Canon PowerShot ELPH 520 HS: Performance

by Andy Stanton Reads (1,425)
Editor's Rating
5.60

TG Ratings Breakdown

    • Image/Video Quality
    • 7
    • Features
    • 8
    • Design / Ease of Use
    • 7
    • Performance
    • 6
    • 0
    • Total Score:
    • 5.60
    • Rating 1 to 10, top score 10

Performance

The performance of the ELPH 520 HS is very good in most respects. It starts up quickly, within a second or two. A movie begins recording as soon as you press the dedicated movie button. I did not notice any appreciable delay in activating the menu selections. Shot-to-shot time averaged about 2.5 seconds without the flash and about 4 seconds with the flash in operation, which is not particularly quick but adequate.

The ELPH 520 HS uses a rechargeable lithium-ion battery pack, the NB-9, which is rated at approximately 190 shots. I managed to shoot about 160 photos and several videos before getting a low battery warning. Considering the camera’s relatively short battery life, you may want to purchase an extra battery.

Shooting Performance
The ELPH 520 HS rarely had problems focusing. In low light a focus assist beam helps illuminate the subject for more accurate focusing.

The camera provides several auto focusing options. When Smart Auto is employed the camera will check to see whether there are any faces in the frame and, when the shutter is pressed halfway down, the LCD will show a white box around the face the camera considers to be the principal subject. Up to eight green boxes will appear around other faces in the frame. If no faces are present, the camera will put up to nine green boxes around what it determines to be the subject areas the user intends to be in focus.

Tracking focus can also be enabled, which will put a blue box around a moving subject, which the camera will constantly keep in focus. In Program AE mode the user has the option of using one of three auto focus modes – face detection, tracking focus, and center of the frame.

Lab tests, set forth below, show excellent results for auto focus acquisition, commonly referred to as shutter lag, the time between pressing the shutter button and taking the picture.  The result, 0.21 second, is quicker than most point and shoot cameras. The ELPH 520 HS is not particularly quick in continuous shooting though, as it is able to record full resolution pictures at only 2.4 frames per second, which is slower than other cameras in its class.

AF Acquisition (press-to-capture, no pre-focus)

Camera Time (seconds)
Canon PowerShot ELPH 520 HS 0.21
Panasonic Lumix FX90 0.24
Sony Cyber-shot TX100 0.32
Nikon Coolpix P300 0.43

Continuous Shooting

Camera Frames Framerate*
Sony Cyber-shot TX100 10 11.4 fps
Nikon Coolpix P300 7 6.9 fps
Panasonic Lumix FX90 7 3.0 fps
Canon PowerShot ELPH 520 HS 2.4 fps

Lens Performance
The ELPH 520 HS has a versatile 12x zoom lens with a range of from 28 through 336mm (35mm film camera equivalent), and a maximum aperture of f/3.4 at wide angle and f/5.6 at telephoto. This enables it to take close ups of subjects that are quite far away.

Canon 520 HS Sample Image
Wide Angle
Canon 520 HS Sample Image
Telephoto

The camera has a digital zoom mode that can extend the apparent focal length substantially, though excessive use of this function can result in severe deterioration of the image. The lens can focus as close as 1cm from the subject in macro mode. Images are generally sharp throughout the frame, with some softening around the edges. I noticed little difference in sharpness and color intensity between photos taken at wide angle and at maximum telephoto. Chromatic aberration (colored fringing) is well-controlled. I found minimal barrel distortion in photos taken at wide angle and no pin cushion distortion at extreme telephoto.

Video Quality
The ELPH 520 HS shoots nice looking movies in its highest resolution movie mode, 1920 x 1080 resolution at 24 frames per second, with good color and stereo sound. Optical zoom can be used, which will occasionally cause the camera to momentarily lose focus.

There are also additional movie options including miniature effect, in which the subjects look like toys and move quickly around the frame, super slow motion, in which the camera shoots at 120 fps or 240 fps, and movie digest, which automatically records a short video clip every time you shoot a still image and the camera later combines the clips into one video.

Image Quality
The ELPH 520 HS is capable of producing sharp, high quality images with pleasing, realistic colors, though sometimes the colors seemed to lack punch. This may have been the result of overexposure, which can be a problem at times. Fortunately, the camera has settings for darkening the exposure as well as increasing the sharpness, contrast and saturation of the image.

I mostly used the camera’s auto white balance setting. White balance can be set to auto, daylight, cloudy, tungsten, two types of fluorescent and custom. The camera did an excellent job producing a white balance that matched the actual tone of the scene. The image below shows auto white balance under fluorescent lighting.

Canon 520 HS Sample Image
Auto White Balance, 5500k fluorescent light

The camera’s flash can be set to one of two options in Smart Auto – auto and always off. In Program AE mode you have two additional options, always on and slow synchro, which uses a slow shutter speed to brighten the background.  Flash range is 1.6 – 8.2 ft. (50 cm – 2.5 m) at wide angle and 3.3 – 4.9 ft. (1.0 – 1.5 m) at telephoto.  The flash performs well, without providing too much illumination, as long as you keep in mind its limited range.

The ELPH 520 HS does a pretty good job in low light, considering the small size of its sensor.  The fact that Canon decided to limit the camera’s resolution to 10 megapixels is probably a major reason for such good results. Looking at the images below, all appear to be perfectly acceptable for small prints, even the image shot at 3200 ISO. All images have good color and show only a moderate increase in noise at the higher ISO levels.

Canon 520 HS Sample Image
ISO 400
Canon 520 HS Sample Image
ISO 800
Canon 520 HS Sample Image
ISO 1600
Canon 520 HS Sample Image
ISO 3200

The images set forth below, prepared by DCR’s labs, also confirm that the ELPH 520 HS is one of the better Point and Shoot cameras for shooting in low light.

Canon 520 HS Sample Image
ISO 100
Canon 520 HS Sample Image
ISO 100, 100% crop
Canon 520 HS Sample Image
ISO 200
Canon 520 HS Sample Image
ISO 200, 100% crop
Canon 520 HS Sample Image
ISO 400
Canon 520 HS Sample Image
ISO 400, 100% crop
Canon 520 HS Sample Image
ISO 800
Canon 520 HS Sample Image
ISO 800, 100% crop
Canon 520 HS Sample Image
ISO 1600
Canon 520 HS Sample Image
ISO 1600, 100% crop
Canon 520 HS Sample Image
ISO 3200
Canon 520 HS Sample Image
ISO 3200, 100% crop

Additional Sample Images

Canon 520 HS Sample Image
Canon 520 HS Sample Image
Canon 520 HS Sample Image
Canon 520 HS Sample Image


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