Canon PowerShot A800 Review

April 29, 2011 | Mark Goldstein | Rating star Rating star Rating star Rating star


The PowerShot A800 is the new entry-level model in Canon's extensive range of compact digital cameras. Priced at £79.99 / $99.99, the A800 features a 10 megapixel sensor, 3.3x optical zoom lens with a focal length of 37-122mm, DIGIC III image processing engine and a 2.5-inch LCD screen. Canon’s Smart Auto mode automatically recognises shooting conditions from 19 different shooting scenes and applies the optimum picture settings required to get the perfect shot. Blur Reduction, Face Self-Timer, Low Light, Super Vivid and Poster Effect scene modes are offered, plus Face Detection, Motion Detection and Automatic Red-Eye Correction technologies. Powered by AA batteries and compatible with SDHC and SDXC memory cards, the Canon Powershot A800 is available in red, silver, black or blue for £79.99 / $89.99.

Ease of Use

Replacing the A495 model, the new Canon PowerShot A800 is virtually identical to its predecssor, so a lot of the comments that we made about that camera will be repeated here. At a manufacturer's suggested price of £79.99, the A800 is actually significantly cheaper on launch, reflecting the ever-decreasing cost of entry-level compact cameras. The budget price means that there's always the sense of 'bridesmaid but never the bride' about the lower end of the PowerShot range compared with the shinier, more stylish and inevitably pricier IXUS series, although you'd now have to spend quite a lot more to stretch to one of those classier cameras. Canon describes the A800 as an 'everyday' camera, which comes across as akin to describing someone's looks as 'ordinary' but really just means it's cheap and easy - and not in a bad way.

Though boxy of shape and feeling distinctly plastic of build when gripped in the palm, the physically chunkier A800 manages the trick of not looking embarrassingly throwaway next to its more glamorous, although we're not keen on the square "cutout" section around the lens and more importantly from a usability point of view, the complete lack of a handgrip, something which the older A495 offers. It also betrays its 'economy' range tag by being powered courtesy of two bog standard alkaline AAs - provided in the box - instead of a longer lasting rechargeable lithium ion battery now offered by most of Canon's rivals at this price point as standard.

The added bulk over its IXUS equivalent(s) does, on a positive note, mean that operational controls are larger than you'll find on most pocket cameras - as a help to both younger and elder users. Want a cheap camera for the mother in law or teenage relative? The A800 could well fit the bill, available as it is in a choice of silver, red, black or blue bodies. The ordinariness yet solid-ness continues with a glance at the camera's headline features: 10 megapixel resolution, slightly broader than average 3.3x optical zoom lens (a 37-122mm equivalent in 35mm terms, hidden within the body when not in use) plus 115k dot resolution, 2.5-inch LCD for framing and reviewing shots in the expected absence of any optical viewfinder.

Canon PowerShot A800 Canon PowerShot A800
Front Rear

However this otherwise humble PowerShot does match the IXUS range for the latest features governing ease of use, such as Smart Auto, here like the IXUS 105 referencing any given scene or subject with 19 on-board presets so all the user has to do is, hopefully, point and shoot and not have to worry about changing settings or scene modes. It's pretty much spot on. Among the available options is Smart Flash Exposure that will automatically trigger fill-in flash if it detects harsh shadows on a subject's face for example. Face detection, self portrait enabling Face Self Timer, plus automatic red eye correction (if first activated via the on-board menu screens) also combine to ensure that portraits come out looking the best they possibly can within the operational parameters of the camera itself.

Again, as with the latest generation IXUS models, the A800 features a Low Light Mode for low light imagery, which, along with Motion Detection Technology, aims to prevent blurred shots when shooting handheld. Two notable scene modes are the color saturation reducing 'Poster Effect', and, by contrast, saturation enhancing Super Vivid mode. Video recording too can be found here, though at a modest standard definition 640x480 pixels at 30fps, which even when coupled with the 10 megapixel headline resolution, doesn't really suggest much need for the camera's offered compatibility with extremely high capacity (up to 2TB) SDXC cards alongside the more commonly available SDHC (up to 32GB).

Of course you have to make some compromises for the cheaper price point and these go further than the plastic body and AA batteries. Generally the A800, equipped with a Digic III rather than IV processor like its IXUS counterparts, is slower, a case in point being that the user has to put up with occasional on-screen prompts informing them that they will have to wait to take a shot while the flash charges. Also on a practical level, the A800's shutter release is very sensitive with little feel of a definite halfway 'bite' point at which the camera traditionally sets focus and exposure. In fact one could say it's over sensitive, with just a fraction harder press prompting the camera to take the shot while the user is in fact still framing up.

Canon PowerShot A800 Canon PowerShot A800
Side Front

Looking like a polished pebble from the front in the silver incarnation we had in for review, the Canon A800's faceplate is dominated by the lens, left of which is a tiny pinprick housing the built in microphone and a small porthole for the self timer lamp/ AF assist beam. As mentioned above, the A800 has unfortunately dispensed with any form of hand-grip, although, with batteries inserted lending a bit of weight and the camera's overall bulkier than usual proportions for its point and shoot class, this doesn't feel like a model that could suddenly slip from your grasp. At the top of the left-hand corner of the camera body is a lug for attaching the customary wrist strap provided in the box.

The top of the camera is a similarly frill-free affair, featuring just the shutter release button - logically the biggest control here - plus tapering lozenge shaped on/off button. A press of the latter and the A800 powers up in just over a second, such speed in this case belying its budget status, rear LCD blinking into life whilst the zoom lens extends to its maximum not-very-wideangle setting. Press the shutter release button gently and the camera takes a moment to adjust focus and exposure, following it up with a bleep of confirmation as AF point/s are highlighted in green. Go on to take the shot and there's a wait of three seconds whilst a maximum resolution JPEG is committed to memory, screen briefly blanking out then freezing with a display of the captured image.

The rocker switch for operating the 3.3x optical zoom is meanwhile found top right of the camera back; hold this down and the lens travels through the range from maximum wide angle to extreme telephoto in all of two seconds, accompanied by a louder than usual but not overtly distracting mechanical buzz. Below this control is an obvious playback button. Press this, and then the zoom rocker again and you can crop into an image to check detail, or, by pressing the wideangle end of the zoom switch, call up recent shots as a series of thumbnails, each subsequent press bringing up an ever increasing number of thumbnails (and thus increasingly smaller ones).

Below this we find a set of directional cross keys with a function/set button at their centre that will be immediately familiar to any digital camera user. At points north, south, east and west around this are, in that order, a means of leap-frogging bunches of images when in playback mode or adjusting exposure compensation (+/- 2EV) when in capture mode. Next, at the bottom of the pad, is a means of deleting duff images on the fly or selecting the self-timer options (two seconds, 10 seconds or custom option), whilst the ability to adjust the flash settings (off, slow synchro, on, auto) and switch focus from infinity to macro (and back) complete the package.

Canon PowerShot A800 Canon PowerShot A800
Memory Card Slot Battery Compartment

Beneath the cross keys are two further buttons. There's no button marked 'display' as one might expect to find, but rather one that allows the user to alternately tab between still image and video capture. Press this and four shooting mode options are shown on a toolbar across the top of the screen. First is full auto - or Smart Auto - next is Program, which allows for a modest amount of manual tweaking, then scene mode(s) (here's where you'll find the poster mode, super vivid, blur reduction and low light options, the latter two modes dropping resolution down to two megapixels, along with face self timer), and finally the video capture option.

Press the aforementioned 'function/set' button when in this mode (or one of the still capture modes) and a second toolbar appears down the left hand side of the screen with further selectable shooting options. If staying in video mode users can manually tweak white balance settings or choose from the My Colors options, including Vivid, Neutral, Sepia, Black and White, plus Custom colour options. In regular auto mode, the wider range of options is disabled so all the user can adjust is image size and quality, while, if switching to Program mode, users have additional access to ISO (ISO80-1600), evaluative, centre weighted or spot metering, plus single shot or continuous capture options.

The button to the right of this is the self explanatory 'menu'. A thumb press of this brings up two folders on-screen with nice, clear type - the first containing the shooting menu, the second the more general purpose set up menu. The first folder contains the ability to activate the digital zoom, call up grid lines on screen, plus add a date stamp. What's missing here is built in user adjustable image stabilization, as found on the IXUS. The second featured folder of the two contains the set up menu, offering the ability to tweak various sound and start up options - there's no longer an extraneous separate menu folder within the Canon series for doing this - plus format the card in use or, lastly, reset all current settings.

Whilst the left hand side of the camera, if viewing it from the back, features a built-in speaker, to the right hand side we find a rubber flap, flipped open with the aid of your thumbnail, that protects two ports for, variously, mains power in, AV out and USB in. This rubber flap feels a little flimsy and we can see it tearing off following prolonged use, but then what else can one reasonably expect for the pocket money price?

The base of the camera is where the two AA batteries, good for a much improved 300 shots, are inserted, sharing a compartment with the slot for the optional but essential media card. Just off centre is the customary plastic screw thread for attaching the A800 to a tripod if so desired. So far, much as expected. So what of the images the camera produces. Do these transcend or betray its budget status in terms of quality? Read on to find out…

Image Quality

All of the sample images in this Review were taken using the 10 megapixel Fine JPEG setting, which gives an average image size of around 2.5Mb.

For an auto everything camera, and, especially given the price, the A800 puts in a commendably consistent performance, with even exposures and crisp, colourful shots when conditions are ideal (for which read: clear, blue skies). The Super Vivid and Poster Effect settings from among the scene modes are fun under such circumstances without being over the top, and do return surprisingly usable results. Even when left on default settings, red, greens and blues are nicely to the fore.

OK, so inevitably there are the usual bugbears for this class of camera present such as purple fringing between areas of high contrast, but this is no more in evidence than with compacts costing twice the A800's pocket money outlay. At least the fact that the lens doesn't go all that wide means that we don't suffer from barrel distortion at the extremities of the zoom, and such framing limitations also prompt the user to be a little more considered lining up their shots, which isn't always a bad thing.

And yes, images taken at maximum zoom are sometimes a little soft, but nothing unexpected here either. In fact, for general photography the results from the A800 are much better than the budget tag would suggest and on a par with the more expensive, outwardly more sophisticated pocket IXUS models. In terms of low light photography without flash, the A800 has a clean bill of health up to and including ISO 400, slight softening of detail at ISO 800 and then noise intruding more noticeably, but not ruinously, at the fastest ISO 1600 setting.

So, while the images the Canon Powershot A800 produces are not up there with the best we've ever seen, for its beginner market they're better than expected.


There are 5 ISO settings available on the Canon Powershot A800. Here are some 100% crops which show the noise levels for each ISO setting:

ISO 100 (100% Crop)

ISO 200 (100% Crop)


ISO 400 (100% Crop)

ISO 800 (100% Crop)


ISO 1600 (100% Crop)



Here are two 100% crops which have been Saved as Web - Quality 50 in Photoshop. The right-hand image has had some sharpening applied in Photoshop. The out-of-the camera images are a little soft at the default setting ideally and benefit from some further sharpening in a program like Adobe Photoshop. You can also change the in-camera sharpening level to suit your tastes via the My Colors menu option.

Original (100% Crop)

Sharpened (100% Crop)


Focal Range

The Canon Powershot A800's 3.3x zoom lens provides a focal length of 37-122mm in 35mm terms, as demonstrated below.



File Quality

The Canon Powershot A800 has 2 different image quality settings available, with Fine being the highest quality option. Here are some 100% crops which show the quality of the various options, with the file size shown in brackets.

10M Fine (2.84Mb) (100% Crop) 10M Normal (1.28Mb) (100% Crop)

Chromatic Aberrations

The Canon Powershot A800 handled chromatic aberrations well during the review, with some limited purple fringing present around the edges of objects in certain high-contrast situations, as shown in the examples below.

Example 1 (100% Crop)

Example 2 (100% Crop)



The Canon Powershot A800 offers a Macro setting that allows you to focus on a subject that is just 1cm away from the camera when the lens is set to wide-angle. The first image shows how close you can get to the subject (in this case a compact flash card). The second image is a 100% crop.

Macro Shot

100% Crop


The flash settings on the Canon Powershot A800 are Auto, Flash On, Slow Synchro, and Flash Off, with Red-eye Correction and Red-Eye Lamp settings available via the Flash Settings main menu option. These shots of a white coloured wall were taken at a distance of 1.5m.

Flash Off - Wide Angle (37mm)

Auto Flash - Wide Angle (37mm)

ISO 64 ISO 64

Flash Off - Telephoto (122mm)

Auto Flash - Telephoto (122mm)

ISO 64 ISO 64

And here are some portrait shots. As you can see, neither the Flash On setting or the Red-Eye Correction option caused any amount of red-eye.

Flash On

Flash On (100% Crop)

Red-eye Correction

Red-eye Correction (100% Crop)

Night Shot

The Canon Powershot A800's maximum shutter speed is 15 seconds in the Long Shutter mode, which is good news if you're seriously interested in night photography. The shot below was taken using a shutter speed of 15 seconds at ISO 100. I've included a 100% crop of the image to show what the quality is like. The camera takes the same amount of time again to apply noise reduction, so for example at the 15 second setting the actual exposure takes 30 seconds.

Night Shot

Night Shot (100% Crop)

Sample Images

This is a selection of sample images from the Canon PowerShot A800 camera, which were all taken using the 10 megapixel Fine JPEG setting. The thumbnails below link to the full-sized versions, which have not been altered in any way.

Sample Movie & Video

This is a sample movie at the quality setting of 640x480 at 30 frames per second. Please note that this 17 second movie is 30Mb in size.

Product Images

Canon Powershot A800

Front of the Camera

Canon Powershot A800

Front of the Camera / Lens Extended

Canon Powershot A800

Isometric View

Canon Powershot A800

Isometric View

Canon Powershot A800

Rear of the Camera

Canon Powershot A800

Rear of the Camera / Image Displayed

Canon Powershot A800

Rear of the Camera / Turned On

Canon Powershot A800

Rear of the Camera / Main Menu

Canon Powershot A800

Rear of the Camera / Function Menu


Canon Powershot A800

Top of the Camera

Canon Powershot A800

Bottom of the Camera

Canon Powershot A800

Side of the Camera

Canon Powershot A800

Side of the Camera

Canon Powershot A800

Front of the Camera

Canon Powershot A800

Front of the Camera

Canon Powershot A800

Memory Card Slot

Canon Powershot A800

Battery Compartment


Apart from a few new shooting modes and a questionable cosmetic overhaul that actually makes the camera slightly more difficult to use, it's difficult to see just what Canon have added to the new Powershot A800 to justify its release. The biggest improvements are the doubling in battery life, now up to around 300 shots, and a significant reduction in price to well below the £100 / $100 point.

The removal of the hand-grip, presumably to make the camera prettier on the eye, along with the boxy front redesign are retrograde steps in our opinion. However, as the picture performance of the A800 is notably little different from more expensive IXUS models, and if you don't need a wider-angle lens or bigger screen, then this budget model starts to make sense as an inexpensive route to image capture for digital photography novices.

The A800 doesn't have the dashing looks of some rivals and isn't quite as easy to use as its predecessor, but it does still deliver good image quality with better battery life for a much more wallet-friendly price. That just makes the Canon Powershot A800 worthy of our Recommended award.

4 stars

Ratings (out of 5)
Design 3.5
Features 3.5
Ease-of-use 3.5
Image quality 3.5
Value for money 4.5

Review Roundup

Reviews of the Canon PowerShot A800 from around the web. »

If you are new to photography or on a budget then the Canon PowerShot may be the camera for you. Released in January 2011, it is available in red, black, silver and grey for just £67.
Read the full review » »

The Canon PowerShot A800 is a budget compact with a 10 Megapixel sensor, 3.3x optical zoom lens and a 2.5 inch LCD screen. Announced in January 2011, it is the cheapest and most basic PowerShot money can buy. It replaces the A490 / A495 launched a year previously and, like those models, takes two AA batteries and shoots VGA (640 x 480) resolution video.
Read the full review »


Type 1/2.3 type CCD
Effective Pixels Approx. 10.0M
Colour Filter Type Primary Colour
Type DIGIC III with iSAPS technology
Focal Length 6.6 – 21.6 mm (35 mm equivalent: 37 – 122 mm)
Zoom Optical 3.3x. Digital Approx. 4x¹ (with Digital Tele-Converter Approx. 1.4x or 2.3x and Safety Zoom²)¹. Combined Approx. 13x
Maximum f/number f/3.0 – f/5.8
Construction 7 elements in 6 groups (1 single sided aspherical lens)
Type TTL
AF System/ Points AiAF (Face Detection / 5-point), 1-point AF (fixed centre)
AF Modes Single, Continuous (Auto mode only)
AF Point Selection Size (Normal, Small)
AF Lock On/Off Selectable
AF Assist Beam Yes
Closest Focusing Distance 1 cm (W) from front of lens in macro
Metering modes Evaluative (linked to Face Detection AF frame), Centre-weighted average, Spot (centre)
AE Lock On/Off Selectable
Exposure Compensation +/- 2 EV in 1/3 stop increments
ISO sensitivity* AUTO, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600
Speed 1 – 1/2000 sec. (factory default)
15 – 1/2000 sec. (total range – varies by shooting mode)
Type TTL
Settings Auto (including Face Detection WB), Daylight, Cloudy, Tungsten, Fluorescent, Fluorescent H, Custom
Monitor 6.2 cm (2.5”) TFT, Approx. 115,000 dots
Coverage Approx. 100%
Modes Auto, Manual Flash On / Off, Slow Synchro
Slow Sync Speed Yes. Fastest speed 1/2000 sec.
Red-Eye Reduction Yes
Flash Exposure Compensation Face Detection FE, Smart Flash Exposure
Flash Exposure Lock Yes
Built-in Flash Range 30 cm – 3.0 m (W) / 2.0 m (T)
External Flash Canon High Power Flash HF-DC1
Modes Auto*, P, Movie, SCN (Blur Reduction (2.0MP), Portrait, Kids & Pets, FaceSelf-Timer, Low Light (2.0MP), Super Vivid, Poster Effect, Beach, Foliage, Snow, Sunset, Fireworks, Long Shutter)
*with Scene Detection Technology and Motion Detection Technology
Drive modes Single, Continuous, Self-Timer
Continuous Shooting Approx. 0.8 shots/sec.¹ (until memory card is full)²
Image Size (L) 3648 x 2736, (M1) 2816 x 2112, (M2) 1600 x 1200, (S) 640 x 480, (W) 3648 x 2048.
Resize in playback (M2, S, 320 x 240)
Compression Fine, Normal
Movies (L) 640 x 480, 30 fps/30 fps (LP)
(M) 320 x 240, 30 fps
Movie Length Up to 4 GB or 1 hour (L and M)¹
Still Image Type JPEG compression, (Exif 2.3 [Exif Print] compliant) / Design rule for Camera File system, Digital Print Order Format [DPOF] Version 1.1 compliant
Movies AVI [Motion JPEG compression]
Canon Printers Canon SELPHY Compact Photo Printers and Canon Inkjet Printers supporting PictBridge (ID Photo Print, Fixed Size Print and Movie Print supported on SELPHY CP & ES printers only)
PictBridge Yes
Red-Eye Correction Yes, during shooting and playback
Histogram Yes
Playback Zoom Approx. 2x – 10x
Self Timer Approx. 2 or 10 sec. or Custom
Menu Languages English, German, French, Dutch, Danish, Finnish, Italian, Norwegian, Swedish, Spanish, Simplified Chinese, Chinese (traditional), Japanese, Russian, Portuguese, Korean, Greek, Polish, Czech, Hungarian, Turkish, Thai, Arabic, Ukrainian, Romanian, Farsi, Hindi
Computer Hi-Speed USB (MTP, PTP) dedicated connector (Mini-B compatible)
Other A/V output, dedicated connector (PAL/NTSC)
Type SD, SDHC, SDXC, MMC, MMCplus, HCMMCplus
PC & Macintosh Windows 7/ Vista SP1-2/ XP SP3
Mac OS X v10.5 – 10.6
Browsing & Printing ZoomBrowser EX / ImageBrowser
Other PhotoStitch
Batteries 2x Size-AA Alkaline or Ni-MH Batteries (Alkalines supplied)
Battery life Approx. 300 shots¹ (with supplied batteries)
Approx. 500 shots (with optional Canon NB-3AH batteries)¹
Approx. 660 min. playback (with supplied batteries)
Approx. 720 min. playback (with Canon NB-3AH batteries)
A/C Power Supply Optional, AC Adapter Kit ACK800
Cases / Straps Soft Case DCC-490
Flash High Power Flash HF-DC1
Power Supply & Battery Chargers Battery Charger Kit CBK4-300, Ni-MH Batteries NB4-300, AC adapter kit ACK800
Operating Environment 0 – 40 °C¹, 10 – 90% humidity
Dimensions (WxHxD) 94.3 x 61.6 x 31.2 mm
Weight Approx. 186 g (including battery/batteries and memory card)

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