Canon A650 IS Review
Canon PowerShot A650 IS Exposure
Saturation & Hue Accuracy
Overall pleasing and well-saturated color, though strong reds and blues were a little oversaturated. Slightly reddish skin tones, but still good results.
Skin tones. Here, with the color balanced properly for the light source, the A650 IS' skin tones were slightly reddish, but not to an extreme. 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.
Hue. The Canon A650 IS produced a few color shifts relative to the correct mathematical translation of colors in its subjects, most visibly pushing cyan toward blue (for better-looking skies), red toward orange, and yellow toward green. Still, overall color accuracy was good. Hue is "what color" the
As can be seen above, the Canon A650 IS provides five saturation settings, allowing you to adjust the saturation to suite your taste.
| See full set of test images
See thumbnails of all test and gallery images
Exposure and White Balance
Indoors, incandescent lighting
Good color with the Manual and Incandescent white balance settings, though Manual proved best overall. Even the Auto white balance results weren't too far off. About average positive exposure compensation required.
|Auto White Balance
|Incandescent White Balance
|Manual White Balance
Color balance indoors under incandescent lighting was slightly yellow in Auto white balance mode, while the Incandescent and Manual settings produced more accurate color. Of the two, however, the Manual setting looked best, with the most natural skin tones. The Canon A650 IS required a +1.0 EV exposure compensation boost to get a good exposure, about average for this shot. Overall color with the Manual white balance setting is quite good, though the blue flowers are quite dark and purplish. (Many digital cameras reproduce these blue flowers with a dark, purplish tint, so the A650 IS' performance is not unusual) 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.
Generally good color and exposure, though high contrast and hot highlights.
|Auto White Balance,
The Canon PowerShot A650 IS performed well under harsh outdoor lighting, though contrast was quite high. Overall color is good though, if slightly reddish. Though overall contrast is high, the shadows hold onto a fair amount of detail. On the outdoor house shot, the A650 IS' contrast adjustment did do a fair job of toning down the hard lighting, so be sure to try lowering the contrast setting in bright exposures such as these.
Very high resolution, 1,700 lines of strong detail.
|Strong detail to
1,700 lines horizontal
|Strong detail to
1,700 lines vertical
Our laboratory resolution chart revealed sharp, distinct line patterns down to about 1,700 lines per picture height horizontally and vertically. Extinction didn't really occur, though lines began to merge around 1,800-1,900 lines vertically. 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.
Sharpness & Detail
Reasonably sharp images, with minimal edge-enhancement on high-contrast subjects. Low to moderate detail loss to noise suppression in the shadows.
|Good definition of high-contrast
elements, with only minor
|Subtle detail: Hair
Noise suppression blurs
detail in areas of subtle contrast,
as in the darker parts of
Marti's hair here.
Sharpness. The Canon PowerShot A650 IS captures good detail and fairly sharp images. Slight enhancement artifacts are visible on high-contrast subjects such as the crop above left. Edge enhancement creates the illusion of sharpness by enhancing colors and tones right at the edge of a rapid transition in color or tone.
Detail. The crop above right shows relatively low to moderate detail lost to noise suppression, with darker areas of Marti's hair showing slightly limited detail, though some individual strands remain visible. 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.
ISO & Noise Performance
Low to moderate noise at the normal sensitivity settings, though a big jump in noise with strong blurring at the higher settings.
|ISO 80||ISO 100||ISO 200|
|ISO 400||ISO 800||ISO 1,600|
|ISO 3,200 (1,600 x 1,200)|
Noise levels are fairly low at the Canon PowerShot A650 IS' lower sensitivity settings, though noise is quite visible and details a little blurred already at the ISO 200 setting. At ISO 400, noise is moderately high, with considerable blurring, although its 12-megapixel images should still make good-looking 8x10 inch prints. At ISOs 800 and especially 1,600, noise is very high, and fine detail all but lost. The camera's ISO 3,200 setting limits the resolution to 1,600 x 1,200, but results here are still quite blurry, even though the noise pixels aren't as bright. Bear in mind that at 12 million pixels we've passed the point where we can make adequate judgments about camera quality by looking at images at 100% onscreen. See our Output Quality section for more on how the printed results look. Bottom line, unless you're going to print 16x20-inch images, you won't care much about chroma noise or noise suppression up to ISO 200.
Extremes: Sunlit and low-light tests
High resolution with strong overall detail, but high contrast and hot highlights. Good low-light performance, capable of capturing bright images in near darkness.
|+0.3 EV||+0.7 EV||+1.0 EV|
The Canon PowerShot A650 IS produced high contrast under the deliberately harsh lighting in the test above, producing very hot highlights with limited detail. Shadow detail is fair, though noise suppression does smudge detail in deeper shadow areas. The camera required about average compensation to get proper exposure of skin tones, at +0.7 EV, but unfortunately blows the detail in the shirt.
As can be seen from the thumbnails above, the A650 IS' five contrast settings are fairly effective. Definitely consider reducing the contrast setting, and be sure to use fill flash in situations like the one shown above, or shoot in the shade when possible.
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 A650 IS performed well on the low-light test, capturing bright images at the lowest light level with almost the lowest sensitivity setting (ISO 100). At ISO 80, the image at 1/16 foot-candle was dim. Images captured at ISO 3,200 were only bright down to the 1/4 foot-candle light level because the camera limits its exposure times at that ISO setting, but noise is very high. Color balance was pretty good with the Auto white balance setting. The camera's autofocus system didn't work quite as well, as it wasn't able to focus on the subject much below the 1/4 foot-candle light level unassisted, but managed to focus down to the darkest light level with the AF assist enabled. (A useful trick when shooting under dim lighting 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. The A650 IS should do quite well in such situations.)
How bright is this? The one foot-candle light level that this test begins at roughly corresponds to the brightness of typical city street-lighting at night. Cameras performing well at that level should be able to snap good-looking photos of street-lit scenes.
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
Coverage was pretty uniform most of the time, but uneven at wide angle. Our standard shots required slightly higher-than-average exposure compensation. Pretty good range, though not quite strong enough for the 6x optical zoom.
|35mm equivalent||210mm equivalent|
Coverage. Flash coverage was uneven at wide angle, with strong falloff in the corners of the frame, but more uniform at telephoto. In the Indoor test, the Canon A650 IS' flash underexposed our subject at its default setting, requiring a +1.3 EV exposure compensation adjustment to get good results. (This is slightly more adjustment than most cameras require on this shot.) The camera's Slow-Sync flash mode produced more even results at +1.0 EV exposure setting, albeit with a stronger pinkish-orange cast from the room lighting.
ISO 100 Range. At wide angle, flash shots at ISO 100 remained fairly bright out to a distance of about 10 feet. At full telephoto and ISO 100, the image was a bit dim already at 6 feet, but intensity remained the same to about 8 feet, then decreased gradually with each additional foot.
|Manufacturer-Specified Flash Range|
Auto ISO 200
Auto ISO 200
Manufacturer Specified Flash Test. In the wide angle shot above, the PowerShot A650 IS performs exactly as Canon says it will, producing a good exposure at the rated distance with its ISO set to Auto (which selected ISO 200). At telephoto, results are somewhat dim at the specified distance. Our standard test method for flash range uses a fixed setting of ISO 100, to provide a fair basis of comparison between cameras. We've now also begun shooting 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.
Good print quality, good color, sharp 16x20-inch prints. ISO 400 images are good at 11x14, very clean at 8x10; ISO 800 shots are good at 8x10, better at 5x7, and ISO 1,600 shots look better at 4x6 inches.
The Canon PowerShot A650 IS had enough resolution to make good looking 16x20-inch prints at ISO 80. Slight chroma noise is present at 80, which begins to increase at 100, and gets noticeable at ISO 200. But remember, I'm still talking about JPEGs printed at a very large 16x20 inches. ISO 200 images are slightly soft and noisy at 13x19 inches, but better at 11x14; and the jump to ISO 400 eliminates the chroma noise with more noise suppression evident. At 8x10, ISO 400 looks very clean. ISO 800 is usable at 8x10 inches, but it's not until 5x7 that the print looks excellent again. ISO 1,600 similarly looks better at 4x6 than at 5x7. ISO 3,200 looks terrible even at 4x6, and should have been left out of the camera design.
Color saturation looks good, fading only the slightest bit as ISO increases. It's an excellent performance overall.
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 images above were taken from our standardized test shots. For a collection of more pictorial photos, see our Canon PowerShot A650 IS 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 A650 IS 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.