Review Date: 5/28/07
The Canon PowerShot A460 digital camera has a resolution of five megapixels and a 2.0 inch 86,000 pixel LCD display -- up from last year's four megapixel A430 and its 1.8 inch LCD. The Canon A460 sports a Canon-branded 4x optical zoom lens along with an increasingly rare optical zoom viewfinder.
With an equivalent focal length of 38-152mm the Canon A460 has a little more zoom than most cameras, and a maximum aperture that varies with focal length from f/2.8 at wide angle to a rather dim f/5.8 at telephoto. Its autofocusing is done with an intelligent 5-point system, and its ISO sensitivity goes up to 400. It has three metering modes, seven white balance modes, and nine scene modes.
The Canon A460 offers a 10 frames-per-second VGA video mode with sound in AVI (Motion JPEG) format, and supports SDHC as well as SD/MMC memory cards. The PowerShot A460 is powered by two AA batteries, and interfaces include USB 1.1 and A/V (NTSC or PAL) connections.
The Canon PowerShot A460 is priced at US$149.99 and ships in mid-February 2007.
by Shawn Barnett
Down in the bargain basement of digital cameras, there are only a few models worthy of consideration. At this sub-$150 price level, you're looking for a camera that can handle most basic photographic situations and deliver good 4x6 and 5x7 inch prints. Canon's featherweight in terms of price, the PowerShot A460, is a champion in its class.
This simplified 5-megapixel digicam has really only one extra feature compared to other low price cameras, which is a 4x zoom, just a little more than the average 3x digicam. Equivalent to a 38 to 152mm zoom, it comes in handy when you want to get just a little closer. Other than that, the camera represents what was hot about two or three years ago, with a simple range of ISO setting from 80 to 400. Want to know a secret? Cameras were pretty good two or three years ago, and so is the A460 today.
Appearance. Though it doesn't cost much, the Canon A460 doesn't look cheap. The body is mostly plastic painted silver, but a nice brushed metal front plate gives it a more refined look. A chrome band that wraps around from the left side of the camera across the top adds another appealing accent.
Shape. This A400-series has been this small brick-like shape for several generations, but though it doesn't look as grand as some of the others, it's quite functional. That handsome brushed metal front plate rises into a small grip that's made more useful by the overall thickness of the Canon A460. I just curl my ring and pinkie finger under the smoothly tapered front of the camera for a great one-handed hold, and my thumb finds the adequate thumb pad on the back, with its nine raised bumps for extra traction.
Unlike the more grand-looking A-series PowerShots, the A460 is easily held in the hand after shooting, with a simple and more secure fisted grip. It's actually better for keeping at the ready when walking around at the zoo, for example, because this kind of hold keeps it protected, and prevents it from swinging around. It's these little niceties that you don't think about until you use the camera.
Its thickness, of course, has its downside, which is that it's not quite as pocketable as other designs; but pocketing cameras is really rather hazardous, with only a few exceptions, so you can look at it as a deterrent "feature."
Viewfinder. Its short stature and low cost also limit the size of the A460's LCD to 2 inches. That's an improvement over the A430's 1.8-inch LCD, and every little bit helps. I also like not only that the A460 has an optical viewfinder, how it's aligned all the way left on the A460's back. Provided you're right-eyed, you can slide your nose alongside the camera and peer through the viewfinder without smudging the LCD, or scrunching your nose.
Use. The Canon A460 has most of the features I've appreciated in other Canon cameras, including a well-organized menu, the 5-point AiAF autofocusing system, a pretty reliable metering system, and generally fast operation. As a result, it's easy to become familiar with the Canon A460.
Only one item stands out as non-conventional, and that's the zoom control. Rather than include a separate zoom toggle on the back or around the shutter button, the A460 uses the up and down arrows on the Four-way controller to zoom to telephoto and back to wide. If this is the only Canon you'll shoot, it won't take long to get used to, but you'll probably have to explain the zoom's location to everyone else who uses the camera.
I also found myself unaccustomed to the narrower wide angle end of this lens. At 38mm equivalent, it's tighter than most current digital cameras, which usually at least go as wide as 35mm equivalent. Still, 38mm is a good place to start for the majority of pictures most users of a camera like this will take: snapshots of friends.
The extra telephoto zoom is nice to have for getting in close, equivalent to 152mm. I'd caution, though, to use the telephoto setting more outdoors than indoors, as the flash doesn't always handle indoor shooting at telephoto as well without a bit of an ISO boost. I did find the A460 could illuminate a subject from about eight feet at full telephoto with only a slight boost to ISO 200. Though there's a little extra noise, detail is decent, so it's actually not too bad.
I generally prefer mode dials to switches, but the A460's Mode dial does turn a little too easily, often changing modes without permission when slipping in and out of a bag. This dial is also often caught between settings.
The Canon A460 has a good array of Scene modes for difficult situations. If you're not experienced with digital cameras, these are good to learn about and explore, but you should always remember to turn them off after use, returning to either Full auto (marked with a big red camera icon) or Program mode (big red camera + M). Available Scene modes include Portrait, Night snapshot, Kids&Pets, Indoor, Foliage, Snow, Beach, and Fireworks. It's pretty easy to tell from the name what each is for.
I miss the 9-point AiAF, which has been replaced with the 5-point AF system. It still does a good job of guessing what you're going to want in focus, so it's not bad. The A460 also doesn't have the panoramic stitch-assist mode that its predecessor had, and several of the special color modes are also gone. I doubt most A460 buyers will miss them at all.
Movies. The Canon A460's Movie mode is a little more limited than are other cameras in the line. It offers what sounds like a quality 640x480 pixels resolution, but that's only at 10 frames per second. TV-quality is 30 frames per second. In this mode, the display refreshes slowly, echoing the slow refresh of 10 frames per second. Most motion appears jerky at this speed.
Only at 320x240, or quarter-VGA, does the A460 achieve 30 frames per second. The video is smooth, as is the onscreen display while you're shooting. A compact video mode, intended for emailing, is also available, offering 160x120 resolution at 15 frames per second. The lower resolution and frame rate are evident even on the 2-inch LCD screen, however.
Image quality. Images are pretty good for printing at up to 8x10 inches in size, but there are a few optical problems that come with an inexpensive camera. Truthfully, it's these problems that keep the A460's pictures from being better at up to 11x14 inches. Noise is the first problem of note, as there's a good bit of it even at the lowest ISO. You can see chroma (color) and luminance noise in almost every solid color on the test chart. This is not uncommon with 5-megapixel sensors, by the way.
Quite uncommon are the greater quantity of dead pixels on this sensor that aren't getting smoothed out by the system. We saw this problem on a fairly advanced Pentax SLR (the K10D) recently, but it's been present on the A4xx-series since the A410, as far as we can tell. It's only a big problem if you have fine horizontal or vertical lines in your photos, like mini-blinds. If they're set just right and you enlarge the photo significantly, you'll see little multi-colored dots between the blinds. It's not a big deal at this level, though, and won't affect most photos at the 5x7 or 4x6 size.
You can also see some chromatic aberration in the corners at wide angle; but again, it's not terribly noticeable unless you really enlarge the images.
The A460 also blew out highlights by default, especially outdoors in direct sunlight. It was especially difficult when taking pictures of flowers around the house, but most direct sunlight caused an overexposed area. It's always better to move human subjects into a shady area, rather than letting shadow fill in their eyes and overexpose their heads and shoulders.
Another consequence of the A460's lower price is its slow flash recycle time. When the flash discharges fully, it takes a good eight seconds to recharge, and in that time the LCD is blacked out after the post-capture image disappears, so you can't see to take a follow-up shot. That's not really very helpful when you need flash on a sunny day to fill in those shadows. This is more likely to bother the insatiable follow-up shooter (like me); most will just take a picture and want to look at it, which you can still do with a turn of the dial to Playback mode.
Overall. You get a lot of camera for just over $100 with the Canon PowerShot A460. It's a great camera for the kids, and not a bad choice as a snapshooter for just about anyone on your list. It operates on two AA batteries, so a set of four NiMH cells and a charger will provide you with enough juice for a full weekend of shooting without recharging. The A460 is also compatible with SDHC cards, so you can shoot a ridiculous amount of photos on a single 4GB card and still have room after a long trip. It's easy to tote, fun to shoot, and takes good pictures. The Canon PowerShot A460 is an easy camera to like.
- 5.0-megapixel CCD delivering image resolutions as large as 2,592 x 1,944 pixels
- 2.0-inch color LCD monitor
- Real-image optical viewfinder
- Glass, 4x 5.4-21.6mm lens (equivalent to 38-152mm zoom on a 35mm camera)
- 4.0x digital zoom
- AiAF through-the-lens autofocus
- AF Assist light for low-light focusing
- Full Automatic, Camera M, eight Scene modes, My Colors, Custom colors, and Movie modes
- Shutter speed range from 1/2,000 to 15 seconds
- Built-in flash with five operating modes
- SD/SDHC/MMC memory storage
- Power supplied by two AA batteries or optional AC adapter
- Movie mode (with sound)
- Wide screen (16:9 aspect ratio) still capture mode
- Continuous Shooting and a variable delay Self-Timer mode
- White balance (color) adjustment with seven modes
- ISO adjustment with four ISO equivalents and an Auto setting
- Photo Effects (Vivid, Neutral, Sepia, B&W, Positive Film, and Custom Color settings)
- Evaluative, Center-Weighted, and Spot metering options
- DPOF (Digital Print Order Format) compatibility
- Exif Print compatibility
- PictBridge compatibility
In the Box
The Canon PowerShot A460 arrives with the following items:
- PowerShot A460
- Two AA-type alkaline batteries
- 16MB MMC card
- Wrist strap WS-800
- USB cable IFC-400PCU
- AV cable AVC-DC300
- Software Compact Disc for PC and Mac
- Printed Basic and Advanced Camera User Guides, Direct Print Users Guide, Software Starter Guide, and Registration kit
- Large capacity SD/SDHC/MMC memory card. 512MB to 1GB offers a good balance for little money.
- Two sets of high-capacity rechargeable AA batteries and good-quality battery charger.
- ACK800 AC adapter kit
- Soft case
The digital camera market is jam packed with dirt-cheap digicams, but there are only a few in this under-$150 range that I would recommend to just about anyone. The Canon PowerShot A460 is just such a camera. Its 5-megapixel sensor is more than enough for the average snapshooter wanting to create 4x6 and 5x7 prints. The Canon A460's shape and size are easy to bring along, and its use of two AA batteries makes it an easy choice, since compatible power is available anywhere. We found that in bright sunlight, the Canon A460 sometimes blew out highlights, but usually got it right everywhere else. I did miss the 9-point AiAF system, replaced by a 5-point system, but it's certainly not a deal-breaker. The Canon A460 is not the fastest, nor the best, but it's darn good for the money, and its 4x zoom gives you a little more zoom than the rest of the field. The Canon A460 is a Dave's Pick for its sheer value.