Canon Powershot A610 Review
The PowerShot A610 and A620 are the next generation of Canon's "A" series line. These rugged models are packed with many powerful features that one would expect to see on a higher end camera. The A610's specs start off with a 5.0-megapixel imager mated to a Canon 4x optical zoom lens. Other features include a versatile 2.0-inch vari-angle LCD, Canon's exclusive DIGIC II image processor, accurate 9-point AF system, 640x480 (30fps) movie mode as well as 20 different exposure modes. Like all "A" series models, the A620 is designed to be used by everyone, regardless of there knowledge of photography. The newbie has access to the typical point-n-shoot Auto mode, where the camera chooses every aspect of the exposure process as well as 12 pre-programmed scene modes that will help them capture great photos in a variety of typical shooting environments.
Its Program mode is much like Auto, in the sense that the camera selects the optimal shutter speed and aperture values, however the user now has more control with options for ISO, White Balance, Metering, Color effects and more. This is perfect for the novice user who likes to "play" with different settings. Those of us who have more of a grip on the entire process will enjoy the advanced modes like Shutter speed priority (Tv), Aperture priority (Av) and Full Manual. Here you can choose the Aperture value, Shutter speed value or both, with access to all of the other settings that are found in program mode.
These are some of the most well designed models I have dealt with. They are not your typical compact consumer models, yet they are small enough to be carried in a coat pocket or purse. When I first saw the A620 and A610, it seemed like they were a cross between the consumer A95 and the prosumer G6 . After working with the A620, I can now confirm that this is the case. Its high-end features speak of "only the best", while its more affordable price says "I'm easy on the wallet".
Ergonomics are outstanding. Every control is well placed and easily accessed by your fingers. I love when cameras feature the zoom controls around the shutter release. This allows for effortless zooming and leaves your thumb free to change other settings. As usual, the Menu system is logically organized and allows for fast and easy changes to camera settings, especially the Function menu. It allows you to quickly access options that are commonly the most frequently changed settings, like ISO, White balance, etc. Both the A620 and A610 feature a high-quality 2.0-inch vari-angle LCD. This display offers much more versatility over conventional "fixed" LCDs as there are so many different angles that can be achieved, allowing you to have more of a chance to capture a good shot while standing in a crowd, looking down over the dug out, etc. I found the LCD works excellent outdoors, even in harsh sunlight, thanks to its non-glare coating. When trying to conserve battery life, you can rotate the display inward to protect the screen and opt to use the eyelevel, zoom-coupled optical viewfinder; just remember it only views about 80-85% of the captured image. In lower lighting, like your tungsten (50 - 100 watt standard light bulb) lit living room, the LCD "gains up" well, allowing you to accurately frame your subject; something that cannot be done with film cameras.
Unlike past models that featured a 3X optical zoom lens, Canon decided to equip the A610 with a 4X zoom. Its 35mm-equivalent zoom range of 35-140mm favors the telephoto end, providing a bit more magnification for distant subjects and allowing you to better fill the frame when snapping portraits. Overall, the lens produced tack sharp results throughout its zoom range, with noticeable barrel distortion at full wide angle but no apparent distortion at telephoto. Chromatic aberrations were well controlled, with virtually no purple fringing present in high contrast areas. If you need to broaden the zoom range, both the A620 and A610 have the ability to use auxiliary lenses. Simply press the button just below the lens to release the dress ring and attach the optional LA-DC58F Conversion Lens Adapter. You can then use either the Canon WC- DC58N 0.7x Wide Converter lens or the TC-DC58N 1.75x Tele-converter lens. This Lens adapter also accepts 58mm filters and lens.
The A610 offers very speedy performance. From power up to first image captured measured an amazing 1.6 seconds. 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 second including autofocus. Using single drive mode, the shot to shot delay averaged just 1.4 seconds with out use of the flash and 2 - 3 seconds with the flash firing, depending on how far away your subject is. Burst mode was also very robust, allowing me to capture 8 frames in approx. 3.2 seconds; that's about 2.5 fps. Unlike most cameras that force the flash off in burst mode, it allows you to use the flash during continuous shooting. Doing so, I was able to capture 8 frames in only 6.7 seconds. While recording the LCD briefly displays the last image captured, making it possible but difficult to follow a moving subject; this is when the optical viewfinder comes in play. Our tests were done using a Sandisk Ultra II 256MB SD card, Program mode, Large/Fine quality, Preview On, Flash off and all other settings at default (unless otherwise noted.) Times may vary depending on lighting conditions, camera settings, media, etc.
I was very pleased with the image quality when using its Large SuperFine setting. Outdoors, it captures sharp images with good color balance. The Auto white balance setting produced accurate results in a variety of different lighting conditions. You can also choose one of the six presets (Day light, Cloudy, Tungsten, Fluorescent, Fluorescent H, Underwater) or use the custom "one-touch" setting. Its exposure system did an excellent job, capturing properly exposed images almost every time. Noise levels are nearly non existent in high/low contrast areas, allowing for beautiful sky and shadow detail.
The 9-point "Smart" AiAF autofocus system was fast and accurate. Focusing in dim lighting to complete darkness is no problem for the these twins, thanks to the inclusion of an AF-assist beam. This is one feature that we have been saying should be standard on all models for quite some time now, and it seems as if Canon is one of the only manufactures out there that agrees and includes one on just about every model they produce. The A610's Macro (close-up) capabilities are superb, allowing you to focus as close as 0.4 inches (1cm) from the lens. When shooting subjects at such a close range, it is very important that the camera controls its flash well to ensure you don't over exposure the subject. The A610 does just that, "throttling down" its flash for near perfect exposure ever time.
Indoors it also performed very well. The flash has a respectable range of about 14 feet (at wide angle), which I found was sufficient for shooting in small to moderate sized rooms. You won't be able to illuminate large open areas like gymnasiums or chapels, but your indoor living and family room shots will leave you very pleased. When shooting portraits of individuals, our samples were sharp, showed true skin tones, and showed good flash exposure. Red eye wasn't much of a problem, thanks to automatic red-eye reduction flash mode. And because the A610 features an orientation sensor, your vertical portraits will always be displayed properly; which will help eliminate some of those neck pains.
Both of these twins feature a high quality movie mode, offering a choice of 640x480 or 320x240 resolutions at either 15 or 30 fps in standard mode. The length of a clip is limited to 1GB. Other movie modes are also available, like Fast frame rate (320x240 60 fps) for moving subjects, Compact (160x120, 15 fps) for when file sizes need to be small and My colors. My colors is just like standard mode, but allows you to be more creative. Movies can be played back and edited in-camera. If you plan to shoot 640x480 movies, be sure to get a spacious SD memory card; about 1.8 MB of memory is consumed per second of recording.
I was very happy to see that Canon continued the tradition of a simple and readily available power source. AA type cells can be found just about anywhere and NiMH rechargeable technology is getting better by the year. You can also use one-use lithium or in a jam Alkalines. However these just end up in your local landfill and will yield a much lower amount of images. The A610 was remarkably power efficient, using a set of 2500 mAh NiMH cells allowed me to capture our sample images (about 95 shots) and conclude other tests using the LCD 100% of the time.
Bottom line - Canon has struck gold with this winning combination of high-quality and low price. The A610 offers users outstanding image quality with robust performance, all in a stylish and very durable package. With its wealth of exposure modes, your entire family will love using it, and with 5-megapixels of resolution you can create high-quality 13x19-inch or heavily cropped 8x10-inch prints. With an MSRP of around $299, the Canon PowerShot A610 offers an excellent value and is definitely one our pics for 2005. If you like the features of this camera, but would like a little more resolution and the ability of remote capture, check out its 7.1-megapixel twin brother,the PowerShot A620. It is almost identical in features with a price tag of about $100 more.
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