Canon A530 Overview
by Stephanie Boozer
The Canon A530 features a 5.0-megapixel sensor, a 4x optical zoom lens, and full manual control. It's an impressive offering for a low price of less than $200.
Announced by Canon prior to the Spring 2006 PMA show, the PowerShot A530 comes in just below the A540 model in its sensor and some exposure control offerings, but still offers a great deal of exposure control. While both cameras share the same 4x zoom lens (35-140mm equivalent) used across much of the PowerShot A-series, the Canon A530's resolution is 5.0-megapixels as opposed to the A540's 6.0-megapixel sensor for about $100 more. The camera also features a slightly smaller LCD monitor at 1.8 inches. However, many of the A540's excellent exposure options are also found on the A530, with the exception of the Aperture and Shutter Priority exposure modes. ISO light-sensitivity ranges from 80 to 800. Other exposure modes include full automatic and full manual, plus a wide range of scene modes in between, and a "My Colors" menu that offers special effects such as Vivid and Neutral, Light or Dark skin, and Custom color adjustments. An Underwater scene mode even adjusts color balance and exposure for use with an optional underwater housing.
The Canon A530 also offers a range of metering modes, including evaluative, center-weighted, and even spot metering. In its continuous shooting mode, the Canon A530 is rated at 2.1 frames/second, good speed for a modestly priced camera.
Following a growing trend, the Canon A530 stores its images on SD memory cards, which is rapidly becoming the dominant memory card format for digital cameras. A USB 2.0 High-Speed computer connection provides for speedy downloads, fast enough that most users will find no need for a separate card reader.
At the end of the day, the Canon A530 should be a very strong-selling model in the popular PowerShot line, providing not only easy use for beginners (in full-auto mode), but a nice complement of advanced exposure and metering modes for the more experienced shooter. This is a camera that offers novice photographers plenty of capability to grow into, and should make a great choice for families or couples with widely varying levels of photo expertise.
Canon A530 User Report
The Canon A530 offers much the same power and control that you'll find in nearly every A-series camera on the market. Get an A-series, and you're pretty much guaranteed high quality images and good functionality for a low price. You can even have yourself a useful underwater camera with addition of the optional $240 WP-DC2 underwater housing.If the underwater virtues of the A530 interest you, take a look at Canon's excellent Underwater Photography Guide (http://www.canon.co.jp/Imaging/uwphoto/index-e.html). In 17 chapters, it covers everything you need to know.
The A530's retro housing may not attract much envy, but the photos will. The images are sharp and crisp; often sharper than what we see from ultra-compact cameras like Canon's ELPH series. While the A530 isn't slim, it's an easy carry and its extra thickness allows for slightly better optics.
Highlights. Canon's A-Series digicams all use AA batteries, among which we recommend NiMH rechargeables, now available with as much as 2700 mAh (but even 1800s would do nicely). The newest A-Series digicams have reduced the battery requirement to just two, so buying a set of four means you'll always have a fresh set ready to go. Even with just two, however, we never ran out of gas during a shoot with the Canon A530.Canon divides the A530's mode dial (as it does several other models) into three sections or "zones." The familiar Green Auto setting is its own section for those occasions where you just want to set it and forget it. Canon calls its Scene mode options the "Image Zone." The third zone is the "Creative Zone," which consists of only Programmed Auto and full Manual control. Left out for the first time are Aperture and Shutter Priority modes. We're not sure, but Canon may have decided that having two additional modes that many users don't understand was more liability than benefit.Canon doesn't always mean Manual when it says Manual (on some cameras offering control over a few more exposure factors, like white balance, than Auto offers). But in the Canon A530's case, it means it. You can control the shutter from 15 to 1/2,000 second (depending on aperture) and the aperture from f/2.6 to f/8.0 (depending on focal length).
That's important for two reasons. The first is that any Auto mode occasionally disappoints. The solution to those disappointments is often taking some small aspect of control back from the camera. The A530 is happy to oblige, giving over complete control via Manual mode, or only some control in Program, where you can use the EV control button to raise or lower exposure in 1/3 stop increments. The result of either mode shows a live preview of the exposure change right on the LCD, so you pretty much get what you see.
It's also becoming unusual to find an optical viewfinder on a digicam at this price level. The 1.8-inch LCD will be your preferred tool for composing your images, but in bright sun there's nothing like an optical viewfinder.
Design. Even a pair of AA batteries take up more space than one of those proprietary lithium-ion rechargeables that are hardly bigger than a CompactFlash card. But Canon has used the space intelligently, turning it into a hand grip with most of the A530's weight in the grip. That makes it easier to handhold in low light, giving it a little more resistance when you press the shutter.
I was able to shoot with the Canon A530 one-handed, even when I had to change EV or turn off the flash, but it's a bit easier to do that with two hands, the left supporting the camera briefly while you adjust your settings.
Performance. The Canon A530 was always ready when I was. I did cycle the power an awful lot for the review, but the A530 was responsive. It fired right back up quickly.
The shutter seemed quite responsive, too. I habitually half-press the shutter button anyway, so it should have been responsive. But half-pressing is something I do just to check focus and exposure options, too. It's a very good habit.
The A530 offers an ISO 800 setting that seems to be a new trend in digicam design. Sony has bumped the ISO ceiling up to 1000 in this year's Cyber-shots, obliterating the old 400 limit. This can be something of a mixed bag, as many have pointed out. The price of higher sensitivity is more noise. In fact, with more megapixels crammed onto the tiny sensor surface, even ISO 400 exhibits more noise than it did in the good old days when a 3-Mp sensor was hot stuff.
But the alternative, shooting at ISO 200 or below, guarantees blurry images from camera shake with indoor lighting. So I'll take the noise. I know what to do with it: reduce it. Even Photoshop CS2's default Noise Reduction filter does a very nice job of making the noise in an A530's ISO 800 shot look no worse than that in an ISO 200 shot. My point is that you can't do anything about a blurry shot in your image editing software, but you can do something about noise. Sure, it would be nice to be able to shoot at ISO 800 and not have to edit the shot later -- but at least you have the shot to edit.
With the exception of the A540, the A500-series has limited movie modes, and the A530 is included in that. You can only get 10 frames per second (fps) at 640x480, and 20 frames per second at 320x 240, which is a far cry from the 30fps we've come to expect from most digital cameras. You can zoom digitally up to 2x, but not optically. This causes some pixelation, but it's better than the noise you'd otherwise hear from the zoom lens.
Finally, let me point out once again the benefit of a PictBridge-compatible digicam. Like every other Canon camera, the A530 needs only a USB cable to become a printing kiosk when connected to any PictBridge printer. That means you can leave a set of prints behind when you take shots at a party or just quickly get an index of your latest shoot without bothering to fire up the computer. It's a terrific convenience with the full range of output options, so you really don't give up much.
- 5.0-megapixel CCD delivering image resolutions as large as 2,592 x 1,944 pixels
- 1.8-inch color LCD monitor
- Real-image optical viewfinder
- 4x 5.8-23.2mm lens (equivalent to 35-140mm zoom on a 35mm camera)
- 4.0x digital zoom
- AiAF autofocus and a manual focus mode
- AF Assist light for low-light focusing
- Automatic, Program AE, and Manual exposure modes, as well as 10 preset Scene modes and Stitch Assist
- Manually adjustable aperture setting ranging from f/2.6 to f/8.0, depending on lens zoom position and shutter speed
- Shutter speed range from 1/2,000 to 15 seconds, depending on aperture
- Built-in flash with three operating modes plus red-eye reduction
- SD/MMC memory storage
- Power supplied by two AA batteries or optional AC adapter
- Movie mode (with sound)
- Sound caption recording
- Stitch-Assist mode for panoramic shots
- Continuous Shooting and a variable delay Self-Timer mode
- Creative Effects menu
- White balance (color) adjustment with eight modes
- ISO adjustment with six ISO equivalents up to ISO 800
- Evaluative, Center-Weighted, and Spot metering options
- DPOF (Digital Print Order Format) compatibility
- USB cable for connection to a computer (driver software included)
In the Box
The Canon A530 box includes the following items:
- Canon A530 camera
- Wrist strap WS-800
- Two AA-type alkaline batteries
- USB cable IFC-400PCU
- AV cable AVC-DC300
- 16MB MMC memory card MMC-16
- Software CD
- Instruction manual, software guide, and registration kit
- Larger capacity SD/MMC card. (At least 256MB recommended, 512MB would be better.)
- Two sets of high-capacity rechargeable AA batteries and good-quality battery charger
- AC adapter kit
- Soft case
- High Power Flash HF-DC1
- Lens accessory kits
Featuring a 5.0-megapixel CCD a 4x lens and a full range of exposure control, the PowerShot A530 is another fine addition to Canon's A-series of digital cameras. Built on the same long-tested design as many A-series predecessors, the Canon A530 offers a lot in its compact package. Its combination of automatic and manual features make the Canon A530 very approachable for novices, but still interesting for experienced users, the net result being a camera that will satisfy a broad range of interests and provide a good path for novice users to expand their photographic horizons as their experience grows. You can even put it in a waterproof case. One of the more popular features of the A-series is their use of AA batteries, something we also like. I'd like to see it equipped with a more accurate optical viewfinder (the optical path is not straight through the front to the back), and its image noise at ISO 400 and 800 was on the high side, but that's pretty normal. Movie mode is present, but somewhat lacking in terms of frame rate. Still, the A530 is a camera that will meet the needs of the average consumer very well. It's an easy Dave's Pick.