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Camera Reviews > Canon PowerShot A520
Canon PowerShot A520 Review
Date: June 25, 2005
The Canon PowerShot A520 is a digital
camera targeted to beginner (to serious) amateur
photographers. It has 4.0 megapixel resolution
on a 1/2.5 in. CCD image sensor.
We find the overall image quality of the Canon
PowerShot A520 to be very good for its category,
with excellent image detail and low noise at ISO
|4x Optical Zoom
In the above pictures, we show the coverage for
35mm and then 140mm (35mm equivalent). The Canon
A520 provides 4x optical zoom compared to 3x for
most cameras in this entry-level category.
The Canon A520 lens allows you to focus as close
as 5cm (2 in.) at wide-angle and 30cm (11.8 in.)
at max. telephoto. If you have AiAF on, the camera
will select one of nine AF frames. If you find
that the Canon A520 is selecting to focus on a
different part of your macro subject than what
you intended, we suggest that you turn AiAF off
and use the center AF frame to ensure focus locks
in the center of the frame.
|Auto White Balance
||WB = Tungsten
||WB = Custom
As the above pictures show, the auto white balance
gives warm colours indoors under tungsten light.
Best results are obtained with Custom WB; being
able to set White Balance manually guarantees
true colour reproduction under artificial light.
You won't find this feature in most entry-level
models. Outdoors, under natural light, the AWB
works very well.
crops above (area delimited by the white square)
demonstrate the noise at the available ISO Speeds
of 50, 100, 200 and 400. At ISO 50, as we would
expect, noise is under control. At ISO 100 noise
becomes visible but is still acceptable. Upward,
noise is noticeably present.
There is little to no CA in everyday shots. In
the high contrast shot above, there is some CA
at the corner delimited by the red square at top
right (reproduced at 100% crop at bottom right).
|16mm, Manual, Evaluative,
15 sec., F6.3, ISO 50
Custom WB, 2 sec. Self-Timer, Tripod Used,
The Canon A520 allows the use of a long shutter
speed of up to 15 sec. but only in Shutter Priority
(Tv) and Manual (M) modes. This allows you to
take some nice night shots. Generally, with CCD
image sensors, noise usually becomes more prominent
at slow shutter speeds. The Canon A520 has special
noise reduction (NR) algorithms that automatically
kicks in at shutter speeds slower than 1.3 sec.
and you'll notice a slightly longer processing
time before the next picture can be taken.
To test this noise reduction algorithm, we decided
to take a low-light indoors shot. As usual, Bamm-Bamm
and I had to crawl under my desk to find a dark
spot for a long enough shutter speed of 15 sec.
The NR works quite well, though noise is slightly
visible in the background.
We find that the AF will hunt quite a bit to
lock focus in low-light, even with the use of
the AF-assist Beam. You have to try a number of
times, backing off a bit if necessary, before
the AF frame turns green (green = successful AF
lock; orange = no AF lock).
|1/60, F2.6, ISO 50
||1/60, F2.6, -2/3EV, ISO 50
The Canon A520 has a flash that zooms with the
focal length of the lens. Depending on your personal
preferences, you might want to dial in an exposure
compensation of -1/3EV or -2/3EV when using the
flash for portraits and close-ups.
The last feature we will mention is the histogram.
The histogram is in Playback Mode only. You can
see the histogram by pressing the DISPLAY button
until the histogram displays. The histogram is
invaluable to give an indication of under- and
over-exposure (don't rely on the LCD/EVF since
the brightness is adjustable and may be misleading).
Overall, very good image quality for a 4MP digital
camera: sharp pictures, great image detail, vibrant
colours, well-exposed. For an entry-level digital
camera, the Canon PowerShot A520 rates
very good in image quality and the flexible exposure
control it provides.
The pictures in the Canon A520 Photo Gallery
page provide a good sample of what the Canon A520
is capable of. I have provided samples at 800x600
pixels (compressed to Quality 60/100 in Photoshop
Elements). Remember that this version is of slightly
lesser quality than the original 2272x1704 version.
You can safely assume that most macro shots
and slow shutter speed shots required the use
of a tripod. Any image that is adjusted for levels
in Photoshop has "_adjusted" appended
to the file name.
I have defaulted the image size to 800x600 pixels.
For those who have their monitor resolution set
to 1024x728 pixels, everything should snugly fit
and you should not have to scroll to see the whole
image. If your monitor is set to 800x600 pixels
resolution, start the slide show and then scroll
to the right to position the image within your
screen width. Then, press F11 (if you are using
Internet Explorer) to switch to full screen mode,
and the image should fill your screen nicely.
Press F11 again at any time to switch your monitor
display back to normal mode.
To return to this page from the Photo Gallery,
click on the animated graphics of the camera.
Please open and download the original size version
only if you need to and only once
to your hard drive -- and save me some precious