For around £100 we don't expect cameras to provide miracles, and the Canon A480 makes no such claim. But for those looking at no-frills simplicity, there are many reasons why the model may just be ideal.
Sitting right at the base of the PowerShot line, it’s perhaps one of the most basic compacts currently available. A 10MP sensor sits at the heart of the camera, which is joined by a 3.3x optical zoom lens providing a 37-122mm equivalent focal range. 15 scene modes sit alongside auto-exposure and Program options, in addition to a basic 30fps movie mode, while the camera’s macro function promises to shoot as close as 1cm away from the subject.
There’s no image stabilisation, though the sensitivity range of ISO 80-1600 should comfortably cover most eventualities. This works with Motion Detection technology which boost sensitivity to the required level when movement is detected, while Face Detection said to optimise focus, exposure, white balance and flash for optimum results.
While the camera is small and relatively lightweight, the AA batteries it uses makes it very chunky, even if it is still pocketable. There’s just a single power button on its top plate, while the rear sports the most basic controls for accessing menu options and playing back images. And, as is usually the case on such compacts, the menu pad allows for direct access to many key controls, such as sensitivity and flash.
Among the camera’s strengths is its focusing speed, which locks on to subjects diligently even in low light. Images are processed quickly, and there’s little waiting around from shot to shot. It’s nice to see spot metering, a healthy selection of colour options and range of white balance presets to cover all manner of lighting, though the inclusion of a custom white balance setting is perhaps a little optimistic on such an entry-level camera.
As with many AA-powered compacts, the A480 eats its way fairly rapidly through a couple of batteries, making rechargeable types a necessity. With no image stabilisation, the camera also has a tendency to activate the flash whenever it needs to venture past the lowest few sensitivities, which isn’t always preferable. In this case switching manually to a higher sensitivity tends to be a better idea.
Image quality is, on the whole, excellent. Perhaps most impressively, noise control is surprisingly good, which results in images being clean and detailed, though a little soft on their default settings and in need of a little sharpening. At higher sensitivities noise can take on a blotchy appearance, but detail still remains through the image. It also takes a fair bit of persuasion for the camera’s metering system to err, with images exposed intuitively. Saying this, highlight detail does tend to tail off a little easily in high contrast situations, in which case under-compensating is advised. Barrelling is practically non-existant, and while some fringing in noticeable along edges, chromatic aberrations remain low overall. The only let down is the slight softness visible towards the edges and corners of the frame.
Excellent images, excellent value ? what more could you want?