By Josh Fate
Smart Auto allows anyone to pick up the camera and start shooting, no matter what the conditions are. The camera will automatically determine the correct settings based on 18 predefined situations, and chooses the best scene mode for your current situation. This takes all of the worry away from the user, allowing them to worry about framing their subject.
Keeping the same body style as the A480, the A495 is very comfortable to hold thanks to the wider body style. With the right side of the camera being just a little thicker and the zoom controls located right under thumb, one-handed operation is a snap. Changing the camera's settings is quick and easy thanks to Canon's quick "FUNC." shortcut menu and the easy to navigate menu systems. Since the A495 does not have an optical viewfinder, framing and viewing your images is done with the 2.5-inch, 115,000 dot, LCD screen. This is a lower resolution LCD screen, and the live image can look very grainy when using the camera in low-light situations. Outdoors it can be difficult to see in bright or direct sunlight.
Performance from the A495 is OK for an entry-level model. When you turn on the camera, it takes 2.2 seconds before the camera is able to capture its first image. Shutter lag is approx. 1/10 of a second when the camera is pre-focused and 6/10 of a second when you allow the auto focus system to work. The camera's shot-to-shot delay is approx 2 seconds, allowing you capture 5 images in 9.9 seconds without the flash. Using the flash the A495 is capable of capturing 5 images in 29.9 seconds, or a 6 second shot-to-shot delay, which is a result of the flash having to charge between each shot. The camera also includes a continuous shooting mode that works with or without the flash. The camera is able to capture 10 images in 33.5 seconds (approx. 0.29fps) or 10.1 seconds (approx. 1fps) respectively. All of our tests were completed using a Lexar Pro 133x 2GB memory card, BTY 2500mAh Ni-MH rechargeable batteries, Program shooting mode, ISO Auto, Flash off and all other settings at the factory defaults. All times may vary depending on lighting, camera settings, media, etc.
Image quality from the A495 is excellent for an entry-level model. Our outdoor samples show us that the camera produces excellent exposures and bright, vivid colors. The camera even handled the bright white snow very well. Chromatic aberrations were controlled very well, except for the Golden Dragon image, where we have seen other, higher priced, cameras produce the effect. With the 3.3x optical zoom lens, you will be able to capture descent landscape shots with the 37mm wide end. On the telephoto end, the 122mm (35mm equivalent) will get you a little closer to your subject. This range is very good for portrait photography, allowing you capture a group or zoom in to single out an individual.
Our indoor M&M man shots show how crisp and clear the images are from the A495. At ISO 80 with or without the flash, you can see the incredibly sharp details from one side of the image to the other, including every stitch in the flag. At ISO 400, almost all of the small details in the image have disappeared, but the image is still clear enough to produce pleasing prints. After ISO 400, the image starts to get a little soft, but the quality is still very good for the settings on a camera in this range. Assisting in your low-light images is the built-in flash with a variety of modes. The flash is surprisingly powerful as it did a descent job of lighting our image from 6ft. away, mid-telephoto, at ISO 80. The A495 also controls output well when shooting up close, which can be seen in our Macro shot, as it provided an excellent exposure from just a few inches away. Because of the camera's AA power source, the flash is very slow to recharge, which is apparent by our timing tests above.
Shooting portraits of your friends and family is a snap thanks to Canon's portrait mode and face detection software. The face detection works well, locking on to faces and tracking them very well, as long as they stay within the frame. Exposures based on the detected faces are excellent, even when using the flash. When it comes to shooting group or self-portraits, Canon's new Face Detection Self-Timer allows you to set up your shot and then take your time getting yourself into the image. The Camera will detect an initial number of faces, then waits until another face is detected to start the timer.
Shooting video with the A495 is easy and produces good results when shooting at 640x480. The video shows very little artifacting and noise, even in less than optimal lighting conditions. The white balance did struggle a little in tricky lighting conditions, as do most other cameras. Audio is also recorded thanks to a built-in microphone. This mic is very sensitive and will pick up all background noises, many of which you will not notice while you are shooting. To avoid these, try to stay away from furnaces, A/C units or out of the wind if outside. When playing the movies back, they run smoothly whether watching on a computer or playing it back on the camera's LCD or to a TV.
Powering the A495 are two standard AA-type batteries. While completing our tests, we were able to capture 150 images and videos without having to worry about the batteries running low. During our testing we used two, BTY 2500mAh Ni-MH rechargeable batteries, which according to Canon should be able to produce 400 images on a single charge (CIPA). If you prefer to use alkaline batteries or are in a bind and need to pick some up while shooting, you should be able to get approx. 150 images with them.
Bottom Line - The Canon PowerShot A495 is an affordable entry-level digicam featuring a 10-Megapixel imaging sensor, DIGIC III image processor, Smart Auto scene selection and a 2.5-inch LCD screen. Designed to be incredibly easy for anyone to pick up and use, the A495 produces excellent images, but can be a little slow on the performance end. With a MSRP of US $129.99, this a great camera for first time camera buyers, or anyone that is looking for great image quality, but is not necessarily concerned with performance.
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