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Canon PowerShot A520

At a Glance
  • Generic Company Place Holder Canon PowerShot A520 Compact Camera

    TechHive Rating

Canon PowerShot A520
Photograph: Rick Rizner

The $300 Canon PowerShot A520 is an affordable point-and-shoot for the budding photography student. This camera is essentially a 4-megapixel version of the $200 PowerShot A510 (a 3.2-megapixel camera that won a Best Buy in our May 2005 issue). The two cameras are so similar, they come with the same manual.

Where they diverge slightly is in image quality. The A520 scored higher than the A510 in our lab tests for its color accuracy and sharpness in our image quality tests. And while the A510 scored significantly below the average for point-and-shoot cameras on its outdoor shot, the A520's score was in the middle of the pack.

The A520's 4X zoom is generous for a point-and-shoot in this price range, and the camera has 13 scene modes. You don't have to navigate the menus to access the most common modes (portrait, landscape, night portrait, sports, and slow shutter)--they are accessed directly using a dial on top of the camera. To access one of the other eight modes, you simply turn the dial to SCN and select from the LCD menu.

The A520 allows you to adjust the exposure, which is well suited to beginners who want to learn about photography instead of relying on scene modes all the time. In addition to including shutter-priority and aperture-priority modes, the A520 also has a full-automatic mode that allows the user to adjust both the shutter speed and the aperture. Like the A510, the A520 offers a wide aperture range (f2.6 to f8.0) and a broad shutter range (15 seconds to 1/2000 second) for the price. However, the A520 doesn't offer automatic exposure bracketing, a useful feature that would have been a nice touch. Also, the shutter lag was long enough to frustrate our attempts to capture fast action.

At 8 ounces with the batteries, this model is light enough to carry comfortably as you practice your shooting skills. You many need to carry extra batteries, however. Running on two AA alkaline batteries, the A520 lasted just 198 shots in our tests--shorter than any other point-and-shoot camera in this test set, where the average was 350 shots.

Canon offers a variety of accessories for the A520, including wide-angle ($99), telephoto ($129), and close-up ($120) converters. To attach one of these, you have to remove a plastic ring around the lens and attach a $20 lens adapter tube. Also, you can buy a waterproof housing for $159 that promises to protect the camera at depths up to 130 feet. Canon also offers an external, high-power flash unit for $109.

With many manual controls, the full-featured but compact PowerShot A520 is a good deal for beginning photographers.

Canon PowerShot A520

4.0 megapixels, 2272 by 1704 maximum resolution, 35mm to 140mm focal range (35mm equivalent), f2.6 to f8.0 maximum aperture range, shutter speeds from 15 seconds to 1/2000 second, optical and LCD viewfinders, USB connection, MultiMedia Card slot, disposable AA batteries, 6.4 ounces with battery, Canon Camera Solutions Disk (Zoom Browser EX, PhotoRecord, and PhotoStitch). One-year parts and labor warranty, 11-hour weekday toll-free support.

Eric Butterfield

This story, "Canon PowerShot A520" was originally published by PCWorld.

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At a Glance
  • TechHive Rating

    Offers many manual controls and features, and performs well except for very limited battery life.

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