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Canon PowerShot A490 Silver - Expert Reviews
The new Canon PowerShot A490 is Canon's newest entry-level compact digicam. This stylish camera features a 10-Megapixel imaging sensor, Digic III image processor, a 2.5-inch LCD screen and Canon's Smart Auto mode which automatically picks all the camera's settings based on the current shooting conditions. Powering the camera are two standard AA-type batteries, meaning additional power is always close, if the batteries should happen to run out of juice. As far as entry-level cameras go, the A490 from Canon is one of the easiest for beginners not only to operate, but to capture quality images with. Smart Auto chooses from 13 predefined Scene modes, which will satisfy just about any situation that you might find yourself in. The camera's 2.5-inch LCD allows you to easily frame your subject when shooting and is great for viewing your images afterwards.
Design and Build Quality
The body is made of plastic and it is rather round and chunky, measuring 93.5mm x 61.7mm x 30.6mm, although it is quite light for its size, weighing just 175g including batteries and memory card. The build quality is reasonable, but the body does creak a bit if squeezed, and the battery hatch has a plastic hinge that feels a bit fragile. The shape of the body is a simple rounded wedge shape, wider at the right-hand end, and it is quite comfortable to hold. The control layout is sensible, with the rear controls consisting of three buttons, a small D-pad and a rocker-switch zoom control. The buttons do feel a bit cheap and clunky compared to the slick handling of Canon's more expensive models, especially the rather horrible zoom control, but they are at least clearly labeled and large enough to avoid being tricky.
Focus and Face Detection
Face Detection Technology makes it easy to get perfect group shots, recognizing multiple faces and making sure everyone is well-exposed, natural and in focus. Red-eye Correction also detects and removes any red-eye in images after the shot has been taken, making friends and family look great at all times. A clever Face Self-Timer feature, available on the Powershot A495, simplifies group shots by waiting until an additional face enters the frame before the shot is taken two seconds later – ensuring everyone can be part of the picture.The A490 / A495 has a built-in flash unit with a maximum range at the wide angle zoom setting of 3 meters. The flash automatically fires when the conditions demand it and Canon's new Smart Flash system automatically adjusts the illumination for the prevailing conditions, for example using the flash to fill-in shadow detail in daylight exposures.
Lens and Image Stabilization
The lens suffers principally from a rather whiny-sounding motor, but it's reasonably specified. It’s a 3.3x zoom, which equates to 37-122mm in 35mm terms. It's neither particularly wide nor long, but users won't have reason to complain in most situations. Somewhat disappointingly, the A490 / A495 lack Canon's optical image stabilization system. As we've seen with the Powershot A3000 IS / A3100 IS, Canon's optical system for reducing the effects of camera shake makes a very real difference to the potential for getting good hand held shots in low light, adding an extra three to four stops of compensation.
Screen and Menus
The Powershot A490's menu system is remarkably simple and very easy to navigate. Push the dedicated menu button (located under the compass switch) and the "Camera and Setup" sub-menus appear. The A490 utilizes the same basic auto exposure only image capture system as many of its siblings. The A490 has a 2.5in screen with 115k pixels. While once the standard, 115k pixel screens are now being superseded, even in budget models, by higher resolution 230k pixel screens with often larger dimensions. A490 screen is bright, featured with nice contrast and displays vivid colors and the number of pixels is less of an issue than the physical size. The A490 screen is the smallest of the three cameras on test and that not only makes it harder to compose shots, it makes review and playback a less pleasurable experience. The A490 / A495 uses the standard Canon menu system which puts many of the most frequently used functions on a menu that's activated by a single press of the Function Set button. The Function menu contents are dependent on the shooting mode.
Though Canon has decided to go with a Lithium-Ion cell for the Powershot A3100 IS / A3000 IS, the Powershot A490 / A495 follows previous A series Powershot in using a pair of AA batteries for its power source. Each system has it advocates and detractors, advantages and drawbacks. As we've seen the flash recycling time is snail-like and the number of shots you'll get with a with AA alkaline cells is a paltry 150.
The A490 has four shooting modes – Auto, Program, SCN and movie. The Auto mode uses Canon's Intelligent Auto exposure system which identifies the scene in front of the camera. Intelligent Auto determines whether there are people in the scene, if it's a landscape, or if there are subjects very close to the lens, it then analyses the lighting conditions to work out if it's bright or dark and if the main subject is backlit.Program mode drops the scene recognition and provides control over a range of settings falling short of any kind of manual exposure control. User can, however change the ISO sensitivity, white balance, color rendering, metering mode, continuous shooting mode, compression and image size.There are also a variety of scene modes to choose from, 11 on the A490. Scene modes common to both models include Portrait, Night Snapshot, Kids & Pets, Indoor and Beach. Both models also feature Canon's new Low Light scene mode which takes 1600 x 1200 pixel shots at high ISO settings. The A490 also has a Sunset scene mode which goes some way to compensating for the lack of sunset recognition in its Intelligent Auto system. The A490 has vivid colors, and posterized effect scene modes in addition to Face Self-Timer, which starts the self-timer count down when a new face enters the frame.
The A490 provides an acceptable range of sensitivity options, including Auto and user-selected settings for ISO 80 to ISO 1600. ISO 80 and ISO 100 images are essentially the same - display bright colors, slightly flat but balanced native contrast, and low noise levels. There is very minor visible noise/graininess even at low settings. ISO 200 images are also very good, but show just a bit less pop than ISO 80 and 100 images
It provides the user with excellent photos at a very affordable price. It has a reliable auto mode which offers a good picture quality.
The disadvantage it is having is that it is featured with very basic features and offers a very short battery life and is having a low resolution LCD screen. Its slow shooting performance makes it less demanding in market.
Canon PowerShot A490 Silver - User Reviews
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Canon PowerShot A490 Silver Specifications
Auto Focus 5 cm to infinity (W) / 25 cm to Infinity (T)
Focal Length 6.6 - 21.6 mm (35 mm Equivalent to 37 - 122 mm)
Color Filter Primary (RGB) Color Filter
Shooting Modes Auto, Frame Movie Mode, Movie, Program, SCN
Microphone Monaural Microphone
Continuous Shots Up to 0.9 fps
Self Timer 2 sec, 10 sec
Metering Center-Weighted Average or Spot, Evaluative
Sensor Type CCD Sensor
Sensor Size 1/2.3 Inches
Maximum Shutter Speed 1/2000 sec
Optical Zoom 3.3x
Minimum Shutter Speed 15 sec
Digital Zoom 4x
Audio Video Interface A/V Output
ISO Rating Auto / ISO 80 / 100 / 200 / 400 / 800 / 1600
White Balancing Auto, Cloudy, Custom, Day Light, Fluorescent, Fluorescent-H, Tungsten