Canon Powershot A520 Review

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Canon Powershot A520

Review posted 03/09/2005

Click to take a QTVR tour of the A520

Canon's PowerShot A520 compact digital camera combines the simplicity of a family-focused camera, a high resolution four megapixel image sensor and a powerful 4x optical zoom to produce pictures that you can be proud of with the image quality Canon is renowned for. Named for their use of AA batteries, Canon's A-series digital cameras offer comfortably placed controls and feature high image quality in order for consumers to capture, save and share images of meaningful memories, personal milestones and family functions.

Like its 3-megapixel little brother, the PowerShot A510, the PowerShot A520 is 13 percent smaller and 10 percent lighter than previous A-Series models, and is equipped with a longer 4.0x 35-140mm (35mm format equivalent) Canon optical zoom lens for sharp images. Even with its small size, the A520 and A510 sport a large 1.8-inch LCD screen for easy preview and review. It also includes Canon's exclusive DIGIC image processor for fast processing speed, excellent image quality, and crisp, vibrant colors. The camera requires only two AA batteries, while providing the same number of shots (300 with LCD screen on) as previous models that used four batteries, thanks to reductions in power consumption made possible by improvements in key components and circuit design.

The PowerShot A520 is equipped with a nine-point AiAF "Smart" autofocus system and 13 shooting modes. The standard shooting modes are Full Auto, Program, Manual, Shutter-priority, and Aperture-priority with additional modes including Portrait, Landscape, Night Scene, Fast Shutter, Slow Shutter, Special Scene, Stitch Assist and Movie. The Special Scene modes, which helps make it easy for beginners to achieve optimum results in many popular photo opportunities, has been enhanced with the addition of two new settings called Night Snapshot and Kids & Pets. The PowerShot A520 is also capable of recording movies with sound for up to three minutes per clip, making it perfect for capturing memories in motion.

Image quality is enhanced and improved as a result of Canon's proprietary DIGIC (Digital Imaging Integrated Circuit) image processor. DIGIC combines the roles of image processing and camera function control into one chip, resulting in faster display and write times for each image and lower power consumption, which extends battery life. Moreover, because DIGIC technology was designed specifically for use in digital cameras it is also capable of handling JPEG compression and expansion; memory card control; LCD/Video control and processing gain control (control of CCD signal amplification); Auto Exposure; Auto Focus; Auto White Balance control and most other functions.

The PowerShot A520 is compatible with a wide variety of optional accessories including supplementary wide-angle (WC-DC52), telephoto (TC-DC52A) and close-up lenses (52mm Close-up Lens 250D). These accessories enhance the new camera's versatility and make it easier to use in specialized applications such as real estate and insurance photography. An underwater housing, WP-DC60, is also available and can be used at depths up to 130 feet. The WP-DC60 housing is great for vacations at the beach, while skiing, or simply to help protect the camera from the elements. When you need more flash output power you can attach the optional High-Power Flash HF-DC1 which operates without need of a connecting cord.

Powershot A520 Features:

  • 4 Megapixel CCD imager for up to 2272x1704 pixel images
  • Postcard (1600x1200) mode with 3:2 ratio for making 4x6" prints
  • 4x optical 35-140mm f/2.6-5.5 zoom, 3.6x digital zoom
  • 1.8" color LCD with up to 10x playback zoom
  • Advanced TTL AiAF 9-point autofocus system
  • Program AE, Shutter-speed priority, Aperture priority and Manual modes
  • Pre-programmed creative scene modes for beginners
  • Movie mode w/sound, 640x480 for up to 30secs, 320x240 and 160x120 up to 3 minutes
  • 1.9fps Continuous burst capture of Large/Fine images
  • Evaluative metering on focus point, Center-weighted or Spot options
  • Stitch Assist mode for perfect panoramas
  • Exposure compensation: +/-2EV in 1/3-step increments
  • White Balance: Auto, 5 presets or Custom
  • Orientation sensor that automatically detects vertical or horizontal shooting
  • Low-light focus assist illuminator
  • Light-guide zoom flash, angle changes with focal length
  • Optional High-Power Flash HF-DC1
  • Shutter speeds of 15 seconds to 1/2000 second
  • Selectable ISO settings from 50 to 400
  • Voice memo (up to 60 secs) can be attached to images
  • Built-in microphone and speaker
  • Powered by two standard AA type batteries
  • Direct print and PictBridge Compatible
  • USB connectivity for PC and Mac
  • Secure Digital memory cards, 16MB supplied

The PowerShot A520 will be in stores March 2005 for an estimated street price of $299.99. The digital camera kit includes a USB cable, audio and video cable, wrist strap, 16MB MultiMediaCard and two AA-size Alkaline batteries as well as the Canon Digital Camera Solution Disc Version 22, featuring the latest versions of Canon's powerful software and ArcSoft PhotoStudio.

Physical Views

Canon Powershot A520

Canon Powershot A520

Canon Powershot A520Canon Powershot A520

Canon Powershot A520

Canon Powershot A520

Canon Powershot A520

The A520 compared to an average CD disc.

Canon Powershot A520

The Powershot A520 and the 3-megapixel Powershot A510.

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Features & Controls

Powershot A520 Specifications
Camera Effective Pixels Approx. 4.0 million
Image Sensor 1/2.5-inch CCD (Total number of pixels: Approx. 4.2 million)

5.8 (W) - 23.2 (T)mm (35mm film equivalent: 35 - 140mm)
f/2.6 (W) - f/5.5 (T)

Digital Zoom Approx. 3.6x (Up to approx. 14x in combination with the optical zoom)
Optical Viewfinder Real-image zoom viewfinder
LCD Monitor 1.8-inch, low-temperature polycrystalline silicon TFT color LCD, approx. 115,000 pixels
AF System TTL autofocus
Focus lock and Manual focus are available
9-point AiAF/1-point AF (fixed to center)
Shooting Distance (from the front of the lens)
Normal AF 45cm (1.5ft.) - infinity
Macro AF 5 - 45cm (2.0in. - 1.5ft.) (W)/
30 - 45cm (11.8in. - 1.5ft.) (T)
Manual focus 5cm (2.0in.) - infinity (W)/
30cm (11.8in.) - infinity (T)
Shutter Mechanical shutter + electronic shutter
Shutter Speeds
15 - 1/2000 sec.
The shutter speed varies according to the shooting modes.
Slow shutter speeds of 1.3 sec. or slower operate with noise reduction.
Metering System Evaluative, Center-weighted average or Spot (Center)
Exposure Control System Program AE, Shutter-priority AE, Aperture-priority AE, Manual exposure control
Exposure Compensation ± 2 stops in 1/3-stop increments
Sensitivity Auto*, ISO 50/100/200/400 equivalent
* Camera automatically sets the optimal speed.
White Balance Auto, pre-set (available settings: Daylight, Cloudy, Tungsten, Fluorescent or Fluorescent H) or custom
Built-in Flash Auto*, on*, off
* Red-eye reduction available.
Light-guide zoom flash, changes with focal length
Flash Range
Normal 45cm - 3.5m (1.5ft. - 11.5ft.) (W)
45cm - 2.2m (1.5ft. - 7.2ft.) (T)
Macro 30 - 45cm (11.8in. - 1.5ft.) (W/T)
when ISO speed set to Auto
Shooting Modes
Creative zone Program, Shutter-speed priority, Aperture priority, Manual
Image zone Portrait, Landscape, Night scene, Fast shutter, Slow shutter, Special Scene (Foliage, Snow, Beach, Fireworks, Underwater, Indoor, Kids & Pets and Night Snapshot), Stitch assist and Movie
Continuous Shooting
Approx. 1.9 shots/sec.
(Large/Fine mode, LCD monitor off)
Self-timer Activates shutter after an approx. 10-sec./2-sec. delay. Can be set using the custom settings.
PC-controlled Shooting Available (USB connection only. Exclusive software program is included in the camera kit.)
Recording Media SD memory card/MultiMediaCard, 16MB supplied
File Format Design rule for camera file system and DPOF compliant
Data Type
Still images Exif 2.2 (JPEG)*1
Movies AVI (Image data: Motion JPEG; Audio data: WAVE (monaural))
Compression Superfine, Fine, Normal
Number of Recording Pixels
Still images
Large: 2272x1704 pixels
Medium 1: 1600x1200 pixels
Medium 2: 1024x768 pixels
Small: 640x480 pixels
640x480 pixels, 10 frames/sec. (Approx. 30 sec.)
320x240 pixels, 15 frames/sec. (approx. 3 min.)
160x120 pixels, 15 frames/sec. (approx. 3 min.)
The data in parentheses refer to the maximum movie length per shooting.
Playback Modes Single (histogram displayable), Index (9 thumbnail images), Magnified (approx. 10x (max.) in LCD monitor, advance or reverse through magnified images possible), Auto play, Sound memos (up to 60 sec.) or Movie.
Direct Print Canon Direct Print and Bubble Jet Direct compatible, and PictBridge compliant
My Camera Settings The start-up image, start-up sound, shutter sound, operation sound and self-timer sound can be customized using the following methods:
1. Using the images and sounds recorded on the camera.
2. Using downloaded data from your computer using the supplied software.
Interface USB (mini-B, PTP [Picture Transfer Protocol])
Audio/Video output (NTSC or PAL selectable, monaural audio)
Power Source
AA-size alkaline batteries (included in the camera kit)
AA-size rechargeable NiMH batteries NB4-200 (sold separately)
AC Adapter Kit ACK800 (sold separately)
Operating Temperature 0 - 40 degrees C (32 - 104 degrees F)
Operating Humidity 10 - 90%
Dimensions 90.7x64.0x38.4mm (3.6x2.5x1.5in.) (excluding protrusions)
Weight Approx. 180g (6.3oz.) (camera body only)

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Features & Controls

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