by Stephanie Boozer
Review Date: 03/27/08
Compact and easily portable, the Canon PowerShot A470 is another confident, capable digital camera from this market leader. Offering 3.4x optical zoom, a large 2.5-inch LCD monitor, and 7.1-megapixel CCD, the PowerShot A470 features the ease of a point-and-shoot camera design coupled with a few advanced features for more savvy users. Canon's PowerShots are known for their user-friendliness and good quality, and the PowerShot A470 upholds that reputation well.
The 3.4x optical zoom lens offers just slightly more zoom than standard digital cameras, covering a range equivalent to 38-132mm on a 35mm camera. In addition to the 3.4x optical zoom, the Canon A470 also offers a maximum of 4x digital zoom, though it does trade some quality and resolution for the enlargement. Like many Canon digital cameras on the market these days, the PowerShot A470 features Face Detection Technology, which automatically seeks out faces in the image area and, if desired, can base exposure, focus and white balance on a subject's face.
The Canon A470 also has Canon's latest Motion Detection Technology, which attempts to track moving subjects for clearer images of kids, wildlife, etc. Also built in is a nice selection of preset scene modes, for better handling of trickier conditions, and a handful of creative controls as well. Though aperture and shutter speed are automatically controlled, you do have access to a Long Shutter mode where you can manually set the shutter time from one to 15 seconds. There are also available contrast, sharpness, saturation and color settings, or you can leave everything up to the camera.
Retailing online for about $129.99, the PowerShot A470 is an attractive option. You get 7.1 megapixels, 3.4x optical zoom, and an excellent array of Canon features, all of which fit nicely in your pocket. Available in red, gray, blue, and orange body colors, the Canon A470 is a good option for younger consumers just getting their feet wet, but should really please a wide range of users with different experience levels.
by Stephanie Boozer
Fun, pocketable, and easy to use, the Canon PowerShot A470 aims to please. Available in gray, blue, red, and orange color choices, the PowerShot A470 offers a capable 7.1-megapixel CCD, 3.4x optical zoom lens, and a nice selection of exposure options to choose from.
Measuring 4.13 x 2.17 x 1.60 inches (105 x 55 x 41 millimeters) and weighing in at only 7.5 ounces (214g) with battery and card, the Canon PowerShot A470 is a little thick for smaller jeans pockets, but it should slide into larger pockets with no trouble. With its minimal user interface and varied array of automatic exposure tools, not to mention its ready supply of cheap AA batteries at every street corner, the PowerShot A470 should make a good travel companion.
Look and feel. The Canon A470's thicker body style was comfortable to hold and fit my medium-size hand well. I found I could easily operate the camera one-handed, and could even make menu selections without needing a two-handed grip. The small finger grip on the front panel provided just enough leverage to actuate the rear-panel controls one-handed, a useful feature when you're juggling a baby at the playground or holding a drink at a party.
The Canon A470's primarily automatic design means minimal controls and a very quick learning curve. Controls are well-marked and protrude just enough to prevent accidental activation. A large, bright, 2.5-inch low-temperature polycrystalline silicone TFT color LCD monitor dominates most of the camera's rear panel. Though its surface is highly reflective (and easily smudged), the Canon A470's LCD fares pretty well in bright sunlight, though the camera does not offer a brightness adjustment. The camera does offer two display overlays to help with framing, a Gridline and 3:2 Guide. The Gridline option divides the image area into thirds horizontally and vertically, while the 3:2 Guide displays a grayed-out crop area showing you what part of the frame will fit into a 3:2 aspect ratio image.
4x Digital Zoom
The Canon PowerShot A470 offers a 3.4x optical zoom lens, equivalent to a 38-132mm zoom on a 35mm camera, just a hair more than the standard point-and-shoot digital camera. In addition to the 3.4x optical zoom, the Canon A470 offers a maximum of 4x digital zoom. We always like to remind readers that digital zoom often results in lower resolution and detail, because the camera is simply cropping the center of the frame and enlarging it, but the Canon A470's digital zoom will produce good enough results if you keep print sizes small.
The Canon A470 offers Motion Detection Technology, which automatically reduces blur by calculating subject movement and selecting the best exposure and ISO option, a good idea when photographing kids. The camera also features Canon's Face Detection Technology, which works with the autofocus, exposure, flash and white balance systems to base those functions on the faces in the image area. According to Canon, the Face Detection and Motion Detection systems work together in the background to produce optimum results.
Interface. As I mentioned earlier, I liked the Canon A470's user interface, and found operation simple and straightforward.
The Canon A470's menu layout is logical and straightforward, with a tabbed menu system that provides access to the main operating mode menu and the camera setup menu. Anyone already familiar with Canon digital cameras will recognize the standard layout, and newcomers should find it easy to navigate. Settings such as Exposure or Scene mode, Exposure Compensation, ISO, White Balance, Drive Mode, My Colors, and image quality and resolution are set through the Function menu, accessed via the Function/Set button on the rear panel. Items like Flash and the Macro modes are accessible by pressing the right and left arrow keys on the Multi-controller. (The up and down arrows control optical and digital zoom.) I did find that a couple of more advanced camera settings, such as contrast and Long Shutter mode, were a little hidden in the Function menu. However, once accustomed to the camera, finding these options is second nature.
The Canon PowerShot A470's exposure is automatically controlled at all times. Through the Record menu, you can enable a display mode that reports the selected aperture and shutter speed settings whenever the Shutter button is halfway pressed. So you at least have an idea of what the exposure will be. The Mode dial at the top of the rear panel controls the main camera mode, and the four-way Multi-controller serves both navigational and functional purposes, actuating up, down, left, and right. There's also a Print/Transfer button on the rear panel for quick, one-touch image downloading and printing. And, aside from the top-mounted Shutter and Power buttons, that's about it for camera controls.
Modes. The Mode dial controls the Canon PowerShot A470's main shooting and operating mode, with available choices of Playback, Auto, Camera M (really a Program AE mode), Scene, and Movie. Both the Auto and Manual modes keep the basic exposure under automatic control, but allow different levels of user control over other tools such as white balance and ISO.
The Scene position offers 10 presets to help in a variety of situations, accessed through the first setting of the Function menu. Available scenes are Portrait, Night Snapshot, Kids & Pets, Indoor, Sunset, Foliage, Snow, Beach, Fireworks, and Aquarium. Most of these are fairly self-explanatory, optimizing the camera for common, yet tricky conditions encountered in everyday life. Through the camera's Function menu, under the Exposure Compensation setting, you can access a Long-Shutter mode, which lets you manually adjust the shutter speed from one to 15 seconds. Noise Reduction is automatically enabled for exposures longer than 1.3 seconds. Also part of the Function menu is the My Colors menu, which offers Vivid, Neutral, Sepia, Black & White, and Custom options for altering color, saturation, etc. Under the Custom setting, you can manually adjust Contrast, Sharpness, and Saturation. They're a little hidden, but very useful.
The Canon PowerShot A470 offers a Continuous Shooting mode, accessed through the Drive option of the Function menu. Canon rates this mode as fast as 1.9 frames per second for large/fine JPEGs. In our most stringent tests, however, we actually get 1.52 frames per second. This test includes an aggressive noise target that is difficult for cameras to compress. When we pull back just a few feet, we get a little faster than Canon claims, which is 1.98 frames per second in large/fine mode; quite close to two frames per second. Impressive. Also available here are two-second and 10-second Self-timer modes, and a Custom Self-timer option. Under Custom, you can set the delay anywhere from one to 30 seconds, and the number of frames from one to 10. The PowerShot A470 is also equipped for capturing movies with sound. Available resolutions are 640 x 480 (20fps/20fps LP), 320 x 240 (30fps) and 160 x 120 (15fps).
Special Features. Aimed at making digital photography as simple as possible, the Canon PowerShot A470 offers a lot of built-in automatic functions. With its Face Detection and Motion Detection technologies, the PowerShot A470 has gained many of the premium features of its higher-priced brothers.
Normal Macro Mode
Super Macro Mode
Other helpful features include a Red-Eye Correction mode to automatically seek out and correct any red-eye, and a Super Macro setting for focusing as close as 0.39 inches (1.0 centimeter).
Storage and battery. The Canon Powershot A470 accepts SD/SDHC/MMC memory cards, and comes with a 32MB card. Of course, we always recommend picking up a large capacity SD/SDHC memory card (at least a 1GB card, preferably a 2GB one) to give yourself extra space for extended outings. The 32MB card should hold about 9 large/superfine JPEGS, while a 1GB card will hold about 316.
For power, the PowerShot A470 uses two AA type batteries, and comes with a set of ordinary alkaline cells. Performance is much better with NiMH rechargeables (approximately 400 shots compared to 150 shots with alkalines), so I heartily recommend picking up a spare set of rechargeable batteries and a good charger. (Read our NiMH battery shootout page to see which batteries are the best, and check out our review of the Maha C-204W NiMH battery charger, our current favorite.)
Shooting. Overall, shooting with the Canon PowerShot A470 was simple and hassle-free, given its point-and-shoot automatic nature. Most camera settings were quick and easy, though I did find some of the more advanced functions a little hidden. For example, Long Shutter mode is buried in the Function menu, as are the manual contrast and saturation settings. However, once you get familiar with the camera, finding these settings is second nature.
Cycle times on the PowerShot A470, again with our torture-test target, ranged from 1.27 seconds for large/superfine JPEGs to 1.28 seconds for the smallest resolution setting, which is on the slower side, but not terrible. Shutter lag was average at wide angle, at about 0.49 seconds, and just a hair slower at telephoto at 0.55 seconds. So, camera timing is average to a little slower than average, but fully capable for most situations.
Overall though, shooting with the Canon PowerShot A470 was straightforward and uncomplicated. Just about any user level should be able to snap good pictures right away under normal conditions.
Composing on the LCD in daylight was also about as good/bad as it is with any other modern point and shoot. Considering the difference between how much light an LCD can put out compared to the Sun, it's not bad; it's certainly sufficient to compose an image and see that it's exposed well enough.
Image quality. Image quality, color, and exposure are all good with the Canon PowerShot A470. Overall color is bright and vibrant, yet still natural. Bright reds and blues are a bit oversaturated, which is common among consumer digital cameras because many consumers prefer brighter-than-life color in their images. We also noticed that cyans were shifted toward blue, a common trend among Canon digital cameras to produce more vibrant blue skies.
The PowerShot A470 captures a lot of fine detail, with minimal noise suppression to blur detail at ISO 80. In the crop at right, the mosaic shows great detail, with only a little smudging in the background and clothing.
The Canon PowerShot A470 handles image noise very well at its lower ISO settings, and even at ISO 400, noise is higher but still not too distracting overall. You can see it best in the gray squares of the color chart, demonstrated above. At ISOs 800 and 1,600, noise is much higher, with a more pronounced grain pattern and greatly decreased detail definition. Still, even at these higher settings, noise isn't as bad as we've seen in other point-and-shoot digital cameras.
Though there's some softening in the corners, it's surprisingly mild. Chromatic aberration is a little stronger than we'd like to see at wide angle, but not so bad at telephoto.
Appraisal. Overall, the Canon A470 is a good performer. It captures good exposures with sharp details and accurate color under most average shooting conditions. Given its selection of preset shooting modes and built-in features like Face Detection and Motion Detection, the PowerShot A470 is equipped for quick handling of common, yet tricky situations. The Canon A470's automatic features will keep novices comfortable, while available options such as Long Shutter mode, an adjustable metering mode, and a manual white balance setting cater to more savvy users. The Canon A470 is a very capable camera that's a snap to use, and an easy Dave's Pick.
Canon A470 Basic Features
- 7.1-megapixel CCD (effective) delivers image resolutions as high as 3,072 x 2,304
- 3.4x optical zoom lens, equivalent to 38-132mm
- As much as 4x digital zoom
- 2.5-inch low-temperature polycrystalline silicon TFT LCD monitor
- Auto and Program AE exposure modes
- Shutter speeds from 1/2,000 to 15 seconds, depending on mode
- Maximum aperture of f/3.0 - f/5.8, depending on zoom position
- DIGIC III image processor
- Built-in flash with six modes
- SDHC/SD/MMC memory slot
- Power from two AA-type batteries (two alkaline cells included)
- USB 2.0 connection and cable
- A/V cable for connection to television set
- PictBridge compatible
Canon A470 Special Features
- 10 preset Scene modes
- Movie mode with sound
- Face Detection technology
- Motion Detection technology for reducing blur
- Macro and Super Macro focus modes
- Three metering modes
- Adjustable ISO from 80 to 1,600 equivalents, plus Auto and High ISO Auto settings
- Adjustable white balance with seven settings, including a manual option
- My Colors menu for creative color options
- Two- and 10-second self-timer modes
In the Box
- PowerShot A470 digital camera
- Wrist Strap WS-800
- 2 AA alkaline batteries
- AV cable AVC-DC300
- Interface Cable IFC-400PCU
- 32MB MMC card
- Software CD
- Soft carrying case
- Rechargeable batteries and charger. (Read our NiMH battery shootout page to see which batteries are the best, and check out our review of the Maha C-204W NiMH battery charger, our current favorite.)
- Large capacity SDHC/SD/MMC memory card (at least a 1GB card, preferably a 2GB one)
Canon A470 Conclusion
Overall, the Canon PowerShot A470 is sure to be a crowd pleaser. It comes in fun colors, is easy to operate, yet offers a handful of more advanced features for more experienced users. It's small, pocketable, and has minimal controls to fiddle with. Add to this the Canon A470's great exposure and color handling, and a very low price and you have a classic bargain digital camera. What more could you ask? For around $129.99, you get a 7.1-megapixel CCD, 3.4x optical zoom lens, Canon's Face Detection and Motion Detection technologies, and a host of available scene modes and creative tools. If you're in the market for an inexpensive, portable digital camera that performs well, the PowerShot A470 definitely deserves consideration.