Customer Reviews: Canon Powershot A1200 12.1 MP Digital Camera with 4x Optical Zoom (Black)
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Showing 1-10 of 372 reviews(verified purchases). Show all reviews
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.
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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!
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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.
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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!
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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!
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on November 25, 2011
OK, here are the facts: my other (similar) camera developed a glitch -- it will not allow me to delete photos without loooooong delays. So I went in search of an inexpensive replacement camera. I settled on this Canon.

I did so with trepidation because some of the reviews were lukewarm at best. Yet other reviewers loved it. (This, by the way, is what makes horse races!) So I thought I would take a chance.

Here is why I am happy with my choice: (1) the viewer seems larger than its dimensions suggest; (2) the camera fits in my shirt pocket; (3) the pics are crisp indoors and out; (4) the on-off button is clearly marked and the shot button is nice and robust. For me, these features are all I need. To be sure, the camera has a few video bells and whistles -- I'll try those one of these days. No rush.

A Con: the shot button takes a little getting used to, since it appears to have two stages to it. If you just press and disengage, nothing will happen. It requires a little patience and then it will take the picture. I can live with that idiosyncrasy.

Another Con: no internal memory. You must purchase an SD card before you can use the camera. This too I have accepted, because having pics on cards does make it easy to load them into PCs and laptops.

If you are looking for a simple "point-and-shoot" camera that will also perform other tricks if you are of a mind, go for it!
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on September 17, 2011
I already have a Canon A590IS pocket camera, as well as a Nikon D5000 SLR. I wanted something in-between, with more megapixels for better image quality than the A590IS, but still a compact camera, since the Nikon SLR can sometimes be obtrusive. I also wanted something that used AA batteries, which are both inexpensive and readily available practically everywhere. Recharging expensive batteries that eventually have to be replaced anyway is both time-consuming and inconvenient, and when recharging no longer works, a new battery for a specific camera is rarely available right away. Finally, I wanted a compact camera with an old-fashioned optical viewfinder for framing the shot. I use the LCD screen too, but in bright daylight, the optical viewfinder is simply easier and faster than trying to shade the LCD so I can see it.

In terms of size, the A1200 is quite good. It easily fits into a shirt or pants pocket, and it's not heavy.

Image quality is just what I was hoping for - significantly better than my A590IS. It's not a match for the Nikon digital SLR, but I wasn't expecting it to be, and the difference won't show up in the usual 4 x 6 print. Only with sizable enlargements (i.e., 8 x 10 and up) will the size of the 12.1 MP sensor have an effect on image clarity and resolution.

Operation is straightforward. Buttons and controls are easy to use. The printed "Getting Started" guide will tell most users all they need to know to start taking photos. The optical viewfinder works as I wanted it to, though I'd like it to be just a bit larger. I'm a big guy with large hands, and sometimes the camera feels "too small" and/or "too smooth," and I'm afraid it will slip out of my hand and fall to the ground, but I'm careful to use the wrist strap. That strap, by the way, is not at all convenient to attach - Canon ought to rethink the attachment setup.

My only real complaint, and for me it's a significant one, is that the camera is too automatic. There are lots of shooting options in "Scene" mode, but unless you've memorized them from the manual (only readable from the CD unless you print your own copy), you won't be able to remember which "scene" gives you the best shutter speed, or f-stop, or combination of the two. I end up using "scenes" that don't fit Canon's idea of what I should be shooting because I'm trying to get to particular combinations of shutter speed and f-stop.

Obviously, what I really want is essentially the same camera, but with a manual mode, and I simply couldn't find one with manual settings and the A1200's other features without spending 2 or 3 times the money. While some automation is helpful, there are plenty of photo opportunities where I want to be the one making the choices, not the camera, so I've often found the A1200 frustrating to use in those circumstances. "Easy to use," which is an accurate characterization, doesn't always translate to the kind of image I'm trying to achieve.

Bottom line: for people who don't want to think about technical stuff, and just want to take snapshots, this is a great camera, and the image quality is good enough that they can get good-quality enlargements from the images it takes. If you're more technically inclined, I think you'll find the "everything automatic" qualities of the camera frustrating. Thus, I only give it 3 stars overall.
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on September 28, 2011
My last camera was a Canon A610. Great camera but I wanted something a little newer and a little smaller. I just want a basic camera that wasn't too expensive that takes good pictures.

Battery - the camera uses AA batteries. This was something I really wanted in a camera. I can't tell you how many times I grabbed my old camera just to find out it was dead. Threw in 4 AA and was up and running again. Some may not care about having the option of putting batteries in a camera but I really like that feature.

OVF- optical view finder. I used this all the time with my old camera. Saves the battery. Easy to take pics in bright light. And I find I can hold a small camera like this steadier if I hold it against my face. I have read different reviews here so I can confirm that the image in the viewfinder does zoom in and out with the lens. The viewfinder does only cover about 80-85% of the image you are taking a picture of. It is centered. That is okay with me. I can crop the picture later or just have more of the image than I though I was getting.

picture quality- the picture quality is okay. I've read review of people saying it is so bad/grainy in low light they returned the camera. I have also read people saying the PQ is amazing. I don't if the camera is at such a low price point that maybe quality control is poor. Or if different people have different expectations for PQ. Comparing it to my A610, a 6 year old camera, I can tell you the A1200 does not take as good pictures. While the A1200 is a much higher MP the sharpness of the A610 at every equal ISO level is better. Even lowering the A1200 to 6MP does not do too much in getting the sharpness to the level of my old camera. Does that mean the A1200 takes bad pictures. No it takes decent pictures. Especially in good light. I attribute the difference in image quality to two things. The A1200 does not have a SuperFine setting for JPEG compression. Canon's scale for Superfine is 95 compression. While the Fine setting (which is the best the A1200 has) is 88 compression. Thats a decent amount more compression (5% compared to 12%). When i changed my old camera to Fine from SuperFine the quality dropped closer to the A1200. Second the sensor in my old camera was a 1/1.8 CCD compared to the 1/2.3 CCD in the A1200. The A1200 has a much small sensor which is a big part of image quality.
Is the lower image quality compared to my older camera enough to make me return the A1200? I'm not sure yet. The image quality is decent. Especially for such a low price camera with such a small CCD sensor. There is a group on flikr for the A1200. Some very nice pics have been posted. If it produced images that were equal with my older camera I'd keep it in a second.

Processing speed- the time it takes from pressing the shutter all the way down to being able to take the next picture is approximately 2 seconds. I don't think that is too bad but again my 6 year old camera it was about a second. My card is a 5 year old card. However it is a transcend 150x. I'm not sure the class. It would be nice to know if anyone else is experiencing this issue? On every picture I have taken the screen goes blank and a little hand comes up saying busy. I'm not counting the time it takes to press the shutter half way and focus. I mean from the moment I press the shutter button all the way down it takes to around 2 Mississippi until I can take the next picture.

Flash recycle time- this is absurd. The manual say it takes around 12 seconds for the flash to recycle but I've never seen a camera actually take that long. But the camera I received does. If I take a picture with the flash after the busy symbol disappears it take about 12 seconds before I can take another picture. I can watch the orange light blinking by the viewfinder meaning the flash is charging. If I turn the flash off it it back to 2 seconds to process a picture.

No IS- I really wish it came with image stabilization. I understand at the price point its difficult. I understand IS would not solve the PQ some people are complaining about. But IS would allow me to lower the ISO which would help.

I'm going to mess around with it some more before I decide to keep it or send it back. I'm also going to consider the 100 HS. I loose my AA batteries and viewfinder but I gain image stabilization and a back lit CMOS sensor for low light.
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on November 29, 2011
Best thing about this digital "point and shoot" - for me - is that it also has a good old fashioned view finder. On the sunniest of days, you can still look through it and see exactly what is in front of you whereas you can't always see details on the screen on the back as clearly. Looked for a long time to find this feature. Love this camera!!
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on September 18, 2011
HAS a VIEWFINDER for outside photos to avoid GLARE, was the SELLING point. But to have it take such great photos and it IS lightweight and only takes 2 AA batteries. The manual is ON/IN the camera displayed on the screen. So convenient to carry around like a cell phone. Already had a small carrying case that holds the camera and 2 extra batteries. Did I mention it HAS a VIEWFINDER? And It is above satisfactory and IS USEFUL. Purchased optional monopod with additional ball and swivel because camera doesn't have stabilization. Use it in low light and for movies. My third canon Powershot. And so easy to use and LOVE.
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