on March 12, 2011
The Canon A1200 has the features which we value most and as such, is our favorite digital camera. In particular,
* It can take wide angle photos - the equivalent of 28mm on the older film SLR's
* It uses 2 AA batteries which is great - especially when traveling overseas. In the past, we encountered too many occasions when a battery became exhausted in the middle of the day or could not be recharged at night. This was especially true when traveling overseas. So now we only consider cameras which use AA batteries because they can be purchased almost anywhere.
* It takes HD video.
* Its size is compact and can easily fit in a pocket or purse. Years ago, I enjoyed taking photos with SLR's and wore out 3 of them (the film versions). However, I missed many shots on vacation because I did not want to carry an SLR everywhere I went. The compact size of the A1200 allows us to carry it everywhere with ease. And it takes high quality photos.
* This camera does not offer as many options as some others. However, it gives you the options people use most of the time. I do not miss the other ones.
There are a few negatives. Cords to connect the camera to a TV or DVD recorder are sold separately. And it is difficult to force the camera to flash - it wants you to choose the mode and it will decide whether to use the flash. Also, this camera does not have the option to merge 2 or 3 shots into a panoramic picture. And it does not zoom in as close as some other cameras. All that said, we shopped around a lot and, in our opinion, the A1200 has the best combination of features and size.
on April 26, 2011
Like it's Powershot siblings, the Canon A1200 is a heck of a nice piece of equipment for shooting nature close-ups. I've taken this camera out twice now, and so far it has taken wonderful photos. I've posted some samples from a single hike.
Although the A1200 can't squeeze in on a subject as closely as the A480 (one of my all-time favorite cameras), this new Canon camera is capable of focusing just an inch and a half away from the subject in "Macro" mode. I usually carry one or two Pentax DLSR cameras as I hike through miles of woodland trails every weekend, and although they're great cameras, they simply can't beat Canon Powershots for capturing the tiniest nature subjects, in my opinion. If a subject is smaller than a quarter, out come the Powershots.
This camera takes photos that easily match or beat the quality of images you'll find in typical nature guides by Peterson or Simon & Schuster. Spend a year on the trail with it, and you could easily have a full set of quality publishable photos. Unlike more expensive point-and-shoots or DSLRs, this Powershot doesn't have camera raw or enough pixels to fill a wall, but the image quality and output is suitable for small posters, so who cares? Frankly, counting pixels and foaming over camera raw are not admirable traits, and neither of those things produces good pictures.
Image noise seems to be a bit improved since the A480s and A490s came out, especially when shooting in lower light. This camera has 12 versus 10 megapixels of its predecessors, so in theory you can get a larger photo now and still retain sharpness and detail. The controls will be familiar to anyone who has used a Canon point-and-shoot. I like the general layout of buttons compared to other brands, but that may be just because I'm more familiar with Canon. The A1200 has a viewfinder, which I'll never use because the thing is usually shooting photos right on the ground, and although I like the outdoors, I'm not sticking my face in the dirt and squinting through a viewfinder when I don't have to. The LCD screen is good enough. I've banged and tortured the daylights out of one A480 and killed another one after multiple assaults due to clumsiness. So far, this camera has taken a little knocking around without a complaint.
The A1200 shoots HD video, which isn't nearly as good as even an inexpensive video camera, but nonetheless I was surprised that the movies looked as good as they did. When shooting video, you'll get the best results if you stabilize the camera on a tripod, the back of a chair, a railing, or tree branch, depending on where you are. Video compression is a little cleaner that way, and you can avoid making people sick from zinging the camera around like a roller coaster.
Here are some tips for taking good close-up nature photos with this camera. I usually shoot with the dial in "P" mode. Most importantly, always remember to set the camera on "Macro" (the flower icon button). That allows it to focus as close as 1.5 inches away. Since the camera resets when you turn it off, Arggh!, you have to turn "Macro" on each time you restart it. On this camera, macro focus becomes dysfunctional if you zoom in, so keep it zoomed all the way out. Next, go into the menu and change the general settings. AF Frame should be "Center" so you can pick the point to focus on, AF Frame Size should be "Small" so it doesn't get confused as to where it should focus, and the Digital Zoom is garbage and should be banished forever. Unlike the "Macro" setting, these settings will NOT go away when you turn the camera off, fortunately. Since this is not an image-stabilized camera model, find some way to keep it still when shooting. When you're focused on a close-up subject, even a tiny movement is enough to blur your photo. To keep my camera still, I swear by a monopod with an adjustable pivoting head. Basically it's a one-legged tripod. A monopod can remove the worst of your hand jitters, and it doesn't even need to be extended to the ground -- just having your camera mounted to a stick helps stabilize your shot. Practice photographing coins or small subjects in your yard to get a feeling for macro photography. You'll notice that the area of sharpest focus is not as deep as it is when subjects are father away. You have to make deliberate choices on the point of sharpest focus. Check the photos on a computer if possible, so you can really see how well you're doing. And finally, shoot a million pictures. This is the digital age. You don't have to pay for dud prints any more. Be vicious when culling out the duds, because believe me, nobody wants to see 75 views of the same buttercup flower.
on April 12, 2011
I bought the Canon A1200 because I wanted a small point and shoot that I could take everywhere with me. Other selling points were the optical viewfinder which I don't really use much, as well as the AA batteries. I use Sanyo Eneloops in this camera and they work great. I don't know how many pictures I can take with them on a single charge because I end up recharging them before they die completely.
The biggest surprise for me has been how well this camera does in low lighting. I have sometimes had trouble with getting good exposures in the dim lighting in my house but not with this camera. The sensor seems to be tuned for low light performance and it is a consistent performer for birthday parties or just taking snapshots of my kids.
I uploaded a few of the artistic shots I've made with this camera and I can say that the A1200 has exceeded all of my expectations for a point and shoot camera at this price range. It is a great performer and with a little effort it will take great images. I've messed around with some of the preset options and they help a little bit, but the auto setting works well if you don't want to fiddle with things. Also, the Discreet Mode is great! I accidentally took a picture with auto-flash and interrupted a speaker, so now I always use this mode to disable the focus light and flash when needed.
On a final note, I bought a Lowepro Volta case and it's a perfect fit, though there is no room for spare batteries. I just wanted a slim package that I can fit in my pocket. It's a bit bulky but not an inconvenience. I highly recommend this camera if you are on a budget and want a solid performer at the hundred dollar price range.
on July 14, 2011
I bought this camera while on vacation in Florida when my old HP 5MP camera suddenly died. That old camera took LOVELY, high quality photos. It had a viewfinder, and since I was taking many pictures on the beach in full sun I wanted a replacement with a viewfinder (because who can see the LCD display in bright light?). This was the only camera in the store that had one, so I bought it.
The instruction manual came on a CD and since I didn't have a computer handy, I just put the setting on "Automatic" and clicked away. After I got home and downloaded the pictures I was completely disappointed. They were all a tiny bit blurry, the colors were drab and I was very upset. They looked nothing like the beautiful pictures I had always gotten from my cheap HP camera - they looked like something taken with an old Kodak Instamatic!
I read some of the reviews online and after reading through the instruction manual decided to play with the settings to see if I could improve the image quality. Apparently having too many megapixels somehow makes it harder to get crystal clear focus. Since I am not enlarging these photos to poster size, I reset the megapixels to just 6. When outside in normal daylight, I set the ISO to 80 or 100, depending on brightness. Only then did I start getting some much better looking photos - nearly the same quality as my old camera.
So instead of writing a scathing review, I will say that I am happy with this camera now. I LOVE that it has a viewfinder. This alone allows you to really save on battery drain, since you can take all your pictures with the LCD turned off and it is the LCD that burns through the batteries. I am happy that it uses plain old AA batteries - no more having to pack a charger and remember to plug my camera in every night while on a trip. I have had the camera for 2 months, taken loads of pictures trying to figure it out and I am still using the first pair of batteries I put in.
I have had many years experience using a film camera, both SLR and an advanced optical viewfinder (even go back so far as to using a hand held light meter!), so I am familiar with changing settings and working with different ISO films. For those who want the ease of totally automatic point and shoot use, I certainly didn't get good quality photos in that mode. But it is relatively easy to change the MP's and the ISO setting to improve your pictures and once you reset those, it is pretty automatic.
This camera has some fun settings that are a bonus-such as the fish eye setting, vivid colors, B&W, etc. Overall, I have gotten happier with this camera. My old HP was a gem, but this one comes close.
on April 4, 2011
I bought two of these cameras, one for my 10-year-old and one for my 14-year-old, because it has all these features I was looking for:
(1) the image-quality is superb;
(2) it is one of the few compact digital cameras that run on AA batteries (a feature my 14-year-old son will find useful when he studies and travels in Europe this fall);
(3) it is one of the extremely few compact digital cameras that have a viewfinder (a feature that my 10-year-old daughter wanted);
(4) it has a "smart auto" setting and, even more foolproof, an "easy" setting for the simplest use possible;
(5) it can store a lot of images on a 32-GB SD card (a feature that is good to have when cameras are taken away to summer camps or boarding schools);
(6) taking HD movies is simple; and
(7) it comes at an unbeatably low price, making it a great value.
My children had no problem operating this camera from minute one. I highly recommend this camera!
on May 20, 2011
Like nearly every camera in the compact point and shoot category, this camera suffers from too many pixels on a tiny sensor. Even in full sunlight, at the lowest ISO settings, there is noticeable pixel cross talk / ISO noise in the images, and colors are relatively flat. Combine that with jpeg compression, and fine textures become an unrecognizable jumble of pixels, and clean edges just don't exist.
I'd like to think that giving every camera of this type a one star rating would help convince manufacturers that consumers care more about picture quality than pixel count. But until their current mindset changes, it seems we're stuck with a glut of cameras like the A1200; cameras that have the potential to be so much better if they only had half the megapixels (or less) of their current incarnations.
With this camera, the key to happiness is realistic expectations. So here's what you can expect:
- "Good enough for the price" image quality. It's not the worst I've ever seen, but grain is always noticeable and colors are either relatively flat or out of balance depending on the situation. I've played with every possible setting, and there's just no way around this without post-processing.
- "Good enough for the price" LCD. It can be used for framing a shot, but that's about it. The LCD is slow, washed out, and streaks with high contrast images. With regard to color, brightness, and contrast, the screen does not give an accurate representatation of the picture being taken.
- Functional zoom and autofocus. They both can be a little slow and finicky, and the noises the camera makes reflect the cheap components, but they seem to work well enough if you're willing to wait an extra second or two longer than you might want.
- Decent battery life. The manual says 200 shots using alkalines with the LCD on, 400 shots with rechargeables, and 600+ with the LCD off. I haven't tested all of these combinations, but so far I have no complaints.
- Lots of settings to play with, if you're so inclined. The A1200 has the Digic4 processor/software, and many of the color settings, scenes, controls, etc. that come along with it. Unfortunately, none of these settings fully compensate for the shortcomings of the image sensor. With regard to manual settings, the user can control ISO, but shutter and aperture are always on Auto.
- An anti-blur / image stabilization mode that, ironically, produces the blurriest images I've taken with this camera.
In all, it's a cheap camera and it behaves like one. If you're looking for something that's good enough for the price, this is it. It's just a shame that it could have easily been so much better with a lower pixel count.
on June 1, 2011
I wanted an easy to carry alternative to my DSLR, and I wanted to keep it around $100. I take a lot of motorcycle trips, and wanted a small camera with a viewfinder that could produce great images. I shopped around a lot, and read every online review I could find, and the A1200 won out, and I'm very happy. Very easy to use, and images are very sharp, with great color and contrast. I've taken a bunch of great pics just turning it on and using auto mode.
That being said, it does have its limitations. You can't have everything for only $109. It's not great in low light with no flash, somewhat noisy and sometimes hunting for focus, but low light noise is still acceptable for small prints. Past the 4X zoom, it enters digital zoom, and this is also not sharp. The lens' "sweet spot" seems to be from full wide angle to about 3X.
The viewfinder is a nice bonus. It's not perfect, but definitely usable. You have to keep in mind, it shows around 80% of the actual image that the camera captures. This is not a problem; it's easy enough to crop images later if needed.
I give it 5 stars. In even slightly bright cloudy days and above, images are beautiful and super sharp. I'm blown away by the pleasing colors, nice and rich, yet still natural and not over-saturated. It covers everything from wide landscapes to semi-macro close-ups. I've posted several example images in the customer images section. I'm surprised by the few negative reviews complaining of bad, blurry images. Either they had a lemon, user error, or they work for Nikon. : ) (just kidding)
If you want an affordable camera that is fantastic for landscapes, nature, architecture, travel, friends, etc., this camera is a real winner.
on May 28, 2011
I needed a cheap pocket camera that takes good pictures and uses AA batteries. I didn't want to mess around with a charger and an extra battery.
The camera is small and does fit right into my pocket. It takes nice pictures, surpisingly good ones indoors without flash.
I turned off the display to conserve battery power and use the built-in view finder. More than 250 pics so far on the original two AA batteries!
Picture quality is good to very good, depending on my ability to hold it steady. It beats other cameras this size from other companies. Pictures are reasonably sharp, detailed. The pics are good for posting on the web, sending to friends some work situations, such as real estate, auto sales and such. Photos are not what you would send to a glossy magazine, but this is not a DSL with an expensive lens, either. Pics could be used for newspapers.
It's the perfect camera to have along everywhere, all the time, when you don't want to lug around your DSL and lens bag. Pics are at least twice as good as those from camera phones.
You can spend 4x as much for another pocket camera that maybe is only twice as good if you need super crisp shots for professional backup to a DSL, but otherwise, this is a very good camera and value. I wear it on my belt or keep it in my shirt pocket (attached to a lanyard) all the time and get shots that I never would have gotten for leaving my big, bulky camera at home.
on May 1, 2011
I am not a photographer, but i liked to have a camera with me on my travelling!
I bought this item last week as my old sony cybershot 5.0 Mgp's battery and screen died. I bought my sony one for around 500$ back in 2007, when digital cameras just hit the market. I have to say i was not impressed with the quality of picture sony offered me at all. So I wanted to buy a cheap camera with excellent quality pictures and works on AA battery (easier for travellers, plus Li battery WILL always die. They are expensive to replace compared to AA). I found what i wanted in this camera. I was astonished by the quality of Canon. I believe this A1200 camera is underpriced for the quality you get. The colors are vivid, the pictures are crisp, and no blurr. Even the video is HD and good quality. Something to note is that you can't zoom in/out once you record, but you can zoom before you press record.
If you are looking for a cheap camera with great quality of picture go for this camera. Might be one of the best AA camera out there!
on August 9, 2011
I have searched everywhere and for a long time for a digital camera WITH a viewfinder. I was told by merchandizers that these cameras weren't being made any more. Then I saw the Canon Powershot with one. I absolutely LOVE it because on bright, sunny days there is too often a glare on the screen making it difficult to view the object or persons being photographed. Now I don't have this problem. A GREAT camera!