Canon PowerShot A2600 Digital Camera Review
On a budget? The Canon A2600 won't break the bank.
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While there are some phenomenal new cameras on the market, sometimes budget trumps all other concerns. Maybe you're looking for a gift, or a starter camera for someone you know, but you don't have a ton of money to sink on something that may not last forever. Enter the Canon PowerShot A2600 ($149 MSRP): a bargain-buy point-and-shoot that may not outperform cameras many times its cost, but does give you a reliable option for quick snaps to share with friends.
Design & Handling
Pocketable point and shoot
Given the price of the A2600, it's tempting to give it the kid-gloves treatment, but there are a few notable tradeoffs for cost that we should mention. First off, while it does feel like part of its casing is aluminum, most of the body is undoubtedly plastic that will not survive the propensity for electronics destruction of a young child. Speaking of people likely to drop things, add yourself to that list as well—the camera doesn't have much in the way of grip. So be sure to use the included strap—lest you inadvertently send your new camera down the River Styx with a short drop.
Assuming you've equipped the strap and are ready to start snapping photos, you'll be delighted to see an acceptably large screen with an attractive menu. This is a huge plus, but the buttons are somewhat small and hard to press if you're operating the camera with one hand. If you have gigantic mitts like me, this camera is going to feel very small in your hands, leading to difficulty in the field. This is not a camera that you'll be using with one hand very often.
Despite older models of Canon point-and-shoots using AA batteries, the A2600 does not. Those of you who want to use the A2600 for long periods of time may want to pick up an extra NB-11L battery to extend its life on a night out or family trip. If you're a little reluctant to spend more money, you can typically find a better price online than you could in the store, and third-party or after-market options will run a bit cheaper.
Considering the price, none too shabby
We've seen point and shoots that have a very limited range of options in the past, but the Canon A2600 actually has a decently wide range of options considering what you're paying for it. While the usual ISO speed control, white balance adjustment, exposure control et cetera are present, you can also lengthen your shutter speed to capture low-light photos. It's a decent plus if you're in a bar or club and want to commemorate the evening, and it's a feature that isn't on many entry-level point-and-shoots. All this comes with a caveat, though: handheld shooting with the A2600 will lead to blurry and noisy pictures.
Beyond the standard set of shooting modes, however, there isn't much to write home about. A 5x optical zoom is satisfactory for the price, but don't expect to grab good snapshots of a school play unless you're in the front row. All in all, this is a camera for a night out—not something to build a family album with.
Despite the proudly-advertised 16MP 1/2.3-inch sensor, don't let that high megapixel number fool you—it sounds a lot better than it really is. Due in no small part to its optics and its sensor size, your pictures—though large—won't have nearly the same quality as a DSLR or prosumer camera.
The controls are just about as basic as they possibly can get, and there are several shooting modes that cover just about all of the common situations you'd want a point-and-shoot for. Fireworks, snowy pictures, and even low-light situations all have presets, so the A2600 should feel at home in a variety of situations. Mind you, the picture quality leaves much to be desired, but this will work in a pinch—especially for Facebook photos.
We should point out that we did have some fun with the effects filters while I had the A2600. While your picture quality isn't going to fool anyone into thinking you're a pro, filters like the toy camera mode (faux-vignetting) and miniaturization (faux-bokeh) will make your pictures look very interesting if you're creative in how you use them.
In a certain sense, you get what you pay for.
Considering that the Canon A2600 is about as entry-level as you can get without being a build-your-own digital camera kit, the thoughtful buyer should be aware that there are some tradeoffs in the performance department. For starters, picture quality drops off quickly if you stray from shooting beyond ISO 100. Low-light environs will be kryptonite to quality in your snapshots, and you'll notice a sharp dropoff in detail the higher you let the ISO go.
Video is another story, however. Despite the fact that it struggles with low-light situations in stills, the Canon S2600 manages to grab anything over 10lux, which is actually very notable for a camera at this price point. Sure, that video isn't going to be a professional-grade clip or anything, but sometimes that's not the point: sometimes you just want to commemorate something, and you don't need a photo studio to do it.
To wit, there's really nothing that the Canon A2600 does fantastically well, but for a few single shots it's acceptable. Perhaps that in and of itself is notable given that this is such an inexpensive camera, and you're likely to move on to another model after a year or so.
There's no way to manually control the aperture or shutter speed, so the A2600 isn't a good option for taking action shots. The option exists to take continuous pictures, but you won't be setting any speed records with this thing at a rate of less than one snap a second. If you want a camera for outdoor sports or moving subjects, you will probably want to look into a higher-rung model.
All that aside, the plucky little A2600 does manage to keep its color saturation (and error) in check, but it does have some noise problems. Even at the most ideal settings, the noise level exceeds 1% and ramps up quickly from there. While it's a step up from those old 800-speed film disposable cameras, it's not much. You'll definitely notice lost detail and sharpness issues in organic scenery and moreso in video.
Goodbye, disposable cameras
Let's face it: For under $150, you're not going to be getting a camera that stays in your family from generation to generation. However, if you're looking to grab a basic camera on the cheap, the Canon PowerShot A2600 is definitely worth checking out. It struggles with action and low-light shots, but it's much better than your average smartphone camera (and can be found for around $100 online).
Still, you should be aware that you may be able to get better results if you're willing to increase the money you spend. For example, the Sony DSC-WX80 ($199) will get you better zoom and low-light performance for just $50 more. If you want to grab a "next step up" camera, a Canon PowerShot SX280 HS will give you much-improved image quality and a better zoom, though at an increased cost. While both of these models have higher sticker prices, it's not hard to snag deals on older versions of current models.
By the Numbers
Sure, this camera is inexpensive, but it sacrifices performance to get that attractive pricetag. It may be a strong temptation to buy, but look before you leap—know what you're getting into. If you're looking for a camera to capture high-quality snaps, you may find that the high noise and low sharpness of the Canon A2600 is a tough pill to swallow.
Color & White Balance
It's tough to expect more for an inexpensive point-and-shoot in terms of color performance. Sure, there are cameras out there for a bit more money that put this to shame, but in all honesty you're probably not going to notice this type of color error unless you're an enthusiast. A ∆C of 2.8 is nothing to sneeze at for a camera so affordable.
For those hoping that another color mode will improve upon this performance, you're out of luck. Like many entry-level cameras, there are no additional color modes to be had here. However, if you have the time, you can set a manual white balance, which does just about as well as the presets in maintaining color accuracy.
To its credit, the A2600 keeps its saturation in check (105.8%), only blowing out some reds and magenta. Whites and blues are about where they should be, with yellows and greens shifted only a little bit. Really, even this performance is not bad for the money you'd spend—just don't expect high quality snapshots and you're golden.
White balance is another story, however. For whatever reason, the A2600 has a some of trouble with automatic white balance, and it shows when you take pictures without toggling the right preset ahead of time. If you don't use the custom white balance setting, this problem will pop up when you move from shooting outdoors to a room lit with incandescent light immediately.
Anybody who's used the once-ubiquitous disposable camera with 800-speed film will remember a certain... crummy quality of their images due to the introduction of noise and lost sharpness. Thankfully, the same isn't true with the A2600, but only if you keep the ISO speed at 100. Even at that setting, you'll notice 1.3%+ percent noise in your images, which is tough to explain away.
If you leave the camera on Auto ISO, you may find that many of your pictures will be nigh-unusable if you want them for anything other than the quick facebook pic—noise tends to increase the higher you let the camera turn the ISO. This matters a lot if you're planning on taking this thing out to a club or other low-light situation: the camera will either decrease the shutter speed or boost the ISO to compensate for low light, and both of these actions will make it extremely tough to get the quality of snapshot you want.
Despite the tendency for bargain cameras to oversharpen pictures, the A2600 doesn't do this—in fact, Canon keeps it in check. Even at its worst, 12.08% isn't all that bad—though you may notice a tiny bit of haloing in small details in organic scenes.
What you will notice is the lack of sharpness and hard edges bleeding into their surroundings. Whether its the lens or the sensor to blame is unimportant, but this is one of the areas where skimping on price will cost you. A sufficiently downscaled image will not suffer as many issues—but it won't work miracles. You may notice that there's some detail missing when you click through your photos at full resolution, however.
Much like the A2600's performance with still photos, sharpness is an issue for the tiny Canon point-and-shoot. Even under full studio illumination, it fell far short of average by only managing a resolution of 500 lp/ph both horizontally and vertically.
Additionally, there are some odd issues present in high-contrast situations. In our tests, we noticed there was a fair amount of strobing, as well as our patterns appearing to move backwards. You're probably not going to see that unless you're filming the spokes of a stationary bike, but it's still something to take note of.
Given its issues with exposure, it shouldn't be much of a surprise that low light is a bit of an issue as well. Though the A2600 is fairly respectable considering it only needs 10 lux to properly expose a scene in video, you may find that it's not quite enough for a dimly-lit area. Best to keep shooting when there's adequate light.