual Controls

The A3000 IS offers 5 white balance presets, as well as a full auto mode and a custom mode that uses a photo of a white object to judge the white balance.

Drive/Burst Mode

The A3000 offers two drive modes; a single shot mode and a continuous mode that shoots images and continuously writes them out to the memory card.

Shot to Shot ()

We found that the continuous mode for this camera was not particularly fast; storing images on a fast SDHC memory card, it managed to take just 0.54 frames a second. While this is not a very fast speed, it is at least consistent, as the camera can keep shooting until you release the shutter or you fill the memory card.

Handling

The A3000 IS is a small camera, but it fits well into the hand. A slightly raised area on the right side of the camera front gives something for the fingers to grip, but we'd still recommend use of the included wrist strap as the grip is not firm. Those with larger hands or longer fingers might also find that they end up touching the lens with their fingertips.

Handling Photo 1
Handling Photo 2

Buttons & Dials

The mode dial of the A3000 is located at the edge of the top of the body, which makes it easy to reach and turn, although it is more comfortable to do so when using both hands, with the left bracing the camera. The shutter button is well placed, but it is composed of the same plastic as the rest of the body, so it is a little hard to find by touch, and we did find ourselves sometimes pressing the adjacent power button by mistake.

The zoom control is located on the back of the camera body, where it falls under the thumb. A small set of raised dots below this stop the thumb from slipping down onto the face recognition and play buttons, which are right below the zoom button.

The other buttons are the usual Canon layout that is convenient and provides for quick access to features such as the focus and flash mode. Two hands are required to use these controls, though.

Buttons Photo 1
Buttons Photo 2

There are two menus on the A3000 IS: the traditional full-screen one and quick menu that holds the more commonly used settings. The quick menu appears on the left side of the screen when you hit the Func. Set button, and you scroll up and down with the directional buttons. When you reach the option you want, a left button press brings up the next level, which contains the option for the selected control. It sounds complicated, but it is intuitive and works well.

The main menu is a more standard full-screen affair, where the options are separated into tabs. Again, it works well and the combination of quick access to the shooting controls and a simple menu structure works well.

Manual & Learning

A getting started guide is supplied with the camera, and there is also a full manual on the CD as a PDF file. Both are well written and explain the features of the camera clearly enough, with the first section dedicated to basic shooting features, and the more complex controls and features covered later on.

Kodak EasyShare Z950 Comparison

If price is the only criteria, the Canon A3000 IS is the clear winner: it cost about half of the price of the EX-G1. And, in some ways, the Canon was the better performer, scoring better in our tests of color accuracy and resolution, meaning that the images it took had more accurate color and more captured detail. It wasn't all one-sided, though; we found that the EX-G1 had slightly lower noise in images, and it is a smaller, more compact camera that would fit better into a pocket. While the 4x lens of the A3000 protrudes from the camera body in use, the 3x lens of the EX-G1 is inside the camera body and stays there. This gives you a smaller profile (the EX-G1 is 0.78 inches thick, while the A3000 is 1.1 inches when turned off), but it does also mean a slightly shorter zoom, especially at the wide angle end, with the EX-G1 maxing out at the equivalent of 38mm. The A3000 IS offers a slightly wider 35mm wide angle.

However, the Casio EX-G1 can go places that the A3000 IS can't, such as underwater: the G1 is waterproof to 33 feet, shockproof for drops of up to 7 feet and coldproof down to 14 degrees Fahrenheit. And this shows in the construction: the G1 includes rubber bumpers around the edges of the camera body and feels much more solid. The A3000 IS is not a poorly constructed camera, but it just does not feel as solid as the G1.


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Canon PowerShot SD4000 IS Comparison

The Canon A3000 IS is the cheaper camera by a margin of about $100, but it is more of a mixed race when it comes to performance: we found that the Z950 was better in some of our tests, but the Canon in others. The Z950 had lower noise, slightly better color and shot more attractive video than the A3000, but the Canon A3000 produced images that were significantly sharper. And, although the Kodak shoots video at a higher resolution than the Kodak, neither produced particularly attractive video.

The Canon is also the smaller and lighter camera, weighing in at 5.4 oz against the 9 oz of the Kodak. The Kodak does have the advantage of a longer zoom lens, though; 10x against the 4x of the A3000 IS.


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COMP 3

These two Canons provide an interesting study in what paying more gets you: the SD4000 is more expensive, but it outperformed the A3000 in every one of our tests. The SD4000 captured images with better color, less noise, more detail, could shoot faster and captured far superior video. It is also smaller and sleeker, although the A3000 is very slightly lighter (at 5.4 oz against the 6.17oz of the SD4000).

But you are paying more for this extra performance: the SD4000 is around double the price of the A3000, and that extra performance may not be worth the extra cash for many users. The A3000 shoots nice looking images, with very acceptable color, noise and sharpness, so it may be all many users need. If you can afford it and care about performance, go for the SD4000. But if you are just looking for a decent, low cost camera, the A3000 is a good pick.


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Conclusion

The Canon PowerShot A3000 IS shows how far digital cameras have come in recent years. It used to be that cheap cameras shot poor, grainy images filled with noise and with inaccurate colors. But we found that this is not true anymore: the A3000 IS is a cheap camera, but it shoots decent images with mostly accurate color and only moderate amounts of noise. And it is easy and straightforward to use.

You do get what you pay for in some ways, though; the camera lacks manual controls and shoots lackluster video. And the performance doesn't measure up to the quality of some more expensive cameras, which have better color and low noise, not to mention higher quality video and longer zoom ranges.

But for the $150 price, this camera delivers a lot of performance in a compact, easy to use package that would be enough for most casual shooters.

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