Canon Powershot ELPH 510 HS Review

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Editor's Rating

Ratings Breakdown (1-10)

    • Image/Video Quality
    • 9
    • Features
    • 8
    • Design / Ease of Use
    • 8
    • Performance
    • 8
    • Expandability
    • 7
    • Total Score:
    • 8.00
    • Rating 1 to 10, top score 10


  • Pros

    • 12x zoom
    • Pocketable
    • Relatively inexpensive
    • Very good to excellent image quality
  • Cons

    • Below average battery life
    • Imprecise touchscreen controls

Quick Take

Here's the bottom line - the Canon PowerShot ELPH 510 HS's image quality is as good or better than any camera in its class.

The 12×12 (12x zoom & 12 megapixels) Canon Powershot ELPH 510 HS delivers more than adequate resolution and an impressive zoom range in a truly pocketable compact point and shoot digital camera with a capacitive touchscreen that replaces all but the most essential physical controls with virtual controls. The lack of dedicated physical controls made it possible for Canon to include a large 3.2-inch (8.13 cm) LCD that completely dominates the back deck of this miniscule digital camera.

In addition to the features listed above, the ELP 510 HS also records images/video to a 1/2.3″ CMOS sensor, utilizes Canon’s proven DIGIC4 Image Processor (rather than the newer DIGIC5), includes Canon’s HS System for improved low-light performance (up to ISO 3200), features full HD 1080p video with stereo audio (via a virtual stop/start video button), and provides an HDMI output, an Intelligent IS system (which automatically chooses from six different IS modes to optimize image stabilization for the shooting situation), and finally an improved Smart AUTO mode that intelligently selects the most appropriate scene mode for the shooting situation from 32 included scene modes.

Build and Design
The Canon Powershot ELPH 510 HS bears a striking family resemblance to the rest of the ELPH tribe. Canon’s ELPH line has a history of robust construction and impressive durability and the ELPH 510 HS could easily become the poster child for tough little cameras – its metal-alloy body gives it a much more solid feel than many of its polycarbonate bodied competitors. At 2.3 inches (58.42 mm) by 3.9 inches (99.06 mm) by 0.9 inches (22.86 mm) and weighing in at 7.3 ounces (207 grams) this digital camera is supremely pocketable. For the stylistas among us, the ELPH 510 HS is available in silver, red, and black versions.  
Ergonomics and Controls
The ELPH 510 HS was obviously designed for space conscious casual users and while this is a very pocket friendly little point and shoot digital camera, purchasers are strongly encouraged to immediately attach (and consistently use) the included wrist strap – because small digital cameras are very easy to drop and complex miniature electronic devices don’t suffer impacts well. 

For dedicated physical controls, the ELPH 510 HS provides only an on/off button, a two-position camera mode switch, the shutter button, the zoom toggle, and the review button. This arrangement will probably be applauded by smart phone users, but might cause some post-purchase remorse for more traditional users. Dedicated knobs, buttons, and switches are mostly absent – which gives the 510 HS a minimalist look – in fact there is nothing on the back of the camera, except the 3.2 inch LCD, a long skinny thumb rest, and the review button. 

Menus and Modes
The Canon PowerShot ELPH 510 HS features the classic two tab Canon digital camera menu system – The menu system is logical, easy to navigate, and very simple – since the 510 HS allows only minimal user input. Below are the shooting modes available. 

Smart Auto: Automatic scene recognition program that instantly compares what’s in front of the lens with an on-board image database and then matches that information with the subject’s distance from the camera, white balance, contrast, dynamic range, lighting and color (just before the image is recorded) to determine the best scene mode for that specific shooting situation.  
Program: Auto exposure with limited user input. 
Movie: The 510 HS records HD video at a maximum resolution of 1920 x 1080p @ 24fps with stereo audio.

Like the vast majority of P&S digital cameras, the ELPH 510 HS doesn’t provide an optical viewfinder, so shooters must rely solely on the 3.2-inch PureColor II Touch TFT LCD monitor for all viewfinder chores, including framing/composition, captured image review, and menu navigation. The 510 HS’s 3.2-inch (461K) touchscreen LCD provides direct access to controls, functions, menus and even offers touch-based autofocus – just tap the screen exactly where you want the camera to lock focus. Most modern shooters don’t like (or use) optical viewfinders anyway and in some shooting scenarios (macro shots and portraits come to mind), it is generally quicker and easier to watch the decisive moment come together on the LCD screen than it is through an optical viewfinder. LCD resolution has been steadily increasing over the last few years because consumers want larger, sharper, and quicker LCD screens. Several of Canon’s competitor’s P&S models provide 920k LCDs – twice the resolution of the 510 HS’s 460k LCD.  

The 510 HS’s LCD monitor is noticeably coarser and slightly dimmer than some Nikon and Sony POINT AND SHOOT digital camera monitors, but it offers more than adequate resolution for the 510 HS’s market demographic – it is hue accurate (what you see is what you get), fluid, automatically boosts gain in dim/low light, covers approximately 100% of the image frame, and provides all the information this digital camera’s target audience is likely to need. The 510’s LCD screen (like all LCD monitors) is subject to fading and glare/reflections in bright outdoor lighting – add to that the smudges and fingerprints that are unavoidable with touchscreen use and the LCD is often less than useful in bright outdoor lighting.  

I love digital cameras, but I don’t like touchscreens. Just because something works nicely on one type of product (smartphones) doesn’t mean that it will work adequately with other (radically different) devices. Cameras need controls that respond immediately. Touchscreen controls on cameras lack the tactile assurance and confidence inspiring immediate response of traditional buttons, knobs, and switches. While touchscreens are undeniably getting better, they still often require multiple taps to access the feature or function sought, and that momentary delay could cost users a killer shot. 

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