I had to replace my Canon A520, which had developed an annoying tic of not opening its lens cover without assistance from yours truly. Naturally, two years later its replacement, a Canon A710 IS has all sorts of features unavailable on the previous cam — most notably image stabilization, which is designed to reduce shake caused by the hands of incompetent photographers. It appears to work pretty well. I tried it out at Castle Rock State Park and Sanborn-Skyline County Park on Friday. Among the highlights:

Sun fills flower

This is one of my faves: I shot the sun filling this wildflower — called, you guessed it, a sun cup, — by shooting it from behind.

A clearing

It gets the color of the sky right.

Live madrones

Madrones are one of the great challenges for shutter-bugs. They grow in clumps in the forest, where seemingly infinite variations of lighting make it hard for a camera to make up its mind and settle on a shutter/aperture setting. This is one of the better ones, but it still gets the lighter areas washed out a bit.

Shadow of the bug

Another shot from behind — note the bug shadow.

Dead trees

A good dead tree picture pretty much takes itself.

Goat Rock

A climber at Goat Rock.

Nice clouds

Pretty clouds. These were fairly faint but the cam picked them up pretty well.

An iris

An iris: note the capillaries in the leaves. I’m not sure if this its original color or if it’s been bleached in the sun.

Summit Rock

Summit Rock at Sanborn-Skyline County Park. This immense hunk o’ sandstone has been thoughtfully decorated by local high school hooligans.

Hollow tree

A flash might’ve served this image well. It feels kinda flat.

Pretty orange flowers.

Orange flowers shot in macro mode, handheld. Note the bug crawling among them.

Crimson columbine

Another macro shot. This is a crimson columbine … note the fuzz.

Overall it’s a pretty good camera; my previous one never let me shoot any wildflowers in macro mode without a tripod; this one’s pretty good with handheld shots.

I’m sticking with my insistence on using inexpensive point-and-shoots — the A710 street price is about $250 … it uses double-a batteries and SD memory cards. I bought an option package deal with two two-gig cards, a five year extended warranty, a battery charger (with batteries) and a case that fattened the final purchase price by another hundred bucks. Normally I never buy extended warranties but both of my previous Canons have developed malfunctions after the regular warranty had expired; I’m sure this purchase will guarantee a long and healthy life for this latest cam.

Why not just suck it up and buy a digital SLR? Mainly because those have a bunch of features I’d have to learn how to use, and I don’t want to have to haul around all the extra weight. Plus I like the challenge of plucking good pictures from the dross these smaller, less ambitious cams produce.