The Canon A300 proposes to offer the entry-level solution to digital camera users new to the field. Packed with a host of features and a 3.2 mega pixel CCD sensor, this little camera produces good pictures but is flawed by some silly mistakes in its design.
On the outside, the camera comes across as your standard digital camera. Like Olympus, the camera is turned on via a sliding lens protector at the front that forces the camera into life. Two AA batteries and the CF compartment are housed behind a sturdy door that will easy take a beating over the lifespan of the camera without snapping or falling apart while on the other side the camera offers a DC and USB port, but no video out to watch your pictures on the TV.
On the rear of the camera, the user is offered a multiple of buttons to confuse with most requiring you to be heavy handed for your choice to be accepted. While there are many buttons, most are self-explanatory and it’s nice that you can easily access flash modes, picture review and other options like this without having to plough through plenty of menus. The screen is a 1.5” TFT is sharp and responsive to changing lights and focuses.
The camera also comes with an optical viewfinder, however this neither has a diametric adjuster nor can it be synchronised with the digital zoom that the camera offers making it really a gimmick to perhaps ease non-digital camera buyers into the market. It’s a shame, because those users will think that all digital cameras are like this. Why they Canon didn’t leave this off altogether like Nikon and save some money and space is beyond us.
Inside and the camera offers a 33mm f3.6 fixed focal length lens with a 5.1 digital zoom option that offers the equivalent of a 33mm - 168mm lens in a 35mm camera. This combined with shutter speed range of 1-1/2000 sec and ISO ratings of 50 - 400 and a range of pre-programmed settings to cope with landscapes and portrait shooting makes for a nice little camera for this kind of user.
For the more adventurous there’s a macro mode up to 5cm, as well as the option to record up to 3 minutes of movie clips with sound. Of course every good intention can sometimes be flawed and here poor design means that your fingers are likely to cover the mic as you hold the camera.
For an auto-focus fixed lens camera with a digital zoom the quality is quite good. Detail is captured well and greens are differential when it comes to photographing landscapes. On our test shoot it was a fairly sunny day and while the camera did well to capture some of the blue sky in some of the images, others where whitened out and faired poorly. The digital zoom is useful for getting into the action, but should not be replied upon for crisp images.
Overall as a starter's camera this is an okay place to start. At £200 canon offers a camera that is good on the image side of things, but let down by a few annoyances on the design side. It would be nice to have an optical zoom on this model as well as a TV out option for displaying images without the need of a PC, but then you can't have everything. If you're new to digital photography and need camera that will get you started, this is as good a place as any, just don't expect the world.