Canon Powershot A470 Review

Canon Powershot A470

Steve's Conclusion

To start out 2008, Canon has released the PowerShot A470, the predecessor of the A460 from last year. One of the biggest upgrades is a 7.1 megapixel imaging sensor, replacing the 5 megapixel of the A460. They have also added Face Detection with the ability to incorporate facial brightness to the Light metering options, and a larger 2.5" LCD screen into a very similar body, that did not change in size or weight.

The ergonomics of this camera are great. The camera has a very solid, sturdy feel in your hands, and is easily operated with one or two hands. The controls are well placed and easily reached with your right thumb. The only complaint is that they have added the zoom controls to the directional buttons. This causes more of a problem in playback mode as they zoom keys do not work as they do on most cameras, allowing you to zoom or enter the photo index with just a press of the button. Now you must either enter the playback menu or hold down the FUNC. button for two seconds. The shooting modes are very easy to control via the dial on the back.

One major difference that you will notice when you first pick up the camera is the large 2.5" LCD screen which takes up most of the back of the camera. The shiny screen is very bright, but can be a little tough to see in harsh lighting (like direct sunlight). It gains up nicely in low light situations to make framing your shots easier. When the camera gains up, however, the image on the LCD will look very grainy. As long as you are not shooting with very high ISO settings, this is the only time your images will appear grainy.

Performance was very robust for a camera in this class, outdoing previous models. It captured its first image after startup in just 1.9 seconds. The shutter delay was less than 1/10 of second when pre-focused and just 4/10 of second when allowing the camera to focus. In normal mode, the camera was able to capture a shot every 1.2 seconds and approx. every 5 seconds when using the flash, slightly varying depending on the distance to the subject and battery life. When shooting in burst mode, I was able to get 2.1 fps for 10 seconds, this exceeds the 1.9 fps that Canon specifies. Burst mode also works with the flash, capturing 9 shots in just 10.3 seconds, coming up just short of 1 fps. All of these tests were performed using an A Data Turbo MMC plus 200x 2GB memory card, ISO auto, flash off and all other settings on the factory defaults unless otherwise noted. Times may vary depending on lighting conditions, camera settings, media, etc.

The quality of our outdoor images was excellent. They were crisp and sharp from edge to edge, very well exposed and displayed rich colors. As shown in the samples the "Snow" scene mode did an excellent job adjusting the color and brightness to capture an image with better exposure and color than in plain manual mode. The 3.4x optical zoom is great for landscape and group photography on the wide end and single portrait on the telephoto end. There is not enough zoom to single out an object in the distance, but it does help in framing the your shots. At the wide end there is moderate barrel distortion and the camera did a great job suppressing chromatic aberrations (purple fringing), only showing slight traces in some high contrast areas.

Our indoor image quality was just as good if not better than the outdoor images. The colors are bright and very vivid, and the flash exposure is pleasing. The flash range is a little shorter than we would like to see, ranging between 6 and 10 feet on ISO auto. This will produce higher ISO settings to accommodate for the flash. The flash itself works ok when setting the ISO to 80, as long as you are not shooting from more than 5 feet away from the subject in a small sized room. It is not, however, strong enough to illuminate a mid sized room to capture a group portrait without some other lighting assistance.

The A470's Movie mode allows for video to be captured at 640x480, 640x480 LP at 20fps or 32x240 resolutions at 30 fps. When using 640x480 mode, video playback is surprisingly smooth when you consider the frame rate of 20fps (most models feature real-time 30fps at this same resolution). The only issue we saw was that clips can get a bit grainy when shooting indoors in marginal lighting (like our example on the samples page). The camera offers full VCR-like controls during playback to make playing your videos a snap.

Supplying the power for the A470 are two standard AA type batteries. Instead of using standard alkaline batteries, we recommend high-capacity NiMH rechargeable batteries. Even though these batteries do not last as long as a proprietary lithium-ion battery pack, rechargeable AA batteries are much cheaper and in a bind you can always use any type AA battery. Using two NiMH batteries I was able to capture roughly 100 images, a couple videos and complete all of our tests on a single charge. It is recommended that you keep spare batteries and a high speed charger handy whenever you are shooting.

Bottom Line - One of the latest "A" series models from Canon this year, the PowerShot A470 is one of the best deals available for an entry-level digital camera. The combination of excellent quality images, increased performance from previous models and the all around ease of use makes this camera perfect for anyone looking for their first digital camera or someone needing a simple camera to keep for use on a moments notice. With an estimated price of US$130 or less, the A470 is almost impossible to beat when looking for quality and affordability.

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