First up is the A470, a replacement for the venerable but much-loved A460. It’s an absolute steal at $149 (we also found it online for $129), and the results from its 3.4x lens and 7.1 megapixel sensor were excellent, albeit somewhat noisy - you can set the ISO as high as 1600, but anything more than 400 is asking for trouble.
Nevertheless, its 55mm-high chassis sits nicely in the hand, and although it isn’t bursting at the seams with features, it packs more than enough in to justify its tempting price.
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|Spotted online for $129 - Canon's A470 PowerShot|
A step up is the A580. Clad in light grey plastic, it’s rather light at 175g, but the protruding grip makes it comfortable to hold, and it has plenty of modes to keep quickly-learning photographers happy.
The 4x zoom and 8 megapixel sensor produce good images with well-reproduced colours and noticeably less noise than the A470. There are no fewer than seven scene modes built-in, although some, such as “Aquarium” and “Snow” will see less use than others. The manual mode allows you to set the shutter speed as slow as 15 seconds.
|Rather chunky, but weighs only 175g - Canon's A580 Powershot |
|Same as A580, but with optical stabilisation, and better manual control - Canon's A590 IS Powershot |
Those with a little more cash will find the A590 IS weighing in at $50 more expensive than the A580. Our image tests revealed identical image quality between it and the A580 – with their 4x zoom lenses and 8 megapixel sensors, plus the matching chassis’ (the A590 IS sports a darker shade of grey), it’s possible that the electronics of both cameras are nearly identical.
However, the A590 IS includes optical stabilisation, which is useful in low-light situations, as well as a fully-fledged PASM manual controls. This means that, unlike the other two cameras here, you can set shutter speeds and aperture independently, or give the camera control of one while you take care of the other.
It’s a useful half-step up towards DSLR ownership, although with no difference in image quality you’ll need to weigh the usefulness of manual control and image stabilisation before splashing out.