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"Picky Details" for the Canon PowerShot A520 digital camera
(Timing, Power, and Storage Info)



When you press the shutter release on a camera, there's usually a lag time or delay before the shutter actually fires. This corresponds to the time required for the autofocus and autoexposure mechanisms time to do their work, and can amount to a fairly long delay in some situations. Since this number is rarely reported on (and even more rarely reported accurately), and can significantly affect the picture taking experience, I routinely measure both shutter delay and shot to shot cycle times for all cameras I test, using a test system I designed and built for the purpose. (Crystal-controlled, with a resolution of 0.001 second.) Here are the numbers I collected for the Canon PowerShot A520:


Canon PowerShot A520 Timings
Power On -> First shot
LCD turns on and lens extends forward. About average.
1.8 - 14
First time is time to retract lens, second time is worst-case buffer-clearing time. First time is fairly fast. Second time is long, but corresponds to clearing 100 small/basic images from the buffer memory after a long sequence in continuous shooting mode.
Play to Record, first shot
Time until first shot is captured. About average.
Record to play
2.1 / 1.3
First time is that required to display a large/fine file immediately after capture, second time is that needed to display a large/fine file that has already been processed and stored on the memory card. About average.
Shutter lag, full autofocus
0.88 / 0.94
First time is at full wide-angle, second is full telephoto. Right in the middle of the "average" range.
Shutter lag, manual focus
A little slow by current standards.
Shutter lag, prefocus
Time to capture, after half-pressing shutter button. Very fast.
Cycle Time, max/min resolution

2.51 / 2.6

First number is for large/fine files, second number is time for "TV" mode (640x480) images. Times are averages. In large/fine mode, shoots four frames this fast, then slows to about 3.9 seconds per shot. In TV mode, continues at this rate indefinitely. Buffer clears in 7 seconds in large/fine mode, 5 seconds in TV mode. About average for a camera in this price/performance bracket.
Cycle Time, continuous mode, max/min resolution 0.68 / 0.61
(1.47 / 1.64 fps)
First number is for large/fine files, second number is time for "TV" mode images. Times are averages. In large/fine mode, shoots four frames this fast, then slows to about 1.7 seconds per shot. In TV mode, shoots 85 frames this fast, then slows just a little to about .77 seconds per shot. Buffer clears in 6 seconds in large/fine mode, 12 seconds in TV mode. A reasonable rate for a camera in the A520's price/performance bracket, with a reasonable buffer capacity for large/fine files.


Average cycle time and shutter lag numbers. The Canon PowerShot A520's timing performance is solidly in the middle of the range for cameras in its price/performance class. Its full-autofocus shutter lag range of 0.88 - 0.94 second falls within the 0.8 - 1.0 second range that's typical for consumer digital cameras. (Although still way too slow in my opinion - Shutter lag is one area where most manufacturers really need to apply more development effort.) Shot to shot cycle times are workmanlike if not impressive, at 2.5 seconds in single shot mode, and 0.68 seconds (1.47 frames/second) in continuous mode, both times corresponding to shooting large/fine images.



The Canon PowerShot A520 uses 2 AA batteries for power. Following are the power drains I measured in various operating modes, and the projected run time, based on NiMH rechargeable batteries with 1600 mAh true capacity.


Operating Mode
(@3.1 volts on the external power terminal)
Est. Minutes
(two 1600 mA cells)
Capture Mode, w/LCD
547 mA
Capture Mode, no LCD
97 mA
Half-pressed shutter w/LCD
604 mA
Half-pressed w/o LCD
500 mA
Memory Write (transient)
729 mA
Flash Recharge (transient)
364 mA
Image Playback
213 mA

Very good battery life, particularly for a 2-AA cell camera. Considering that it's powered by only two AA cells, the Canon PowerShot A520 showed very good battery life. Based on the "standard" 1600 mAh NiMH cells that I've used as a basis of comparison for the last several years, worst-case run time is projected at 136 minutes in record mode with the LCD turned on. Playback run time is 348 minutes, and run time in record mode with the LCD turned off is an exceptional 12.8 hours. (Don't get too excited though, the relatively inaccurate viewfinder on the A520 will have you using the LCD display to frame your shots most of the time.) Note though, that high-capacity NiMH cells these days have true capacities of well over 2000 mAh, so you can expect worst case run times more on the order of 170 minutes, just shy of three hours. I do still highly recommend that you pick up a couple of sets of high-capacity rechargeable AA batteries and a good-quality battery charger. - This will be an investment that pays itself back many times over the life of the camera.


Storage Capacity

The Canon PowerShot A520 stores its photos on SD/MMC memory cards, and a 16 MB card is included with the camera. (I strongly recommend buying at least a 64 MB card, preferably a 128 MB one, to give yourself extra space for extended outings.) The chart below shows how many images can be stored on the included 16 MB card at each size/quality setting.


Image Capacity vs
16 MB Memory Card
Fine Normal
2272 x 1704 Images
(Avg size)
2.1 MB
1.2 MB
598 KB
5:1 9:1 19:1
1600 x 1200 Images
(Avg size)
1.1 MB
598 KB
316 KB
5:1 10:1 18:1
1024 x 768 Images
(Avg size)
605 KB
349 KB
199 KB
4:1 7:1
640 x 480
(Avg size)
283 KB
183 KB
116 KB
3:1 5:1


Download Speed

The Canon PowerShot A520 connects to a host computer via a USB interface. Downloading files to my Sony desktop running Windows XP (Pentium IV, 2.4 GHz), I clocked it at 475 KBytes/second, a relatively unimpressive rate by current standards. (Cameras with slow USB interfaces run as low as 300 KB/s, cameras with fast v1.1 interfaces run as high as 600 KB/s. Cameras with USB v2.0 interfaces run as fast as several megabytes/second.) You probably won't need a card reader with the A520, but you might find yourself wishing for one if you use a large memory card with it.


A520 Review
A520 Test Images
A520 Specifications
A520 "Picky Details"
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