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Canon PowerShot A510 Digital Camera
The IXUS 510 HS is an amazing compact camera with beautiful styling and featuring a 12x optical zoom, allowing you to get closer to the... Read More
The IXUS 510 HS is an amazing compact camera with beautiful styling and featuring a 12x optical zoom, allowing you to get closer to the action. The IXUS 510 HS also features full high definition movie recording, 10.1-megapixel high- sensitivity CMOS sensor, DiG!C 5 image processor and intelligent IS.Get closer to the action with a 12x optical zoom in a super slim camera and capture spectacular landscape shots with a 28 mm wide lens. 10.1-megapixel with high sensitivity CMOS for better noise reduction delivering outstanding quality images in low light. A 3.2-inch type touches LCD with 461k dots for intuitive shooting, crystal clear playback and viewing. Minimize
46 Reviews from Epinions.com
May 24, 2005
"Digital Camera of the Year"
Pros: Overall good build. Excellent features and image quality for the price.
Cons: Battery compartment door a little wobbly. Hand grip a bit cramped.
The Bottom Line:
For $199.00 this little camera comes close to professional quality, and will make an excellent choice from beginner to advanced user looking for a second backup camera.
A while back, Canon started their "A" series of cameras, and from day one they've been very popular. They are small but not so small they're hard to hold, feature rich yet can be operated in full auto mode, and take usually take excellent photos. I once did a review on their award winning A70, which turned out to be one of the most widely sold digital cameras at that time a couple of years back. Shortly after they upgraded it to a model A75 which really just involved a couple of very minor tweaks, so any comparisons I make here will be with the A70. The newest model, the A510, is reviewed here, and incorporates some more pronounced changes to the A series.
First we'll start with what you get. In the box is of course the A510 camera, a wrist strap, a 16 meg (small capacity) Multi Media memory card, a pair of alkaline batteries, USB cable for photo downloading, video cables for TV viewing, and the Canon image and download software CD (more below). Right off the bat you'll want to invest in a larger memory card. With this new generation of A models, Canon is making a switch from the physically larger Compact Flash memory cards, to the tiny postage stamp sized Secure Digital and/or Multi Media cards. They're both the same size and shape, but Secure Digital cards tend to be faster, and have a small switch on the side which you can slide down to keep your photos from being overwritten. More on this later. You will also want to invest in a set of Ni-MH rechargeable batteries and a charger, which these days can be found at any store like Wal-mart, Target, Circuit City, etc. The larger the "mah" rating on the batteries, the more power they hold per charge, so try to find those rated at 2100 mah or higher.
The package does include the software CD which has basic image and video editing software suites on it, as well as a program from Canon that allows you to create panoramic photos (a longer photo from a series of photos you "stitch" together). While this software does give you all of the basics you need to start downloading and do some very basic editing and enhancing of your photos, you may wish to consider buying a 3rd party image editing program. Two excellent recommendations for those who are not afraid to dig in and learn a little bit, are Adobe's Photoshop Elements 3.0, and Jasc/Corel title Paint Shop Pro 9. Both are available directly from the makers, but shop around because places like Sam's Club and Costco sometimes carry them at a discount.
WHAT'S NEW AND EXCITING?:
The A510 is a slightly slimmer version of it's older brother the A70. At just barely over 3.5 inches long and 2.5 inches tall, it's certainly small enough to fit into larger pockets or a purse. The hand grip is also slimmer than the older A models, being a more curved grip that doesn't stick out as much. It's just a little cramped for those with huge fingers, but not so much that you can't use the camera once you get used to it. The color LCD screen on the back is now 1.8 inches (the A70 used a 1.5 inch screen) and is adequately bright and clear. Instead of four navigation buttons on the back there is now a navipad (wheel) with a "set" button in the middle to save your settings, as well as the usual menu and function buttons that allow you to access the camera settings such as resolution, photo quality, iso (similar to film speed on film cameras), and other functions.
The older 3X optical zooms have now been replaced with a new 4X zoom which equals 35mm to 140mm on a film camera. So there's no extra wide angle added for interior or landscape shots, but there is some extra on the zoom end. The camera offers an auto focus assist light that illuminates in low light conditions to help the camera focus, but I've always found the AF assist lights on the A series to be quite weak, and usually not effective past 3.5 feet or so, so don't rely on this too heavily if trying to take photos in dark conditions; it's better than no AF light though, and many makers are still not including this feature on their cameras. The built-in flash has been tweaked a bit on the A510 as well, and adjusts itself when using the zoom to better illuminate the subject matter over previous models.
While the older A series models used four AA sized batteries for power, the new A series only use two. Improved power management claims by Canon to allow the new models to get over 300 shots on a fully charged pair of Ni-MH batteries, provided the flash isn't used too much. I didn't take 300 shots with the unit I had bought as a gift, but after taking around 75 shots and using the LCD and flash quite a bit, the battery indicator showed no signs of losing power. Good job, Canon! As mentioned above, the switch from Compact Flash memory cards to Secure Digital cards was necessary to lower the overall size of the camera, but is controversial as well. Those who owned older A models who have collected a few Compact Flash cards may not appreciate having to go out to buy a new format. Prices are coming down however, and you can get a whopping one gigabyte (1000 megabyte) Secure Digital card from places like Costco, for under $90.00, or smaller capacity cards for less. As mentioned earlier, Multi Media cards are the same size and shape and can also be used, but they run a bit slower, and are slowing fading out of the stores in my area at least.
FEATURES AND PHOTO QUALITY:
The A510 offers still photo settings that range from a small 640 x 480 photo size (for emailing or web pages) all the way up to around 3 megapixels at 2048 x 1536 pixels. There are a variety of quality settings as well, and I recommend you set the camera via the menu to "super fine" quality and leave it there, as this will allow the maximum quality for prints. The lens is very good, and images turn out nice and clear, with sharpness that rivals some other makers 4 megapixel cameras. Prints of 4 x 6 and 5 x 7 inches are excellent, and prints up to 8 x 10 are good for all but the most picky people. I'm somewhat of a critical buffoon, and I have to say that I was very impressed with the images the A510 put out. Colors are good, sharpness very good as mentioned, and there was no detectable softness along the edges of the pictures, which is something you do sometimes see on cameras in this price range these days.
The mode dial on top of the camera has a fully automatic setting where you can allow the camera to do all of the thinking for you, but also offers partial or full manual controls for when you wish to experiment or be creative. There are some preset "scene modes" for things like beach, snow, fireworks, indoor shots, and more, for those who want to forego manually setting the camera for these conditions.
Along with being able to take still shots, the A510 has a movie mode which will allow you to take movie clips up to a size of 640 x 480 pixels in size - large enough to show up well on a standard TV set. Regular camcorders take video at 30 frames per second, and the A510 video clips are recorded at the full size at only 10 frames per second, so, they're going to be a bit choppy when watching them. In other words, they're good as far as clarity goes, but will not compete with a dedicated camcorders video quality as far as the smoothness of motion is concerned, so the A510 should not be considered a camcorder replacement.
Video also takes up quite a lot of memory - around 1 megabyte per SECOND, so if you plan on taking a large number of video clips at full size, you should consider investing in one of the larger memory cards of 512 megs to 1 gigabyte in size. If the video function does not really interest you, you can save money on memory as a standard 256 meg card will allow you to take around 150 photos at full quality and resolution.
If you want more zoom, or extra wide angle capabilities from the A510, then accessory lenses are available. Just screw off the the ring that surrounds the lens on the camera, and attach a lens adapter tube. You can use this alone, and just attach 52mm sized filters to the end of it, or, attach either the Canon wide angle lens, or telephoto lenses to increase the lens capabilities. Please note that a new adapter tube is required for the A510 to work with these lenses - older adapter tubes for some previous A model cameras may not work due to the A510's new 4X lens sticking a bit further out when extended than previous models. If you own an A70 and by chance had the wide angle lens, it is the same and will work on the A510, but you will again, need the new adapter tube linked above as opposed to the old one the A70 used (sorry).
Well, not many, but there are a couple, and they are mostly design related.
First, the new battery compartment door. The previous A models held the batteries in the bottom of the camera, and the battery door rested flush with the camera body, fitting rather snugly once closed and latched. The A510 (and 4 megapixel version A520) bodies now have battery doors that are also on the bottom, but simply close against the body via a hinge - not flush INTO the body as with the previous models. As a result, there is just a bit of what I would call "looseness" to the door. No, it won't pop open on you - it latches as it should. It does however, slightly move back and forth when closed. Many people will pay little attention to this, and a few will be bothered by it. It really depends on the individual, but to a small degree it does add a slight feeling of cheapness to the overall build. Otherwise, the camera feels solid.
The hand grip area as mentioned earlier is a bit snug. If you use the adapter tube and accessory lenses mentioned above, then things could get a bit cramped if you have large fingers. You'll get used to it, but Mr. Canon... "don't make it any smaller!".
The only other issue is the tripod screw mount on the bottom of the camera. On previous models this mount was in the center of the body, and on the new A models it's off to one side. Since the cameras don't really weigh much, this doesn't cause the camera to lean a bit as it might with heavier cameras, but still, you get a more secure feeling when it's in the center. It's plastic as well, and I'd personally like to see a metal mount.
WHO IS THE A510 FOR? CONCLUSION:
This is a very versatile all-around camera, that could be a nice primary camera for anyone who wants very good quality images and prints up to 5 x 7 inches in size, and even overall good 8 x 10 prints as well. As discussed, it can be used in full auto mode so the non-techies in the family can just pick it up and aim, shoot, and be done with it. With the partial and full manual control options, the more experienced family photographers can get creative too, so it's a great camera for a variety of users. Even seasoned pros who have more expensive cameras may find this a fun "everyday" camera to carry around when you don't want to lug around the big guns.
Now the price - the A510 is only $199.00 as of May 2005, and some shops are shaving just a few dollars here and there off of that. This is a very good price for a camera with this many features and image quality, and at the time of this writing I can't think of any other model from any other maker that offers this much for this price (not a Canon suck-up, just the truth). From Best Buy, to Circuit City, to your neighborhood Wal-mart, this model is being sold pretty much anywhere that digicams are sold, and I predict it will be one of the hottest selling gifts of this upcoming Christmas season, and for 2005 camera sales in general. The price is right - I recommend it.
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