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I'm a big fan of Canon's PowerShot range of compact digital cameras. For the most part they're well built and produce good pictures, being simple to operate while allowing the user a little more input into proceedings than is often the case at the budget end of the market. I've used several models, and never been truly disappointed; one model I've particularly liked has been the 3.2-megapixel A75, which although now more than five years old has a number of things going for it even today, to the extent that when mine gave up the ghost a while back I bought another one as a reserve for my main cameras.
One of the things I like most about this particular camera is its reassuring solidity. No, it's not metal like a proper DSLR, but it feels secure in the hand and well built despite the plastic body. The mode dial clicks precisely, and the buttons and zoom lever have decent feel too. The A75 is also fairly heavy, as it takes four AA batteries rather than the two more usual in later PowerShot models. I like this weight, as a bit of heft to a camera is preferable to having it wobbling around in your hand in the slightest breeze. The space required for the batteries also means that the hand grip is comfortably chunky.
Of course, some photographers don't like AA batteries in the first place and prefer Li-ions, but I tend to think that relying on proprietary batteries is a bit of a risk when you're getting into vintage camera territory. Whatever, you should certainly avoid alkaline batteries (even good brands such as Duracell) except in emergencies when nothing else is available. Although the four-battery design means that they won't run out after just a few shots, high-capacity NiMH rechargeables will last an awful lot longer - one set does me for a whole day - and will easily pay for themselves. Be careful, though, as annoyingly there's no battery meter, and when a warning icon finally appears you'll have very few shots left.
Since the A75 has no internal memory, storage must be provided in the form of a standard CompactFlash Type I card: this has a separate compartment to the batteries, a nice feature which Canon unfortunately abandoned with the shift to SD. Cards are easily available from eBay for a few pounds: I use a SanDisk 512 MB card, which has proved very reliable so far and is sufficient for about 300 photos at the highest resolution available. The use of a card reader is highly recommended, since the camera's USB connection operates only at the older v1.1 standard and so transferring any number of pictures is very tedious if using only a direct USB cable connection.
The great attraction of the A75 is its range of manual modes, which will be familiar to anyone who has used one of its successors in the A-series range. You get shutter- and aperture-priority modes as well as full manual, plus manual focus. There's a manual white balance option, and a fairly good, if not astounding, macro mode. You get a reasonable, if not shatteringly fast, burst mode. Finally, there are a few scene modes for specified situations, such as "Foliage" and "Portrait". Of course it doesn't have the flexibility of a DSLR: the narrowest aperture available is f/8 and there's no bulb setting for long exposures. It's also too old to be compatible with the amazing free CHDK feature-expanding hack.
Using the camera is generally pleasant and rewarding. The LCD is a reasonable size for the day at 1.8 inches, and the screen is bright and fairly sharp without noticeable lag. The optical viewfinder is just about large enough to be useful, and certainly better than the afterthoughts included in many later models, though it has no dioptre correction and no guide markings whatsoever. The 3x optical zoom is acceptably responsive, though there are only six steps through the range and the motor is slightly noisy for my taste - as, in fact, is the autofocus, though this works well even in low light thanks to the AF assist lamp (a feature not always included on 2004 cameras).
Movie mode is fairly useless (640x480 at 10fps for a maximum of 30 seconds is as good as it gets) so the A75 should be considered simply as a stills camera. It has a reasonable range of options, if not as many as later PowerShots: you get ISO from 50 to 400, though photos are very noisy indeed at the top setting. You also get a small range of effects: Vivid, Neutral, Low Sharpening, Sepia and Black & White; there are no options to set contrast or R/G/B levels manually. A (monochrome) histogram is only available in playback mode, which is a bit of a shame.
The one serious flaw with this camera is that it is really not the most suitable camera to use for indoor flash photography. The flash itself is reasonably powerful, and there's not too much red-eye in portraits, but the wait between shots (the "recycle time") will drive you crazy. The four batteries mean that the wait is not *quite* so long as in some other cameras in the range, but it can feel interminable if you're running around trying to capture fast-moving children or animals. This is also a situation where the A75's chunkiness might get in the way, and you might do better with something lighter.
Outdoors, on the other hand, it produces lovely photographs. Obviously a three-megapixel camera has its limits as far as resolution is concerned, and you won't want to make enormous prints or crop images severely, but you certainly can produce some excellent snapshots. A couple of years ago I used a photo I took with this camera for Christmas cards, and was complimented by several people on the excellent, rich colours in the picture. This seems to be something of a Canon speciality, but frankly except for the noise at higher ISO settings I have nothing to complain about on this score.
My A75 set me back less than £15 including the manual (which is - hurrah - provided as a hard copy) and the aforementioned 512 MB card. However, I was extremely lucky, as this model remains in some demand second-hand, and you should expect to pay closer to £30 for a camera in good condition with any sort of memory card. This is a highly capable camera by the standards of its day, fitted with a much better lens than you'll find in many of its rivals, and it might well surprise you with just how good a 3mp camera can be.
I ordered this camera for my company's general use. I pick this unit after going through several models and narrowed down to the A75.
I like the solid hand grip. One can actually operate it with just one hand. The zoom lever accessed by the fore finger makes it very convenient. The use of 4x AA batteries houses under the grip.
With modes from Program, shutter Priority & aperture priority to fully manual make it very flexible and able to take control of the camera quickly. The zoom range is the same as most digital compacts (3X Zoom)
In most occasions focusing is accurate. However, close up is a bit disappointing.
Highest resolution setting is at 3.2 mega pixel. 8" x 10" enlargement is not a problem.
This camera is a battery eater. I always carry a set of spares as backup. There isn't a battery level indicator. When the battery level runs low, it will display " Change the batteries" & immediately shutdown.
Sometime back there was a report of LCD display failure due to manufacturing problems. Mine turned bad too.
The camera's warranty has expired. I printed out the copy of the webpage regarding the CCD manufaturer's defect around the world & brought it to the Canon service center. The repair was free!
I have been using the Canon Powershot A75 digital camera for 12 months, providing me with excellent photographs and performance throughout. I will cover in my opinion the most important aspects of this product.
-> Shooting Modes
There are an array of shooting modes available, stretching from the simple and easy Automatic mode, to more complex and specific manual options. For the novice the option to just 'point and click' is easy to use and gives excellent results. For the more advanced user the ability to tweak the settings to get exactly what shot you want gives the camera depth and appeals to a wide variety of users. A mode I have found particularly useful is the 'Sport Mode'. The fast shutter speed means that moving objects are captured with high clarity - although I often use this mode more when taking photos outside as on a windy day the camera can move around quite a lot. You have the option to turn the flash on or off or let the automatic sensor decide for you. The macro mode enables you to take high quality close up images.
-> Battery Usage
I recommend using rechargable batteries with this camera. Having a spare set ready when the current set runs out is very useful. With low flash use I tend to get around 200 pictures from 1300mA Uniross batteries. If you use the flash with every picture then this number decreases by at least half. However compared with other cameras I have used, the A75 proves relatively efficient in its power consumption. The ability to turn off the LCD display is a good feature for improving battery performance.
To look at the camera is very pleasing. The battery comparment sticks out but provides something sturdy to hold on to when taking photos. Some parts have a very plasticy feel although as a whole the camera has a very good feel to it. Batteries consist of a good deal of the weight but it is not excessive, nor is the size excessive. I own a Canon case for the camera which allows me to hold an extra set of batteries and an extra memory card, and I carry this in my coat pocket or small bag very easily.
-> Flash and Zoom
The flash is an important aspect of a camera allowing you to get good pictures in low, or little light. I have found that sometimes the automatic flash comes on when it is not really needed. With experience I tend to either have the flash on or off. The flash can be very powerful - something that can be beneficial or not depending on the situation. I have taken pictures in complete darkness which have turned out exceptionally good. The zoom feature of this camera is split into two sections, optical, and digital. It is possible to turn off the digital zoom, although I recommend that the digital zoom is very effective. The optical zoom is easier to use, whereas it takes a bit more technique to get a really good quality picture when using the digital zoom at its limits.
The ability to take video is a real bonus - and the quality is very good. With the included 32Mb compact flash card you can get around 30 seconds of the highest quality video, but if you get a bigger memory card then you can take longer video clips. Using the optical zoom you can set the zoom level before you start recording and a simple press of the shutter button sets the movie rolling. You can view the clips back on the camera or view them full screen when transfered a computer.
The A75 uses compact flash memory cards. Included in the box is a 32Mb card. I quickly bought a 256Mb card enabling me to take photos all day and not have to worry about the space. I have the settings on maximum quality and typically each photo is 1Mb to 2Mb in size. I think it is possible to get compact flash memory cards in the gigabyte range which would hold an astonishing amount of pictures.
In conclusion I have been very pleased with the A75. It is affordable whilst offering a huge variety of features from the simple to the complex. An excellent choice!