Canon PowerShot A85

19 Aug 2004

Product: Digital camera
Price: €350

The 4 megapixel PowerShot A85 is the latest addition to the hotly contested prosumer digital camera space. The target user is the photo enthusiast who wants more than point-and-click capability from a camera but not the full professional feature-set and consequent hefty price tag.

As the successor to the PowerShot A70, which Canon describes as one of its most popular ever models, the A85 carries a considerable weight of expectation. First impressions are thankfully encouraging. Despite its slight (10.1 x 6.4 x 3.1cm) frame, a two-tone aluminium casing gives it a robust, indeed somewhat heavy feel.

In design terms, the A85 is hard to fault. The camera fits snugly into the right hand thanks to a moulded barrel-grip, a feature it shares with many larger SLR-type digicams. This puts the shutter button and zoom lever within easy reach of the index finger. The on/off button is also well positioned, midway along the topside of the camera, making it difficult to press accidentally. In between the shutter and on/off buttons is the shooting mode dial, which contains no fewer than 13 shooting modes including autofocus, movie, portrait, slow motion, sports and night-time.

The back of the camera is similarly well thought out. For example, unlike many other cameras that place the shoot/playback switch on the top side, on the A85 this switch is found on the back, sensibly located just above the familiar four-directional toggle switch, thus making it a tad easier to go into playback mode and start culling unwanted snaps. The latter operation is also assisted by a stand-alone single-image erase button.

A 1.8-inch LCD screen presents clear images that show up well even in reasonably bright conditions. Sitting just above that is a viewfinder, which is small but not irritatingly so. The camera front features a 3 x optical zoom lens, adjustable from 35 to 105mm (35mm equivalent), and a discreet built-in flash.

All the connectivity components (AV output for viewing images on television; USB port for transferring images to a PC/printer; and a DC terminal for mains power via an optional AC power adaptor) are clustered near the base of the camera, covered by a wraparound rubber flap.

The A85 comes with a 32MB Compact Flash (CF) memory card, which will hold 337 images at the lowest resolution and compression settings but only 14 at the highest, so depending on the level of quality required a larger memory card may be needed.

To print images, either take out the CF card and pop it into a compatible printer or connect the camera to a printer via the USB cable provided. The camera’s toggle button can then be used to select an image while the Print/Share button directly below the LCD prints it out. And the results are impressive: married to a good printer, we found this camera produces pin-sharp images with excellent colour definition.

The A85 comes with the usual software to download images on to your computer and then organise/edit them. We particularly liked the Photostitch feature, which allows you to join images together to create a panoramic effect.

The A85 is powered by four AA batteries which, according to Canon, are good for about 250 shots with the LCD monitor on and 800 shots with it off. That might sound like a lot but, as with all digital cameras, it would make sense to consider investing in a recharger and rechargeable batteries. These are available as accessories, along with wide and telephoto lens converters, close-up lens and waterproof case.

Canon’s efforts to make this camera as user friendly as possible extend from its thoughtful design and layout through to the A3 fold-out quick-start guide that accompanies the user manual. Such attention to detail should please users. Canon may well have another hit on its hands.

The PowerShot A85 is priced at €350 including Vat.

By Brian Skelly