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Canon PowerShot A510

At a Glance
  • Generic Company Place Holder Canon PowerShot A510 Compact Camera

Canon PowerShot A510
Photograph: Rick Rizner

The Canon PowerShot A510 won't win any best-of-breed honors, but at $200 this compact camera with good features is an exceptional bargain, so much so that we awarded it a Best Buy in the May 2005 issue.

An upgrade of Canon's PowerShot A75, the 3.2-megapixel A510 is a pleasant example of getting more for less. Its 4X optical zoom (almost unheard of in cameras in this price range) is a very nice step up from the A75's 3X. The A510 also shows that less can be more: It's about a half-inch shorter in width--a reduction Canon accomplished mostly by reducing the battery count from four AAs to two. Not surprisingly, it also cut the battery life by well over half, as the A510 lasted a paltry 130 shots in our test.

Functionally, the two cameras are very similar. A top-mounted mode dial lets you select full-automatic, programmed-auto, aperture-priority, shutter-priority, or full-manual exposure control. You can also select from five scene modes listed on the dial, or select SCN and choose from eight more. Also present is movie mode, which records at 640 by 480 and 15 frames per second. In addition, the A510 holds over another feature that is uncommon for inexpensive point-and-shoots: the capability to take accessory lenses. Pushing a button on the front of the A510 and removing a plastic ring around the lens reveals a bayonet mount for a $129 telephoto converter or a $99 wide-angle converter.

Canon kept the nicely organized menu system that was on the previous model (and that has become standard on the company's cameras). A Function button pops up a single screen of commonly used settings, such as exposure value compensation, resolution, ISO, and white balance. You access other, less-often-used settings through the separate Menu button. The arrangement generally works well and is quick to use. However, the A510 omits one useful feature that we'd expect to see in a camera with semiautomatic and manual exposure controls: automatic exposure bracketing.

The A510 is quick to start up and shut down, taking about 2 seconds for each. When shooting, we encountered noticeable shutter lag--enough to be a potential problem for fast-action shots. But the zoom worked smoothly, and the autofocus was generally speedy and accurate.

Except for image sharpness, the A510 scored fairly well in our photo tests. Its exposure accuracy was good, and the colors it reproduced of our still-life and outdoor scenes were generally pleasing. Our formal portrait shot looked a bit on the cool side. When we took indoor snapshots at a staff party, about half looked great, while the other half seemed a little too warm.

All of the shots had a slight softness to them--with many of the point-and-shoots we review moving to 4 and 5 megapixels, the limitations of 3-megapixel models are becoming more apparent. That said, you can certainly produce an attractive 8-by-10-inch print with the A510. If you want a bit more insurance for times when you crop and enlarge, you can move up to the 4-megapixel PowerShot A520 for $100 more.

As you might expect of a camera in the $200-and-under price range, Canon provides few extras with the A510; the 16MB SD Card is just enough to get you started. Canon's bundled Digital Camera Solution is a cut above the software that comes with most cameras. It's a fine starter package for downloading, editing, and printing images; it's also what you use to merge photos taken with the A510's stitch-assist mode into panoramas.

With its small size and its fine selection of controls, the Canon PowerShot A510 is an attractive package. It would make a great starter model for nascent hobbyist photographers who want to keep their camera investment low.

Tracey Capen

This story, "Canon PowerShot A510" was originally published by PCWorld.

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At a Glance
  • Generic Company Place Holder Canon PowerShot A510 Compact Camera

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