Canon A550 Review

 
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Canon PowerShot A550 Performance


Timing and Performance

Good to average speed for a consumer camera.

Startup/Shutdown

Power on
to first shot

1.3 seconds

Time it takes for LCD to turn on and lens to deploy.

Shutdown

1.6 seconds

How long it takes to retract lens.

Buffer clearing time

1 second
(1 second buffer clearing in LSF JPEG)

Worst case buffer clearing time. -- This is the delay after a set of shots before you can remove the card. Some cameras won't retract their lenses and shut down until the buffer is cleared.

Mode switching

Play to Record,
first shot

1.8 seconds

Time until first shot is captured

Record to play

2.3 seconds

Time to display a large/superfine file immediately after capture

Display
recorded image

1.3 seconds

Time to display a large/superfine file already on the memory card.

Shutter response (Lag Time):

Full Autofocus Wide

0.45 second

Time from fully pressing shutter button to image capture, zoom lens at wide angle position.

Full Autofocus Tele

0.63 second

Time from fully pressing shutter button to image capture, zoom lens at telephoto position.

Prefocused

0.072 second

Time to capture, after half-pressing and holding shutter button.

Cycle time (shot to shot)
Single Shot mode
Large SuperFine JPEG
1.36 seconds

Time per shot, averaged over 20 shots.

Single Shot mode
640x480 Normal JPEG

1.38 seconds

Time per shot, averaged over 20 shots.

Early shutter
penalty?

No

Some cameras refuse to snap another shot if you release and press the shutter too quickly in Single Shot mode, making "No" the preferred answer.

Continuous mode
Large SuperFine JPEG

0.59 second (1.68 frames per second);
1 second to clear

Time per shot, averaged over 20 shots.

Continuous mode
640x480 Normal JPEG

0.61 second (1.65 frames per second);
1 second to clear

Time per shot, averaged over 20 shots.

Flash recycling

10 seconds

Flash at maximum output.

Download speed

Windows Computer, USB 2.0

2,808 KBytes/sec

Typical Values:
Less than 600=USB 1.1;
600-769=USB 2.0 Low;
Above 770=USB 2.0 High

*Note: Buffer clearing times measured with a Kingston Ultimate 133x SD memory card. Slower cards will produce correspondingly slower clearing times. Slow cards may also limit length of bursts in continuous mode.

The Canon PowerShot A550's performance ranges from good to just average, though its 10-second flash recycle time is slow. Start-up time is reasonable, but not fast. Shutter lag at wide angle and telephoto zoom settings is good, and "prefocus" times (half-pressing and holding down the shutter button before the final exposure) are fast as well, with a shutter delay of only 0.072 second. Shot-to-shot cycle times are a little better than average these days, at about 1.36 seconds for large/superfine JPEGs, and the camera captures frames continuously at this rate. Continuous-mode speed is on the slower side, at about 1.68 frame/second, though the camera captures frames continuously. Connected to a computer, download speeds are exceptionally fast, so you won't feel a need for a separate card reader. Bottom line, the Canon A550 is responsive enough for most family photo opportunities, though its continuous shooting mode might be a tad slow for wiggly kids or sporting events.

Battery and Storage Capacity

Battery
Short battery life with standard AA alkaline cells, but much better life with NiMH rechargeables.

Operating Mode Number of Shots
AA alkaline batteries,
LCD on (CIPA standard)
140
AA alkaline batteries,
LCD off
1,000
AA NiMH rechargeable cells,
LCD on (CIPA standard)
550
AA NiMH rechargeable cells,
LCD off
1,400

The Canon PowerShot A550 uses two AA batteries for power, and a pair of ordinary alkaline batteries are included with the camera. Runtimes are increased with NiMH batteries over alkalines. As always, we strongly 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.

The table above shows the number of shots the camera is capable of (on either a fresh set of disposable batteries or a fully-charged rechargeable battery as appropriate), based on CIPA battery-life and/or manufacturer standard test conditions.

(Interested readers can find an English translation of the CIPA DC-002 standards document here. (180K PDF document))

Storage
The Canon PowerShot A550 accepts SD/MMC memory cards, and a 16MB card is included with the camera.

Image Capacity with
16MB Memory Card
SuperFine Fine Normal
3,072 x 2,304
Images
4
7
16
File Size
3.3 MB
2.0 MB
984 KB
2,592 x 1,944
Images
5
10
20
File Size
2.7 MB
1.5 MB
762 KB
2,048 x 1,536
Images
9
16
32
File Size
1.7 MB
966 KB
491 KB
1,600 x 1,200
Images
14
26
49
File Size
1.1 MB
610 KB
322 KB
640 x 480
Images
55
85
134
File Size
288 KB
186 KB
119 KB

We strongly recommend buying a large capacity SD/MMC memory card at least a 1GB card, preferably a 2GB one, to give yourself extra space for extended outings. (Check the shopping link above, cards are really cheap these days, so no reason to skimp.)

 

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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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