Canon PowerShot A480

A cheap digital camera that looks and feels shocking but offers good value.

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Canon PowerShot A480
  • Canon PowerShot A480
  • Canon PowerShot A480
  • Canon PowerShot A480
  • Expert Rating

    3.25 / 5

Pros

  • Crisp and well-coloured photos considering its price

Cons

  • Poor viewing angles on LCD screen, awkward design, some overexposure problems, noticeable chromatic aberration

Bottom Line

The physical appearance and design of the PowerShot A480 aren't great, but it does have the potential to take some good-looking shots. It's perhaps one of the best point-and-shoot digital still cameras in the sub-$200 price range. Give it a go if you're a beginner looking for something inexpensive.

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It's very hard to like the Canon PowerShot A480 digital camera, because it simply looks and feels awful. The controls are laid out awkwardly on a body that is cramped yet bulky. Its LCD screen has very poor viewing angles and brightness, which can make it hard to frame your shots properly on bright days and when you want to take angled shots from low down or high up. But there is no doubting that the Canon PowerShot A480 can produce impressively crisp and vibrant photos considering its low, low asking price of $179.

It's equipped with Canon's DIG!C III processor and has a 10-megapixel sensor. It was able to capture natural colour tones and it produced relatively crisp pictures, but it did have some trouble properly exposing brightly lit photos. Indeed, it won't produce image quality as good as a more expensive Canon compact camera, but you would be hard pressed finding a camera in the same price range capable of capturing better pictures.

Outdoor shots in bright sunlight — taken in auto mode, as well as using the appropriate scene modes — suffered from overly exposed highlights. Even though the camera has a shutter that can close in 1/2000th of a second, most of our overexposed test shots didn't use anything above 1/640th of a second in bright sunlight. Conversely, most of our indoor shots were exposed much better and were not overly dark. The camera doesn't have image stabilisation technology, but handheld shots taken at around 1/50th of a second were clear. The camera's only anti-shake tactic is to boost the ISO speed when it's taking photos in dark areas.

Noise wasn't noticeable in our tests shots until ISO 400, but chromatic aberration was visible in high-contrast areas; it was at its worst when black met white. Lens distortion was barely noticeable in our test shots, but considering the relatively short range of the 3.2x optical zoom lens (37-122mm), we didn't expect to see any barrel roll at all.

Because it's a camera aimed at beginners and bargain hunters, you won't find a dedicated manual mode. Instead there is a program mode, which lets you adjust ISO sensitivity, exposure compensation, white balance and focus mode (evaluative, centre and spot). You can't change the aperture and shutter values yourself; the camera handles these values itself in auto mode and in its 12 scene modes.

One thing that the Canon PowerShot A480 does well is capture clear and wonderfully blurred super macro shots. You can get up to within 1cm of your subject, which means you can snap some creative flower shots, and even close-up insect shots if you dare.

For the most part, the Canon PowerShot A480 will take shots that are clear and well-coloured, even when scrutinised at their maximum size (3648x2736 — although they will look a little feathered at this resolution). This means you should be able to get good-looking prints at up to A4 size, if not bigger. Like most point-and-shoot digital cameras, the Canon PowerShot A480 has face detection. In some digital cameras you can use this feature to track all sorts of objects, but in this Canon camera face detection will only work if it recognises the shape of a face. It tracked faces accurately from left to right and up and down, but lost them when our test subjects turned their heads. Likewise, it couldn't recognise faces when our test subjects wore hats.

The Canon PowerShot A480 is made of plastic and feels a little flimsy. It has a slight wedge shape, getting thicker from left to right in order to accommodate the AA battery compartment. It's an uncomfortable camera to hold, as it doesn't have a dedicated area for you to put your right thumb when you shoot, so you either have to rest it on the screen or on the playback button. In fact, that's probably one of the reasons Canon has placed this button almost flush with the body, and therefore made it hard to press. The zoom buttons, too, are awkward to press. The Canon PowerShot A480 also suffers from some shutter lag.

While we hate the appearance and design of the PowerShot A480, it does have the potential to take some good-looking shots, and it's perhaps one of the best point-and-shoot digital cameras in the sub-$200 price range. Give it a go if you're a beginner looking for something inexpensive.

Struggling for Christmas presents this year? Check out our Christmas Gift Guide for some top tech suggestions and more.

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