Judged purely on its merits as a budget compact, the Canon PowerShot A3200 IS delivers very good results. Of course, by using the My Colour profiles or Creative Filters, it’s possible to tweak the contrast, sharpness and saturation levels to get them exactly as you want, but used in good light at low sensitivity settings, and with the My Colour profile options switched off, images come out sharp and vibrant with realistic colour.
All of the various shooting modes have their advantages and while we felt drawn to Program mode on account of the extra flexibility it offers, the more automated shooting modes proved perfectly reliable too. Metering is generally quite reliable although we did notice a slight tendency for it to overexpose, thereby losing highlight detail.
We enjoyed playing around with the A3200’s Creative Filters. They’re undoubtedly a solid addition to a camera as cheap as this and we suspect they will prove very popular with the kind of casual photographers the A3200 is aimed at.
Images tend to be sharper in the centre of the frame than in the corners, although this is fairly common for cheaper optics and isn’t really something to worry about. Detail at lower sensitivity settings is pretty good, although at higher sensitivities the effects of noise reduction lead to it being progressively smudged out. We also found that the lens can suffer quite badly from purple or blue fringing on high-contrast borders.
While the A3200 performs well at lower sensitivities, image quality does noticeably drop off at higher sensitivities. Noise is quite well controlled up to and including ISO 400, but after this it does become noticeable and by the top sensitivity setting of ISO 1600 images have become noticeably soft even when viewed well below 100%.
The A3200 is yet another example of how Canon’s accumulated expertise has trickled down to their budget models. The A3200 is easy-to-use, looks good and delivers good image quality for the money. In fact, compared many other cheap and even some mid-range compacts, the A3200 is more than able to hold its own, delivering consistently crisp and colourful images. Of course, it’s by no means perfect and it’s also very slow, but if you’re looking for a cheap compact that punches above its weight, then this, for the time being at least, is a good starting point.