Canon Powershot A430 Review

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Canon Powershot A430

Steve's Conclusion

Canon's PowerShot A430 is the 2006 upgrade of lasts year's very popular A410 model and includes all the feature users have come to love about this affordable point-n-shoot series. This year's model raises the resolution to 4 megapixels, enlarges the color LCD to 1.8-inches and employs a 4x optical zoom lens (compared to the A410's 3.2x.) While it still offers various user-friendly fully automatic exposure modes, it also features a Manual mode that allows the novice user to access more advanced camera settings like ISO sensitivity, white balance, metering, etc.

Like its predecessor, the A430's ergonomics are great. The various controls are well placed and easily accessed by your fingertips. It still has the same Zoom control that we disliked on past models, but it works just fine. The Menu system is logically organized and changing settings quickly is very easy with the FUNCtion menu. I was happy to see that Canon did away with the tiny 1.5-inch LCD display. The 1.8-inch LCD offers a better viewing surface and the text is more legible; something that is very important for those with less than perfect eyesight. Even though it's not nearly as large as many other consumer models (that cost much more), this is a high-quality display that works outdoors in the bright light and "gains up" well in lower lighting conditions. To save battery power while on a long trip or outing, you can use the zoom-coupled optical viewfinder.

Shooting performance was impressive. From power up to first image captured measured approx. 1.5 seconds. Shutter lag measured less than 1/10 of a second when pre-focused and only 2/10 of a second including autofocus. When shooting in single drive mode, the shot to shot delay averaged 1.5 seconds without the use of the flash and about 5 - 7 seconds including the flash. The LCD blacked out while the flash was recharging, which was very aggravating when trying to frame for the next shot; luckily there is an optical viewfinder on this model. Using the camera's continuous or burst mode allowed me to capture 10 frames in only 3.5 seconds! Because the LCD briefly displays the last image captured when shooting in burst mode, following a moving subject would be difficult; this is when you'll be glad the A430 features an optical viewfinder. Our tests were done using a SanDisk Ultra II 256MB SD card, Manual mode, Large SuperFine quality, preview off, flash off, and all other settings at default (unless otherwise noted.) Times may vary depending on lighting conditions, camera settings, media, etc.

The overall image quality is excellent for such an affordably priced camera. In fact it sometimes rivals that of more expensive cameras with similar resolution. You can choose from several image sizes (Large: 2272 x 1704, Middle 1: 1600 x 1200, Middle 2: 1024 x 768, Small: 640 x 480, Wide: 2272 x 1280, and Postcard Date Imprint Mode: 1600 x 1200.) And, the quality is also selectable between Normal, Fine and SuperFine. The better the quality the less compression of the image. More compression may equal a smaller file size, but you will see a difference in you images. We've found that the most popular settings are either the default Large Fine mode or Large SuperFine, which is what we used. Either of these modes will produce awesome pictures and beautiful prints.

Outdoors, I found it captured nice images with pleasing color saturation. The 4x optical zoom lens offers better flexibility in composing your shots than your typical 3x zoom. It covers a 35mm equivalent range of approx. 39 -156mm. While its wide angle extreme isn't quite as wide as some of the competitors, it will still produce pleasing landscapes and group shots, while the telephoto end will definitely help bring subjects closer. With some help from the AF system, the lens produced tach sharp images with very little edge blurring. I found the lens exhibits moderate barrel distortion at full wide angle as well as small traces of chromatic aberrations (purple fringing) around brightly lit subjects. The A430's 9-point AFiF autofocus system was not only accurate, but very fast. And thanks to the AF-assist lamp, you can focus on subjects in total darkness.

Indoors you will have to deal with the limited flash range of about 10 feet (ISO Auto at Wide angle.) This is very typical with consumer models. You should have no problems when shooting in mid sized rooms, but in large open areas you'd be better off trying to capture a steady Ambient light shot. We achieved the best portrait results from no more than 5 feet away. When doing so flash exposure is very nice and facial features are pleasing; unless someone is making a funny face! When shooting available light shots of our M&M man at various ISO speeds, you'll notice noise levels do rise as the ISO is increased; which is a very common issue with consumer models. For times when a picture won't cut it, the A430 also records video at resolutions of either 640x480 (10fps) or 320x240 (30fps) with audio. Our movie samples were sharp and showed very little compression artifacts when there is plenty of ambient light, as noise increases dramatically as the sensitivity is raised (see our example on the Samples page.) Also the slower frame rate of its VGA mode makes movies look a little choppy.

Power is supplied by two standard AA type batteries. While we like proprietary lithium packs that allow you to capture more photos on a single charge, NiMH rechargeable AA's can be found almost anywhere these days. There's a multitude of different companies that produce high-capacity NiMH rechargeable cells and fast and very portable chargers. In a bind you can even use a set of alkalines but these will just end up in your local landfill after one use. Using a set of 2500 mAh rechargeables, we were able to capture a total of over 75 images and several 10 second movie clips as well as conclude some of our other tests before exhausting a set. This number can easily change depending on how often you use the camera's LCD, flash, etc.

Bottom line - like every "A" series model we've ever seen from Canon, the PowerShot A430 sets the standard for the entry-level consumer point-n-shoot market. Where else can you find outstanding 4-megapixel images, robust performance, and lots of easy to use exposure modes all for $179 or less? With the exception of its slow flash recharge time, I had no problems with this model. That said, I feel it will make a great choice for those taking their first plunge into the digital world. This really is an easy to use camera with high-end features, that is very affordable. If you need more resolution and features, be sure to check out our reviews of the 5-megapixel Powershot A530 and 6-megapixel Powershot A540 -- they're all winners!

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