Canon Powershot A580 Review
The "little brother" to the A590 IS, the Canon PowerShot A580 includes many of the same features. Sporting a 4x optical zoom lens, 8-megapixel imaging sensor, 640x480 (VGA) movie mode and several pre-programmed shooting modes (including easy mode where the camera makes every choice for you so that all you have to do is press the shutter release), this is a camera that anyone in the family can use. While there are not as many manual controls as the A590 IS, the A580's Manual exposure mode does give novice users a bit more control over the exposure process.
This compact camera shares the same design as past A series models, featuring a large handgrip on the right-hand side. This makes it comfortable to hold, and easy to operate with one or two hands. The controls on the top and back are slightly different than that of the A590 IS, but still very well laid out and easily accessible when shooting. The 2.5-inch screen is very bright and easy to see in most lighting conditions. The screen gains up in low lighting to help aid you when framing your shots. A feature that has been carried over from past models is the optical viewfinder, which is not found on many new cameras these days. This option gives the user an additional option when shooting fast moving subjects or a way to save on battery power. The optical viewfinder only shows about 80 - 85% of the image that will be captured, compared to the LCD's 100% coverage.
Performance from the A580 did not disappoint. It was able to capture its first image after being turned on in just 1.8 seconds. Shutter lag, the time from when you press the shutter release until the camera captures an image, is just 1/10 of a second when pre-focused and 3/10 to 4/10 of a second including autofocus. It is a little slower, however, when using the flash, as it took about 1.5 seconds to capture the image as the camera had to allow the flash to charge first. In single drive mode, the camera will capture 5 images in just 6.9 seconds without the flash and 19.2 seconds with the flash. Again this is a little slow because the charging time of the flash, which is typically slower in models that use AA type batteries. There is also a burst mode, that captures 8-megapixel, SuperFine quality images at a faster rate. I was able to capture 5 frames in just 2.7 seconds, just shy of 2 frames per second (surpassing Canon's claims of 1.4fps). Burst mode also works with the flash, capturing 5 images in 7 seconds. All our tests were completed using an A-Data MyFlash Turbo MMC+ 200x 2GB memory card, 8-megapixel Large/SuperFine quality, ISO 80, flash off and all other settings at the factory defaults. Times may vary depending on camera settings, lighting conditions, media, etc.
The image quality was identical to the A590 IS (excellent) as the cameras feature the same 8-megapixel imaging sensor. The camera did an excellent job with exposures, even with the sun reflecting off of the snow. The colors were also very vivid. The 4x optical zoom is one of few differences from A590, as it does not have built in optical image stabilization. With a 35mm equivalent range of 35-140mm, it is great for landscape and portrait shooting, giving you the ability to zoom in to help with framing. However, it lacks the telephoto power to single out an object off in the distance. We noticed only slight instances of chromatic aberrations (purple fringing) in areas of high contrast and some slight edge softness.
With the help of Canon's Face Detection Technology, taking portraits is incredibly easy. The camera will automatically adjust so that the faces are in focus and properly exposed. The flash did an excellent job of controlling output to insure it does not blow out any part of the image, and it kept the colors and skin tones looking natural. When shooting group shots I noticed that it recognized as many as 13 faces in the same image. Shooting at mid telephoto from about 6 feet away easily fits into the flash range of 11' at the wide angle. Don't expect to be able to take close up portraits from across a room, but the flash does a nice a job when inside the listed range.
There are several different movie modes that you can choose from including 640x480 at 20fps (and LP), 320x240 and Compact (160x120) for email and web sharing. The video quality is good and they run very smoothly, even with the slower 20fps frame rate; most models these days feature a "real-time" 30fps setting. The optical zoom is not functional during recording, however you can preset the desired focal length before starting or use the digital zoom when in a bind.
Powering the A580 are two standard AA batteries. We recommend using NiMH cells which will allow you to take roughly 2x as many pictures (approx. 500) as standard alkaline batteries (220). Using NiMH batteries, I was able to capture around 100 images, several videos and complete all of my tests without having to recharge. We still recommend keeping an extra set of batteries on hand at all times, though in a bind you can always pick up a set of alkaline batteries.
Bottom Line - the Canon PowerShot A580 is a very appealing entry-level digital camera. The combination of performance, quality and ease of use make it a great camera for the home or office. With features like a 4x optical zoom and 8-megapixel imaging sensor, you will be hard pressed to find a camera that compares with a MSRP of US$150. If you love the features of this model, but are looking for a little more manual control as well as Optical Image Stabilization, be sure to check out the PowerShot A590 IS , which can be had for about $30 more.
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