You have to scroll a long way down the list of DPReview’s camera reviews to find the Canon PowerShot Pro70 – all the way to the very bottom, in fact. The Pro70 was the first review ever published to the site, authored by site founder Phil Askey.
The Pro70 made its debut in early 1999, at a time when digital cameras were just beginning to enter the consumer mainstream. In fact, the Pro70’s SLR-like shape prompted some onlookers to ask where the film went. Of course, there was no film – but here’s what the Pro70 did offer:
- 1.68MP 1/2″ CCD (CYGM!) sensor
- 28-70mm equivalent lens
- F2-2.4 lens
- Flip out / swivel 2″ LCD
- 3fps burst at 768 x 512
- ISO 100, 200 (400 in low resolution)
- Not one, but TWO CF card slots
All for the very reasonable price of $1200. Naturally, an 18-year-old piece of technology is going to look wildly underpowered by modern standards, but in its time the Pro70 offered a lot to the amateur photographer looking to embrace digital. Here’s a closer look at some of its notable features.
A crazy little thing called Raw
Part of the review was dedicated to describing a radical and innovative feature called ‘CCD RAW mode’, which was actually just a Raw file as we know it now. At the time this was a much-welcome alternative to saving bulky TIFF files to your CF card, but added the complication of needing your PC to interpret the recorded file. This was done using Canon’s included TWAIN driver (in the days before Adobe Camera Raw, you accessed Raw files through the same system often used for communicating with scanners), which Phil noted was ‘a little slow’ and prone to color shifts.
Aperture control and not much else
It’s amazing what you find packed into a modern enthusiast camera. Full manual exposure controls are a given, and though you may be changing multiple settings with a single rear dial, even the smallest compact targeted at enthusiast shooters will allow you to change your shutter speed.
Not so with the Pro70. It offered manual aperture control, including an option to enable a built-in ND filter to darken things below F8 without inducing additional diffraction. But what an aperture: before compact cameras got caught in a race to be cheapest, manufacturers offered cameras with bright lenses. F2-2.4 might only by F9.3-11 in full-frame terms, but the Pro70 existed a whole seven years before full frame digital became anything like accessible and would have helped get the most out of that 1/2″ sensor.
It was enough to prompt Imaging Resource to say: ‘…the combination of unusually wide-angle lens, exceptional low-light capability, and wonderful external-flash integration make for a superlative “indoor” camera!
Everything else is handled by the camera, though if you switched to the its lower-res 2fps mode you unlocked ISO 400 and shutter speeds up to 1/8000s. Remember that the next time you change the shutter speed on your smartphone camera.
Top notch image quality
Phil rated the image quality from the Pro70 as ‘superb’ in the review’s conclusion. Someone deleted the sample gallery a while ago so we can’t show you the proof, but it certainly impressed the reviewer. Given that you couldn’t change white balance, metering mode or most of the exposure parameters, it’s a good thing that OOC JPEGS ended up looking nice.
Tilting LCD for selfies (or something like that)
The Pro70 offered a flip-out, fully articulated LCD, a feature that persists today in many enthusiast cameras with more or less the same implementation. Sure, the 2″ display is only slightly bigger than your typical smart watch these days, but in the Pro70 it was an innovative and welcome feature.
Another welcome design choice was the use of Compact Flash cards. Our Throwback Thursday features have often seen us running into problems finding the right connectors, recording media and floppy drives required to get images from the camera, even with models as little as ten years old. Not a problem for the Pro70: the camera is happy to work with whatever size and speed of CF card you slot into it, even if modern, multi GB cards to promise the ability to store near-infinite numbers of 1.68MP JPEGs.
Technology has obviously marched quite far forward since the Pro70, but the camera will still hold a special distinction around here for a long time to come.