Canon PowerShot A470 7.1 MP Digital Camera - Gray Reviews
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Canon PowerShot A470 7.1 MP Digital Camera - Gray

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Canon PowerShot A470 7.1-Megapixel Digital Camera - Inexpensive and Excellent

Mar 24, 2008 (Updated Mar 26, 2009)
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review
  • User Rating: Excellent

  • Ease of Use:
  • Durability:
  • Battery Life:
  • Photo Quality:

Pros:Price, optics, resolution, features, performance, build quality, 2.5" LCD

Cons:Slow flash recharge, no dedicated zoom control, noise

The Bottom Line: I highly recommend the Canon PowerShot A470 if you need an inexpensive yet capable compact camera that produces very good photos with print sizes of...


It is difficult to go wrong with any Canon camera. Since I liked the last year's 5-Megapixel Canon PowerShot A460, I got the latest 7.1-Megapixel Canon PowerShot A470 to see how much of an improvement it is. I bought it for only $115, which is $20 lower than what the previous model cost me and a pretty low price for a good camera. But the question is can you get a good camera for such a small amount? I remember the time when point and shoot film cameras cost more. Let's find out¡.

What is Canon PowerShot A470?

The Canon PowerShot A470 is a 7.1-Megapixel compact digital camera with a 3.4x optical zoom (38-132 mm equivalent), 2.5-inch LCD screen, no viewfinder, new version of the acclaimed Canon DiG!C III (Digic 3) Image Processor, and a variety of shooting modes including Auto, Camera M, Scene Modes, Super Macro, Movie.

You can also adjust parameters like Exposure Compensation, White Balance, ISO, etc. The A460 stores pictures on SD (Secure Digital) or MultiMedia memory cards (32 MB MMC supplied) and features USB connection to PC and Mac computers. It also supports direct printing (without computer) with PictBridge compatible printers. It is an update on the last year's successful Canon A460 (5 Megapixels and 2-inch screen).

The camera is powered by two AA batteries (alkaline batteries included, rechargeable NiMH recommended). In comparison with the last year's A460, the A470 has higher resolution (7.1MP vs. 5MP) and larger LCD (2.5-inch vs. 2-inch). Some things were reduced though: the optical zoom was reduced from 4x to 3.4x and the optical viewfinder was removed.

Features

In addition to newly-introduced face detection, this model also includes motion compensation feature. The Canon PowerShot A470 features a 3.4x optical zoom (38-132 mm in 35mm equivalent with maximum apertures f/3-f/5.8). The camera uses 2 AA-type batteries.

As always, rechargeable NiMH batteries are recommended for longer battery life, saving environment and your money. I use 2300 NiMH Rayovac rechargeable batteries. The camera has a bright low-light focus assist illuminator that helps it focus in low light. The camera features selectable Evaluative, Center-Weighted Average and Spot metering modes. It has a shutter speed range of 15-1/2,000 sec and selectable ISO of 80-1,600 as well as Auto ISO.

The camera also has a Macro mode where it can focus as close as 2 inches (5 cm) at wide angle or 18.5 inches (45 cm) at telephoto. The available movie mode records movies with sound at 640x480 20 fps., 320x240 30 fps. up to 60 mins or 4 GB or 160x120 15 fps. for up to 3 minutes. The sound is mono.

Getting Started

The camera comes with 2 disposable AA batteries and a 32 MB MMC memory card. I never use disposable batteries with digital cameras and reserve them for things like remote controls instead, where they will last much longer. I inserted my own Rayovac 2300 mAh NiMH rechargeable batteries and a Kingston Elite Pro 2 GB 50x Secure Digital Card, set the date and time and was ready to shoot.

As the other cameras by Canon, the A470 is very easy to use. You power it by using the on/off button on the top deck use the shutter release button (also located on the top deck) to take pictures. The Auto mode takes care of the rest.

I have not read the manual but was able to use all of the camera's features since it is very easy to use, especially if you are familiar with Canon menus, which are similar for different models. The fast Digic 3 processor makes operation a breeze. It is fast and provides excellent menus and legible icons, not to mention good battery life.

About the Camera

The camera is inexpensive. Generally, inexpensive cameras lack something. Sometimes it is optical quality, which reflects on the picture quality. Canon never skimps on that. But there are areas where the money was saved, namely the zoom control/buttons and optical viewfinder. Or lack of thereof.

Just as its predecessors (A430, A460), the A470 has no dedicated zoom control, but reuses the menu control disk. You zoom in and out by pressing on the upper or lower part of the disk. Not very convenient, but it works. The camera also no longer has an optical zooming viewfinder. But it does retain the focus assist light and a physical mode wheel as well as a USB, DC power and an A/V jack. How much would it add to the price of the camera if Canon added dedicated zoom control? Even if it was 10% of the price, it would be worth it.

Not a very big deal however, and the some Fuji cameras use an even worse arrangement where you have to use a little joystick to zoom (same control is used for menu navigation), which I find much worse. The lack of optical viewfinder is also not a big deal since most users do not employ it anyway.

The camera has a nice-looking and durable metal/polycarbonate body that is compact and convenient to hold. The camera has a retractable lens that extends and has a lens cover that opens when the camera is powered on. When the camera is powered off, the lens retracts and the lens cover closes. The body is not as compact or sturdy as metal bodies of Canon Digital Elph line, but it is much cheaper and (surprise) features better optics.

The camera has an on/off button on the top deck as well as a large shutter release button. The bottom of the camera has a threaded tripod mount.

The rear has a mode wheel, which can be set to Review mode, Auto mode, Manual Mode (which is really Program mode), Scene Modes or Movie Mode. The back of the camera also houses a, no longer moderately-large, 2.5-inch LCD monitor and control buttons, including the menu control disk. The buttons are clearly marked and have good tactile feel. Still present the prominent button for direct printing with a compatible printer, with no computer needed.

Performance

The A470 takes about 2 seconds to power on and can capture images at about two-second intervals without flash or about 7-10 seconds with flash. The focusing takes less than a second at either wide angle or telephoto in good light. In dim light, the camera still focuses in under a second, using its bright focus-assist light.

In its burst mode, the camera can take photos at 1.9 fps rate (about 2 frames per second) with no flash use. Flash recycle takes 7-10 seconds and depends on the battery charge.

The shutter lag, when pre-focused, is almost non-existent. The zooming from wide angle to telephoto (or back) takes about 3 seconds and is responsive, but has fewer steps than I would like. The 3.4x optical zoom is relatively versatile but I wish for more of a wide angle (even if Canon would have to sacrifice some telephoto ability).

Generally, the performance feels good. The flash recycling time is slow overall, but is the same as other cameras that use 2 AA batteries. It seems that you have to either use a camera with 4 AA batteries or a proprietary battery pack to get better flash recycle times.

Flash

The camera has a built-in flash that has an effective red-eye reduction mode and is sufficient at up to 10-12 feet away. It has a recycle time of about 7-10 seconds and the red-eye correction features, including the playback-based red-eye removal.

Power

According to Canon, the camera can take more than 400 pictures on one charge of high-capacity NiMH batteries or 150 using disposable alkaline batteries. I was able to take more than 170 photos using my 2300 mAh NiMH batteries and the low battery warning has not appeared yet (the camera has no real battery status indicator since it is difficult to figure out what battery you are using and how long it will last, unlike using proprietary batteries with some other cameras).

I expect that you will be able to achieve the number of photos per charge that Canon claims and maybe even beat at if you use high-capacity NiMH batteries, use flash only when you have to and do not keep the camera on for long periods of time for no good reason.

Ease Of Use

The camera can be used by any member of the family and by photographers of all levels of expertise from novices to advanced ones. It will not give you direct control over aperture of shutter speed and will not even show them to you. But you can use the exposure compensation to make the photos brighter or darker.

The camera can be used in full auto mode (by rotating the mode dial to Auto position), where it is extremely easy to use. In this mode the camera sets all parameters automatically and you only have to point and shoot.

You press the shutter release button halfway to make camera focus and the camera shows you (on the LCD screen) where it focused by displaying one or more green rectangles. Then you take the picture by pressing the shutter release button all the way. The camera can use its face detection feature to focus on people's faces and this feature works really well. You can also use the center-point focusing if you'd like.

You can go one step further and select an appropriate scene mode (e.g. Portrait, Landscape, Snow, Beach, Fireworks, Kids & Pets, etc.) to let camera know what effect you want to use.

You can also use the M mode, which is not really a Manual mode, but rather Program mode with control over White Balance, ISO, Exposure Compensation, etc. In fact, in most modes you can use Exposure Compensation to make pictures the camera takes brighter or darker.

Just as the Digital Elph cameras (e.g. SD850 IS, SD1000, etc.), this model has no manual focusing, no Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority or Manual mode. But you can select the ISO is you want. In any case, that does not prevent one from taking good pictures.

Picture Quality

I usually take photos that contain all primary colors at different focal lengths, apertures and compression ratios. Some photos are taken outdoors, some indoors with and without flash.

Oftentimes, I take a bunch of photos from my balcony. Those photos features all colors: blue sky, green foliage, red curbs, yellow fire hydrant and cars of different colors.

Taking photos at different focal lengths and apertures reveals the camera's optical quality: corner sharpness, chromatic aberrations, overall sharpness.

Taking photos at different ISO settings shows how well a given camera can keep noise levels low in dim light. I mostly evaluate the image quality using my computer monitor, but I also print some photos at different sizes using either my printer or online services like Snapfish and Costco's online photo center.

This model produces excellent, sharp, contrasty and richly-colored photos. Unlike some other cameras (including Canon SD Digital Elph series) that have noticeably softer edges of the frame, the photos taken with the A460 are sharp corner to corner. Although the camera is inexpensive, it does not reflect on the sharpness of the optics, at least until you start comparing it with much more expensive, large cameras.

The camera produces photos that have a pleasing "Canon" color with slight oversaturation and the kind of color consumers like. There is a fair amount of chromatic aberration (purple fringing) in the areas of high contrast.

The camera uses a 1/2.5-inch 7.1-Megapixel CCD, which is physically larger than the sensor used in the previous model. It shows in the improvement in noise levels. No longer can I see noise at ISO 80 in patches of solid color (when viewed at full resolution). The noise does appear and gets progressively worse at higher ISO settings. I find 7.1-Megapixel ISO 400 photos good for 6x4 prints, and ISO 80-100 is acceptable for enlargements (e.g. 8x10). The drawback of the larger CCD size while keeping dimension in check is, of course, telephoto range, which is still not bad at 132mm.

Image Quality Settings

Just as the rest of the Canon cameras, the A470 lets you select between SuperFine, Fine and Standard compression levels (regardless of resolution). The Standard JPEG can be safely used for smaller (6x4) prints. The Fine and SuperFine are larger in size and can be used for enlargements or for editing/cropping.

White Balance

The camera's automatic white balance is usually quite accurate with the exception of the incandescent lighting, where you are better off either selecting Incandescent white balance setting. This is rather typical situation for compact digital cameras. The face detection also works with white balance to make skin tones pleasing.

Focusing

You can let camera focus using its face detection and the camera will show you green rectangles over the areas where it focused so that you can confirm the focus areas (faces). You can also switch to the 1-point focusing.

The arrow left button switches the camera to Macro mode when pushed once, and to the infinity focus mode when pushed again.

Build Quality and Ergonomics

The camera has a solid feel and good build quality. The rotating mode dial requires good amount of effort. Even the memory card/battery compartment door is solid. The camera is convenient to hold and its compact size lets you put it in a jacket pocket or a purse easily. The major controls are within easy reach and the tactile response is good. The lack of a dedicated zoom control takes some getting used to but once you get used to it, you will have no problem.

Menu System

I have not read the manual, yet was able to use the camera in all modes. I find the menus less easy to use than Panasonic's (e.g. Panasonic DMC-FZ series). But the menus are self-explanatory and still fairly easy to use. Plus if you use the camera's default Auto mode (which is a typical use for the camera's target user base), you will not have to use menus.

LCD

The camera has a 2inch non-articulated (fixed) LCD screen (there is no optical viewfinder). The LCD coverage as about 100% - you can see exactly what will be recorded. The LCD has good visibility and fairly low resolution. It increases brightness in low light (gains-up) and is rather fluid.

Computer Connectivity

The camera uses USB 2.0 connection to transfer pictures to a computer. You can also remove the SD memory card and use a memory card reader (if you have one), which I do. I do not use the software that was provided with the camera since I have Adobe Photoshop CS2. I have not tested the USB transfer speed of the camera itself.

Bottom Line

I highly recommend the Canon PowerShot A470 if you need an inexpensive yet capable compact camera that produces very good photos with print sizes of up 8x10 inches, has 3.4x optical zoom and uses two AA batteries. It is easy to use. But if you need more manual control or faster flash recharge times, check out the Canon A650 IS.


Recommend this product? Yes


Amount Paid (US$): 115
This Camera is a Good Choice if You Want Something... Easy Enough for Anyone to Use


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