The Canon Powershot A560 is a seven megapixel digital camera with a 4x optical zoom lens. Although shaped like a mini digital SLR it is really a point and shoot digital camera. Although not as cheap as the lowest priced digital cameras the Powershot A560 is still available at the lower end of the price spectrum.
91.2 x 64.0 x 43.1mm
Taking the price of the camera into account I think the Powershot A560 performed well in my tests. It was able to handle sunny conditions, photos taken in the shade and also photos taken indoors where the light was lower.
Looking at the outdoor scenic shots I can see that this camera produces sharper shots than the majority of simple, point and shoot cameras do. This extra sharpness is evident in the brickwork on the building in the first shot. In the second shot where the lens is zoomed out completely focusing is good apart from in the far distance looking down the river. Again in the third shot with the lens zoomed in as far as it will go focusing holds up well.
The glare of the sun is handled pretty well with just a small amount of detail lost in the boats in the first outdoor shot. Darker areas show a pleasing level of detail. There is a small amount of noise creeping into the skies.
Analysing these three photos together with my colour test I feel the Powershot A560 produces photos with a natural feel to them. None of the colours are overdone and the only time I feel colour was lost was when I look at the sky in the third outdoor shot.
There is plenty of colour in the outdoor portrait. Skin tones look about right to me.
Indoors in lower light the camera performs well. The indoor portrait is sharper and clearer than I am used to seeing. There is a small amount of red eye in the shot. The shot of beer bottles is taken in very dark conditions and the Powershot A560 does well to produce such a bright and sharp shot. Although not infallible the camera should handle most lighting situations.
The macro shot is another good effort. Just like with the very similar Powershot A550 my only complaint is that the picture could have been brighter. There is no colour caste showing.
ISO levels can be set up to 1600. To be honest picture quality will have dropped away before you get there. I also tested at ISO 400 and although I only ever suggest increasing ISO if there are no other options the Powershot A560 produced a decent photo at this level.
Shutter Lag and Recycling Times
As with other Canon digital cameras I noticed a big difference in delay times when the flash unit was turned on. Without flash I was able to take a single photo in 0.30 seconds. With flash this time jumped up to 1.95 seconds. Without the flash I took five photos in 7.43 seconds and with the flash this shot up to 26.90 seconds. As you can see there is a serious difference in performance.
The 4x optical zoom lens has a focal length equivalent to 35 - 140mm in 35mm format. The maximum aperture is f/2.6 (wide) and f/5.5 (tele). You also have access to a feature called safety zoom. This increases the capacity of the zoom lens when you take photos at lower resolutions. 4x digital zoom is available too.
The focusing system has special face detection software built into it. This helps the camera to focus on faces either for a single person or for a group shot. For close up work the Powershot A560 can focus from 5cm away from the subject.
One useful feature you see less and less is an optical viewfinder. This gives you an option on bright, sunny days. There is also a 2.5" LCD screen. This is made up of around 115,000 pixels.
The flash unit works up to a maximum distance of 3.5m. If the zoom lens is in use this maximum range falls to 2.2m. Flash modes are Auto, On and Off. Slow sync speed and red eye reduction are also available. To boost flash power you can buy and external flash unit - the Canon High Power Flash (HF-DC1).
A number of pre programmed scene modes are available. All you need to do is select the most appropriate scene for the type of photo you are taking and the camera will use what it considers to be the optimum settings. The scene modes are Portrait, Landscape, Night Snapshot, Indoor, Kids & Pets, Foliage, Snow, Beach, Fireworks, Night Scene and Aquarium.
You also have a number of colour options. These are Vivid, Neutral, Sepia, Black & White and Custom Color.
Continuous shooting allows you to fire off shots in quick succession until the memory card is full. The top speed is 1.7 frames per second. If you would like to appear in a shot a self timer is available. Up to sixty seconds of voice commentary can be added to a still photo after it has been taken.
Although most of the features are controlled automatically by the camera there are a number of more advanced features you can control. These include metering (Evaluative, Centre-weighted average, Spot (centre or linked to Face Detection AF frame)), white balance (Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Tungsten, Fluorescent, Fluorescent H, Custom), ISO (High ISO Auto, 80, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600) and exposure compensation (+/- 2 EV in 1/3 stop increments).
Shutter speeds are controlled by the camera and work in the range 15 - 1/2000 seconds.
The duration of a standard movie is up to one hour or four gigabytes. Standard movies can be recorded at a resolution of 640 x 480 pixels and at a speed of 30 frames per second. Sound and zoom are available during recording.
All the cables and software you need to connect up to a PC, television or compatible printer are supplied in the box.
Ease of Use
I have never thought of Canon digital cameras as the easiest to get used to. Even so there is not too much to catch you out here. Including a control dial places many key controls at your fingertips and you should not need to dip into the camera's main functions or menu system very often.
The Canon Powershot A560 is available for around £145. This compares to Fuji Finepix A700 (£95), Olympus FE-210 (£ 90) and Sony DSC S650 (£ 105).
As you can see you can buy cheaper digital cameras, but I feel the extra quality in this camera makes it worth spending extra.
As I mentioned in the introduction this camera bears a resemblance to a mini digital SLR. This is mainly due to the presence of a raised grip area on the front of the camera. This helps you hold the camera steady when you are about to take a photo. With dimensions of 91.2 x 64.0 x 43.1mm it is too large for a pocket. It weighs 165g.
A pair of AA batteries is needed to power the Powershot A560. Canon estimates you should be able to take around 140 shots with a typical set of alkaline batteries before they need to be replaced.
The supplied memory card is 16mb. I was only able to take 8 test shots with this card. Therefore I would suggest picking up a high capacity SD card to go with the camera. It is also compatible with SDHC cards.
Click here to save money on SD cards.
Points I like:
Where it is not so hot:
Shutter lag with flash on
I guess I would describe the Canon Powershot A560 as a starter camera with extra quality. You do have to pay more than with a true entry level model and while you may not get that much more in terms of features the picture quality is clearly a step up.
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