Canon Powershot A570 Review
Like the A560 we reviewed earlier this month (4/2007), the PowerShot A570 IS features 7-megapixels of resolution, a powerful 4x optical zoom lens, high-quality VGA size movie mode, 9-point AF system, 2.5-inch LCD display, 1.7fps burst capabilities, AF-assist lamp, High ISO settings (up to 1600 at full resolution) and Canon's new Face Detection AF/AE/FE technology. New to the A570 IS is their Optical Image Stabilization (OIS) system, and adds Program AE, Av, Tv and Underwater exposure modes. With 14 fully automatic exposure modes (Auto, Stitch Assist, 12 Scenes), and 4 more advanced modes (Program AE, Tv, Av, and Manual), the A570 IS can be used by almost anyone, no matter how much experience they posses.
The A570 is a well built camera, featuring almost identical ergonomics to past "A" series models. While this is what we consider a "compact" digicam that can fit in a large pocket or almost any size handbag, the large handgrip and well placed controls allow it to offer a nice comfortable feel in your hands. The onscreen menu system is logically organized, and if you've owned a Canon in the past, you'll feel right at home. The 2.5-inch LCD 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. While in marginal lighting conditions, the display "gains up" well, 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.
Canon includes a nice 4x lens on this camera, that also features their Optical Image Stabilization system. This actually enables you to shoot at shutter speeds 2-3 stops lower than normal, helping reduce the effects of camera shake in your low-light or telephoto shots. The lens offers a broader field of view than seen on your typical consumer model, adding more versatility when composing a shot. 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. While the 35mm-equivalent zoom range of 35 - 140mm favors the telephoto end, I found it was still adequate for interior group portraits or landscape shots. Overall, this lens complements the A570 nicely, especially with the IS feature. 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.
As expected, the A570's shooting performance was very good. From power up to first image was captured measured just 1.7 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 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. Note: we tested this model with 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 A570 IS was a bit more impressive, capturing 10 images in 4.7 seconds; a frame rate of approx 2.1 fps. This means you will have no problems when taking burst sequences at your kid's ball games, track events, etc. 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 Professional 133x 1GB SD card, Large/SuperFine image quality, Program AE 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.
Image quality was excellent for a 7-megapixel consumer model. The default quality setting is Large Fine, and we did capture many of our regular sample photos in this mode. The rest were taken using Larger SuperFine, which is what we normally use. That said, the majority of our outdoor samples looked great, showing nice exposures, with beautiful sky detail, and pleasing color balance. Just as we saw with the A560, image noise was average when using ISO 80 - 200. Please note though as with most cameras, as the ISO sensitivity is increased, so increases the noise. We found at ISO 400 and 800 settings noise was very predominant.
Our indoor and outdoor portrait results were good. While the dedicated Portrait scene mode does well, I also used the Av (Aperture priority) mode. Doing so with the aperture value set as low as possible (usually f/4.5 - f/5.0 at the mid telephoto end of the zoom range) produced nice close-up portraits, showing sharp facial features and natural skin tones. Canon's new Face Detection AF/AE/FE technology seems to work very well, even when there are multiple faces in the frame. 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!
In movie mode, you can choose from Standard, Compact (160x120) or Fast Frame rate. In Standard mode, the resolution can be set at 640x480 or 320x240, with a selectable frame rate 30 or 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. Our movie samples were good, with very little compression noise present, and the AF system does well with moving objects. The onboard IS system meant we were able to capture steady handheld clips without having to drag out a tripod or monopod.
The A570 IS is powered by 2 standard AA type cells, and Canon claims that alkaline batteries will allow you to capture approx. 120 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. 400 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 140 samples and conduct many of our other tests, using the LCD 100% of the time, with some power to spare.
Bottom line - like it's brother (A560), I was very happy with the Canon PowerShot A570 IS. With 7-megapixels of resolution, a 4x image stabilized optical zoom lens, 2.5-inch LCD, great movie mode, awesome image quality, and loads of useful exposure modes, the A570 is sure to be a very popular model for 2007. At US$279 or less (4/2007), it's only about $50 more than the A560, which we feel is well worth the added versatility of this new model. That said, the A570 will make an excellent choice for anyone who wants a capable, yet compact and affordable 7-meagpixel digicam.
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