Canon Powershot A480 Review
By Mike Flacy
The PowerShot A480 is Canon's newest entry-level model, and takes on a new look from its predecessor the A470. Sporting a 10-Megapixel imaging sensor, advanced face detection software, 3.3x optical zoom lens and a 2.5-inch LCD screen; Canon has put together a nice feature set for a camera in this price range. This fully automatic model is incredibly easy to use, even if you have never picked up a digital camera before.
The new shape of the A480 makes it very easy to hang on to. Since the body is slightly thicker on the right side, I had not problems operating the camera with just one hand. All of the controls lay nicely under your thumb, giving you complete control over the available options. The 4-way controller offers effortless navigation through the well thought out menu system. Taking up most of the back is a 2.5-inch LCD screen. This display is used for framing and viewing all of your images since there is no optical viewfinder. It is easy to see in most lighting conditions, including sunny days. However, we did see significant glare when a strong light is beating directly on to the screen. With only 115,000 pixels of resolution, you will not see a great amount of detail when reviewing you stored photos on the LCD.
Performance from the A480 is very good for this class of camera. From the time you hit the power button, it can capture its first image in just 2 seconds. When the camera is pre-focused, the shutter lag is less than 1/10 of a second and between 4/10 and 5/10 of a second when allowing the autofocus to work. In normal shooting mode, the camera is able to capture 5 images in 7.4 seconds without the flash and 5 images in 19.4 seconds with it. The camera also features a continuous shooting mode, which allows it to capture 10 images in 9.9 seconds or 10 images in 18.4 seconds with the flash. All of our tests were completed using a 1GB Sandisk Ultra II SD card, program mode, flash off, ISO auto and all other settings at the factory defaults unless noted otherwise. Times may vary depending on lighting conditions, camera settings, media, etc.
Image quality from the A480 is very good. Our outdoor images are crisp and clear in the center, with excellent exposure and vivid colors. You do encounter a little edge softness as well as some barrel distortion on the wide angle end of the zoom range. The 3.3x optical zoom lens (35mm film equivalent: 37-122mm) is versatile enough to capture average landscape and group portraits or get you closer to a distant object using the telephoto end. The lens does an excellent job of suppressing aberrations, which are common on most budget cameras.
Our indoor image quality is just as good if not better than the outdoor images. The colors are bright and very vivid, and the flash exposure is pleasing. There seems to be less edge softness shown indoors as well, shown by the clear text on the side of the magazines in the M&M man shots. The flash range is a little shorter than we would like to see, ranging between 6 and 10 feet on ISO auto. This will produce higher ISO settings to accommodate for the flash. The flash itself works ok when setting the ISO to 80, as long as you are not shooting from more than 5 feet away from the subject. It is not, however, strong enough to illuminate a mid sized room to capture a group portrait without some other lighting assistance.
With the ability to shoot video at resolutions of 640x480 and 320x240, you have the perfect alternative for when a photograph just isn't enough. Capturing clear video with sound, you will not be disappointed with the smooth playback when viewing your movies. The built-in mic is very sensitive and picks up all of the sounds near the camera including background sounds that you don't notice at the time of recording. It is not good for picking up sounds that are off in the distance, so try to get as close as possible to your subject.
Supplying the power for the A480 are two standard AA type batteries. Instead of using standard alkaline batteries, we recommend high-capacity NiMH rechargeable cells. Even though these batteries do not last as long as a proprietary lithium-ion battery pack, rechargeable AA batteries are much cheaper and in a bind you can always use a set of alkalines. NiMH batteries provide enough power to capture approx. 200 images on a single charge and provide you with up to 2 more hours of playback time when compared to alkaline batteries.
Bottom Line - the Canon PowerShot A480 is an excellent choice for anyone looking to enter the digital camera market. With a full list of options like a 10-Megapixel imaging sensor, advanced face detection and 3.3x optical zoom lens; you will not find another model with more features in this price range. It is easy enough for anyone in the home of office to use, including kids and grandparents with no previous camera experience. With a MSRP of US$129.99, you can't go wrong with quality and features of this camera.
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