Canon A530 Review
Canon A530 Exposure
Saturation & Hue Accuracy
Slight oversaturation in the reds and blues, very typical of consumer digital cameras. Generally good hue accuracy.
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 Canon A530 follows this trend, with slightly oversaturated reds and blues. Where oversaturation is most problematic is on Caucasian skin tones, as it's very easy for these "memory colors" to be seen as too bright, too pink, too yellow, etc. The Canon A530 did render skin tones a bit on the warm side in most cases, but most consumers should still find skin tones appealing.
The other important part of color rendition is hue accuracy. Hue is "what color" the color is. Here, the Canon A530 performed well. Like most digicams, it shifts cyan colors toward blue, to produce better-looking sky colors. It also pushed some reds toward a warmer, more orange tint, but overall color was still quite pleasing.
Exposure and White Balance
Indoors, incandescent lighting
Slight warm casts with each white balance setting, though best results with Manual. Less positive exposure compensation required than average.
|Auto White Balance +0.7 EV||Incandescent WB +0.7 EV|
|Manual White Balance +0.7 EV|
Color balance indoors under incandescent lighting was slightly warm with all three white balance settings, though the Manual option produced the most pleasing results overall. The Canon PowerShot A530 only required a +0.7 EV exposure compensation boost to get a good exposure, a little less than average for this shot. Overall color is dark and slightly red here, making the blue flowers very dark and purplish. (A very common outcome for this shot.) 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.
Slightly warm overall color, but good exposure.
|Auto White Balance, +0.3 EV||Auto White Balance, Auto Exposure|
Outdoors, the Canon A530 generally handled bright lighting with slightly high contrast, though still with good highlights. Both the highlights and shadows held onto detail fairly well. Exposure accuracy overall was better than average, the camera typically requiring less exposure compensation than we're accustomed to seeing with consumer digicams. Overall color was just a little warm and yellow, though still within reasonable parameters.
High resolution, 1,100 ~ 1,200 lines of strong detail.
Our laboratory resolution chart revealed sharp, distinct line patterns down to about 1,200 lines per picture height horizontally, and to about 1,100 vertically. Extinction occurred around 1,650. Use these numbers to compare the Canon A530 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. If you zoom in and follow them from the wider portions, you'll see the lines converge and reappear several times, so the lines you see at 1,500 and higher are really only artifacts generated by the camera's imaging system.
|Strong detail to 1,200 lines horizontal||Strong detail to 1,100 lines vertical|
Sharpness & Detail
Sharp images with good detail definition, only moderate noise suppression and some edge enhancement.
|Good definition of high-contrast elements.||Subtle detail: Hair
Noise suppression tends to blur detail in areas of subtle contrast, as in the darker parts of Marti's hair here.
The Canon A530's images are nice and sharp, though with some evidence of edge enhancement on the camera's part in high contrast areas. (Edge enhancement creates the illusion of sharpness by enhancing colors and tones right at the edge of a rapid transition in color or tone.)
Noise-suppression systems in digital cameras tend to flatten-out detail in areas of subtle contrast. The effects can often be seen in shots of human hair, where the individual strands are lost and an almost "watercolor" look appears. The crop at far right shows this slightly in the darkest shadow areas, though the Canon A530 does capture quite a bit of fine detail here.
ISO & Noise Performance
Low to moderate noise at the normal sensitivity settings, very high noise that blurs detail at the higher settings.
|ISO 80||ISO 100||ISO 200|
|ISO 400||ISO 800|
The Canon A530's lower ISO settings produced low to moderate noise, even as high as ISO 200. At ISOs 400 and 800, however, the noise level is much higher with brighter pixels. Fine detail disintegrates at the higher ISOs as well, with stronger blurring and an unflattering shift in skin tone toward purple.
Extremes: Sunlit and low light tests
Good exposure, though slightly high contrast. Very good detail and resolution, even in the shadows. Good low-light performance, capable of capturing bright images under average city street lighting and much darker conditions.
|+0.3 EV||+0.7 EV||+1.0 EV|
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 Canon PowerShot A530 produced slightly high contrast in response to the harsh lighting above, though both highlights and shadows preserve a lot of detail. The camera required slightly less positive exposure compensation than average here, at +0.7 EV, though midtones are just a little dim. (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.)
The Canon PowerShot A530 produced bright images down to the darkest light level we test at, at nearly all of its available ISO settings. The exception is ISO 80, which produced bright images down to the 1/8 foot-candle light level, which is about 1/8 as bright as average city street lighting at night. Color balance was slightly red from the Auto white balance setting, but still pretty good. Unassisted, the camera's autofocus system was able to focus on the subject down to just below the 1/2 foot-candle light level, requiring the AF assist lamp for anything darker. Keep in mind that the long shutter times necessary here absolutely demand the use of a tripod or other camera support to get sharp photos. (A useful trick is to just prop the camera on a convenient surface, and use its self-timer to release the shutter. This avoids any jiggling from your finger pressing the shutter button, and can work quite well when you don't have a tripod handy.)
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.
Coverage and Range
A slightly limited flash range, with a warm cast. Our standard shots required about average positive exposure compensation.
|35mm equivalent||140mm equivalent|
|Normal Flash +1.0 EV||Slow-Sync Flash +1.0 EV|
Flash coverage was rather uneven at wide angle, and more even (though much dimmer) at telephoto. In the Indoor test, the Canon A530's flash underexposed our subject at its default setting, requiring a +1.0 EV exposure compensation adjustment, which is about average. Even here, the exposure is a little dim, with a strong warm cast. The camera's Slow-Sync flash mode resulted in more even lighting overall, though with a stronger orange cast at +1.0 EV.
The Canon A530's flash remained bright at wide angle to about 11 feet before decreasing in intensity more strongly. At full telephoto, flash power was bright to about seven feet before decreasing. This agrees pretty well with Canon's specs for the A530, which state the flash is powerful to about 11 feet at wide angle, and to about seven feet at telephoto.
Good print quality, great color, very usable 11x14 inch prints. ISO 800 images are soft at 8x10, acceptable at 5x7, good at 4x6.
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 iP5200 here in the office. (See the Canon i9900 review for details on that model.)
With the Canon PowerShot A530, we found that it had enough resolution to make very good 8x10 inch prints. At 11x14, its prints were a bit softer, but more than adequate for wall or table display. At high ISO, image noise levels are held in check, but at the cost of sharpness and detail. even ISO 400 images are useable at 8x10, but ISO 800 images are really too grainy for anything but 5x7 or lower. Skin tones take on an unflattering purple cast as well. Color-wise, the Canon A530's images looked great when printed on the iP5200, with bright, vibrant color.
The images above were taken from our standardized test shots. For a collection of more pictorial photos, see our Canon PowerShot A530 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 A530 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.