Canon PowerShot A570 IS Overview
by Mike Pasini
Review Date: 5/29/07
The Canon PowerShot A570 IS digital camera has a resolution of 7.1 megapixels, and is coupled to a Canon-branded 4x optical zoom lens with image stabilization achieved by moving elements in the optical path. (True "optical image stabilization.")
The Canon A570 IS body includes a 2.5 inch LCD display with a fairly average 115,000 pixel resolution, along with a real-image optical zoom viewfinder. Other Canon A570IS features include 35mm-equivalent focal lengths ranging from 35 to 140mm, a maximum aperture that varies with focal length from f2.6 at wide-angle to f5.5 at telephoto, nine-point autofocusing, a maximum ISO sensitivity of 1600, three metering modes (evaluative, center-weighted average, and spot), seven white balance modes, plus custom mode, and 12 scene modes.
The A570 IS offers a useful 30 frames-per-second VGA (640x480) video mode with sound in AVI (Motion JPEG) format, and supports SDHC as well as SD/MMC memory cards. The PowerShot A570IS is powered by two AA batteries, and interfaces include USB 2.0 (high-speed), and A/V (NTSC, or PAL) connections.
The Canon A570IS is priced at U.S. $280, and began shipping in March 2007.
Canon PowerShot A570 IS User Report
by Mike Pasini
Intro. As popular as Canon's compact SD digital ELPHs are, they don't offer full manual control over the exposure parameters. For that sort of fun, Canon digicam fans fortunately have the A series. And recently Canon has been updating the A series with image stabilization to add to the thrills.
The ELPHs have always had a bit more style than the A series, too, standing on end and packing a small lith-ion battery. But the retro-looking A series, using commonly available AA-sized batteries, offers a grip you can get your hands on.
And when it comes to the features a photographer looks for, the A series doesn't disappoint. The A570 IS in particular has a lot to offer: Manual mode, Aperture and Shutter Priority modes, a good grip, high ISO and image stabilization, and variable power flash (so you can shoot fill flash).
Not to mention image quality. My shots with Canon digicams continue to be among the most accurate and sharpest images I've taken with a digicam. If you're wondering which brand to buy, you won't go wrong with most any Canon model. And if you want more control than the ELPHs offer, take a look at the A series. The A570 IS with its affordable optical image stabilization would be a great place to start your investigation.
Design. The Canon A570 IS body style is retro. Silver only, with an optical viewfinder and a big grip, you feel like you've seen it before. It's boxy rather than slim, but it's also more comfortable to hold and shoot with than typical credit-card sized cameras.
Weighing just 8.32 ounces with two AA batteries and an SD card installed, it won't make your jacket hang unevenly, but it has enough heft that when you press the Shutter button you won't shake the camera.
The grip is part of the reason, certainly. You can get your fingers comfortably around the battery compartment of the A570 IS for a stable shooting platform. Your index finger is free to toy with the Shutter button or Zoom Lever surrounding it. Your thumb sits over the speaker grill on the back panel, just off the main control panel.
The controls themselves will be familiar to Canon fans, with the same Menu and Function/Set dedicated button arrangement of other recent Canon digicams, if slightly rearranged (as always). But one thing I particularly appreciated was the ability to assign one of several custom functions to the Print/Share button that is otherwise unused in Record mode. You can assign ISO, White Balance, Teleconverter, Display Overlay, or Display Off to it.
Display/Viewfinder. Another aspect of the Canon A570 IS that helps it stand out from the crowd is its optical viewfinder, an increasingly rare feature, especially as LCD become larger and larger on smaller and smaller digicams.
The A570 IS doesn't compromise here, although the viewfinder itself can't show off features like the 16:9 wide screen aspect ratio or the effect of image stabilization like the 2.5 inch LCD can. It can, however, be seen in sunlight, which is surprisingly difficult with most modern LCDs. And it won't reflect your bright Hawaiian shirt or pastel blouse like many of them do, too. I've often had an impossible time trying to use and LCD to frame my zoom range sample images from Twin Peaks with the sun on my right. An optical viewfinder is a welcome relief from that losing battle.
The LCD itself does not have as high a resolution as many modern LCDs, but it's detailed enough to check your exposure and read the menus. The 115K pixels are one reason the price on this unit is so attractive, so I won't complain.
While the shot-to-shot cycle time was above average, continuous mode shooting was a little sluggish, showing the captured image briefly before snapping the next shot if you hold the Shutter button down. This is another situation in which I was glad to have the optical viewfinder. Otherwise, I'd never have been able to compose the shots when working in continuous shooting mode.
I'll have more to say about image stabilization in the next section, but it's really hard to recommend a camera without it these days. By effectively giving you two to three more stops of light to play with and avoiding the atrocious effects of on-camera flash, it pays dividends you don't appreciate it until you use it. You really don't need a long zoom lens to need image stabilization. And Canon's implementation is excellent.
I've never really grasped the Canon hierarchy of Scene modes. Yes, things like Portrait and Landscape are common enough to have their own Mode dial settings, while Aquarium and Underwater are special situations. But I'm not a big user of Scene modes anyway.
I am a big user of PASM (Programmed auto exposure, Aperture priority, Shutter Priority or full Manual exposure), however, or what Canon calls the Creative Zone. Being able to control either the shutter speed or aperture or both is a big deal to me and I've been sad to see that basic functionality disappear on many digicams. Hurray to Canon for making it available on many of their PowerShots.
It is a little confining to only be able to stop the lens down to f8.0 but a small sensor, apparently, permits no more. (With small sensors, smaller apertures will only result in soft-looking photos.) I planted myself on the beach and tried to take a shot of some tall grass being buffeted by the wind. I could stop the action at 1/500 second at f5.0, but f8.0 didn't give me a slow enough shutter speed at ISO 80 to capture the grass in motion.
Canon image quality is legendary and I always find it a pleasure to pick my gallery shots for these reviews when I've shot them with a Canon. The color is natural and the detail superb. There just isn't the oversaturation or high contrast that kills so many shots taken by otherwise impressive digicams.
That matters in a shot like the angel trumpets in shadow over the field of poppies in the sun shown below left. There's a tension there -- heightened when you realize the exotic trumpets are poisonous and the poppies a state flower -- that is almost operatic. The poppies are at the edge of brightness, lit from the back, the tweeters in the orchestra. And the trumpets are fading into the darkness, deep brass bass booming the doom to come.
Much as I dislike shooting with flash on a digicam, there are times you need it. The recycle time of the Canon A570IS was slow, a little surprising in a normal-sized model with average flash range. Canon kicks the ISO up to 200 to get coverage of 11 feet at wide angle and 7.2 feet at telephoto. That's not much of a stretch in ISO and covers most indoor use with its range.
Movie mode was great fun, too. At 640x480 and 30-fps, the A570 IS delivers "broadcast quality" video. Despite having a 16:9 still aspect ratio, however, you have to shoot all video in 4:3, compatible with conventional standard-definition TV sets.
I did have one unusual issue with this particular model. It went through batteries in just a few shots. I believe the battery door itself was defective because opening it and closing it again usually resolved the low power indication (which shuts off the camera). And there was a little play in the door, too. This kind of thing happens on review samples, so it may not be a problem in fresh-from-the-box retail units, but fair warning.
The controls are convenient and easy to use. Canon tends to move the buttons around from model to model and functions seem to shift around a lot, too. But once you get the idea, you won't need the manual. The concept is that the Menu button takes you to once-in-a-while settings (including the Setup options), while the Function button gets you to settings that might change from scene to scene. The external buttons themselves have the functions you might switch from shot to shot. On the A570 IS, you can actually program the Print/Share button to be one of the latter, a very nice touch.
I should point out that the Mode dial was unusually stiff, requiring quite an effort to click it from one mode to another. That's not something you do a lot, but it shouldn't be this much work.
Shooting. Image stabilization is one of the wonders of modern photography. Your hand normally shakes enough to make a shutter speed like 1/30 chancy. But "chancy" drops to 1/4 second with image stabilization. No need for flash, no need for high ISO (and the noise that high ISO entails on a small digicam sensor). And, yes, a sharp, detailed shot. In fact, you'll get photos unlike any you've ever taken before without image stabilization.
Image stabilization has long been appreciated with long zooms where the 10x focal lengths are impossible to hand hold, but I find myself relying on it even at shorter focal lengths, in light that does not invite photography. The only time I turn it off is when I use a tripod or sturdy support.
Canon believes image stabilization should happen in the lens, where an optical element can float to compensate for movement. That means more expense for Canon dSLR fans, who will have to buy IS lenses instead of a body with the technology built in. But that approach is no issue for digicam buyers, where the design makes lens and body inseparable.
I expanded my usual doll shot into a series to show off Canon's excellent implementation of image stabilization. I first shot a normal shot like you'd take with any digicam in Auto mode with Auto ISO and no IS -- just to show you what normal looks like. Very blurry at ISO 200, as expected. Then I switched just ISO to Auto High ISO, so the camera would stretch a little and at ISO 800 it's sharper if not sharp at 1/5 second. Then I manually walked through the ISO settings at 800 and 1600 without IS. Even at 1600, I needed a shutter speed as slow as 1/13, though, well below my hand held limit of 1/30. It's sharper than the Auto High ISO shot and the color is still quite good, although there's certainly more noise.
Then I switched IS on and reshot at ISO 400, 800 and 1600 with shutter speeds chosen by the camera of 1/3, 1/7 and 1/10 second. Of these only the 1600 at 1/10 second is sharp (you can see the painted eyebrows and eyelashes clearly) with good color, too. You have to examine the full-size images to see this (and they are full resolution even at 1600), so if you're shooting low resolution for the Web or email only, the news is even better.
Couple this with Macro mode (using the Full Exif Display links on the sample-image pages, look in the Focus Range setting for "Macro") and you can enjoy close-up shooting without worrying about artificial light. The shot of stick shift knob at 1/26 second below is one example, but so is Santa at ISO 1600 (the last shot in the gallery).
Digital zoom is another feature that's unevenly implemented. Some manufacturers do it well (giving you the choice of upsampling to full resolution or cropping to a smaller size with enough detail to make large prints). Others just don't. In the Full Exif Display, the DigitalZoom tag shows the amount of digital zoom used in any of the gallery images.
Canon upsamples and detail suffers, as you can see in my 4x zoom image of the city. With 7.1 megapixels to play with, I'd prefer a 3-megapixel image (good enough for enlargements) without the upsampling. In fact, downsampling the image again (or just printing it smaller) helps restore it a bit. But I wouldn't avoid using digital zoom on the A570 IS. It certainly delivers credible results, just a notch down in detail.
Appraisal. The Canon A570 IS is a capable all-around camera with some high-end features that are more useful than exotic. High ISO is usable and image stabilization so useful you almost always want it enabled. Digital zoom was a bit of a disappointment on this 7.1-megapixel camera, but otherwise the DIGIC III image processor provided above average performance yielding some wonderfully natural shots in a variety of settings.
- 7.1 megapixel sensor
- 4x optical zoom lens ranging from 35-140mm (35mm equivalent)
- 4x digital zoom
- Macro focusing as close as 2.0 inches (with lens set to wide angle)
- Maximum aperture f2.6 (W) to f5.5 (T), minimum f8.0
- 15 to 1/2000 second shutter speed
- Evaluative, center-weighted, spot metering
- White balance settings of Auto, Preset (Daylight, Cloudy, Tungsten, Fluorescent, Fluorescent H, Underwater), and Custom
- Flash settings of Auto, Auto with Red-eye Reduction, Flash On, Flash On with Red-eye Reduction, and Off
- Scene modes include Portrait, Landscape, Special Scene (Night Scene, Foliage, Snow, Beach, Fireworks, Aquarium, Underwater), Indoor, Kids & Pets, Night Snapshot, Stitch Assist, and Movie
- Full Manual mode, Programmed Auto, Aperture and Shutter Priority modes
- 2.5 inch LCD with 115K pixels
- Optical viewfinder
- Two AA batteries for power
- Optical image stabilization
- DIGIC III image processor
- Face detection technology
- ISO as high as 1600
- Aquarium Scene mode
- Movie modes include 60 fps fast frame rate at QVGA (320x240) resolution
- Continuous shooting at 1.3 fps
- SDHC memory card support
In the Box
The Canon PowerShot A570 IS ships with the following items in the box:
- PowerShot A570 IS
- Two AA-sized alkaline batteries
- 16MB MultiMediaCard
- Wrist Strap WS-800
- Digital Camera Solution CD-ROM
- USB cable IFC-400PCU
- AV cable AVC-DC-300
- Large capacity SD/MMC memory card. These days, a 512MB card is often a good trade-off between cost and capacity, but get a 1 or 2GB card if you plan to shoot a lot of movies. (Go for a high-speed card for best performance in high-speed movie mode.)
- Small camera case for outdoor and in-bag protection
- High-Power Flash HF-DC1
- AC adapter kit ACK800
- Underwater case WP-DC12
The Canon A570 IS stands out for its usable ISO as high as 1600 (for small prints, at least) and excellent image stabilization so useful you'll always want it active. Considering you get that for just $50 over the price of the quite similar A560, it's a bargain, too.
Digital zoom was a bit of a disappointment on this 7.1-megapixel camera, but otherwise the DIGIC III image processor provided above average performance yielding some wonderfully natural shots in a variety of settings. Movie mode can deliver broadcast quality video in a 4:3 aspect ratio while still mode a offers 16:9 wide screen option I find a lot of fun.
Operation is straightforward once you learn Canon's hierarchy of controls, but I was delighted to see a programmable Print/Share button on the A570 IS. That made up a little for the stiff Mode dial. And, who knows, if you keep changing how you define the button, you may qualify to work for Canon's user interface group.
From the optical viewfinder to the manual modes, whenever I looked for a feature a photographer would appreciate, I found it on the A570 IS. There isn't the gaudy LCD (with no room for a viewfinder) or extravagant zoom range (with big compromises in optical quality) or any of the frills (frames, in-camera presentations) of many less capable digicams. But if you want a compact digicam that can take pictures like a real camera, this is an easy Dave's Pick.