Canon Powershot A460 Review

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Canon Powershot A460

Steve's Conclusion

For 2007, Canon has upgraded the A430 from last year, by introducing the new PowerShot A460. Many features have remained, like the 4x optical zoom lens, compact ergonomics, and VGA sized movie mode. However, resolution has been increased to 5-megapixels, and there's now a larger 2.0-inch LCD. The A460 is designed more towards those who are just entering the digital world, with various user- friendly fully automatic exposure modes. You can also use the Manual mode, which allows the novice user to access more advanced camera settings like ISO sensitivity, white balance, metering, etc.

Like past models, ergonomics are great. Controls are well placed and easily accessed by your fingertips. The Zoom control that we disliked on past models has not changed, but this is just something we personally don't like. The "Up" and "Down" motion is a bit awkward, and I found myself changing the flash and focus modes often. The menu system is logically organized, allowing for quick changing to camera settings. As usual, the A460 features Canon's unique FUNCtion shortcut menu. We love this function, which makes changing common options like ISO, White balance, etc. quick and easy. This new model sports a slightly larger LCD screen at 2.0-inches (compared to the 1.8-inch display on the A430.) Even though this display is not nearly as large as many other consumer models (that cost much more), there was no problem producing a high-quality outcome that worked great outdoors even in the bright light and "gains up" well in lower lighting conditions. The optical viewfinder also remains, which is perfect when trying to save precious battery power, or when following fast moving subjects in burst mode.

Shooting performance was very impressive for a camera in this class. From power up to first image captured measured just 1.4 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 1.4 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 6.6 seconds, concurring with Canon's claim of 1.5fps. 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 there's an optical viewfinder. Our tests were done using a OCZ High-Speed (133x) 512MB 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.

Like the A430, the A460's image quality results were excellent, especially 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: 2592x1944, Middle 1: 2048x1536, Middle 2: 1600x1200, Small: 640 x 480, Wide: 2592x1456, and Postcard Mode: 1600 x 1200.) 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'll also see a decline in image quality when comparing 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.

Our outdoor samples were sharp from edge to edge, showing good overall exposure and color balance. However, I did notice this new model shows a bit more noise in high contrast areas, than its predecessors. 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. 38 - 152mm. 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 help fill the frame with your subject or help bring subjects closer. With some help from the AF system, the lens produced tack 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 (see the snow on top of our statue shot on the next page.) The 9-point AFiF autofocus system was not only accurate, but very fast. And thanks to the AF- assist lamp, you'll have no problems focusing on subjects in marginal lighting, even total darkness!

I was also pleased with our portrait mode results. While you have to deal with the relatively short flash range of about 9.8 feet (wide angle, ISO auto), I found it was sufficient for most indoor shooting. Our close- up portraits were taken from about 4 - 5 feet away, using the mid-telephoto end of the zoom range, and showed good flash exposure, sharp facial features and natural skin tones. If you need even more power, the A460 can use Canon's powerful HF-DC1 external flash unit. It can deliver illumination up to approximately 30 feet, at all zoom positions!

The A460 also allows you to record video at various resolutions (640x480, 320x240, or 160x120.) Using the high-quality 640x480 mode, the frame rate is locked at 10fps. Most cameras nowadays allow you to choose either 30fps or 15fps. Our movie samples were Ok. While the exposure was good and there was very little compression noise, the slow frame rate makes movies look a bit "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 2700 mAh rechargeables, we were able to capture over 70 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 - as we have said with past "A" series models, the PowerShot A460 seems to "set the standard for the entry-level consumer point-n-shoot market". The only negative I found with this camera was the incredibly slow flash recharge time, which is caused by the use of AA batteries. That said, I feel it will make a great choice for someone who is in the market for their first digital model, or one who just wants an inexpensive point-n-shoot. With a street price of US$149 or less, the Canon PoerShot A460 will be a hard one to beat in the affordable consumer category. If you need more resolution and features, be sure to check out the 7-megapixel Powershot A550, which can he had for only about $50 more.

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