Canon PowerShot A590 IS Overview
by Stephanie Boozer
Review Date: 08/13/08
Boasting improved Face Detection and Motion Detection technology, the Canon PowerShot A590 IS aims to outperform in the area of portraiture, capturing better exposed and better focused faces, whether they're in motion or standing still. The PowerShot A590 IS is small and compact, and similar in style and overall design to other members of the PowerShot "A" series, with a darker, graphite body that stands out among the silver digital camera crowd. Offering 4x optical zoom, a bright 2.5-inch LCD monitor and an 8.0-megapixel CCD, the A590 IS is a good deal at its MSRP of $179.99.
The 4x optical zoom lens offers slightly more zoom than the average point-and-shoot digital camera, covering a range equivalent to 35-140mm on a 35mm camera. In addition to the 4x optical zoom, the PowerShot A590 IS features another 4x of digital zoom, which does a decent job of maintaining image quality despite the digital enlargement. (We still remind readers that digital zoom compromises quality and resolution by digitally "stretching" the image.) With a full range of exposure modes from Easy to a full Manual mode (this last being unusual in inexpensive digital cameras), the PowerShot A590 IS is a good fit for just about any experience level, and its offering of preset Scene modes help with a wide range of common-yet-tricky exposure situations. More experienced users will appreciate the camera's adjustable white balance, ISO, color, contrast, sharpness and saturation adjustments. The PowerShot A590 IS's combination of small, portable size and numerous capabilities should appeal to a wide range of consumers, from novices to more advanced users. Read on for all of the details.
Canon PowerShot A590 IS User Report
by Stephanie Boozer
The Canon PowerShot A590 IS's two-toned graphite-colored exterior is a welcome break from the typical matte silver digital camera design so common these days. While the plastic body panels aren't especially shiny, they do have a very smooth finish that feels good in the hand: Yet, despite the glossy plastic surface, the grip on the right side of the camera gives your fingers solid purchase. (Although we expect it could get slippery if your hands were sweaty or wet.) With compact dimensions of 3.71 x 2.55 x 1.61 inches (94 x 66 x 41 millimeters), the PowerShot A590 IS is pocket-friendly, albeit not as much so as are Canon's Digital ELPH series models. With batteries and memory card installed, the A590 IS weighs in at 7.8 ounces (221 grams), which is just enough heft to feel comfortable while shooting but not so heavy that it weighs down a coat pocket.
Packing a Digic III Image Processor for better imaging performance, a 4x optical zoom lens and 8.0-megapixel CCD, the PowerShot A590 IS is a well-equipped, compact camera. Its 2.5-inch, color LCD monitor is bright and easy to see outdoors, and the camera's range of exposure modes and creative tools are hospitable to a wide range of experience levels. The A590 IS also upholds Canon's reputation for great color and exposure, and pleasing optical performance as well.
Look and feel. Compact, yet still slightly chunky in appearance, the Canon PowerShot A590 IS fits well into average-size pockets and most purses. With a large hand grip on the right side of the camera (thanks to the AA battery compartment), the A590 IS is easy to grip one-handed, and a slight indentation at the top right of the rear panel provides a comfortable thumbrest. Though you'll definitely want the supplied wrist strap in place in precarious shooting positions, the A590 IS's hand grip provides a very secure hold. One-handed shooting is also comfortable, as all of the camera's controls cluster on the right side of the camera body within easy reach. On a purely tactile note, the A590 IS's very smooth body panels have a nice feel that's pleasant to hold.
A large, bright, 2.5-inch color LCD monitor dominates rear panel, but leaves room enough on the right side for a compact but well-spaced array of controls. The A590 IS also features an optical viewfinder, in case you'd like to save battery power by shutting off the LCD monitor, but framing accuracy decreases greatly when using the optical viewfinder. Optical viewfinders can also be helpful when you're shooting in very dim conditions, but we found the A590IS's LCD viewfinder surprisingly usable under dim lighting. Though its surface is highly reflective (and thus easily smudged and scratched), the PowerShot A590 IS's LCD is still easy to see in bright sunlight. Though the camera does not offer a LCD brightness adjustment, the Display button on the rear panel does cycle through information display modes, and you can enable a Gridline or 3:2 Aspect Ratio display option through the Setup menu. The camera's full information overlay reports a healthy selection of camera information, including aperture and shutter speed, among other mode settings.
4x Digital Zoom
The Canon PowerShot A590 IS offers a 4x optical zoom lens, equivalent to a 35-140mm zoom on a 35mm camera, slightly more zoom than the typical point-and-shoot digital camera. In addition to the 4x optical zoom, the PowerShot A590 IS also offers as much as 4x digital zoom, which does a good job of preserving image resolution and detail despite digital enlargement. We always like to remind readers that digital zoom inevitably results in lower resolution and detail, because the camera is simply cropping the center of the frame and enlarging it. That said though, the PowerShot A590 IS's digital zoom should yield good results if print sizes are kept small, or images reserved for online purposes. One thing I noticed when shooting at full 4x digital enlargement is that the image is quite jumpy in the frame, making it a little hard to tell if you've got the shot lined up correctly (thus the somewhat tilted image of the tugboat above). It's also hard to tell if the image is in focus, which is common on many digital cameras at full digital enlargement. When it comes to the jumpy image, at least, the A590 IS's available Image Stabilization helps ensure focused images in situations like this. For expanded wide angle or telephoto capabilities, the A590 IS is compatible with Canon's accessory lens adaptors: A small button next to the lens bezel is actually a latch; press it and you can remove the bezel ring, exposing a bayonet mount for accessory lenses. Canon offers the WC-DC52 0.7x wide-angle lens, the TC-DC52A telephoto lens, the 250D 52mm closeup lens separately, along with the LA-DC52G adapter to mount them on the camera. (Note that the wide, tele, and macro lenses all need the LA-DC52G adapter to mount them to the camera. The lenses won't work by themselves.)
The PowerShot A590 IS is equipped to handle a wide range of shooting conditions and scenarios, featuring a range of useful preset Scene and exposure modes, Face Detection and Motion Detection technology, Image Stabilization and powerful tools like ISO, white balance and color mode adjustments. It's a capable camera that delivers good results under a variety of conditions, yet is straightforward enough that you don't need to read the manual cover to cover to operate it.
Interface. Similar to other Canon PowerShot models, the A590 IS features a straightforward user interface that's simple to navigate. Right out of the box, most users should be able to simply point and shoot and get great results. A Mode dial on top of the camera accesses the main exposure modes, with a notched edge that's easy to turn with your thumb and that clicks firmly into place at each setting. The Zoom lever surrounds the Shutter button, so that it too is easily accessed while shooting one-handed. The remaining controls are on the rear panel and include a sliding switch that enables Record and Playback modes, a Four-way Multi-controller and central Set button, and four additional buttons. All are within reach of you right thumb when shooting one-handed.
If you're already familiar with Canon digital cameras, the PowerShot A590 IS's menu system will be a breeze to navigate. Even without any prior Canon experience, the A590 IS's LCD menu is straightforward and easy to learn, and you'll quickly memorize which shooting functions are available in the Record menu and which are accessed through the Function menu. Inside the menu screens, the Four-way Multi-controller navigates through selections, while the center Set button actually makes the selection. The Menu button on the rear panel calls up the main Record and Setup menus, while the Function/Set button at the center of the Multi-controller displays the Function menu. In both the Record and Function menus, available options will vary depending on what exposure mode you're in. Many of the PowerShot A590 IS's external controls have dual functions, which is a time saver we always appreciate.
For standard point-and-shoot photography, you'll likely be able to start snapping pictures almost immediately. But for more complex functions like setting white balance or configuring color, saturation, sharpness or contrast, plan to spend about 30 minutes to an hour to really get to know the camera. (One of the great things about the A590IS is that a complete novice can just put it in "Easy" mode (marked with a red heart on the mode dial) and snap away, right out of the box. - But there are plenty of advanced features to satisfy even a photo enthusiast, up to and including full manual mode.)
Modes. The Mode dial on the PowerShot A590 IS's top panel controls the main shooting mode, offering Easy, Auto, Program AE, Shutter Priority, Aperture Priority, Manual, Movie, Scene, Indoor, Kids & Pets, Night Portrait, Landscape and Portrait modes. Easy mode is a greatly simplified Auto mode, controlling everything but the flash. It's refreshing to see so many manual capabilities on a compact digital camera, and the A590 IS's available manual and partial manual modes are quite capable. Shutter speeds in both Shutter Priority and Manual exposure modes range from 1/2,000 to 15 seconds, which gives the camera excellent low-light shooting capabilities.
The Scene position of the Mode dial provides access to the remaining preset modes that do not have places on the dial, namely Night Scene, Foliage, Beach, Aquarium, Sunset, Snow and Fireworks modes. Each of the camera's preset modes is fairly self-explanatory, optimizing the camera for specific shooting conditions that are commonly encountered, but can be troublesome to get right exposure-wise.
In the semi-auto and manual shooting modes, the PowerShot A590 IS offers an array of more advanced shooting functions, including the ability to choose ISO (from 80 to 1,600), white balance (which includes a Custom setting), metering and exposure compensation. Within the My Colors menu option of the Function menu, you can not only select a color mode, but also adjust the overall saturation, sharpness and contrast. Image stabilization can be set to any of four modes (Off, Continuous, Shoot Only, and Panning) via a record-menu option.
For moving subjects, the PowerShot A590 IS offers a Continuous Shooting mode, which Canon rates as fast as 1.4 frames per second for large/fine JPEGs. (In our tests, we clocked the A590 IS at 1.21 frames per second for 20+ large/fine JPEGs, and 1.46 fps at the smallest image size.) The PowerShot A590 IS thus won't be able to keep up with high-speed action, but should be able to handle average-paced moving subjects fairly well. The A590 IS is also equipped for capturing movies with sound. Available resolutions are 640 x 480 (20fps/20fps LP), 320 x 240 (30 fps) and 160 x 120 (15fps). The 640x480 LP mode uses more image compression, producing smaller file sizes, but at some cost in image quality. The 160x120 "compact" movie mode was initially a little tricky to find, as it's not on the normal image-size menu accessed via the Func Set button. Instead, you select it by pressing the right or left arrow buttons on the 4-way controller when you're in movie mode. A Self-timer option provides either a two- or 10-second shutter delay for still shots, or you can set a custom countdown period for longer times up to 30 seconds, and from one to 10 shots captured when the timer runs out.
Special Features. The Canon PowerShot A590 IS also offers the latest versions of Canon's Face Detection and Motion Detection technologies, meaning the camera can automatically detect faces in a frame and track them as they move. Face Detection is useful for a number of reasons, but primarily because it tells the camera to set focus and exposure levels based on the faces in the image area, especially useful for backlit portraits. The A590 IS's Face Detection goes a step further, and calculates white balance as well, ensuring better skin tones. The A590 IS also offers a Face Detect and Track mode, which lets you manually highlight the face in the image area, then direct the camera to track that face if it moves. Face detection is activated via the AF Frame option on the Shooting menu, you can select from among multiple faces in an image via the left/right arrow buttons, and you can lock onto a single face by pressing the printer-icon button on the rear panel when you have that particular face highlighted.)
We've already discussed the camera's ISO capability, offering equivalent sensitivity settings from 80 to 1,600 with an Auto mode. In addition, the A590 IS offers a High ISO Auto mode, which attempts to control camera shake by automatically selecting higher ISO settings when confronted with dim lighting.
Storage and battery. The Canon PowerShot A590 IS accepts SDHC/SD/MMC/MMC HC memory cards, and comes with a 32 MB starter MMC card. (Fairly useless, frankly.) The included card will hold about 8 large/superfine JPEGs, while a 512 MB SD card should hold about 139 large/superfine JPEGs. Of course, we always recommend picking up a large capacity SDHC or SD memory card at least a 1 GB card, preferably a 4 GB one, to give you even more room, especially if you plan on shooting many movies: High-resolution movies *really* eat up card capacity.
For power, the PowerShot A590 IS uses two AA-type batteries, and comes with a set of ordinary alkaline cells. Normal alkaline cells will give you enough power for about 200 shots, while a set of NiMH rechargeable cells allows for about 450 shots, according to the CIPA standard. As always, we highly recommend you pick up a couple of sets of good-quality NiMH rechargeable batteries and a good-quality charger, as they'll save you many times their cost over the life of the camera.
Shooting. The Canon PowerShot A590 IS is very straightforward to shoot with. The Mode dial on top lets you quickly set the exposure mode, while the dual-function control keys on the rear panel are quick to learn (as is the LCD menu). And, in the case that you don't have auto-review set up to display images immediately post-capture, a sliding switch in the upper right corner of the rear panel takes you quickly to Playback mode and back to Record mode when you want. Users already familiar with the typical Canon digital camera menu setup will quickly adapt to the A590 IS's control layout and menus, but the camera is so user-friendly that even those completely new to the brand should have no trouble getting the lay of the land. Most of the control icons are fairly self-explanatory, and the menu system is clear and logical. Most users should be able to start shooting with the A590 IS right out of the box, but to get to know all of the camera's nuances, plan on spending about an hour or so with the manual in-hand.
The PowerShot A590 IS's performance figures ranged from good to just average, depending on the task at hand. For example, startup times are a little better than average at 1.9 seconds, but mode switching times are fairly typical at 1.3s from Playback to first shot in Record mode. Shutter lag at wide angle and telephoto was good, at 0.51 and 0.70 second respectively, which are a bit better (lower) than average. And cycle times were generally good as well, at 0.98 second for large/superfine JPEGs. The camera's Continuous Shooting mode was a bit on the slower side though, at 1.02 frames per second for large/superfine JPEGs, though the camera captured over 20 frames at this rate without slowing down. And flash recycle times might be a little long if you're trying to photograph groups of people, at 10.5 seconds. On the upside, download speeds were quite fast. Overall, I'd say the PowerShot A590 IS performs well. Though it most likely won't be fast enough for high-speed action, it should handle day-to-day needs very well.
Default Exposure, ISO 80
Image quality. The PowerShot A590 IS performed well in our testing, producing generally good color and exposure across a broad range of subjects. Color is bright and vibrant, yet still natural and appealing. Bright reds and blues are a bit oversaturated, with some slight shifts in hue accuracy (notably cyans toward blue for vibrant skies), which is very common among consumer digital cameras because many consumers prefer brighter-than-life color in their images. And though the strong reds and blues are bright, I think most consumers will find overall color to their liking.
Good fine detail in the mosaic pattern as well as in the more subtle
shading of the peppers at ISO 80.
The PowerShot A590 IS captures a lot of fine detail, with excellent definition at ISO 80. In the mosaic crop above, many digital cameras blur the more subtle areas of the skin and clothing mosaic pattern. And while the fine lines within the clothing and skin tones aren't sharply distinct, there is enough definition to indicate that the mosaic pattern does indeed continue in these areas. (The A590IS is far from perfect here, even at ISO 80, but is better than a lot of its competitors in this regard.) Likewise, in the subtle details of the peppers in the bottle at right, the A590 IS again does a great job of holding onto fine detail.
The Canon PowerShot A590 IS handled image noise well at its lower ISO settings, the noise pattern becomes noticeable at ISO 400 and does alter color balance slightly. Still, results here are a little better than average, and the Canon A590IS's ISO 400 shots made great-looking 5x7 inch prints. At the highest ISO setting of 1,600, both noise grain and noise suppression become very strong, blurring fine details and cooling color balance.
Strong detail to
1,550 lines horizontal
Strong detail to
1,400 lines vertical
The Canon PowerShot A590 IS's 8.0-megapixel CCD captured very high resolution images. Our laboratory resolution chart revealed sharp, distinct line patterns down to about 1,550 lines per picture height horizontally, and to about 1,400-1,500 lines vertically. Extinction didn't really occur, though lines began to merge around 1,800-1,900 lines.
Wide: Soft in the left
corners (upper left).
Tele: Also soft in corners (upper left).
Though the A590 IS's lens appeared to be of good quality, with generally average to low distortion, we did notice some blurring in the corners of the frame at both wide angle and telephoto zoom positions. We also noticed a fair amount of chromatic aberration at both zoom settings, though the blurring in the corners likely intensified this effect. Fortunately, neither the chromatic aberration nor the blurring extended very far into the images at all: Overall optical quality seems better than many competing models.
Appraisal. With its compact size, full range of exposure modes and options, 4x optical zoom, 8.0-megapixel CCD, and improved Face and Motion Detection, the Canon PowerShot A590 IS definitely deserves strong consideration at its MSRP of $179.99. (As of this writing in August, 2008, the A590IS could be found online from reputable merchants for as low as $150, a bargain indeed.) The camera performs well in a variety of situations, with fairly good overall responsiveness and timing, producing good quality images, with good exposure and overall color. The availability of a 15-second maximum shutter time and the varying level of manual exposure control are also great bonuses, making the camera much more flexible than many in its price range.
Canon A590 IS Basic Features
- 8.0-megapixel CCD (effective) delivers image resolutions as high as 3,264 x 2,448
- 4x optical zoom lens, equivalent to 35-140mm
- As much as 4x digital zoom
- Nine-point AF area, plus manual focus and advanced Face Detection
- Real-image optical viewfinder
- 2.5-inch color LCD monitor
- Easy, Auto, Program AE, Shutter Priority, Aperture Priority and Manual main exposure modes
- Shutter speeds from 1/2,000 to 15 seconds, depending on exposure mode
- Maximum aperture range from f/2.6 - f/5.5, depending on zoom setting
- Digic III Image Processor
- Built-in flash with three main modes plus Red-eye Removal
- SDHC/SD/MMC/MMCplus/HC-MMCplus memory card slot
- Power from two AA-type batteries, set of alkalines included
- USB 2.0 connector jack and cable
- AV cable for connection to television set
- PictBridge, Canon Direct Print and Bubble Jet Direct compatible
Canon A590 IS Special Features
- 12 preset Scene modes
- Standard and Compact Movie modes with sound
- Continuous Shooting mode
- Enhanced Face Detection technology
- Motion Detection technology
- Lens-shift Image Stabilization
- Macro and Self-Timer modes
- Evaluative, Center-weighted and Spot metering modes
- Adjustable ISO from 80 to 1,600 equivalents, plus an Auto setting.
- Adjustable white balance with seven modes, including a custom adjustment
- My Colors menu for creative color effects, plus contrast, saturation and sharpness adjustments
- In-camera editing for red-eye removal, plus a selection of creative filters
- Compatible with wide angle and telephoto conversion lenses, sold as separate accessories
- Soft carrying case
- Set of good-quality NiMH rechargeable batteries and a good-quality charger
- Large capacity SDHC or SD memory card at least a 2 GB card, preferably a 4 GB one, to give yourself extra space for extended outings and movies
Canon A590 IS Conclusion
The Canon PowerShot A590 IS is a good all-around digital camera, capable enough to perform well under most shooting conditions. Its range of manual and automatic exposure modes will set any user level at ease, and its healthy selection of shooting tools and image adjustments will keep experienced users from getting bored. The A590 IS performs well in low lighting, with its maximum 15-second shutter time, and its range of preset Scene modes is useful in normal day-to-day situations. With advanced Face and Motion Detection technology, the A590 IS is a good option for people shots, though its timings aren't quite fast enough for sporting events or high-speed action. At an MSRP of $179.99, the PowerShot A590 IS definitely deserves a close look. There are cameras on the market with higher image quality and faster performance numbers, but with a street price touching $150, the Canon A590IS is a considerable bargain, and an easy Dave's Pick.