You typically don't get a lot of shooting options once you head below $150, and that's the case here. The A800 has a very reliable full auto that uses scene recognition to adjust settings; a Program mode with options for white balance, focus, metering, ISO, and color effects; and 13 special scene modes like Fireworks, Long Shutter, Foliage, and Kids & Pets. There's a Low Light setting that captures 2-megapixel shots at ISOs from 500 to 3200, although I wouldn't bother using it, as the results, even at small sizes, just aren't good. Canon also includes Face Self-Timer, which, when activated, will wait to take a shot until the camera detects an additional face in the frame.
If you like taking a lot of close-up macro shots, the A800 is a great option for the money. You can get very close--down to 0.4 inch--and get sharp shots with nice fine detail when shooting at ISO 100.
Shooting performance is pokey. It takes 2.1 seconds for the camera to go from off to first shot captured. Shutter lag is a little long in bright lighting conditions: 0.5 second from pressing the release to capture. In dim lighting, the shutter lag is 0.7 second. Shot-to-shot times are painful, though: 4 seconds without flash and jumping to a lengthy 7.4 seconds with it on. Lastly, its continuous shooting time is only 0.4 frame per second. Basically, if you're hoping to catch shots of an active toddler, an athlete in action, or a fast-moving pet, this camera isn't a good option.
The A800, which is available in red, black, and silver, is chubby, but still reasonably compact. It's not very wide or tall, but is more than an inch thick--it'll fit in a pants pocket, but it might be a tight squeeze. From the front, the camera looks reasonably stylish with nice rounded corners. Keep in mind, though, that it's an entry-level camera made out of plastic, so it doesn't always feel high-quality, especially with the batteries out.
Canon keeps the controls straightforward and simple, and the menu systems are likewise uncomplicated. On top are the power and shutter release buttons with the remaining controls on back to the right of the LCD. At the top is a zoom rocker, followed below by a button for playback; four-way control pad with select button; and shooting mode and Menu buttons. The Menu button pulls up two tabs of general settings, whereas the select button (labeled Func. Set) opens shooting-mode-specific options. Overall, it's easy to control and should be simple enough for beginners out of the box.
The lens is narrow at 37mm (35mm-equivalent) and it has an optical zoom of 3.3x, standard for cameras in its class. The LCD is small and low-resolution and although it gets fairly bright, it can still be tough to see in sunlight.
This model is powered by AA-size batteries, something many people find convenient. However, you'll only get about 200 shots out of the A800 before they'll need replacing. Getting two NiMH AA-size batteries should more than double your shot count, though.
The Canon PowerShot A800 is the kind of low-end camera that many people have stopped picking up in favor of a smartphone. However, if you don't have one of those or simply want a better camera for occasional snapshots, the A800 is the entry-level camera to get. Just make sure your subject isn't moving.
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