On Friday, online retailer Amazon.com named the Canon Powershot A570 IS its best-selling electronics product of the year in its "Best of 2007" list. In recognition of this honor, we bring you a fresh user review of one of the most popular cameras of 2007. Happy new year, and enjoy! – Ed.
Being an amateur photographer, I was saddened by the loss of my trusty Nikon Coolpix L3 digital camera. For my next camera, I was looking for something that could grow with me as my photography skills expanded. I had a tight budget at $200, yet I wanted a unit that could deliver what I needed. The Canon Powershot A570 IS fit my needs. With its full manual mode, aperture priority mode, shutter priority mode, and manual focus, the A570 would open up a whole new world of digital photography never before seen with my Nikon L3.
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The A570 IS fills up at 1 GB card with highest-resolution, highest-quality images in about 320 shots.
Canon claims 400 shots with two 2500 mAH Ni-MH batteries, only 120 shots with alkaline. It’s definitely worth the investment to buy a charger and four high-capacity Ni-MH batteries.
In the Box
The design is classic A-Series Canon, thick bodied with large grip on the right side. The front of the camera is overwhelmed by the stabilized 4x zoom lens. Also on the front are the flash, the viewfinder, and an auto-focus beam. This beam emits a red light to help focus in low-light situations. One last addition to the front is the small button on the bottom-left to lock/unlock add-on lenses. The zoom rocker is located around the shutter button on the top. Also on the top are the power button and mode dial. The mode dial lets you select your scene mode without going through a menu. The left side will give you access to your covered ports: AV out, USB, and DC in. On the wide, right side, you will only see the wrist strap hook.
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Viewfinder and Display
Now, let’s move on to the rear of the camera. Starting at top, you get an optical viewfinder. This feature, becoming a unique one on point-and-shoot cameras, allows shooting where glare or lack of light may become a problem. Adjacent to the left of the view finder are two-LED shot indicators. When the top LED is green, the camera is focused. When it is red, the camera is focused and flash will fire. If it is blinking red, the flash is not charged, and thus a long shutter and blurry photos are a possibility. When the bottom LED blinks yellow, the camera has not locked focus. All of these indicators are aided by on-screen ones are well.
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Below the viewfinder, you will find the auto-rotating 115k dot 2.5 in LCD screen. The display rotates images and videos when the camera is turned on its side during playback. This also means when taking a vertical shot or video, the images will display right side up on playback. The display has noticeable grain when shooting, but looks acceptable on playback. The LCD does “gain-up” to help shooting in dark situations, but I have noticed relying more on the viewfinder in these situations. Grid lines and/or a 3:2 guide may be shown on the LCD. The grid lines divide the LCD into nine parts to help frame your shot. The 3:2 overlay may be used to show you how much of the image will be printed on a 4x6. Areas not to be printed will be grayed out. These, however, do not transfer to the finished image, as images are taken in the standard point-and-shoot 4:3 format.
On the top-right you will find the vertical switch for shooting or playback. There are four buttons around the four-way controller on the bottom-right of the rear of the camera. The top-left of these is for exposure compensation (or delete when in playback). The top-right pictbridge button hides a blue-LED. This button can also be programmed to be the ISO speed, white balance, digital tele-converter, display overlay, or a display off button. The bottom-left of the buttons surrounding the four-way controller is the display button, to switch between showing info, turning the display off, or showing only critical photo information (shutter, aperture, exposure, and stabilization information). The bottom-right button is for the menu. The four-way controller itself is used for navigating menus and options. The up button is also used to control flash. The down button is also used to allow macro or manual focus. When shooting, pressing the “FUNC/SET” button in the center brings up the image settings. You can change ISO, white balance, drive mode, color balance, flash output, metering, image quality, and image resolution on the fly. The availability of these settings depends on what mode you are in.
Canon’s ergonomic grip on the right side makes it a cinch to grasp the camera without worry about slippage. The grip helps fill the natural curve in your hand when shooting. Weight is balanced nicely because of the weight of the batteries your hand wraps around. The vertical shooting/playback switch is right next to your thumb, making changing modes a breeze. The zoom wheel is located conveniently around the shutter button. The feedback the wheel gives you helps control the speed of how fast you zoom. The scene dial is located just to the left of your thumb, allowing for on the fly adjustments. The buttons themselves give definite smooth, not clunky, feedback. One note you may want to make is that you should move your thumb’s natural position on the rear of the camera when playing back movies, as it rests right on top of the small speaker.
The Canon Powershot A570 is the least-expensive camera to include Canon’s optical image stabilization. This system incorporates a floating lens which makes camera-shake more fluid and less noticeable. Three different stabilization modes are available; Continuous, which reduces image blur on the LCD and in your shots; Shoot Only, which activates it only during shooting; and Panning, which only stabilizes vertical camera movements. The latter is useful for tracking objects moving horizontally. After taking off the lens converter cap, you can hear the loose lens rattle when you shake the camera. This is not a bad thing, just goes to show you that the lens is free to move on its own to combat your shaky hands.
This camera is one of the first to incorporate Canon’s DIGIC III image processor. This includes face-detection AF/AE/FE (auto-focus/auto-exposure/flash-exposure). This means that DIGIC III not only automatically tracks and focuses on faces, but also adjusts the facial exposure, ensuring that faces are not too dark or light. Also helping eliminate over-exposure is flash exposure: flash is controlled to make sure not to over-expose faces or other nearby objects. Red-eye correction is a given on most cameras these days. One thing that is not so common is the ability to correct any red-eye that makes it to your pictures in playback. When not in portrait mode, the multi-point AiAF (Artificial-intelligent Auto-Focus) focuses on any of up to nine areas. One feature that is missing here is the ability to crop photos in playback mode.
In addition to these selections, five basic preset scene modes are accessible via the mode dial: Portrait blurs the background and makes people stand out.Landscape uses a higher aperture value allowing for a softer focus on the entire scene. Night Snapshot allows you to take snapshots of people in night by reducing the effects of camera shake, even without a tripod. Kids & Pets uses a fast shutter allowing you to snap clear pictures of those quick, little ones. Indoor properly adjusts white balance to maintain your subject’s color under fluorescent or tungsten lighting; ISO is raised to help prevent camera shake.
The following more specialized scene presets can be selected after moving the dial to the SCN (Special Scene) setting: Night Scene opens up the shutter for a longer period of time, allowing more light to come in. This allows for the more of scene to be seen. Portraits are also possible in this scene mode, directing the flash at the subject, allowing the slow shutter speed to pick up the remaining background scene. Foliage increases the color saturation allowing plants to pop out. Snow utilizes the Evaluative metering to adjust exposure compensation allowing people to not be darkened by the bright snow. It also helps remove the chromatic aberration in high contrasting areas. Beach does nearly the same thing, but adjusts color balance for sand. Fireworks uses a low shutter speed and Center Weighted Average metering to make the light stand out. Aquarium adjusts white and color balance for the bluish-filled scene. Underwater does much of the same, but increases color saturation further.
The A570 also includes a Stitch Assist mode to help you compose panaromic shots using the LCD as a guide.
The camera starts up in 1.2 seconds. Focusing averages 0.7 seconds. After focusing and taking the shot, the next shot is ready after 1 second. Two consecutive non-flash shots consume 2.6 seconds. Consecutive flash shots take about 8 seconds. Flash recycle consumes 3 seconds. As you can tell, this is one speedy camera, making it easier to capture that great, spontaneous shot.
Flash and Focus Options
Flash settings include auto, on, off, and manual control of flash power. In manual or program mode, you can control the flash output power. Flash fills the frame up to about six or eight feet away. Manual focus is available in many scene modes as well as any manual mode. When manual focus is used in conjunction with the initial auto-focus you get from pushing the shutter button halfway, you get the most accurate focus possible on this camera.
ISO level may be set up to 1600 in manual modes, or to AUTO or HI in scene modes. Shooting in HI ISO mode allows more light to be brought in with the same shutter speed, at the cost of more visible noise.
White balance may be changed in any mode other than a scene mode. Options include auto, day light, cloudy, tungsten, fluorescent, fluorescent H, underwater, or custom. Fluorescent H is made for daylight-type fluorescent lighting. Custom white balance is set by pointing the camera at a white surface and activating the mode.
The drive mode may be set to single, continuous, ten second timer, two second timer, or a custom timer. You set the delay and number of shots in custom mode, allowing for a time-lapse series to be taken.
My Colors changes the color balance of your shots. Options include vivid, neutral, sepia, black and white, or custom. Under custom, you control the contrast, sharpness, and saturation of your shots.
Metering settings may be set in any of the manual modes. Evaluative metering is appropriate for most situations. Under Evaluative, the camera divides the scene into several zones for metering, adjusts exposure for the main subject, taking the scene area into consideration, and adjusts exposure accordingly. Center Weighted Average averages the light metered from the entire frame, but gives greater weight to the subject matter at the center. Spot meters the area within the AE point at the center of the LCD monitor. Use this setting to set the exposure only on the subject in the center of the monitor. Exposure compensation may be changed from -2 to +2 in 1/3 stops.
Overall image quality is good. Color saturation is well-balanced. Exposure is well-controlled. Noise does become a factor when not using flash in low-light situations. When given natural light, this camera really shines. Barrel distortion is perceptible when you are looking for it. I have yet to find any noticeable chromatic aberration.
I feel that this camera will grow on me as my photography skills increase. Manual modes with many settings are just what I ask for in camera, and the A570 IS definitely delivers. Image stabilization is the way of the future in digital cameras. It feels good in the hand, and the ergonomics are spot-on. The speed of the camera does not slow me down. However, I miss the ability to crop photos straight from the camera. It could be smaller and have a better LCD. I wish it could fit in my pocket and that the movie mode would be better compressed. Even with these faults, this camera stands out of the pack of budget digital cameras as one that can do more.