Canon A560 Review

 
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Canon PowerShot A560 Exposure


Color

Saturation & Hue Accuracy
Good, pleasing color overall, with generally good hue accuracy. Some oversaturation in strong reds and blues, though still good results.

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 Canon PowerShot A560 does oversaturate the strong red and blue tones slightly, but less than many cameras do, and results are quite good overall. 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. In this case, the A560 did produce slight pink-orange tints in skin tones, but again, results are still pleasing.

The other important part of color rendition is hue accuracy. Hue is "what color" the color is. Like many Canon digital cameras, the A560 pushed cyan towards blue, and some orange toward yellow a bit, but overall color looked very nice. In some cases, color balance was a hint warm, but in general, the A560 produced good-looking, natural color.

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

Sensor

Exposure and White Balance

Indoors, incandescent lighting
Good color with the Manual white balance setting. About average exposure performance.

Auto WB +1.0 EV Incandescent WB +1.0 EV Manual WB +1.0 EV

The Canon PowerShot A560's Auto white balance setting produced slightly warm results under incandescent lighting, but was close enough to neutral that some users may actually prefer the slight warmth it left in the image. To our eyes, the Incandescent and Manual white balance options produced more accurate overall color, with the Manual setting turning in the best results (the Incandescent setting showed more of a pink cast). The camera required the average amount of positive exposure compensation here, at +1.0 EV. Though skin tones are slightly warm with the Manual white balance setting, overall color looks great. The blue flowers are a bit dark, but don't show strong purple tints, as is the case with some cameras we test. Our test lighting for this shot is a mixture of 60 and 100 watt household incandescent bulbs, a pretty yellow light source, but a very common one in typical home settings here in the U.S.

 

Outdoors, daylight
Good results outdoors with better than average exposure accuracy, though high contrast. Good color as well.

Auto White Balance,
+0.3 EV
Auto White Balance,
Auto Exposure

Outdoors, the Canon PowerShot A560 produced good color, if just a hint warm. Exposure-wise, the A560 performed well, producing good results with lower positive exposure compensation than average. Though contrast is a little high, the camera held onto a nice level of detail in the strong highlights and shadows. The camera's low contrast adjustment evened out the exposure a little, though the resulting image was a bit dim as well. Still, good performance overall.

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

Resolution
High resolution, 1,400 - 1,600 lines of strong detail.

Strong detail to
1,400 lines horizontal
Strong detail to
1,300 lines vertical

Our laboratory resolution chart revealed sharp, distinct line patterns down to about 1,600 lines per picture height horizontally, though really only to about 1,300 lines vertically. (The lines begin to get a little messy at 1,400 vertically.) Extinction occurred around 2,000. 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. 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 1,600 and higher are really only artifacts generated by the camera's imaging system.

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

Sharpness & Detail
Sharp images, though some modest edge-enhancement on high-contrast subjects and noise suppression in the shadows.

Good definition of high-contrast elements, though with slight edge enhancement. Subtle detail: Hair
A minor amount of noise suppression blurs detail in areas of subtle contrast, as in the darker parts of Marti's hair here.

The Canon PowerShot A560 captures nice, sharp images overall. However, in high-contrast subjects such as the crop above left, a a few edge enhancement artifacts are noticeable. (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 above right shows a small amount of noise suppression, with darker areas of Marti's hair showing somewhat limited detail. Still, results are good, with good strand definition in the brighter shadows.

ISO & Noise Performance
Low to moderate noise at the normal sensitivity settings, though a big jump in noise with more blurring at the high settings.

ISO 80 ISO 100 ISO 200
ISO 400 ISO 800 ISO 1,600

Noise levels are low to moderate at the Canon PowerShot A560's lower sensitivity settings, with higher noise at ISO 400 (as you'd expect). Noise increases sharply as you go beyond ISO 400: ISO 800 shots can make acceptable 5x7 inch prints, ISO 1,600 ones are marginal even for 4x6 inch snapshots.

Extremes: Sunlit and low light tests
High resolution with strong overall detail, though high contrast. Excellent low-light performance, capable of capturing bright images under average city street lighting and much darker conditions.

Default Exposure +0.3 EV +0.7 EV

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 Canon PowerShot A560 produced high contrast under the harsh lighting of the test above, though both highlights and shadows held onto a surprisingly good amount of detail. Some noise suppression is visible in the shadows, and results in less detail there, but results are still better than average. The camera's contrast adjustment does tone down the exposure somewhat, but you'll need to boost the exposure compensation a little because of the lower overall exposure. Though some areas look a little dark at +0.3 EV, I preferred it to the image at +0.7 EV, which had too many blown highlights for my preference. (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
80
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2 sec
f2.7
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4 sec
f2.7
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8 sec
f2.7
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16 sec
f2.7
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16 sec
f2.7
ISO
100
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1.6 sec
f2.7
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3.2 sec
f2.7
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6.3 sec
f2.7
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12.6 sec
f2.7
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16 sec
f2.7
ISO
200
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0.8 sec
f2.7
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1.6 sec
f2.7
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3.2 sec
f2.7
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6.3 sec
f2.7
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12.6 sec
f2.7
ISO
400
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0.4 sec
f2.7
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0.7 sec
f2.7
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1.6 sec
f2.7
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3.2 sec
f2.7
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6.3 sec
f2.7
ISO
800
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1/6 sec
f2.7
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0.3 sec
f2.7
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0.7 sec
f2.7
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1.6 sec
f2.7
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3.2 sec
f2.7
ISO
1600
Click to see A560LL16003.JPG
1/11 sec
f2.7
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1/6 sec
f2.7
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0.4 sec
f2.7
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0.7 sec
f2.7
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1.6 sec
f2.7

Low light:
The Canon PowerShot A560 captured bright images down to the 1/16 foot-candle light level (about 1/16 as bright as average city street lighting at night). Though, at ISO 80, images were really bright only to about 1/8 foot-candle, still good results. Overall color looks good with the Auto white balance setting, and the camera's autofocus system was able to focus on the subject down to just above the 1/8 foot-candle light level without AF assist light turned off. Do keep in mind though, that the very 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.

Flash

Coverage and Range
Dim exposures at the default exposure setting; the camera required average exposure compensation for flash exposures. Slightly limited flash range.

35mm equivalent 140mm equivalent
Normal Flash +1.0 EV Slow-Sync Flash +0.7 EV

Flash coverage was a bit uneven at wide angle, with falloff at the edges and in the corners of the frame. At telephoto, coverage was a little more uniform, though with still a little falloff in the corners. Indoors, under incandescent background lighting, the Canon PowerShot A560's flash underexposed our subject at its default setting, requiring a +1.0 EV exposure compensation adjustment to get bright results. The camera's Slow-Sync flash mode required less positive compensation at +0.7 EV, and coverage is more even here. However, the longer shutter speed results in a stronger orange cast from the background lighting. (Most cameras require about +1.0 EV of exposure boost on this shot, so the A560's performance is about average.)

Flash Range: Wide Angle
6 ft 7 ft 8 ft 9 ft 10 ft 11 ft
Click to see A560FL06W.JPG
1/64 sec
f2.7
ISO 100
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1/64 sec
f2.7
ISO 100
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1/64 sec
f2.7
ISO 100
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1/64 sec
f2.7
ISO 100
Click to see A560FL10W.JPG
1/64 sec
f2.7
ISO 100
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1/64 sec
f2.7
ISO 100
12 ft 13 ft 14 ft 15 ft 16 ft
Click to see A560FL12W.JPG
1/64 sec
f2.7
ISO 100
Click to see A560FL13W.JPG
1/64 sec
f2.7
ISO 100
Click to see A560FL14W.JPG
1/64 sec
f2.7
ISO 100
Click to see A560FL15W.JPG
1/64 sec
f2.7
ISO 100
Click to see A560FL16W.JPG
1/64 sec
f2.7
ISO 100

Flash Range: Telephoto
6 ft 7 ft 8 ft 9 ft 10 ft 11 ft
Click to see A560FL06T.JPG
1/64 sec
f5.7
ISO 100
Click to see A560FL07T.JPG
1/64 sec
f5.7
ISO 100
Click to see A560FL08T.JPG
1/64 sec
f5.7
ISO 100
Click to see A560FL09T.JPG
1/64 sec
f5.7
ISO 100
Click to see A560FL10T.JPG
1/64 sec
f5.7
ISO 100
Click to see A560FL11T.JPG
1/64 sec
f5.7
ISO 100
12 ft 13 ft 14 ft 15 ft 16 ft
Click to see A560FL12T.JPG
1/64 sec
f5.7
ISO 100
Click to see A560FL13T.JPG
1/64 sec
f5.7
ISO 100
Click to see A560FL14T.JPG
1/64 sec
f5.7
ISO 100
Click to see A560FL15T.JPG
1/64 sec
f5.7
ISO 100
Click to see A560FL16T.JPG
1/64 sec
f5.7
ISO 100

The A560's flash was reasonably bright, with good intensity to about 11 or 12 feet at ISO 100.


Manufacturer-Specified Flash Range
Wide Angle Telephoto
Click to see A560FL_MFR110WA0200.JPG
11.0 feet
Auto ISO 200
Click to see A560FL_MFR072TA0200.JPG
7.2 feet
Auto ISO 200

Our standard test method for flash range uses a fixed setting of ISO 100, to provide a fair basis of comparison between cameras. We now also capture two shots using the manufacturer-specified camera settings, at the range the company claims for the camera, to assess the validity of the specific claims. In the shots above, the A560 performs about as Canon says it will, producing good exposures at the rated distances with its ISO set to Auto, the camera boosting the ISO to 200 to achieve that range. (Not bad, not too much noise at that ISO, and the flash range is decent.)

Output Quality

Print Quality
Good print quality, great color, good 13x19 inch prints. ISO 400 images are soft but usable at 11x14, ISO 800 shots are probably OK at 8x10 inches, but better at 5x7. ISO 1600 shots are rough-looking even as 4x6 inch snapshots.

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.)

The Canon A560 had plenty of resolution at low ISO settings to make good-looking 13x19 inch prints. ISO 400 shots still looked good at 11x14: They were a bit soft, but surprisingly good overall for prints that large from a consumer digicam at that ISO level. ISO 800 shots looked OK at 11x14 when captured under daylight-balanced lighting, but shots under incandescent lighting should be kept to 8x10 or below. (5x7 is really best for indoor shots at ISO 800.) At ISO 1,600, the noise is prominent enough that even 4x6 inch snapshot-size prints look pretty rough.

 

The images above were taken from our standardized test shots. For a collection of more pictorial photos, see our Canon PowerShot A560 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 A560 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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