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You are hereHome> Digital Camera Reviews > Canon PowerShot A520

Canon Digital Cameras


Canon PowerShot A520 Review

Review Date: June 25, 2005

Category: Beginner to Serious Amateur

Canon PowerShot A520

Photoxels Editor's Choice 2005 Award

User's Experience

Monday, Jun 13, 2005 - Here's what I receive in the box:

  • PowerShot A520
  • Wrist Strap
  • 2 AA Alkaline Batteries
  • 16MB MultiMedia (MMC) Card
  • Interface Cables: A/V; USB
  • Documentation: None
  • Software CDs: Digital Camera Solution 22.0; ArcSoft PhotoStudio 5.5

The Canon PowerShot A520 is a very interesting camera to review. It is targeted to entry-level users (with an entry-level price) but it comes equipped with many of the features found on more expensive models. Are these just "paper features" or actually usable and practical features?

If you are new to digital photography and are wondering which digital camera to start with -- look no further. A quick look at the specifications of the Canon A520 reveals a feature-packed digital camera that allows you to go beyond point-and-shoot -- and all the advanced features work exactly as they should.

Here are the settings I use that I find (for me, at least) bring the best out of the Canon A520. Note that I use the Programmed Auto shooting mode (P):

Rec. Menu

MENU (Rec. Menu tab):

  • AiAF = Off
  • Red-eye = On (if you are taking portraits) otherwise Off
  • MF-Point Zoom = On
  • AF-assist Beam = On
  • Digital Zoom = Off
  • Review = 3 sec. or turn it off to reduce shot to shot time

Set up

MENU (Set up tab):

  • Mute = On
  • Power Saving: Auto Power Down = On; Display Off = 1 min.
  • File No. Reset = Off
  • Auto Rotate = Off (the intelligent orientation sensor automatically rotates portrait shots -- I personally find this annoying, especially when taking macro shots as it keeps changing orientation on me)


  • Exposure Compensation = 0
  • White Balance = AWB
  • Drive Mode = Single
  • ISO = 50
  • Effect = Off
  • Metering = Evaluative
  • Image Size = 2272x1704 (L)
  • Image Quality = Superfine

Plus, I also have Flash turned Off by default (use the Up arrow key to set this).

The included 16MB MMC memory card holds about 17 SuperFine Large (2272x1704) images. I recommed you either get a 256MB or 512MB SD card (the 256MB SD card holds about 120 SuperFine Large pictures).

Argos Cheerleaders: 1/50 sec., F3.2, and ISO 50
Argos Cheerleaders
7.8mm, Program AE, Evaluative, 1/50 sec., F3.2 and ISO 50

OK, things I like on the Canon A520:

  • Consistently gives very good to excellent image quality
  • No practical shutter lag
  • 4x optical zoom
  • Look & Feel is classy with two-tone silver colours
  • Solid construction
  • Handles well with user-friendly controls
  • Intuitive -- even when you have to go into the menu for a particular feature, it's where you expect it to be
  • Uses only 2 AA batteries with excellent power consumption
  • Full exposure flexibility -- all these advanced features work the way they're supposed to
  • Choice of 2 sec., 10 sec. or custom self-timer. I usually use the 2 sec. in macro photography: long enough to eliminate camera shake, not so long that the ladybug has time to crawl off screen.
  • Histogram in Playback Mode is a very good way to judge whether your image is under-, over- or correctly exposed.
  • Best value for money

Things to improve:

  • It can sometimes be difficult to achieve focus lock in low-light situations (even with AF-assist Beam), especially at the long-end of the zoom or in macro mode. I usually just ease up on the zoom a bit or physically back up the camera in macro mode to instantly achieve focus lock.
  • Would be nice if LCD monitor gains up more in low-light

The Canon PowerShot A520 is definitely a family camera with point-and-shoot simplicity for all those family events -- and the option to get more serious about photography the rest of the time. It's the perfect camera for a beginner to start on the exciting journey of digital photography, and one of the best value for money.

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