Canon A430 Review

 
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Canon A430 Exposure








Color

Saturation & Hue Accuracy
Oversaturated color (especially reds, greens, and blues), typical of consumer digital cameras. Generally good hue accuracy.


In the diagram above, the squares show the original color, and the circles show the color that the camera captured. More saturated colors are located towards the periphery of the graph. Hue changes as you travel around the center. Thus, hue-accurate, highly saturated colors appear as lines radiating from the center.
Most consumer digital cameras produce color that's more highly saturated (more intense) than found in the original subjects. This is simply because most people like their color a bit brighter than life. The PowerShot A430 follows this trend, although seemingly more so in Scene modes than in other exposure modes, and to a greater extent overall than most consumers cameras we test. No one color is oversaturated to an extreme, but the overall effect is of very bright color. As noted, this will likely appeal to most consumers, but photographers preferring more understated color may find the A430's bright rendering a bit over the top. To its credit though, the A430 manages to reign in its enthusiastic color when dealing with skin tones, producing very natural-looking portrait shots.

The other important part of color rendition is hue accuracy. Hue is "what color" the color is. On the color-error chart at right, hues are pretty accurate, the exceptions being the typical shift of cyans toward pure blues (a tweak that improves sky colors somewhat), and the shift of yellow-orange towards yellow.

Canon PowerShot A430 digital camera image Canon PowerShot A430 digital camera image

Sensor

Exposure and White Balance

Indoors, incandescent lighting
Moderate warm cast with both Auto and Incandescent white balance settings, Manual is very neutral. Average exposure compensation required.

Canon PowerShot A430 digital camera image
Auto White Balance +1.0EV Incandescent WB +1.0EV
Manual WB +1.0EV

Color balance indoors under both Auto and Incandescent lighting was just a bit warm but well within what we'd consider acceptable limits, while the Manual white balance gave a very neutral look. (We personally like the looks of the Manual option here, but some people will prefer the warmer tone of the other settings, as being more evocative of the mood of the original scene.) The PowerShot A430 required a +1.0 EV exposure compensation boost to get a good exposure, pretty typical for this shot. Overall color is well-balanced and hue accurate. Our test lighting for this shot is a mixture of 60 and 100 watt household incandescent bulb, a pretty yellow light source, but a very common one in typical home settings here in the US.

Outdoors, daylight
Good color balance, very bright colors. Better than average exposure accuracy.

Canon PowerShot A430 digital camera image
Auto White Balance
Auto Exposure
Auto White Balance
Auto Exposure

Outdoor shots generally showed accurate exposure and a slightly better than average ability to hold onto highlight detail. Shadow detail was noticeably better than average for a low-end consumer camera. Exposure accuracy overall was better than average, the camera requiring less exposure compensation than we're accustomed to seeing with consumer digicams. The main thing we noticed about the Canon A430's shots though, was their very bright color. This should be appealing to most consumers, but shooters preferring a more understated color handling may be happier with a different model.

See full set of test images with explanations
See thumbnails of all test and gallery images

Resolution
High resolution, 1,000 lines of strong detail.

Our laboratory resolution chart revealed sharp, distinct line patterns down to about 1,000 lines per picture height (albeit with very noticeable artifacts at that level), with extinction at around 1,300. (The PowerShot A430 did produce slight color artifacts at lower line frequencies though, visible in the full-sized res target shots.) Use these numbers to compare with other cameras of similar resolution, or use them to see just what higher resolution can mean in terms of potential detail. Beware that while you might be able to make out what looks like distinct lines at numbers higher than those we've mentioned here, the camera is just doing its best to continue interpreting the lines. The lines you see at 1,400 and higher are really only artifacts generated by the camera's imaging system.

Canon PowerShot A430 digital camera image Canon PowerShot A430 digital camera image
Strong detail to 1,000 lines horizontal Strong detail to 1,000 lines vertical

See full set of test images with explanations
See thumbnails of all test and gallery images

Sharpness & Detail
Fairly sharp images.

Pretty good definition of high-contrast elements, resolution typical of a 4-megapixel camera. Subtle detail: Hair
Note the detail in areas of subtle contrast, as in the darker parts of Marti's hair here. (Much better than average.)

The PowerShot A430's images are reasonably sharp, without over-sharpening or excessive edge enhancement on the camera's part. (Edge enhancement creates the illusion of sharpness by enhancing colors and tones right at the edge of a rapid transition in color or tone.) Resolution and sharpness seem about average for a 4-megapixel camera. The camera also does a better than average job at holding onto detail in areas of subtle contrast. (Many cameras lose detail in subjects like hair and soft foliage, due to their noise-reduction processing. The A430 is relatively free of this.)

ISO & Noise Performance
Low noise at low ISO settings, only moderate noise at ISO 200. (Even ISO 200 shots make surprisingly good-looking 8x10 inch prints.)

Canon PowerShot A430 digital camera image Canon PowerShot A430 digital camera image
ISO 64 ISO 100
Canon PowerShot A430 digital camera image Canon PowerShot A430 digital camera image
ISO 200 ISO 400

By default, the Canon PowerShot A430 automatically sets sensitivity between ISO 64 and 400 equivalents, but you can also control it manually across that range. We were surprised by how acceptable the noise levels of the A430 were at ISO 200. We suspect that most consumers would be quite happy with even 8x10 inch prints made from the A430's ISO 200 shots, and at 5x7 inches, noise really becomes a non-issue. At ISO 400, the A430's images are very usable up to about a 5x7 inch print size.

Extremes: Sunlit and low light tests
High resolution with good overall detail, though high contrast limits highlight detail. Pretty good low-light performance, capable of capturing bright images under average city street lighting and slightly darker conditions.

Canon PowerShot A430 digital camera image Canon PowerShot A430 digital camera image Canon PowerShot A430 digital camera image
Normal +0.3EV +0.7EV

Sunlight:
Because digital cameras are more like slide film than negative film (in that they tend to have a more limited tonal range), we test them in the harshest situations to see how they handle scenes with bright highlights and dark shadows, as well as what kind of sensitivity they have in low light. The shot above is designed to mimic the very harsh, contrasty effect of direct noonday sunlight, a very tough challenge for most digital cameras. (You can read details of this test here.)

The PowerShot A430 had a little trouble with the deliberately harsh lighting in the test above, producing very high contrast with washed-out highlights and deep shadows. While the shadows were deep, the +0.7EV shot above shows better than average detail in them for an entry-level camera. (In "real life" though, be sure to use fill flash in situations like the one shown above; it's better to shoot in the shade when possible.)

  1 fc
11 lux
1/2 fc
5.5 lux
1/4 fc
2.7 lux
1/8 fc
1.3 lux
1/16 fc
0.67 lux
ISO
65
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1 sec
f2.8
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f2.8
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f2.8
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f2.8
ISO
100
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f2.8
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f2.8
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f2.8
ISO
200
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1/2 sec
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f2.8
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f2.8
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f2.8
ISO
400
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1/4 sec
f2.8
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1/2 sec
f2.8
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f2.8

Low light:
In our low light testing, the PowerShot A430 produced clear, bright, usable images down to one foot-candle at ISO 100 and below, 1/2 foot-candle at ISO 200 and 1/4 foot-candle at ISO 400. The camera's autofocus system worked well, able to focus on the subject down to about 1/4 foot-candle, about 1/4 the brightness of typical street-lighting at night.

NOTE: This low light test is conducted with a stationary subject, and the camera mounted on a sturdy tripod. Most digital cameras will fail miserably when faced with a moving subject in dim lighting. (For example, a child's ballet recital or a holiday pageant in a gymnasium.) For such applications, you may have better luck with a digital SLR camera, but even there, you'll likely need to set the focus manually. For information and reviews on digital SLRs, refer to our SLR review index page.

Flash

Coverage and Range
The A430's small flash has a limited range, produces a slight blue cast in combination with typical incandescent room lighting. Our standard shots required more exposure compensation than average.

Canon PowerShot A430 digital camera image
39mm equivalent 156mm equivalent
Click to see A430INFP4.JPG Click to see A430INFSP3.JPG
Normal Flash +1.3EV Slow-Sync Mode, +1.0EV

Flash coverage was somewhat uneven at wide angle but very good at telephoto. In the Indoor test, the flash on the PowerShot A430 underexposed our subject at its default setting, requiring a +1.3 EV exposure compensation adjustment (a bit more than average) to get reasonably bright results. The camera's Slow-Sync mode produced brighter results, but with a bit more color cast from the room lighting. The overall results with both modes were quite good, but we'd like to have seen slightly less color cast from the room lighting.

8 ft 9 ft 10 ft 11 ft 12 ft 13 ft 14 ft
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1/60 sec
f4.5
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f5.0
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1/60 sec
f5.8
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f5.8
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f5.8
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f5.8
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1/60 sec
f5.8

Even at eight feet, our closest test range, the PowerShot A430's flash did not quite illuminate the DaveBox target adequately. This agrees with Canon's own flash range specs of 9.8 feet at wide angle and 6.6 feet at telephoto. (The lens was zoomed out slightly even at the 8 foot distance, so a range of just under 8 feet would match Canon's specs fairly well.) This is a bit on the short side, but not uncommon for a compact camera model.

Output Quality

Print Quality
Good print quality, great color, nice 8x10 inch prints. ISO 400 images are soft at 8x10, acceptable at 5x7, great at 4x6. ISO 200 shots are acceptable at 8x10.

Testing hundreds of digital cameras, we've found that you can only tell just so much about a camera's image quality by viewing its images on-screen. Ultimately, there's no substitute for printing a lot of images and examining them closely. For this reason, we now routinely print sample images from the cameras we test on our Canon i9900 studio printer, and on the Canon iP5000 here in the office. (See the Canon i9900 review for details on that model.)

With the PowerShot A430, we found that it had enough resolution to make nice-looking 8x10 inch prints. At 11x14, its prints were softer looking, but perhaps adequate for wall or table display. At high ISO, image noise was better than we'd normally expect to see in a camera of this class. ISO 400 images were soft and noisy when printed at 8x10 inches, but should be acceptable to most consumers when printed as 5x7s. ISO 200 shots should be acceptable for wall display at 8x10 inches, and looked great printed as 5x7s.

Color-wise, the PowerShot A430's images looked great when printed on the i9900, with very bright, vibrant color, and very good skin tones. The color was a little over-bright for our personal tastes, but as we've noted above and previously, consumers tend to like very bright color, so most people should find the A430's color very appealing. All in all, a great performance from a bargain digital camera.

 

The images above were taken from our standardized test shots. For a collection of more pictorial photos, see our Canon PowerShot A430 Photo Gallery.

Recommended Software: Rescue your Photos!

Just as important as an extra memory card is a tool to rescue your images when one of your cards fails at some point in the future. We get a lot of email from readers who've lost photos due to a corrupted memory card. Memory card corruption can happen with any card type and any camera manufacturer, nobody's immune. A lot of "lost" images can be recovered with an inexpensive, easy to use piece of software though. Given the amount of email I've gotten on the topic, I now include this paragraph in all my digital camera reviews. The program you need is called PhotoRescue, by DataRescue SA. Read our review of it if you'd like, but download the program now, so you'll have it. It doesn't cost a penny until you need it, and even then it's only $29, with a money back guarantee. So download PhotoRescue for Windows or PhotoRescue for Mac while you're thinking of it. (While you're at it, download the PDF manual and quickstart guide as well.) Stash the file in a safe place and it'll be there when you need it. Trust me, needing this is not a matter of if, but when... PhotoRescue is about the best and easiest tool for recovering digital photos I've seen. (Disclosure: IR gets a small commission from sales of the product, but I'd highly recommend the program even if we didn't.) OK, now back to our regularly scheduled review...

Not sure which camera to buy? Let your eyes be the ultimate judge! Visit our Comparometer(tm) to compare images from the Canon PowerShot A430 with those from other cameras you may be considering. The proof is in the pictures, so let your own eyes decide which you like best!

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Note: For details, test results, and analysis of the many tests done with this camera, please click on the tabs at the beginning of the review or below.

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