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Canon PowerShot A590 IS: First Thoughts
by David Rasnake -  2/15/2008

How do you follow up on one of the most popular and bestselling gadgets of 2007? If you're Canon, maker of the highly successful PowerShot A570 IS compact, the answer is simple: offer a few key features upgrades, some styling improvements, and otherwise keep a working formula intact. In short, don't mess with a good thing.

From all appearances, the company's approach to the new Canon PowerShot A590 IS, soon to be released successor to the A570, has been just that.

Canon PowerShot A590 IS

 

Other than a very slight resolution gain (from 7.1 to 8.0 megapixels), the A590 carries over most of its predecessor's key physical specs, including a 4x optically stabilized zoom and Canon's excellent DIGIC III processing. Some neat improvements to the face detection system, allowing users to select and track faces and providing quicker, more accurate facial recognition, will be a welcome addition for family snapshot takers. Speed and responsiveness feel right on par with the old model as well. With power still coming from 2 AAs, it doesn't feel like the flash recycle period is much shorter, but look for the new PowerShot to otherwise earn excellent marks in shutter lag and AF speed testing.

Canon PowerShot A590 IS

The A590 also feels excellent in hand, with slightly better stability thanks to a more rounded and natural feeling grip. Simultaneously, the move to a hard, glossy finish on the grip – as opposed to the brushed-style finish seen in the past – looks like it will make the camera more prone to slipping out of grasp. We'll have to do some shooting to know for sure on this one.

Stylistically, the A590 sports the most trendy look and feel we've seen so far on an A model: the new PowerShot takes another pretty sizeable step away from the boxy look of previous models and toward something that can best be described as "retro chic," with lots of curved, flowing lines and rounded shapes superimposed throughout. The differences are subtle at times, but the overall impact makes for a much more visually interesting camera, in my opinion.

The general consensus around here is that, if anything, the A590 seems slightly denser overall and exhibits decidedly less flex and better button feel than the model it replaces. Similarly, the choice of color scheme – our test unit shows off the new model's handsome dark grey motif – is a welcomed change from the anonymous look of silver. In another continuation item, the interface is, for all intents and purposes, the same layout Canon's been bringing us for several years in the PowerShot A models. No complaints here, as the system works just fine- even for serious shooters looking to unlock the A590's aperture and shutter controls. Button design on the back panel has changed a little, and while the new look here is a little video game-ish, the actual layout and function of controls is basically the same.

There wasn't much time this afternoon to shoot lots of revealing test photos with the new Canon, but initial thoughts on image quality are more of the same (again, in a good way). At low ISOs, image quality is warm, a little saturated, and appropriately smooth. High ISO performance, while not superb, remains acceptable for a compact camera, with even ISO 1600 offering what appear, at first glance, to be printable, if a little flat, images. Not surprisingly, the overall look is very similar to what we've seen in the past from these cameras, which generally bodes well for the A590.

Canon PowerShot A590 IS
(view large image)

Ultimately, the A570 earned its position on the top level of the compact camera heap not on styling or hype-heavy soft features, but on its strengths as a basic, reliable picture taker with enough power to take print-worthy images in just about any situation, and given how much of the former model has been retained, it seems likely that the A590 is set to do the same. Canon fans may be disappointed that there aren't more major hard tech improvements. Admittedly, I would've liked to see a smoother, sharper LCD on the updated model, in particular. But building on an entry-level camera that many casual shooters – even those looking for advanced control options – may never outgrow, it's hard to fault Canon for not feeling the need to change things up too much. The success of the A570 speaks for itself, and from everything we've seen so far, those no reason why this success shouldn't translate to the PowerShot A590 IS as well.

Finally, what's perhaps most impressive about the A590 is it's price: with an MSRP of only $179, the new PowerShot undercuts the entry price of last year's A570 by fully $100 (the A570 had an MSRP of $279). Once the discounting begins in earnest, it's not unreasonable to anticipate street prices on this camera falling consistently below $150. At this price, this latest PowerShot A model should continue to offer one of the most compelling digicam deals around.

Check out all the details on this camera in our Canon PowerShot A590 IS Review.