Low-cost, basic point-n-shoot camera with good video
Oct 4, 2010 (Updated Oct 8, 2010)
Review by denniskly
Rated a Very Helpful Review
Although I already have a compact camera(Canon G11), it’s still too bulky to carry around, so, I look for a sub-compact camera that can be easily put into a pocket, a basic, no-frill, point-n-shoot and has to be cheap. After a long search I come up with a $99 Canon Powershot A495. I've been using it for a while and here's my report:
Recommend this product?
To me A495 is a little bit bulky, compared to other competitiors within the price range of $100 - $130. I think it is probably because this camera uses 2 AA batteries instead of a rechargeable battery(more about this later). It's also a bit heavier. However, these do not bother me a bit. Sub-compact camera nowadays are so light and small that bigger or smaller a little does not make a big deal. The camera feels good in my hand, the grip is firm. The body is not made mostly by metal as more expensive ones, but it doesn't look or feel cheap. The base has a socket that can be mounted on regular tripod.
A495 is a 10 megapixels camera. I don't expect and don't even want a $99 camera has 10M. Manufacturers try to promote sales by pushing as much megapixels on digital cameras, but you can see right away that sub-compact cameras like A495 don't have an optical structure good enough to support 3648x2736(10M) resolution. Sure, you can get a picture this big but the quality is not there. To me, even more advanced cameras like Canon G-series can't even support this 10M resolution. So, I don't judge a camera by its resolution.
I captured pictures at 1600x1200 (much lower than the max resolution 3648x2736) and compared with pictures of my G11. To my surprise A495's quality is not much far behind, especially on perfect sunny day.
In low light or when using flash the picture quality suffers but at this price range I think it's still better than expected. I also remark that if I don’t hold the camera very still, the picture is easily blurred. Of course, when a camera is shaken any picture would be blurred, but more advanced cameras have Image Stabilizer feature that can help. A495 doesn't have Image Stabilizer. I don't expect a camera at this price to have that feature, but if you think you need one you may consider A495’s sister, the Canon A3100($130 at Best Buy). In automatic mode A495 chooses the appropriate shooting mode among more than a dozen scene modes and applies the optimum settings to get the best picture.
In general, easy and intuitive. The four-way dial works real well. For basic functions when using automatic mode, you probably don’t need the manual since all buttons are arranged and labeled smartly.When using the camera the first time, the only things you need to do are settings up the current date and probably the picture size(the default is the max size 3648x2736, which is too big to me), and this is the time you need to consult the manual. A good feature about playback button: A495 has a separate button that lets you playback your (already captured) pictures without opening the lense. Many cameras still extend the lens even on playback mode. When you want to review the photos you don’t shoot any picture, so the lens extension is unecessary since it wears out the lens motor.
I have a complaint about the control: the shutter release is overly sensitive. With just a little hard press the camera takes the picture, while you're expecting only a halfway press where the camera sets the focus and exposure. It takes me a long time to get used to this overly sensivitiveness of the shuttle release.
A495 has standard optical zoom 3.3X. When powered off the lense retracts inside the body. I find the zoom pretty smooth and fast. The zoom doesn’t work in video mode while recording. You can zoom first, then start the video recording. Once the recording is underway you can’t change the zoom level.
- LCD screen:
A495 has a 2.5 inches screen, pretty big for a camera at this price(I actually prefer 2 inch screen since bigger screen eats up more batterty charge). The screen resolution,115,000 dots, is pretty low and this makes the images not reflecting the true quality of the real pitures(on the other hand, the high resolution 460,000 dots found on a better camera such as Canon G11 gives you the impression that the picture is good but in reality it's not that good, so it doesn't reflect the true quality either). Under sunlight, like most other cameras, it’s difficult to see the image, but you can tilt the screen at a certain angle for better result.
Besides the price, the use of AA battery rather than rechargeable battery is one of the main reasons why I chose A495 over its competitors, among them A495's cousin A3100. Yes, A495 uses 2 AA batteries that make it bulkier and heavier, but I prefer this way because I don't like proprietary rechargeable battery. With rechargeable battery, many times when I need the camera the battery is depleted. I have to recharge it at the last minute, and more often than not I miss important pictures because I have no time to recharge. Sure, I can buy an extra battery but it also requires an external charger. So, using rechargeable battery means having to shell out an extra $50 for the external charger and second battery, an extra cost that may be justified with a camera in the price range of $250-300, but not with ones of $100-130. With regular AA batteries I can buy them anywhere, including overseas. Many of you probably already have AA rechargeable batteries and you can take advantage of them.
I rate battery consumption of A495 rather poor. The batteries deplete pretty quickly if I take pictures with flash. I think this is the main drawback of A495. BTW, 2 AA alkaline batteries are included with the package. Kudos to Canon. Normally only cheap heavy-duty batteries are included, not alkaline.
Althought the camera is advertised to have red-eye correction feature, the pictures taken with flash still have red-eye problem like almost all other cameras, including expensive ones. As expected, the pictures with flash are below par. Flash range is average, pictures are definitely good within 8 feet, but beyond this range pictures are quite dark. A pretty annoying problem is flash reloading. Every time a shot with flash is made, the time the camera takes to recharge for the next shot is too long, even with new batteries, so continuous shooting with flash is slow. AF assist lamp is just average, in very low light I can see the camera hesitates to focus.
Surprisingly this camera can record full video(640x480 at 30 frames), so the captured video has a full size image, not a tiny box. The quality is OK to me although video pictures tend to be a bit shaky (due to the lack of Image Stabilizer). As mention earlier, while the recording is in video mode you cannot zoom.
A good thing about the video is that the max recording time is 4G or 1hr, ample time for any recording situations.
Another good thing is that this camera uses avi format to record video clip. I prefer avi over mov format. While Apple's mov format (often used in more advanced cameras) takes less space, it's a chore to put it on a DVD. You have to convert .mov to .avi before you can burn a DVD. You also have to install QuickTime for Windows to view the mov video clips.
- Memory card:
No memory card is included. Manufacturers nowadays no longer include memory cards, even a meager ones. This camera does not have internal memory, so you're forced to buy a memory card. Fortunately, A495 uses SD card, which is pretty cheap, compared to other types of memory cards(about $10 for a 2G). The camera also accomodates SDHC, SDXC cards(SDHC is just an SD card with capacities of 4GB-32GB, and SDXC is one with capacities of 32GB - 2TB). This is a good feature since recording video takes lots of space, you need bigger card if you want longer recoding time. Older cameras don't take new format SDHC and SDXC.
- Other features that I found interesting:
1.This camera has a relatively new feature called Face Self-Timer feature. This helps in group shots by waiting until the last person face enters the frame(the shooter) before the shot is taken two seconds later, this ensures everyone is included in the picture
2. Low-light shooting: in this mode the camera automatically sets the ISO at a reduced resolution to capture images in dark conditions. This mode enables you to capture photos in poor lighting condition without the need of a flash. You may wonder why you ever need this mode instead of using flash. Well, I can think of one: when you're in an aquarium you don't want to use flash since the light will bounce off the tank, using low-light shooting is best.
3. Direct Youtube upload: this camera has a bundled software that allows you to upload your video clip directly from the camera to the Internet (you have to plug the camera to a computer, of course). This enables video to be shared online within minutes. The cable to connect the camera to the computer is provided.
4. Face Detection technology: This feature automatically regconizes up to 9 people faces and adjust all the settings to yield best results. On the LCD screen there is a rectangular frame showing that each person face is regconized. I don't think this feature always works. The square boxes sometimes do not position right on the human face but to the side .
In summary, despite some shortcomings and some below-par performances I’m very happy with this camera. It's the camera that serves my purpose for the right price. I don't think at this price ($99 at Best Buy, you can find it cheaper on online stores like Amazon) you can ask for more. However, as always, I will not recommend this camera to everyone:
- If you plan to take most of your pictures indoor which will require flash(like in weddings, birthday parties) do not buy this camera. It eats up your battery fast and charging for the next shot takes too long.
- If you are thriftier than I am, and you don't ever need Face Self-Timer feature you can opt for its sister, Canon A490, which is almost the same as A495 less this feature (and some other minor ones) at an even lower price.
- On the other hand, if you don’t have a steady hand and don’t mind to shell out more, you may consider Canon A3100, it has Image Stabilizer plus some other functions beside being slimmer. Prepare also to pay extra for an external charger and second battery.
Amount Paid (US$): 99
This Camera is a Good Choice if You Want Something... Easy Enough for Anyone to Use
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