Canon Powershot A590 IS Review
Review Date: June 23rd 2008
Author: Gavin Stoker
The Canon Powershot A590 IS is the big brother of the A580 model that we recently reviewed. The A590 IS additionally offers an Optical Image Stabilizer for blur-free photos, full manual control over exposure with aperture-priority, shutter-priority and manual modes, plus an extensive range of optional lens accessories. In all other respects the A590 IS and A580 are identical, with the same 8 megapixel sensor, 4x optical zoom lens (35-140mm), 2.5 inch LCD screen and an optical viewfinder present and correct. New features for 2008 include blur-reducing Motion Detection Technology, Face Detection White Balance, Face Select & Track for tracking moving subjects, and Auto Red-Eye Correction when taking a picture. Costing a little bit more than the A580 at around $199 / £159.00 / €229.00, the Canon A590 IS is still competitively priced. Gavin Stoker tested it out in the changeable weather conditions of an English summer...
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Ease of Use
The chunkier, cheaper and more plastic build 'ying' to the metal finished, slim build and pricier 'yang' of the digital IXUS range, Canon's PowerShot family has always had the image of second best. Yet probably more than any other manufacturer, with the exception of Panasonic, you get a very fair amount of features and moreover reliable performance for your money. This means that the pocket-sized 4x optical zoom (35-140mm in 35mm terms), 8MP Canon PowerShot A590 IS shouldn't be overlooked. But in fairness it might well be. With unexceptional headline features like that, plus power courtesy of two AA batteries housed in an unobtrusively-rounded grip, the A590 IS appears on the surface to be very much 'just another' entry level model making up the numbers in what's already a fairly all-encompassing family. So what more does it have to offer for the eminently reasonable £159 official UK asking price?
For starters that 'IS' suffix denotes optical image stabilization, newly backed up by motion detection technology if you've selected high ISO mode. This is useful in combating camera shake and resulting softness when attempting low light photography without flash at maximum zoom, but never infallible. To avoid introducing unwarranted levels of image noise, motion detection purportedly boosts ISO by the minimum needed, thus never going higher than ISO 800 (ISO 1600 otherwise offering an acceptable maximum).
Along with its palm-sized design and relative light-weight feel, user friendliness is provided on the Canon PowerShot A590 IS courtesy of a new 'easy' mode denoted by the heart icon that – confusingly – some rivals also use for a 'favourites' mode. You also get automatic red eye detection and (theoretical) correction in both capture and playback modes, plus the relative rarity of an optical viewfinder as an alternative to the distinctly average 2.5-inch, 115k dot screen at the back, while the now ubiquitous face detection technology includes dedicated white balance plus face select and track functionality. Minimum focus distance in macro mode is a so-so 5cm, but more positively a 32MB SD card is included out of the box to get you started.
With the Canon A590 IS, AF performance has also had an under the bonnet tweak to allow photography in conditions around a stop darker than were achievable before, while a menu-selectable AF Point Zoom function magnifies the AF frame to check facial expressions when the shutter release button – ergonomically located on the forward slope of the grip – is pressed halfway. Other hand holding features for beginners include the warning 'cannot record' if they've inadvertently left the memory card in the reader rather than camera.
|Top Controls||Rear Controls|
Typical of the PowerShot range, you also get some enthusiast-pleasing features alongside the point-and-shoot ones. These include a range of optional lens accessories – the lens ring being detachable to allow such additions - with program, shutter priority, aperture priority and manual shooting modes nestling alongside full auto and a smattering of regular scene modes (19 in all). Incidentally, the optional accessories include wide and tele converter lenses, plus a close up lens and slave flash – not bad at all for a plastic-build camera in this budget price bracket! Though Canon claims the regular duo of alkaline AAs supplied with the A590 IS are good for 200 shots, that figure happily proved a little conservative over our test period, even relying extensively on the rear LCD.
With its gunmetal grey finish and traditional design the Canon PowerShot A590 IS appears very business-like when viewed from the front, and, while the metallic look helps in part to disguise the plastic build, it's clear that you're not going to be investing in this camera for styling alone. However it's slightly larger-than-average build means that the ergonomics are better than the skinny IXUS range, with buttons and controls generally being less fiddly and more readily accessible. The zoom lens and aforementioned lens ring dominate the A590 IS' faceplate, above which is the window for the viewfinder, three pip-shaped peep holes for the built-in microphone, a teeny lamp for the AF illuminator and self timer, plus a narrow retro-styled strip of a flash to the right. Bottom left of the lens is a stubby lens ring release button – hold this down and give the lens ring a twist to remove.
The top of the camera features a small recessed on/off button – the camera powering up in just over a second – its positioning preventing accidental activation when pocketing the unit, next to which is a large mode dial veritably crammed with shooting options. Apart from the aforementioned PASM modes alongside full auto and the massively pared-down 'easy' mode, which only allows the user to turn the flash off, are dedicated options for capturing portraits, landscapes, night scenes, kids and pets, fireworks, access to the full range of auxiliary scene modes, plus movies. The mode wheel feels reassuringly stiff to the touch, resounding with a definite click as you hit on each option.
Forward of this, situated on the grip, is a large and springy shutter release button surrounded by the zoom lever. While there's no shutter delay to speak of, in single shot mode you can commit three images to memory in quick succession before the buffer memory temporarily seizes up. Operation of the zoom is slightly sluggish, and sound-tracked by a low mechanical buzz, but at least its sloth-like performance doesn't mean beginners will over-shoot their required framing, or induce motion sickness in viewers when utilising it in movie mode (which is a possibility).
|Battery Compartment||Memory Card Slot|
The back of the camera is dominated by a bright and clear 2.5-inch LCD, above which is a small circular window for the murky optical viewfinder – which, although easy to overlook, at least provides an option for saving power if the AAs are about to give up the ghost. Right of the screen is a standard four-way control pad for tabbing through menu options and function settings, with the familiar (to Canon users) function set button at its centre. Press this in any mode but 'easy' and, as expected, an L-shaped tool bar shared with the IXUS range appears on screen.
In the auto mode the majority of the Canon PowerShot A590 IS' target audience will be using, half of the toolbar options are deactivated, leaving you with the choice of merely selecting auto or High ISO, the drive mode (single shot capture, 10 second, two second or custom self timer) plus image file size and quality options. Click around to Program on the mode dial however and the user has full toolbar access, adding in the chance to tweak white balance, access the zany 'my colours' picture effects, control flash intensity, plus swap between evaluative, centre weighted or spot metering.
At 12 and six o'clock on the sufficiently large and functional four-way control pad are a means of swapping between flash options or selecting macro or manual focus respectively when in stills capture mode. Framing this are four further buttons. Starting from top left and moving clockwise these are controls for selecting the exposure compensation slider (+/- 2EV) that doubles up as a delete button in playback, a second button for earmarking images for print when used with a PictBridge enabled device (such as Canon's Selphy printer range), the third being the self-explanatory menu button and the fourth for turning on or off the on-screen display. No live histogram or composition grid is supplied as default.
Top right of the Canon PowerShot A590 IS back is a slider switch for swapping between capture and playback modes (each displaying two familiar folders of shooting and set up options when 'menu' is pressed), next to which is a small built-in speaker. While the right hand side of the camera is bereft of controls, but otherwise features a lug for attaching a wrist strap, the left hand flank – as still viewed from the back – features a plastic flat covering the standard DC power-in, USB and AV out ports. Finally, the bottom of the A590 IS features a screw thread for attaching the camera to a tripod, which in doing so will restrict access to the adjacent spring-loaded cover for the battery compartment, also shared with a slot for the push-down-to-eject SD card.
So far, so undemanding; so how does the Canon PowerShot A590 IS fare as regards image quality, come rain or shine?
PhotographyBLOG is a member of the DIWA organisation. Our test results for the Canon Powershot A590 IS have been submitted to DIWA for comparison with test results for different samples of the same camera model supplied by other DIWA member sites.