In comparing the A710 IS with the SD800 IS (also named Digital IXUS 850 IS), one has to keep in mind that the main differences between them lie in their body construction (the ultra compact SD800IS is smaller and more pocketable than the “compact” A710IS) and zoom range (the A710IS has a longer zoom, but the SD800 IS can go wider).
Image quality from both cams at the pixel level is similar, since they use they both utilize a 1/2.5-inch sensor and have about the same 7.1 Megapixel resolution.
It ultimately boils down to your own priorities, and hopefully the summary below, which I’ve cobbled together from various user discussions and professional reviews, can help you clarify your decision.
Canon A710 IS Pros
Here’s where I talk about the advantages you enjoy if you purchase the A710IS.
Prices for the A710IS are lower than for the SD800 IS (you might like to perform a quick scan for the latest prices and deals across multiple stores on: Canon Powershot A710 IS | Canon Powershot SD800 IS).
With the cheaper A710 IS, you get access to a huge number of manual controls, for instance, you can select ISO, aperture and shutter speeds directly — this is not something that’s available in most digicams on the market. If you place a high importance on the ability to control exposure parameters yourself, and don’t mind the slightly larger size of the camera, then the A710 IS is for you.
In terms of absolute zoom range, the A710 IS has the edge: it has a 6x range from 35 — 210mm, compared to the 3.7x zoom lens that goes from 28 mm to 105 mm on the SD800IS. The long end of the A710IS at 210mm is great for zoo shots and tight portraits, and if you tend not to take many wide-angle photos at less than 35mm, then go for the A710IS.
If you take a lot of macros, the A710IS wins in this department, as it is able to go as close as 1cm (less than 1/2 inch) from the subject in macro mode, as opposed to only 3cm on the SD800 IS.
The A710IS allows you to attach various optional conversion lenses, such as the wide 0.7x WC-DC58N converter and telephoto 1.75x TC-DC58N converter — these extend the already huge zoom range further. Closeup filters can also be attached to allow you to move in even closer to the subject when doing macro photography. This flexibility is not available on the SD800 IS.
Full-sized, Canon Powershot A710 IS Sample Images: The link given is to the 1st image in the series. Scroll down to view thumbnails to the other images.
Canon SD800 IS Pros
The compact form factor on the SD800 IS is one of its main strengths. Not only does it take quality pictures good enough for 5 x 7 prints, it’s small enough to just toss into your pocket or handbag. The A710IS is not quite as small, although it can still be carried in pockets of large coats or jackets.
It has been reported that you get a little corner softness in wide-angle pictures with the SD800IS, but you’ll notice this only if you shoot a lot of landscapes and architecture, and then zoom those up to full size on your computer screen and examine each pixel.
The 28mm end of the SD800 IS is a huge convenience, allowing you to get everybody into the picture when you’re in a tight space, and also shoot more of the cityscapes when you’re traveling. In my books, this more than makes up for the minor and almost imperceptible quality degradation in the corners of photos.
Stopping down the aperture (f/7.1 in the sample image linked below) also helps to minimize the occurrence of soft corners. Thinking through your composition to ensure that important details from the scene don’t occupy the corners is also a good idea to minimize the impact from soft corners.
You could try printing this SD800 IS image sample from DCResource.com or this one from Imaging Resource and convince yourself that softness at the extreme corners are a non-issue (or otherwise) to you.
The lack of manual (and complicated) controls on the SD800 IS as compared to the A710IS can be seen as a strength, depending on your needs. If you prefer a fuss-free camera and are not thinking of expanding into serious, creative photography, then the point-and-shoot functional design of the SD800IS is a definite plus rather than a drawback.
Still on the subject of shooting simplicity, the SD800 IS features Canon’s face detection technology. The camera is able to seek out multiple faces in a scene and pick out the closest one to automatically focus on — no messing around trying to decide where to point your camera’s focusing point at. Unfortunately, this technology is not available on the A710 IS.
Full-sized, Canon Powershot SD800 IS Sample Images: The link given is to the second image in the series, which I’ve deliberately selected as it showcases what a gorgeous, wide-angle photograph shot at 28mm looks like. Scroll down to view thumbnails to the other images.
Yongbo Jiang’s Weblog also has some of the best SD800 IS user shots found online, and they’re taken by the blog author himself.
Comparison of weight and dimensions
A710 IS: Weight without batteries: 210 g Dimensions: 3.8 x 2.6 x 1.6 inches
SD800 IS: Weight without batteries: 150 g Dimensions: 3.5 x 2.3 x 1.0 inch
Knowing that both cameras give equally good images, it becomes easier to make a decision as to which one to purchase.
Buy the Canon A710 IS if you want a camera that gives you maximum control over image settings. If you’re into landscapes or macro photography, this camera is more ideal than the SD800 IS. Don’t forget that you can always attach converters that will allow you to obtain wider or longer focal lengths.
The SD800 IS is very suitable for the photographer who values photography that is quick and snappy (think parties, street photography, social events). The camera makes fast photography a cinch by making most of the decisions on appropriate settings, and the inclusion of Canon’s patented Face Detection AF (Autofocus) / AE (Automatic Exposure) algorithms ensure that if a face (or faces) is the main subject in the scene, focus will lock on that face and the correct exposure (brightness) is adjusted for.
The SD800 IS is also ideal for the digital SLR photographer who already has a camera that provides all the necessary controls, but desires an additional and simple, carry-around camera that gives great pictures.