by Alexandra Savvides on 13/0/2009 (CNET)
While we are certainly not enamoured with the general aesthetic of Canon's A480, we're sure that someone out there will be. It's chunky, clunky and altogether un-funky, lending itself more to a "cheap and cheerful" description than anything else. It's certainly more attractive than its predecessor, the A470, which it replaces.
It's more Fisher Price than fashionista at the back.
Cased in plastic with silver accents, the front facade is the most exciting part about the camera, with the lens ring flanked in gloss and the flash unit snugly sitting at the top right-hand corner. Up top, there is a single power button and shutter button, whereas at the back, the configuration is equally utilitarian. The plastic buttons feel like something off a Fisher Price toy than from a Japanese camera manufacturer; even the zoom rocker is relegated to buttons.
The 2.5-inch LCD is relatively low resolution, and the lens is a standard 3.3x optical zoom that's 37mm at its widest. We tested a black model, but the A480 is available in silver, blue and red as well.
For an entry-level camera designed for just about anyone to pick up and use, the A480 is low on features. There's the usual gamut of face detection, red-eye correction, motion detection technology and a selection of 15 shooting modes. Don't expect manual overrides here ? the most you will get is a program mode which allows you to change the ISO, white balance, picture mode and metering mode.
For AU$179, there's no high-definition video either instead, it's lumbered with 30fps VGA. Running on two AA batteries maintains the chunky feel carried over from the design, and as a result the camera bulges a little more to the right. The SDHC compatible card slot sits underneath the camera, under the same cover as the batteries.
Performance and image quality
To our surprise, the A480 coped a lot better than we expected in terms of image quality. Performance, on the other hand, was an entirely different issue.
To put it bluntly, this is not a fast camera ? expect slow flash recycle times, slow shot-to-shot times and a reasonable amount of shutter lag. This is only to be expected with an entry-level model though we would have enjoyed it if it was a little quicker in these areas.
Our biggest concern with the A480 was the LCD screen. At 2.5 inches we can forgive it only so much; after all, on an entry-level camera we're not expecting huge numbers. However, it was the poor resolution and awkward viewing angle that really got our goat. In direct sunlight it was incredibly difficult to see, and it was really quite dull compared to Canon screens of old.
The A480 showed a reasonable amount of barrel distortion, just observe how the straight lines in the picture appear as if they are curved. Click image to enlarge.
(Credit: CBS Interactive)
Fortunately, image quality made up for these misgivings when we finally got to review the pictures. Punchy and accurate colours were the main drawcards, with that typical level of saturation that Canon cameras are known for. As for the lens, we were disappointed with how it lost sharpness towards the outer reach of the frame, and how it displayed a moderate amount of barrel distortion.
Chromatic aberration was also a problem, which is to be expected on cheaper optics. Flash recycle time took around two seconds, but at least the A480 displayed a warning on the screen to let us know what was happening. Noise control was relatively good at ISO levels below 400, yet ISO 800 and ISO 1600 appeared fairly similar, filled with grain.
As an introductory camera at a budget price point, you could do far worse than the PowerShot A480. We would recommend spending a little more to get a camera that will grow with your needs, and if you're determined to stick to Canon you probably should check out an older model for a similar price from the more compact IXUS range, such as the IXUS 80 IS, which you should now be able to pick up for a good price.