Digital Camera Home > Digital Camera Reviews > Canon Digital Cameras > Canon Powershot A60

The Imaging Resource

Quick Review

Canon PowerShot A60 Digital Camera

Camera QuickLook
Review Date
08/21/03
User Level
Novice to Experienced
Product Uses
Family / Travel / Special Events
Digicam Design
Point-and-Shoot or Manual control
Picture Quality
Good, 2.0-megapixel CCD
Print Sizes
4x6 and 5x7 inches
Availability
Now
Suggested Retail Price
(At introduction)
$249

Introduction

Review Links
Overview
Picky
Details
Design
Operation
Recommended Accessories
Test Images
Specifications
Conclusion

Canon U.S.A. has long been a strong contender in both film and digital camera markets, well-known for its high-quality optics, technical innovations, and aggressive product development. On the digital side, they've developed one of the broadest and most popular lines of cameras in the industry. The 2.0-megapixel PowerShot A60 updates this extensive line by improving on an already well-received model, the PowerShot A40. (The A60 could also be viewed as the "little brother" of the hugely popular 3.3-megapixel A70 model.)

Last year, Canon's PowerShot A40 topped the charts on the IR website for popularity, outstripping all other camera models. This was particularly impressive given that our readers generally gravitate toward higher-end models. This year, the A60 updates the A40, with more manual controls and a slightly different control layout. Featuring no less than 12 shooting modes, the A60 offers not only manual and full-auto exposure control, but five preset Scene modes as well. Relative to last year's model, the A60 extends the maximum shutter speed to 1/2,000 second, and adds a new Custom white balance setting. Best of all, the camera accommodates a wide range of users with its broad range of exposure control. Experienced shooters will appreciate the Manual, Aperture Priority, and Shutter Priority modes, while novices will find the Auto, Program AE, and Scene modes useful. Plus, the A60 has a full range of creative effects, and the benefit of Canon optics with its 3x zoom lens. Will the A60 enjoy the same extraordinary popularity as did the A40? I suspect that honor may be reserved for the 3.3 megapixel A70, but the A60 offers exceptional value for users with slightly smaller pocketbooks.

 

Camera Overview
With a compact body similar in design to previous Canon PowerShot "A" models, the PowerShot A60 updates previous models with a wide range of shooting options -- from fully manual operation to programmed, automatic, and several preset exposure modes. A 2.0-megapixel CCD delivers good-resolution images suitable for printing as large as 5x7 inches with good detail, or 8x10 inches with a slightly softer look. (Lower resolutions are also available, including an email-friendly size.) The A60's all-plastic, two-toned silver body is lightweight and compact, although just a bit too large for the average shirt pocket. Still, the A60 should easily fit into larger coat pockets and purses, and comes with a wrist strap for more security. Like many Canon digicams, the A60 features a shutter-like lens cover and a retracting lens that keeps the camera front fairly smooth when the camera is powered off. Without a lens cap to keep track of, the A60 is quick on the draw (you just have to wait a couple of seconds for the lens to extend forward before you can shoot).

Equipped with a 5.4-16.2mm lens, the A60 offers a 3x optical zoom range equivalent to a 35-105mm lens on a 35mm camera. Maximum aperture ranges from f/2.8 to f/4.8 depending on the zoom setting, and the minimum aperture is f/8.0. The aperture can be manually or automatically adjusted, with a full range of settings available, thanks to a true iris-style aperture mechanism. The A60 uses Canon's AiAF (Artificial Intelligence Auto Focus) system, which judges focus based on a five-point area in the center of the frame. Focus is determined based on whatever portion of the subject is closest to one of the AF points. You can alternately choose to base focus on the center of the frame only. The A60 also offers a manual focus mode, displaying a numeric distance scale on the LCD display. An AF Assist light on the front panel helps the camera focus in dark shooting conditions, and can be deactivated if necessary. In addition to the optical zoom, the A60 also offers as much as 2.5x digital zoom. However, I always remind readers that digital zoom decreases the overall image quality because it simply enlarges the center pixels of the CCD image. The A60 has both a real-image optical viewfinder and 1.5-inch LCD monitor for composing images. The LCD monitor's information display includes detailed exposure information, including shutter speed and aperture settings in the manual shooting modes.

The A60 provides a full range of exposure control, from full Manual to full Auto exposure modes, and a handful of preset scene modes as well. All exposure modes are accessed by turning the Mode dial on top of the camera. Canon divided the dial into three exposure types: Auto, Creative Zone, and Image Zone. Shooting in Auto mode puts the camera in charge of everything except the Flash and Macro modes. Exposure modes in the Creative Zone include Program AE (P), Shutter Speed-Priority AE (Tv), Aperture-Priority AE (Av), and Manual Exposure (M). Program AE lets the camera choose the aperture and shutter speed settings, but gives you control over all other exposure options. Aperture and Shutter Speed Priority modes let you set one exposure variable (aperture or shutter speed) while the camera chooses the best corresponding variable. Manual mode gives you full control over all exposure options.

Exposure modes in the Image Zone include Portrait, Landscape, Night Scene, Fast Shutter, Slow Shutter, Stitch Assist, and Movie. Portrait, Night Scene, and Landscape all make automatic camera adjustments to optimize settings for specific shooting conditions. The Portrait mode uses a large aperture setting to focus on the subject, while maintaining an out-of-focus background. Landscape mode slows the shutter speed and maximizes depth of field with a small aperture setting. Night Scene mode illuminates your subject with the flash but uses a slow shutter speed to evenly expose the background. Fast Shutter mode uses a fast shutter speed to freeze action, while Slow Shutter mode uses a slower shutter speed to blur moving objects (such as waterfalls or fountains). The Stitch-Assist mode is Canon's answer to panorama shooting, in which multiple, overlapping images can be captured horizontally, vertically, or in a clockwise grouping. Images can then be "stitched" together on a computer using Canon's (excellent) bundled PhotoStitch software or other image editing software. Movie mode allows you to capture up to three minutes of moving images and sound at approximately 15 frames per second, with available resolutions of 320 x 240 or 160 x 120 pixels.

The White Balance setting adjusts color balance, with settings for Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Incandescent, Fluorescent, and Fluorescent H (for daylight fluorescent lighting). There's also a Custom setting to manually set color balance based on a white or gray card. Exposure Compensation increases or decreases the overall exposure, from -2 to +2 exposure equivalents (EV) in one-third-step increments. An ISO adjustment offers 50, 100, 200, and 400 ISO equivalents, as well as an Auto setting. By default, the A60 uses an Evaluative metering mode, which links the metering area to the focus area (when AiAF is activated). Also available is a Spot Metering option, which bases the exposure on the center of the subject, and a Center-Weighted option, which evaluates a larger area in the center of the frame. The A60's flash operates in either Auto, Forced, Suppressed, or Slow Synchro (in Night Portrait mode only) modes, with an available Red-Eye Reduction setting through the Record menu.

A creative and entertaining Effects menu lets you play around with image color, offering Vivid and Neutral color settings (producing highly saturated and desaturated color, respectively) , as well as Sepia and Black and White options. A Low Sharpening option softens the image. Continuous Shooting mode works like a motor drive on a 35mm camera, capturing a rapid burst of images for as long as the Shutter button is held down (or until the memory card runs out of space). Actual frame rates will vary depending on the image size and quality selected. The A60 also features a 10-second self-timer, which delays the shutter for about 10 seconds after the Shutter button is pressed, letting you run around and jump into the shot. (You can also set the delay interval to two seconds, handy for those times when you want to prop the camera on something to eliminate vibration during a long exposure in dim lighting.) The A60 also features a My Camera menu, which lets you customize camera settings to your own preferences. For example, you can set the image that appears at startup, or assign a fun sound to button functions.

The A60 stores images on CompactFlash memory cards, and comes with a 16MB starter card. I highly recommend purchasing a larger-capacity CompactFlash card right away, given the A60's maximum 1,600 x 1,200-pixel resolution, and the low cost of memory cards these days. (Go ahead and get at least a 64 megabyte memory card, you won't regret having the extra space.) The camera uses four AA-sized batteries for power, either alkaline or NiMH type. Four alkaline batteries come with the camera and battery life is generally excellent, but I still strongly advise picking up a couple of sets of rechargeable batteries and a charger, and keeping a spare set freshly charged at all times. Click here to read my "battery shootout" page to see which batteries currently on the market are best, or here for my review of the Maha C-204F charger, my longtime favorite. The optional AC adapter is useful for preserving battery power when reviewing and downloading images, and plugs straight into a DC In jack on the side of the camera, but good-quality rechargeable batteries really eliminate the need for it. The A60 features a USB jack for quickly (570 KB/second) downloading images to a computer, and comes with two software CDs, one loaded with Canon Digital Camera Solution Disk version 12.0 and the other loaded with ArcSoft Camera Suite version 1.2 (compatible with Macintosh and Windows systems). Additionally, an AV Out jack and the included video cable lets you connect the camera to a television set. The A60 is DPOF (Digital Print Order Format) compatible, with a range of print settings available through the Playback menu.

Basic Features

  • 2.0-megapixel CCD delivering image resolutions as large as 1,600 x 1,200 pixels.
  • 1.5-inch color LCD monitor.
  • Real-image optical viewfinder.
  • Glass, 3x 5.4-16.2mm lens (equivalent to 35-105mm zoom on a 35mm camera).
  • 2.5x digital zoom.
  • AiAF autofocus and a manual focus mode.
  • AF Assist light for low-light focusing.
  • Full Automatic, Program AE, Shutter Priority, Aperture Priority, and Manual exposure modes, as well as five preset exposure modes.
  • Manually adjustable aperture setting ranging from f/2.8 to f/8.0, depending on lens zoom position.
  • Shutter speed range from 1/2,000 to 15 seconds.
  • Built-in flash with five operating modes.
  • CompactFlash memory storage.
  • Power supplied by four AA batteries or optional AC adapter.

Special Features

  • Movie mode (with sound).
  • Sound caption recording.
  • Stitch-Assist mode for panoramic shots.
  • Continuous Shooting and 10-second Self-Timer modes.
  • Creative Effects menu.
  • White balance (color) adjustment with seven modes.
  • ISO adjustment with four ISO equivalents and an Auto setting.
  • Low Sharpness setting.
  • Evaluative, Center-Weighted, and Spot metering options.
  • DPOF (Digital Print Order Format) compatibility.
  • USB cable for connection to a computer (driver software included).

Recommendation

With a complete range of auto and manual exposure controls, the A60 is perfect for novice users and experienced amateurs alike. The full automatic controls keep things simple for novices, while offering the opportunity to gradually step up to more control. Plus, the range of preset exposure modes ensures that less-experienced photographers will get good pictures in difficult shooting situations. The 2.0-megapixel CCD captures good quality images, quite suitable for printing as large as 5x7 inches with good detail, or at 8x10 inches with just a little softness. The compact design should fit well into a larger coat pocket or purse, and the lens design protects it when closed, while keeping the camera body smooth and low-profile. In addition to the range of exposure controls, a menu of creative effects makes the A60 fun too. The A60 is unusual in that it's marketed and priced as an "entry level" camera, but its features and capabilities extend far beyond that category. Its one limitation is that its autofocus speed and shutter delay are slower than average, noticeably slower than those of the higher-resolution A70 model. If you're looking for an inexpensive camera that you can grow with (and that shoots excellent photos) though, the A60 could be the camera for you.

 

Design

The A60's compact body has a solid feel, thanks to a combination of a plastic body and metal decorative panels, plus a comfortable heft. Measuring 4.0 x 2.5 x 1.2 inches (101 x 64 x 32 millimeters), the A60 probably won't fit into your shirt pocket. It will, however, find its way into larger coat pockets, purses, and hip packs, good for travel. The A60 has a modest heft, with its 11.6-ounce (327-gram) weight, with batteries and CompactFlash card, but isn't at all uncomfortable to carry. The two-toned silver body is sleek and understated, yet sophisticated enough for any age group.

The A60's front panel features the telescoping 3x zoom lens, which extends an additional 3/4-inch when fully deployed. Also on the front panel are the optical viewfinder window, small microphone, flash, and a light emitter lamp that serves multiple purposes, including autofocus assist, red-eye reduction, and the self-timer countdown. On the lower right side of the lens (as viewed from the rear) is a small button that releases the ring around the lens barrel. Removing the ring allows you to attach a lens adapter for extended telephoto, wide angle, or macro capabilities. There's also a large hand grip on the front panel, created by the large battery compartment.

On the right side of the camera (as viewed from the rear) is the CompactFlash card slot, covered by a hinged, plastic door. The door slides toward the back panel before opening outward. At the top of the right side is the eyelet for attaching the wrist strap.

On the opposite side of the camera is the connector compartment, covered by a flexible, rubbery-plastic flap that snaps in and out of place. When opened, the flap remains connected to the camera body, and folds out of the way to accommodate cables. Inside the compartment are the Digital (USB), A/V Out, and DC In jacks. Also inside the compartment is the CR1220 battery slot, which pulls out from the camera body and holds the small CR1220 lithium battery that powers the camera's internal memory (preserving the clock and calendar settings, as well as current exposure settings, when the main AA batteries are removed).

The A60's top panel features a Mode dial, with 12 shooting positions divided into three basic categories: Auto Exposure, Image Zone, and Creative Zone. The Shutter button is located to the right of the Mode dial, with a Zoom lever surrounding it. Behind the Shutter button and Zoom lever is the camera's speaker. A Power button is on the other side of the Mode dial.

The rest of the exposure controls are located on the camera's back panel, along with the optical viewfinder and LCD monitor. The eye-level optical viewfinder features two LED lamps that report camera status. A Mode switch puts the camera into Playback or Record modes, and is adjacent to the top right corner of the LCD monitor. Below the Mode switch is a four-button pad that operates similarly to the round arrow pads found on other digital cameras. Although the keys don't feature arrows, they operate in the same manner when navigating settings menus. The top button also controls flash mode, while the bottom button accesses Macro and Manual Focus modes. Lining the bottom of the LCD display are the Set, Menu, Display, and Function / Erase buttons.

The A60's bottom panel is reasonably flat, with a sliding door to access the battery compartment and a threaded plastic tripod mount nearly centered. Because the battery door and tripod mount are so close to one another, it would be difficult to make quick battery changes while working with a tripod, something I always look at, given the amount of test shooting I do in the studio. On the other hand, Canon's AC adapter plugs into the side of the camera. There's thus a convenient way to get power to the camera while on a tripod.

 

Camera Operation

While the A60's user interface may seem slightly cryptic at first approach, it's actually quite efficient. Most camera functions are controlled externally, and a few of the external control buttons serve multiple functions. When you do need to enter the LCD menu system, navigation is very straightforward with only two pages of options. That said, the majority of external controls do require the LCD display to be active. Regardless, the A60's external controls cut down on the amount of time spent searching menu screens, and I particularly like the "Function" menu which has become standard on Canon digicam models in the 2003 model year. Combined with the instruction manual, the A60's user interface shouldn't take more than an hour to get comfortable with.

Record-Mode Display
The A60 has two record-mode displays, shown at right. The main display shows the center autofocus area along with currently-selected options for image size/quality, macro and flash mode, white balance, etc, as well as the number of images of the current size and quality that can be stored in the remaining space on the memory card. Pressing the Display button once cancels the LCD entirely, a second press displays the image only, and a third press displays the image with the information overlay.


Playback-Mode Display
In Playback mode, you can use the A60's zoom control to zoom in or out on an image, with a maximum enlargement 10x. Zooming out from a full-frame view brings up a thumbnail display of the images on the card, letting you move quickly between them via the arrow keys on the camera's back panel. Pressing the Display button cycles between views of the image itself, the image with partial information overlaid (image number and folder name, size and image quality, and date/time of capture), and the image with full exposure information overlaid (the preceding plus shutter speed and aperture, exposure mode, white balance setting, ISO setting, and metering mode). The screen shot at right shows the progression of playback displays, beginning with the thumbnail index view and ending with a zoomed view at the maximum 10x magnification.



External Controls


Shutter Button
: Resting in the center of the Zoom lever, this button sets focus and exposure when halfway pressed, and fires the shutter when fully pressed.

Zoom Lever: Surrounding the Shutter button on the top panel, this lever controls the optical and digital zoom while in Record mode.

In Playback mode, the "W" side displays a nine-image index display of all images on the memory card, and accesses a "Jump" function that lets you scroll through index display screens quickly. Alternatively, the "T" position enlarges the currently displayed image as much as 10x, so that you can check on fine details.


Mode Dial
: Also on the camera's top panel, this large, notched dial is used to select the camera's shooting modes. Canon divides these functions into three categories: Auto, Image Zone, and Creative Zone. The options are as follows:

  • Auto: The camera controls everything about the exposure, except for Flash and Macro modes, image size and quality settings.
  • Creative Zone
    • Program AE (P): Places the camera in control of shutter speed and lens aperture, while you maintain control over everything else (i.e., white balance, ISO, metering, exposure compensation, flash, etc.).
    • Shutter-Speed Priority AE (Tv): Allows you to control the shutter speed settings from 1/2,000 to 15 seconds, while the camera controls the aperture. All other exposure settings are available.
    • Aperture Priority AE (Av): Allows you to set the lens aperture from f/2.8 to f/8.0, while the camera controls the shutter speed. The maximum aperture depends on the zoom setting, ranging from f/2.8 at the wide angle end to f/4.8 at the telephoto position. In this mode, you maintain control over all other exposure variables.
    • Manual (M): Provides complete control over all exposure settings, including shutter speed and lens aperture.

  • Image Zone
    • Portrait: Uses a large aperture setting to blur the background while keeping the primary subject in sharp focus.
    • Landscape: Employs a small aperture setting to keep both the background and foreground in focus. (May use a slower shutter speed, so a tripod is recommended.)
    • Night Scene: Uses slower shutter speeds and flash to even out nighttime exposures. The slow shutter speed allows more ambient light to be recorded in the low-light areas, while the flash freezes the subject. The Red-Eye Reduction mode can be used with this exposure mode to eliminate Red-Eye in night portraits.
    • Fast Shutter: Uses fast shutter speeds to stop action and maintain sharp focus on moving subjects.
    • Slow Shutter: Uses slow shutter speeds to blur fast-moving subjects.
    • Stitch-Assist: Allows you to record a series of images, either horizontally, vertically, or in a clockwise, 360-degree pattern, to be "stitched" together into one large image or panorama on a computer.
    • Movie: Records as long as three minutes of moving images with sound, at approximately 15 frames per second.


Power Button: To the left of the Mode dial, this button turns the camera on or off.


Mode Switch: Adjacent to the top right corner of the LCD monitor on the rear panel, this switch selects between Record and Playback modes.


Four-Button Function Pad: These four buttons are arranged in a diamond pattern on the rear panel, next to the LCD monitor. Although not marked with arrows, they serve as the left, right, up, and down arrow keys to navigate through settings menus. In Record mode, the left and right buttons adjust available exposure settings, as well as manual focus, when enabled. The top button controls flash mode, while the bottom button accesses Macro and Manual Focus modes.

In Playback mode, the left and right buttons scroll through captured images. When an image has been enlarged, all four arrows pan within the view.


Function / Erase Button
: Beneath the lower right corner of the LCD monitor, this button displays the following Function menu while in Record mode. (Note that this menu normally displays over the top of the viewfinder image. I've shown it here against a black background for clarity):

  • Exposure Compensation: Increases or decreases the exposure from -2 to +2 exposure equivalents (EV) in one-third-step increments. Not available in Manual mode, since the user controls the exposure variables directly there.
  • Flash Output: (Manual mode only, takes the place of the Exposure Compensation option): Adjusts the overall flash intensity from Low to Full, in Manual mode only. In Manual mode, the flash fires only a single pulse, handy when you want to use the A60 with conventional "slave" triggers for external flash units.
  • White Balance: Controls the color balance of images. Options are Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Tungsten, Fluorescent, Fluorescent H, and Custom (manual setting).
  • Drive Mode: Accesses Continuous Shooting and the two Self-Timer modes (a 2 or 10 second delay).
  • ISO Speed: Sets the camera's sensitivity to Auto (except in Manual), or to 50, 100, 200, or 400 ISO equivalents.
  • Photo Effect: Enables Vivid Color, Neutral Color, Low Sharpening, Sepia, or Black-and-White picture effects.
  • Light Metering System: Sets the metering mode to Evaluative, Center-Weighted, or Spot.
  • Resolution: Specifies the image resolution and quality settings. Still image resolutions are 1,600 x 1,200; 1,024 x 768; and 640 x 480 pixels. Quality options (activated by pressing the Set button) are Superfine, Fine, and Normal. Movie resolutions are 320 x 240 and 160 x 120 pixels.

In Playback mode, this button displays the single-image erase menu.


Display Button
: To the left of the Function / Erase button, this button controls the information and image display modes in Record and Playback modes.


Menu Button
: Directly to the left of the Display button, this button calls up the settings menu in Record and Playback modes. It also dismisses the menu screen and backs out of menu selections.


Set Button
: The final button in the series beneath the LCD monitor, this button confirms menu selections. It also switches between available exposure adjustments in Manual mode.


Battery Compartment Latch
: Nestled in the center of the battery compartment door on the bottom of the camera, this sliding switch unlocks the door, so that it can slide forward and open.


Lens Ring Release Button
: Tucked under the lens on the camera's front panel, this button releases the lens ring. Once unlocked, the lens ring can then be turned and removed to accommodate accessory lens kits.



Camera Modes and Menus

Record Mode: Marked on the Mode switch with the red camera icon, this mode sets up the camera for capturing still and moving images. The following exposure modes are available:

  • Manual (M): Provides complete control over all exposure settings, including shutter speed and lens aperture.
  • Shutter-Speed Priority AE (Tv): Allows you to control the shutter speed settings from 1/2,000 to 15 seconds, while the camera controls the aperture. All other exposure settings are available.
  • Aperture Priority AE (Av): Allows you to set the lens aperture from f/2.8 to f/8.0 (depending on the zoom setting), while the camera controls the shutter speed. In this mode, you maintain control over all other exposure variables.
  • Program AE (P): Places the camera in control of shutter speed and lens aperture, while you maintain control over everything else (i.e., white balance, ISO, metering, exposure compensation, flash, etc.).
  • Auto: The camera controls everything about the exposure, except for Flash and Macro modes, and image size and quality settings.
  • Portrait: Uses a large aperture setting to blur the background and keep the primary subject in sharp focus.
  • Landscape: Employs a small aperture setting to keep both the background and foreground in focus.
  • Night Scene: Uses slower shutter speeds and flash to even out nighttime exposures. The slow shutter speed allows more ambient light to be recorded in the low-light areas, while the flash fully exposes the subject.
  • Fast Shutter: Uses fast shutter speeds to stop action and maintain sharp focus on moving subjects.
  • Slow Shutter: Uses slow shutter speeds to blur fast-moving subjects.
  • Stitch-Assist: Allows you to record a series of images, either horizontally, vertically, or in a clockwise, 360-degree pattern, to be "stitched" together into one large image or panorama on a computer.
  • Movie: Records as long as three minutes of moving images with sound, at approximately 15 frames per second.

 

Record Menu: Pressing the Menu button in Record mode pulls up the following options (not all options are available in all modes):

  • AiAF: Turns the AiAF system on or off. If on, the camera judges focus based on the subject's proximity to five focus areas in the center of the image. If off, the camera bases focus on the very center of the frame.
  • Red-Eye Reduction: Turns the Red-Eye Reduction pre-flash on or off, which works with all flash modes.
  • AF Assist Beam: Turns the AF Assist light on or off. If on, the light automatically illuminates in dark shooting conditions.
  • Digital Zoom: Turns the 2.5x digital zoom on or off.
  • Review: Turns the instant image review function on or off, with available image display times from two to 10 seconds.





Playback Mode: This mode lets you review captured images and movies on the memory card, as well as erase them, protect them, or tag them for printing and transfer. The traditional green Playback symbol denotes this mode on the Mode switch. Pressing the Menu button displays the following options:

  • Protect: Marks the current image for write-protection, or removes write-protection. Protected images cannot be deleted or manipulated, except through card formatting, which erases all files.
  • Rotate: Rotates the current image 90 degrees clockwise.
  • Sound Memo: Records a short sound clip to accompany a captured image.
  • Erase All: Erases all files on the memory card, except protected ones.
  • Auto Play: Automatically plays all captured images in a slide show.
  • Print Order: Determines how many copies of the current image will be printed, with options for creating an index print, imprinting the date and time, and imprinting the file number.
  • Transfer Order: Marks images to be transferred via email.





Setup Menu: This menu is available in all exposure modes, simply by pressing the Menu button and selecting the Setup tab.

  • Beep: Turns the camera's beep sounds on and off.
  • Auto Power Down: Toggles the camera's automatic shutoff function, which turns off the camera after a length of inactivity.
  • Date/Time: Sets the camera's internal calendar and clock.
  • Format: Formats the CompactFlash card, erasing all files (even those marked for write-protection).
  • Shutter Volume: Controls the volume of the camera's shutter sound.
  • Playback Volume: Adjusts playback volume for recorded movies and voice captions.
  • Startup Volume: Adjusts the volume of startup sounds.
  • Operation Volume: Controls the volume of camera sounds for specific operations.
  • Self-Timer Volume: Controls the volume of the self-timer countdown beep.
  • File No. Reset: Resets file numbering with each new CompactFlash card. If disabled, the camera continues numbering in sequence, regardless of memory card.
  • Distance Units: Sets the manual focus indicator to Meters/Centimeters or Feet/Inches.
  • Language: Sets the camera's menu language to one of 12 choices. English is the default setting.
  • Video System: Designates the camera's video-out signal as NTSC or PAL.





My Camera Menu: This is the third menu tab on the menu screen, and appears in every mode.

  • Theme: Selects a common theme for each My Camera menu settings item. Four options are available, the first one being Off. When a theme is selected, all of the following settings automatically adjust to that theme.
  • Startup Image: Sets the startup image when you turn on the camera to: Black screen, Canon logo, Canon logo w / sunset, and nature scene. You can also apply your own image using the Canon software.
  • Startup Sound: Sets the startup sound when you turn on the camera to: No sound, Musical tone (1), Musical tone (2), or Birds chirping. You can also apply your own sounds using the Canon software.
  • Operation Sound: Sets the sound when any control or switch is use (except the Shutter button). Options include Beep, Loud beep, Boing, and Chirp.
  • Self-Timer Sound: Sets the sound that signals you when the shutter release is two seconds away. Options include Fast beeps (1), Fast beeps (2), Telephone ring, and Howling.
  • Shutter Sound: Sets the shutter sound that you hear when you depress the Shutter button (there is no shutter sound in Movie mode). Options include Beep, Shutter sound, Boing, and Bark.

 

In the Box

The PowerShot A60 arrives with the following items included in the box:

  • Wrist strap.
  • Four AA-type alkaline batteries.
  • USB cable.
  • AV cable.
  • 16MB CompactFlash card.
  • Two software CDs.
  • Instruction manual, software guide, and registration kit.

 

Recommended Accessories

  • Larger capacity CompactFlash card.
  • Rechargeable batteries and charger.
  • AC adapter kit.
  • Soft case.
  • Lens accessory kits.

Lost Images? - Download this image-recovery program so you'll have it when you need it...
Since we're talking about memory and image storage, this would be a good time to mention the following: I get a ton of email from readers who've lost photos due to a corrupted memory card. It's tragic when it happens, there are few things more precious than photo memories. Corrupted memory cards can happen with any card type and any camera manufacturer, nobody's immune. "Stuff happens," as they say. A surprising number 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 digicam 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...

 

User Reviews

 

Specifications

See camera specifications here.

 

Picky Details

Cycle times, shutter lag, battery life, etc. can be found here.

 

Test Images
See the full set of my sample pictures and detailed analysis here. The thumbnails below show a subset of my standard test images. Click on a thumbnail to see the full-size photo.

Outdoor
Indoor
Indoor Flash

House
Musicians
Macro

Davebox
Resolution
Viewfinder Accuracy

 

"Gallery" Photos
For those readers interested in a set of less "standardized" photos from the A60, here are some thumbnails of more random shots snapped with it. Click on one any of the thumbnails below for a larger view. Click on the larger view again to see the original image from the camera. (Photos in this gallery were shot by Gibbs Frazeur or Stephanie Boozer. Thanks Gibbs and Stephanie!)

NOTE: that these are big files, so be aware that (a) they'll take a while to download, and (b) they'll chew up a pretty good chunk of bandwidth on us. (Read the "support this site" blurb at the top the carrier pages, and think about it while you're waiting for the images to download.

NOTE TOO: Some browsers have difficult with very wide images, and distort them a lot when they display them. (I don't know about others, but IE 5.0 on the Mac definitely does this. If the full-sized images appear to be stretched horizontally, you may need to just download them to your hard drive and view them in an imaging application, or possibly try another browser.)

Click to see YIMG_2901.JPG
YIMG_2901.JPG
885.8 KB
Shutter: 1/1000
Aperture: F4
Exposure EV: 13.9
ISO Speed: 100
Click to see YIMG_2905.JPG
YIMG_2905.JPG
1,096.8 KB
Shutter: 1/1000
Aperture: F3.5
Exposure EV: 13.5
ISO Speed: 100
Click to see YIMG_2907.JPG
YIMG_2907.JPG
1,681.9 KB
Shutter: 1/1000
Aperture: F4
Exposure EV: 13.9
ISO Speed: 100
Click to see YIMG_2910.JPG
YIMG_2910.JPG
967.9 KB
Shutter: 1/1000
Aperture: F5
Exposure EV: 14.6
ISO Speed: 100
Click to see YIMG_2913.JPG
YIMG_2913.JPG
964.5 KB
Shutter: 1/640
Aperture: F3.5
Exposure EV: 12.9
ISO Speed: 100
Click to see YIMG_2918.JPG
YIMG_2918.JPG
908.2 KB
Shutter: 1/1000
Aperture: F7.1
Exposure EV: 15.6
ISO Speed: 100
Click to see YIMG_2920.JPG
YIMG_2920.JPG
693.9 KB
Shutter: 1/1000
Aperture: F4.5
Exposure EV: 14.3
ISO Speed: 100
Click to see YIMG_2923.JPG
YIMG_2923.JPG
1,601.8 KB
Shutter: 1/1000
Aperture: F4
Exposure EV: 13.9
ISO Speed: 100
Click to see YIMG_2926.JPG
YIMG_2926.JPG
1,238.8 KB
Shutter: 1/1000
Aperture: F5.6
Exposure EV: 14.9
ISO Speed: 100
Click to see YIMG_2928.JPG
YIMG_2928.JPG
706.9 KB
Shutter: 1/1000
Aperture: F3.5
Exposure EV: 13.5
ISO Speed: 100
Click to see YIMG_2932.JPG
YIMG_2932.JPG
1,523.9 KB
Shutter: 1/640
Aperture: F2.8
Exposure EV: 12.2
ISO Speed: 100
Click to see YIMG_2935.JPG
YIMG_2935.JPG
861.6 KB
Shutter: 1/1000
Aperture: F4
Exposure EV: 13.9
ISO Speed: 100
Click to see YIMG_2938.JPG
YIMG_2938.JPG
727.1 KB
Shutter: 1/1000
Aperture: F3.2
Exposure EV: 13.3
ISO Speed: 100
   

 

Test Results
In keeping with my standard test policy, the comments given here summarize only my key findings. For a full commentary on each of the test images, see the A60's "pictures" page.

As with all Imaging Resource product tests, I encourage you to let your own eyes be the judge of how well the camera performed. Explore the images on the pictures page, to see how A60's images compare to other cameras you may be considering.

  • Color: The A60 did a good job with color overall, producing pleasing, accurate color under most light sources. The camera's Auto and Daylight white balance settings generally produced similar results under daylight lighting, with only slight color casts (usually a very subtle reddish tint). Indoors, the A60's Incandescent and Manual white balance options handled the very tough household incandescent lighting of my "indoor portrait" shot particularly well, although the Auto setting had a hard time. Skin tones were generally accurate, and color saturation for the most part was just right, faithfully reproducing the colors of the original subjects. (Strong reds and blues did tend to come out a bit too intense though.) All in all, a very good performance for an inexpensive camera.

  • Exposure: The A60's metering system did a good job throughout my testing. On the high-key outdoor portrait shot, which almost always requires at least some positive exposure compensation, it needed less exposure boost than most cameras. It did underexpose the indoor portrait shot somewhat, both with and without flash, but the exposure boost required was only about one notch (0.3 EV) higher than that needed by most cameras I test. On my "Davebox" test, the A60 had no trouble distinguishing the subtle pastel tones on the Q60 target, and maintained great detail in the deep shadows. Overall, a great job.

  • Resolution/Sharpness: The A60 performed very well on the "laboratory" resolution test chart for its 2.0-megapixel class. It started showing artifacts in the test patterns at resolutions as low as 600 lines per picture height vertically, and around 500 lines horizontally. I found "strong detail" out to 850 lines. "Extinction" of the target patterns didn't occur until about 950 lines.

  • Closeups: The A60 performed very well in the macro category, capturing a tiny minimum area of only 2.10 x 1.57 inches (53 x 40 millimeters). Resolution is moderately high, with strong detail in the dollar bill. The coins and brooch are soft due to the very short shooting distance. There's more softness in the corners of this shot, mainly in the top left corner. The A60's flash had trouble throttling down for the short shooting distance though, overexposing the shot with a strong shadow in the lower right corner.(Plan on using external illumination for your macro shots with the A60.)

  • Night Shots: With a maximum exposure time of 15 seconds a full Manual exposure mode, and a bright autofocus-assist light, the A60 can handle very dark shooting conditions quite well. In my testing, the camera produced clear, bright, usable images down to the 1/16 foot-candle (0.67 lux) limit, with good color at the 100, 200, and 400 ISO settings. At ISO 50, the target was bright at the 1/8 foot-candle (1.3 lux) light level, though you could arguably use the image at the 1/16 foot-candle light level as well. Color is pretty good from the Auto white balance, though just slightly reddish. Noise is pretty low all the way to ISO 200, where it increases to a moderate level, becoming much more noticeable at ISO 400.

  • Viewfinder Accuracy: The A60's optical viewfinder is quite tight, showing approximately 76 percent frame accuracy at wide angle, and approximately 81 percent at telephoto. Images framed with the optical viewfinder are also shifted toward the lower right corner. The LCD monitor fared much better, showing just a little over 100 percent of the frame at both zoom settings. Given that I like LCD monitors to be as close to 100 percent accuracy as possible, the A60's LCD monitor performs very well here, but the optical viewfinder could really stand some improvement.

  • Optical Distortion: Optical distortion on the A60 is about average at the wide-angle end, where I measured approximately 0.8 percent barrel distortion. (This is about average among cameras I've tested, but I'd really like to see much less geometric distortion in digicam images than that.) The telephoto end fared much better, as I only measured about two pixels of barrel distortion, about 0.1 percent. Chromatic aberration is very low, showing little or no coloration on either side of the target lines. (This distortion is visible as a very slight colored fringe around the objects at the edges of the field of view on the resolution target.)

  • Battery Life: The PowerShot A60 showed really excellent power consumption and battery life, particularly when the LCD is left off. Alas, the rather tight optical viewfinder means that you'll have to rely on the LCD screen for critical framing, which drops the battery life from exceptional to merely excellent. Regardless of the A60's long battery life though, I still strongly recommend that you purchase several sets of high-capacity NiMH AA cells and a good charger to go along with them. To see which NiMH cells are best, see my battery shootout page. Read my review of the Maha C-204F charger, to learn why it's my longtime favorite.

  • Shutter Response: Shutter lag is the delay between pressing the shutter button and when the camera actually snaps the picture, and is the issue that I receive the most reader complaints about. (Digital cameras are generally much slower off the mark than their film-based counterparts.) Unfortunately, this is an area where the A60 really suffers, with a full-autofocus delay of 1.4 seconds at wide-angle, and 2.2 seconds at telephoto. (Most digicams come in right around one second, still way too slow in my estimation.) If you can tolerate notably long shutter lag times, the A60 is a great little camera, but if you need faster response, look to the A70, the A60's "big brother."

 

Conclusion

Free Photo Lessons

Check out the Free Photo School program for lessons and tips on improving your photographs!
Simple pro lighting and use tips let you snap stunning photos. Check out our free Photo School area!

As I mentioned at the outset, Canon's PowerShot A40 topped the charts on the IR website for popularity last year, outstripping all other camera models. And for good reason: The A40 offered a rich set of features and excellent image quality at an attractive price. This year, the PowerShot A60 and A70 appear poised to follow in the A40's footsteps. Relative to last year's model, the new models offers a slightly expanded shutter-speed range, a slightly more accurate optical viewfinder, and a significantly improved user interface. I did see a good bit more lens flare on the new cameras than on the A40, puzzling since the lenses appear to be identical. (Perhaps a change in the optical coatings?) Also, the optical viewfinder accuracy on both new models is still lower than I'd like to see. Finally, as noted above, the A60's shutter lag is rather long. These complaints aside, Canon has once again managed a nearly perfect combination of features, image quality and price for the mid-level consumer market. If you're looking for a great "all around" digicam on a budget, the A60 certainly deserves serious consideration.

 

Reader Comments!
Questions, comments or controversy on this article? Click this link to see what other Imaging Resource readers have had to say about Canon Powershot A60, or add comments of your own!


Follow Imaging Resource:

Purchase memory card for Panasonic Lumix DMC-XS3 digital camera
Enter this month to win:

1 $300 Adorama Gift Certificate

2 $200 Adorama Gift Certificate

3 $100 Adorama Gift Certificate