Canon Powershot A560 Review
Yet another appealing Powershot "A" series model from Canon for 2007, the A560 shares almost identical specs with its sibling, the A550, we reviewed earlier this year. They include a 7-megapixel imager mated to a powerful 4x optical zoom lens, high-quality VGA size movie mode, 9-point AF system, 1.7fps burst capabilities, AF- assist lamp, etc. However, the A560 adds a larger and higher resolution 2.5-inch LCD display, a new Aquarium scene mode, Higher ISO settings (up to 1600 at full resolution) as well as Canon's new Face Detection AF/AE/FE technology. Like its sibling, this camera offers an exposure mode for everyone in your family. There's a multitude of fully automatic exposure modes, including 11 scene mode that allow you to capture the best possible photos in a variety of shooting situations. For novice users, the A560 offers a Manual mode with a bit more control over the exposure process with settings like ISO, white balance, metering, AF mode, exposure compensation, etc.
The A560's body design is almost identical to the A550. All of the various controls are in the same layout, just within reach of your fingertips. The only difference is the LCD now takes up a bit more room. While this is a "compact" model that can be tucked away in almost any size handbag or purse, it's large handgrip offers a nice comfortable feel, and also makes one-handed shooting a breeze! The onscreen menu system was very easy to navigate and allowed for quick changes to camera settings; especially the FUNCtion shortcut menu.
I was glad to see the addition of a larger LCD on this camera (2.5-inch compared to the A550's 2.0-inch). Almost all models nowadays offer a screen this size. This is a high- quality display, which I found was usable in almost all lighting conditions. Outdoors, it was bright and clear, with only a few angles in which the sun was reflected. In marginal lighting conditions, the display "gains up" nicely, allowing you to see your subject for framing. I was also happy that the optical viewfinder still remains. While almost everyone uses the LCD 100% of the time, this viewfinder comes in handy when trying to conserve the battery life, or when following moving subjects, where the LCD goes blank. Just remember, the optical viewfinder only covers about 80-85% of the frame, so you'll always capture more than you see.
While most consumer cameras offer a 3x optical zoom, Canon includes a nice 4x lens on these models. This lens offers a broader field of view, adding much more versatility when composing your shots. While 1x doesn't seem like much, you'll notice that you'll be able to bring your distant subjects up closer and better fill the frame when shooting portraits. The 35mm-equivalent zoom range is approx. 35 - 140mm, favoring the telephoto end. I found there to be no problem providing an adequate field of view for interior group portraits or landscape shots. Overall, a fine piece of glass that produced sharp results throughout the zoom range. I did notice moderate barrel distortion at full wide angle but virtually no pincushioning at the telephoto end. Chromatic aberrations (purple fringing around brightly lit subjects) are well controlled, with only slight traces of purple fringing present in high contrast areas.
Shooting performance was very robust, as long as you're not using the flash. From power up to first image was captured measured just 1.6 seconds, and waking the camera from sleep mode to image capture took less than a second. Shutter lag, the delay between depressing the shutter button and capturing an image, was less than 1/10 of a second when pre-focused, and only 2/10 - 3/10 of a second including autofocus. When using single drive mode to shoot a sequence of images, the shot to shot delay averaged approx. 1.4 seconds without the flash, but increases dramatically to between 4 - 6 seconds when using the flash, depending on subject distance and battery life. This is mainly due to the fact that this model uses AA type batteries.
You can also choose the continuous (burst) mode, that Canon claims can capture images at a rate of 1.7fps. I found the A560 was a bit more impressive, capturing 10 images in 4.9 seconds; a frame rate of approx 2.0 fps. This means you will have no problems when taking burst sequences at your kid's sporting events. And thanks to the inclusion of an optical viewfinder, you won't have to deal with the LCD briefly displaying the last image captured, which makes it difficult to follow moving subjects. All tests were done using a Lexar 1GB SD card, Large/SuperFine image quality, Manual mode, review off, flash off, and all other settings at default, unless noted otherwise. Times may vary depending on camera settings, lighting conditions, media, etc.
When using the Large SuperFine setting, the A560 captures beautiful 7-megapixel images. Whether indoors or out, our sample images were sharp and well exposed, showing pleasing color saturation. Unlike the A550, the A560 captures images that are sharp from edge to edge. Imager noise is an issue we touch with just about every model we test, and the A560 showed average results, when using ISO 80 - 200. As with all cameras, as the ISO sensitivity is increased, so does the noise. At ISO 400 and 800, noise is very predominant, and 1600 is even worse. However, I don't see to many people using the 1600 setting, and still feel the usefulness of these higher sensitivity capabilities is much more important than the negative effects, especially when using the flash is out of the question. You shouldn't see too much in your typical 4x6-inch print, however 8x10's will be a different story.
Portrait mode also produced pleasing results indoors and out. Canon's new Face Detection AF/AE/FE technology seems to work very well. I also found the system does well with multiple faces, as you can see on our samples page. When using the flash, I found it produced good exposures as long as you are with in the 11 foot range (wide angle, ISO auto.) I achieved great results shooting from 5 - 6 feet away using the mid telephoto end of the zoom. If you need even more flash power, this model is compatible with the optional Canon HF-DC1 flash unit, which can deliver illumination for up to approximately 30 feet!
The A560's movie function allows you to choose from several modes (Standard, Compact (160x120), Fast Frame rate, Color Accent, Color Swap, Time lapse), as well as resolutions of 640x480 or 320x240. The frame rate when using standard mode is selectable between 30 and 15fps. Compact mode is great for sending clips via email, where files sizes are critical. Because audio is recorded, the optical zoom may not be used during recording, but can be preset before. The digital zoom may be used, but this just degrades image quality. Overall, I found our videos were nice, with good exposure and minimal compression artifacts. Just be sure you have a large SD card, the 640x480 30fps mode consumes about 1.9MB per second!
The A560 is powered by 2 standard AA type cells, and Canon claims that alkaline batteries will allow you to capture approx. 140 shots (LCD on) or 540 minutes of continuous playback time. We highly recommend the use of NiMH cells, and according to Canon, they will allow you to shoot approx. 500 shots (LCD on) or 660 minutes of continuous playback time (the mAh rating of these cells was not specified.) While battery life was good, I didn't see numbers as high as Canon's claims. Using a single set of 2100 mAh cells, I was able to capture about 125 shots and several movie clips as well as conduct many of our other tests, using the LCD 100% of the time, with some power to spare.
Bottom line - I was very pleased with Canon's PowerShot A560. If offers great image quality, class leading performance, and has an exposure mode for everyone, all with a very appealing price tag of only US$229 or less! The only downfall to this model, or any "A" series model for that matter, is the slow flash recharge time. That said, I feel this will make a great camera for kids going off to collage, proud parents (or grandparents), or the eBay junkie of the family, etc. Be sure to check out the our reviews of other 2007 Canon models, like the Powershot SD1000, Powershot A550 or the 5-megapixel PowerShot A460.
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