As I mentioned however, the A710 does have a couple of problems. The first is battery life. Using the supplied high-powered alkaline batteries I was only able to take 130 shots, using the flash on about a dozen of them, before the battery indicator started flashing red at me and demanding to be fed. Using higher capacity batteries, such as the Energizer Lithium Technology ones that I usually recommend, may improve this but it’s still a concern.
The other problem is more serious. The A710 has a fairly large built-in flash, which supposedly has a range of 3.5m at wide angle, however I found that it only fully illuminated a narrow strip across the middle of the frame, leaving the top and bottom of the picture in shadow. I find it hard to believe that a camera could pass through Canon’s usually excellent quality control procedures with such an obvious flaw, so it may be that this was just a fault on my review sample. I will try to get a replacement and double-check, so keep an eye on the forum for an update on this.
I hope it is just a one-off problem, because other than that the A710’s picture quality is very good, although not perfect. Colour rendition, exposure and focusing were all just as good as we’ve come to expect from Canon’s acclaimed Digic II imaging system, while image noise was virtually non-existent even at the 800 ISO maximum setting.
The lens performance however was not as good as I’d expected. Although spherical distortion was minimal, there was noticeable softness towards the edges at the wider settings, with even a hint of chromatic aberration in the corners. Even on more zoomed-in shots there was a distinct softness away from the centre of the frame. Considering the performance I’ve seen in other Canon lenses this is very disappointing.
The Canon PowerShot A710 IS is expensive for a compact camera, although it does offer a wide range of features for the money. Overall performance is outstanding, however build quality and more importantly image quality are not up to the standards we’ve come to expect from Canon, and the possible flash fault is damning. The latter may be an issue with our review sample, but as things stand, it’s a bit of a disappointment.