A year may not seem like an especially long time, but in world of point-and-shoot cameras, it's an eternity. With many small cameras being refreshed twice a year these days, a camera that's been on store shelves unchanged for more than 12 months and continues to sell is truly the definition of endurance in this market.
Which is what makes the Canon PowerShot A590 IS – a full-featured budget compact that's the subject of this month's Users Speak Out survey of user opinions – such a fascinating deviation from the norm. First introduced in late 2007, the A590 is making its third trip around on the six-month carnival ride that is the point-and-shoot model cycle. But if sales and search rankings are any indication, it shows no signs that it's ready to get off just yet.
The secret to the A590's multi-year success is almost certainly its versatility. Want a small, affordable general-use camera and you're not sure what to buy? Whether you're a snapshooter or a die-hard photo nut, chances are you'll find the 8.0 megapixel A590's responsiveness and punchy images to be a fine compromise if nothing else.
For everything the A590 does, there's probably a camera that does it better: we've reviewed faster models, models that take better pictures, models that work better in low light, and models that are more solidly built. But you'd be hard pressed to find a camera that rates this highly across the board – even more so when you factor in that the A590, while never expensive, now costs less than your last family-of-four dinner and a movie night.
No, your eyes aren't deceiving you. The A590 can really be had for under $100 at reputable retailers these days. That's because Canon's rolled out newer, flashier PowerShot A cameras since the A590's launch in 2007, but continues to keep this venerable variant of the A-series cam around as it's the only option currently offered with the standard P/A/S/M manual exposure modes.
No surprise, then, that user opinions posted on our site about the A590 uniformly make note of the camera's value, and the unique capabilities it offers at this price point. We've seen some highly reviewed cameras score well in our user opinions before, but the A590 is unique even among the best cameras we've looked at insofar as there are "Not Recommended" opinions submitted to our site for this model.
That's not to say that all is perfect with the A590 – indeed, several users picked on the PowerShot for ergonomic and size reasons, as well as its general lack of fit-and-finish polish. But even those users who were most critical of the A590 seemed to agree with our basic assessment when we reviewed this camera: for these features at this price, it's really hard to go wrong.
Here's what some of those satisfied customers who submitted user opinions on the A590 had to say:
PROS: My last Canon, an A70, gave up the ghost last summer – this is my Christmas replacement. Very easy to use, great big view screen allows sharing pix and video with nearsighted friends (grin) all the benefits of the A series Canons. It is much easier to use than the other, and I can see it has other benefits I have yet to discover. Good clearly written manual. Overall, a very good value for the money.
CONS: The battery / flash card hatch feels flimsy, a little difficult to close. Also, my camera arrived with the lithium battery (for preserving settings and dates) run down already, but I assume my warranty will cover replacing this. The flap on the USB port was a little difficult to open – not a big deal, but a stubborn person opening it the wrong way might tear or break it, I suspect. However, it is more substantial than the same flap on the A70, and that lasted more than 4 years of continuous use. I would prefer this camera slightly heavier and larger, but that's just me. I'm sure I will get used to it.
OVERALL SCORE: 8/10
PROS: There's manual modes like aperture and shutter priority. At this price range that's rare. I like the ability to use rechargeable AA batteries. Autofocus is surprisingly quick and accurate for a budget camera. Has great feel and button layout makes sense. Attractive looking in duo-tone gunmetal gray. The images have pleasing colors and noise levels are controlled nicely up to 400. Even 800 is usable for small 4x6 prints. The software is excellent and practical to use. Excellent battery life using rechargeable NiMH AA batteries.
CONS: The screen resolution is not as high resolution as I would like. Optical viewfinder is tiny and difficult to see through. Video recording is choppy at 20fps at the highest resolution. The camera is more bulky than other compacts, and hard to fit in pant pockets. Doesn't have a panorama stitch assist mode like other PowerShot cameras. Slow flash recycle time from two AA batteries.
OVERALL SCORE: 8/10
PROS: Fairly compact, but with a large display and a real optical viewfinder. Many different exposure modes are built in and easy to get at. I particularly like that the timer can take more than one shot. The photos and movies can be downloaded in Linux using gphoto2.
CONS: I could not find an automatic exposure bracketing mode, or get at RAW images, making this camera inconvenient for HDR fans. It does not focus on anything closer than 20cm from the lens. (The manual claims 5cm!) Focusing in macro mode is unnecessarily difficult in general. The tripod mount is in the (wrong) corner, but unfortunately that seems to be common. Canon could easily make the USB connection appear as a standard mass storage device to Linux.
OVERALL SCORE: 8/10
PROS: Easy...easy...easy. Great pictures. [The A590] is an outstanding point and shoot. It's that easy.
CONS: Still do not like the zoom location.
OVERALL SCORE: 8/10