Features & Controls

Being a HS labeled PowerShot, the ELPH 520 HS uses a fast CMOS type image sensor that yields 10-megapixels of resolution, along with the ability to capture full 1080p HD video at 24fps. Rounding out the "High Sensitivity" system is Canon's DIGIC 5 processing unit, which not only helps the camera process large image and video files quickly, but it also allows it to capture full resolution still images at up to 6.8fps. Canon's HS system also boasts improved low-light capabilities, thanks to the attributes of the CMOS image sensor.

Like its predecessor, the PowerShot ELPH 510 HS, the 520 boasts a powerful 12x optical zoom lens. It covers an equivalent zoom range of 28 - 336mm, giving you a nice wide angle extreme, along with plenty of telephoto magnification. The maximum aperture range is f/3.4 (W) - f/5.6 (T). When the camera is powered down, the lens fully retracts inside the body, and is covered by a built-in lens protector. Canon boasts that this lens features their "UA Lens technology", which is what enables them to pack such a powerful lens into a compact camera body. To the left and right of the lens you can see two small holes in the photo above, these are the stereo (left and right) speakers.

Like most all of Canon's PowerShot models, the ELPH 520 HS incorporates their Optical Image Stabilization system to further enhance the camera's abilities to capture usable low light and long telephoto handheld shots. Canon's OIS uses true Lens-shift technology; verses the digital or sensor-shift IS techniques used on other brands.

The 520 uses a Contrast Detection, TTL (Through The Lens) type AF system, which is comprised of 9 AF points across the frame. You can choose from the focus range (Normal, Macro, and Infinity), AF Frame (Face Detect or Fixed Frame), the AF Frame Size (Normal or Small), as well as turn Servo and Continuous AF on and Off. The 520 also offers an AF-Assist lamp, which helps the camera focus in lower lighting conditions, to almost complete darkness. You can turn it On and Off via the menu as well. The lamp is located just above the lens.

Focus Range:
  • Auto: 0.4 in. (1 cm) - infinity (W), 3.3 ft. (1 m) - infinity (T)
  • Normal AF: 2.0 in. (5cm) - infinity (W), 3.3 ft. (1m) - infinity (T)
  • Macro AF: 0.4 in. - 1.6 ft. (1-50cm) (W)

Here we have a close-up of the 520's tiny built-in flash unit; with the AF-Assist lamp to the left of it. Flash modes include: Auto, Flash On (Fill), Slow Synchro, and Flash Off. The effective range according to Canon is 1.6 - 8.2 ft. (50 cm - 2.5 m) Wide or 3.3 - 4.9 ft. (1.0 - 1.5 m) Telephoto. This is a very anemic range, meaning you'll want to be as close as possible to your subject when shooting with the flash.

Controls on the top include the play button, Mode switch (Camera or Auto), power button, and the shutter release. The zoom controls are mounted around the shutter release, and in playback they control the Index and Magnify options. The mode switch is used to change between either Smart Auto or Camera modes. In Camera mode, you choose the exposure mode from Program AE to one of several Scene modes.


The ELPH 520 offers a nice 3.0-inch LCD screen, with an above average resolution of 461,000 dots. This gives you a very clear viewfinder, with excellent color and detail. The LCD offers 100% frame coverage, so what you see is what you get when you press the shutter release. It also does well in various lighting, thanks to gain adjustment, and you also have various brightness settings available in the Setup menu.


Here we have a close-up of the controls on the back. While well labeled, these buttons are very small, and can be confusing for some; mainly the 4-way controls. At the top we have the dedicated video record button, which allows you to record video at any time, not matter what mode the camera is in. Next is the 4-way controls, which while they are still in a cross type pattern, they are very narrow, and very close together. This, along with their size, caused some annoyances when using the camera; by more than one user as well. They are used to navigate the menu, and also offer shortcuts for Exposure Compensation, Flash mode, DISP. properties, and Macro focus.

The last two buttons include the FUNC. / SET button, which accepts menu selections and enters the Function shortcut menu, and lastly the Menu button.

I/O ports are located on the right hand side. On top is the HDMI output that allows you to view your images and HD movies in on a HDTV with an optional HDMI cord. At the bottom you can see a combination USB 2.0 Hi-Speed data and the A/V Output port. It handles both USB connection to your PC or Printer, as well as standard definition Audio/Video output (NTSC or PAL); no AV cable is included in the kit however.

Canon has equipped the ELPH 520 HS with a microSD/SDHC/SDXC memory card slot, which is located on the bottom right of the camera. This tiny port door is difficult to open, unless you have strong fingernails. While microSD cards allow manufacturers to save on space, we don't care for them all that much with cameras. In a smart phone, these tiny cards are great. However, in a camera where they are taken in and out often, we feel they are just too small and easy to loose.

Power is supplied by the same tiny, AA looking, NB-9L 3.5V, 870mAh rechargeable Li-Ion battery found in the ELPH 510 HS. When used in the ELPH 520, Canon claims a battery life of up to 190 shots or 4 hours of continuous playback. While this battery and its life are not all that impressive, you'll be glad to know that it is charged out of camera. This means you can easily keep a spare battery (or two) charged and ready while you're using another pack in the camera.

Visitors of Steves can visit the stores below for real-time pricing and availability. You can also find hot, soon to expire online offers on a variety of cameras and accessories at our very own Camera Deals page.