So, what do I want out of my next laptop and what must it include?
Canon PowerShot A580
- Sharp pictures, minimal chromatic aberration, motion detection, custom white balance
- Some colour issues, noise a little higher than normal
A solid entry-level camera, the Canon PowerShot A580 takes good shots and offers most of the features a beginner needs at an affordable price.
Price$ 229.00 (AUD)
Sporting an 8-megapixel sensor and a low price tag, Canon's latest PowerShot model is another solid entry-level advanced camera. While it does little to really improve upon past PowerShot models that isn't necessarily a bad thing and the combination of good image quality, a 4x zoom and manual features make it a reasonable choice for users looking for a bit of an all-purpose photography solution.
Canon cameras have, on the whole, set the benchmark for image quality in the compact camera space. The A580, while not the best we've seen, performed well and should satisfy most users.
Its pictures came out extremely crisp and sharp with minimal softening towards the edges of the frame. They were clear enough to make sizeable enlargements, well up to A4 size. At times they were perhaps a little over-sharpened, but this wasn't particularly problematic unless you're a fan of the softer more filmic look.
Chromatic aberration was fairly well controlled too. We spotted some minor haloing in high contrast areas during our indoor shots but purple fringing wasn't really too prominent outdoors.
Colour balance was a little disappointing; not up to Canon's usual high standards even using the custom white balance mode. Colours were strongly saturated and a little on the pale side which was particularly obvious in shades of red and green, although using the colour modes (vivid, natural, etc) this can be tweaked to some degree. On the whole everything still looked pretty good.
Exposure performance was typical for a compact camera. Some highlights were a little blown out but detail in dark areas was fairly well rendered. Due to the lower price point this camera doesn't benefit from technologies such as shadow adjustment, which may be found on more expensive units, but nonetheless it performs well in this regard.
Image noise was a little higher than normal, but nothing out of the ordinary. There were small traces of chroma noise evident at ISO 200 but it wasn't at all problematic till ISO 400 and even then we'd be happy making regular 4x6in prints out of the shots. By ISO 800 it became much more prominent while ISO 1600 just produced a grainy blur.
In our speed tests the A580 performed admirably. It exhibited a speedy 0.08 seconds of shutter lag and a lightning quick 1.4 seconds between shots. The power-up time was also very respectable at 1.7 seconds.
Unlike some of the more expensive PowerShot models, this unit doesn't have full aperture and shutter controls. It does, however, offer a nice array of other features, including face detect with motion tracking – which can lock onto and follow a face around – and the aforementioned custom white balance. A variety of scene modes are also on offer as well as colour and focus options and the burst mode operates at around 2.2 frames per second.
Aesthetically the A580 reflects its price tag a little, with a plain, silver plastic body that is uninspiring to say the least. On the plus side, its curved grip and solid feel means it rests comfortably in the hand and the controls are all easily accessible and intuitive. As with most PowerShot models, this unit runs off AA batteries, so factor the extra cost into your purchase.
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