Powershot A650 IS

Powershot A650 IS

Canon Powershot A650 IS Review

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Canon Powershot A650

Steve's Conclusion

With the continuing success of the Powershot A640 from last year, Canon has decided to update the model for 2007 with the Powershot A650 IS. It still includes most of the options that were found on last years model, but now boasts a 12.1 megapixel image sensor and increased ISO sensitivity of 1600. With the 14 pre-programmed scene modes, full auto mode and a stitch assist option, even those new to photography can easily take good, creative photographs. For the more experienced photographer, there are all the manual options that you could ask for. With full manual mode, aperture and shutter priorities, and a powerful 6x stabilized optical zoom lens, this camera is ready for just about any shooting situation.

The body of the A650 IS is just slightly larger and heavier than that of the previous models. With a size of 4.41 x 2.67 x 2.21 inches, and a weight of almost 11 ounces, this hardly qualifies as a compact camera. However, it is still small enough to easily fit into a small bag or purse for when you are on the go. The controls have been well placed, and provide easy access without getting in the way or accidentally being pressed while shooting. The onscreen menu is still very easy to navigate with very quick access to all of the important camera settings. We also like the fact that Canon continues to mount the zoom controls around the shutter release for easy access.

Like the A640, the A650 IS is still equipped with the 2.5 inch "Vari-angle" LCD screen, allowing the photographer to use the camera in many different ways than with a standard fixed LCD. It allows you to accurately shoot over, under, or around things by turning and rotating the screen, not just sticking the camera out and hoping for the best. A non-glare coating makes the screen very easy to see outside on a sunny day, and it gains up in low light situations so you can accurately frame your shot. The AF assist lamp will also help illuminate the subject in low light conditions. To save power you can also use the eye level, zoom-coupled optical viewfinder. Keep in mind that it will only show you about 85% of the image that you will capture, so you can feel free to frame your subject a little tighter than normal.

Another big upgrade is the lens. Replacing the 4x optical zoom of the A640 is a robust 6x optical zoom that features Canon's exclusive "Lens-shift" OIS (Optical Image Stabilization) system. With the 35mm equivalent of 35mm-210mm, you will really be able to get close to your subject, or target a specific area of interest. The images that we captured were very clear, vivid and very well exposed. At the wide angle end there is noticeable barrel distortion, however, I saw no chromatic aberrations (purple fringing) and no distortions at the telephoto end. If you need to broaden the zoom range, the A650 has 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, TC-DC58N 1.75x Tele Converter lens or 250D 58mm Close-up (Macro) Lens. The Lens adapter also accepts 58mm filters and lens.

Shooting performance is very robust. From power up to first image captured measured just 2 seconds. This includes the time it takes to extend the lens and boot up. 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 4/10 of a second including autofocus. Using single drive mode, the shot to shot delay averaged 2 seconds without use of the flash, slowing to 2.8 - 3.5 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. 7.9 seconds, about 1 fps; a bit slower than Canon's claims of 1.5fps. Unlike most cameras that force the flash off in burst mode, the A650 allows you to use the flash during continuous shooting. Doing so, I was able to capture 8 frames in only 8.2 seconds. While recording in burst mode, 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 into play. Our tests were completed at the end of this review and the whole review was completed without recharging the batteries. We were also using a PQ1 High-speed (150x) 4GB SD card, Program mode, Large/SuperFine 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.

Our outdoor images were very pleasing while being shoot in 12 megapixel Large Fine and SuperFine modes. They showed rich vivid color and excellent exposure. The images were incredibly sharp throughout (thanks to the 9-point "smart" AiAF autofocus system), and showed very little noise when shooting at ISO 200 or less. This is thanks to Canon's new DIGIC III image processor. At ISO 400 and above, the noise starts to become noticeable, however this slight loss in quality is worth the sacrifice, enabling you to capture images when other digicams can't.

The AF assist lamp is a huge help when taking pictures inside. It will stay illuminated as long as you have the camera in "ready" mode. This will allow you to accurately set up and frame your subject, even in complete darkness. The flash is more than powerful enough to light up a medium sized room and controlled enough not to blow out your subject. With a range of 11 feet at wide angle and 6.5 feet at telephoto (ISO AUTO), you should be able to get close enough in most situations for great images. We used portrait mode, and found that colors and skin tones were very pleasing, and the flash worked very well for the distance we were from the subject. When shooting in situations that the flash can not be used, the camera worked very well with the sensitivity set to High ISO, enabling faster shutter speeds. Noise was very visible in these images, but the fact that we were able to capture these sharp volleyball action shots was worth it.

Movie mode produced above average results for a consumer model. You can choose a resolution of 1024x480 (15fps) or 640x480/320x240 (30 fps) in Standard mode. The length of a clip is limited to 4GB or 60 minutes. Other movie modes are also available, like Compact (160x120, 15 fps) for emails or posting movies on the web when file sizes need to be small, and Color Accent and Color Swap for more creative recording. If you plan on shooting a lot of movies at 640x480 (30fps), be sure to get a spacious SD memory card; about 1.8 MB of memory is consumed per second of recording. We also found that the 1024x480 mode is a bit choppy, due to its slower frame rate.

Power is supplied by the readily available AA type cells that 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. There is also an adapter kit (AC Adapter Kit ACK600) for non battery use. I found the A650 was remarkably power efficient, using a set of 2700 mAh NiMH cells allowed me to capture our sample images and conclude all other tests using the LCD 100% of the time.

Bottom line - Canon continues its streak with yet another outstanding addition to the PowerShot "A" series line. The A650 IS offers style, versatility, excellent image quality, not to mention some of the best specs for any camera in this class. With the new bigger zoom, increased resolution, and addition of Canon's OIS system, the Canon PowerShot A650 IS is definitely worth a look. With a MSRP of US$399, we feel that the A650 IS offers a great value for such a capable digicam.

Canon has announced a Service Notice for the PowerShot A650 IS

Issue: Light Leak

Visit Canon's U.S.A. site for more details.

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