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Testing / Performance
Canon digital cameras tend to do well in color testing, and we tested the PowerShot A460 to see if it could perform as well as its siblings. We photographed a GretagMacbeth color chart which is an industry standard for determining if colors are accurate. The chart consists of 24 color tiles. We uploaded the A460’s images of the chart into Imatest imaging software and it compared the colors of the ideal chart to the colors produced by the Canon A460. Imatest output a modified version of the chart that includes the ideal colors as vertical rectangles, the A460’s colors as outer frames, and the chart's luminance-corrected colors as inner squares.
If this isn’t helpful enough, Imatest also output the following chart that plots the ideal colors as squares and the A460’s colors as circles. Each of the chart’s 24 colors is plotted on the spectrum. The line connecting the two shapes shows the degree of error.
Most of the colors are tightly tethered and there don’t seem to be any colors that are extremely erroneous. Notice many of the circles bending toward the outer edges of the frame? That means the colors are oversaturated – by 16.3 percent, according to Imatest. The mean color error came out to 7.47, which is respectable. It’s certainly not the best Canon we’ve seen, but it is great for the price.
The Canon A460 showed its best stuff in the white balance test. This digital camera doesn’t have a flash preset, but the automatic white balance setting rendered flash lighting spot on. Generally, the automatic white balance setting was accurate except for in tungsten light.
*Under tungsten lights, the preset mode was much more accurate than the automatic setting. In both fluorescent light and outdoor shade, the automatic and preset settings were equally accurate, both performing very well. While it is safe to use the automatic white balance setting most of the time, it is an even better bet to use the presets.
**Still Life Sequences
***Click on the photos below to see the high-resolution image.*
At a time when megapixels remain the headlining features of digital cameras, the Canon PowerShot A460 has a modest 5.1 megapixels. We tested it to see how effective the resolution was at capturing details by shooting an industry standard resolution chart. We used various focal lengths and apertures to find the sharpest image possible from the camera. We sifted through the images and selected the sharpest shot the A460 produced: it was taken using a focal length of 17mm and an aperture of f/5.
The image isn’t the sharpest we’ve seen but isn’t bad for 5.1 megapixels either. It is a bit soft in the corners and the black patterns look a little grayer in the corners too. Imatest quantified these results in terms of line widths per picture height (lw/ph), which describes how many theoretical alternating black and white lines can fit across the frame without blurring. The Canon PowerShot A460 resolved 1313 lw/ph horizontally with 9.3 percent oversharpening. It resolved 1305 lw/ph vertically with 12.4 percent undersharpening.
For comparison sake, here are a few results from other 5-megapixel digital cameras. The Kodak EasyShare V530 resolved 1225 lw/ph horizontally and only 763.7 lw/ph vertically. The Canon PowerShot S2 IS resolves 1490 lw/ph horizontally and 1373 lw/ph vertically. The Kodak is a closer comparison because of its cheap and compact nature, although it was released in mid-2005 so its technology is a bit older. The Canon S2 IS has the same marketed resolution but performs much better: it could be that it simply has a higher quality lens.
Overall, the A460 doesn’t perform as well as the S2 but it does better than most 5.1-megapixel point-and-shoot digital cameras.
Noise – Auto ISO*(0.81)*
In the bright lights of the studio, the Canon PowerShot A460 automatically selected an ISO 200 setting. This is much too high in this bright lighting and produced way too much noise. In fact, there was so much noise that this camera may have achieved a record low score. The overall auto ISO noise score of 0.81 is definitely the lowest we’ve seen in a very long time. The lesson? Set the ISO yourself.
Noise – Manual ISO*(2.51)*
The A460 has a short manual ISO range from 80-400 and we tested the noise levels at each of those settings. The chart below shows the settings on the horizontal axis and the percentage of the image lost to noise on the vertical axis.
Even the lowest manual ISO setting has more than 1 percent of its image lost to noise. Things get steadily worse as the ISO setting is bumped up. The most sensitive ISO 400 has an absurd amount of noise - almost 3.5 percent! To compare, the Canon A570’s ISO 400 setting has less than 2.5 percent of noise and the Fujifilm F40fd captured less than 1.5 percent of noise with its ISO 400 setting.
*The A460 isn’t exactly cut out for low light photography with its short ISO range and high noise levels. Nevertheless, we tested it at 60, 30, 15, and 5 lux. The 60 lux test is similar to a living room lit by two soft lamps after dusk: reading is still possible. At 30 lux, eyes start to squint to read as the light is typical of what is emitted from a single 40-watt bulb. The last two tests are very dark and simply find any limitations the image sensor may have.
As you can see, there are limitations. The image is quite underexposed at 5 lux, but seems to be okay at 15 lux. In all of the images, however, noise invades and throws its colored speckles about. To its credit, the Canon A460’s color accuracy really didn’t suffer too much in low light or with long exposures.
The amount of noise typically rises when the shutter is opened longer, so we tested the camera’s long exposure noise. The camera took a long time to process these long exposures, hinting that the camera employs a noise reduction system immediately after the shot is taken. The chart below shows the exposure time on the horizontal axis and the percentage of the image lost to noise on the vertical axis.
The most noise hovers just under 5 percent at the 10-second shutter speed and the noise level falls at 15 seconds, indicating that a noise reduction system works heavily between 10 and 15 seconds. Overall, the Canon PowerShot A460 performed better in low light than anticipated.
Dynamic Range*(4.11) *
To test dynamic range, we photograph a backlit Stouffer test film. The film has a row of rectangles starting as transparent on one end and progressing to black on the other. The images of the film are uploaded into Imatest, which determines how well the camera can capture lights and darks in one shot. A camera’s dynamic range is affected by the selected ISO sensitivity, so we tested the A460 at each of its settings. Below is a chart showing the manual ISO settings on the horizontal axis and the number of exposure values captured by the camera on the vertical axis.
There is a steady decrease in dynamic range throughout the ISO range, although the camera didn’t start well by capturing less than 6 exposure values at its lowest ISO 80 setting. At ISO 400, the camera captures less than 3 exposure values. For comparison sake, the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T100 captured about 6.5 exposure values at the same ISO setting. The Canon PowerShot A460 isn’t made for photographing weddings or anything, that’s for sure. This is the worst dynamic range score on any camera we’ve tested so far this year.
*Startup to First Shot (8.0)
*It took the Canon PowerShot A460 two seconds to start up and take its first picture. This is decent for a budget point-and-shoot digital camera.
*The burst mode on this camera isn’t spectacular. It isn’t made for sports or other action. In the drive mode, the A460 snapped a shot every 1.2 seconds and did so until the memory card was full. It deserves some credit for the lengthy burst, but its slow speed can hardly be called a burst at all.
When the camera was pre-focused the shutter lag was almost immeasurable. Snapping posed portraits shouldn’t be a problem. It’s snapping the action and candid pictures that will be troublesome. It takes the Canon A460 a whopping 0.7 seconds to focus and take a picture. Slow.
After a picture is taken, the camera takes 0.9 seconds to process the shot and record it to memory. This time is lengthened if long exposures are used; when the noise reduction system kicks in, it can take several seconds to process.
**Video Performance ***(1.67)*
*Bright Indoor Light - 3000 lux *
The Canon A460 has some problems recording video in bright light. The automatic white balance setting just doesn’t work as well in the movie mode. It is way off and contributes to the mean color error tripling! The saturation rockets to 138.1 percent and the average percentage of noise in the image hovers around 0.445 percent. Beware shooting video in bright light: Great Aunt Maude’s purple dress will look more like maroon and her red lipstick will come out an orange-ish hue: it may be scarier in the video than in real life.
Low Light - 30 lux
When the lights were turned low and we recorded a video of a test chart, the mean color error returned to 11.9. This is within normal range and is comparable to the camera’s performance in low light with still pictures. The average amount of noise jumped to 2.58 percent, which is disappointing. The color saturation also had problems – just in the opposite way of the 3000 lux test. This time, colors were dull and undersaturated at only 80.4 percent.
**Video Resolution **
The Canon PowerShot A460’s videos are recorded at a typical 640 x 480-pixel resolution. We ran some video footage through Imatest software, which numerically defines the sharpness in the same units as still images. Horizontally, the A460’s videos resolved 256 lw/ph with 16.6 percent undersharpening. Vertically, it resolved 313 lw/ph with 6.8 percent oversharpening.
We took the Canon PowerShot A460 outside and recorded videos of people, babies, dogs, cars, and trucks by our office. The top resolution of 640 x 480 only records 10 frames per second, which is about what some burst modes can do now. Thus, watching moving subjects was something like watching the Terminator robot skeleton. We don’t recommend recording or watching much of the videos from the A460 unless you can handle the inevitable headache. It is hard to look beyond the awfully jerky motion, but when we did we found that the exposure and contrast looked good but the overall scene lacked fine details.
The Canon PowerShot A460 comes with an in-camera real image optical viewfinder. While optical viewfinders have begun appearing less and less in more expensive point-and-shoot digital cameras, the lower-priced budget models have continued to include this feature as a general rule. There is one major asset to having an optical viewfinder and that is when conserving battery life is necessary. An LCD screen will drain batteries at a much faster rate than an identical camera shooting with an optical viewfinder and if nearly out of power, this can be a lifesaver. However, when shooting with the viewfinder, the framing accuracy drops dramatically. While this type of optical viewfinder is great in a battery pinch, it would be nice to see manufacturers equipping cameras with Lithium Ion batteries and eliminating the viewfinder in favor of a higher-resolution LCD screen or providing a more accurate optical alternative.
**LCD Screen ***(2.0)*
The A460’s 2.0-inch, 86,000-pixel LCD screen is nothing to write home about. Its low resolution makes it difficult to accurately judge exposure levels, ISO settings, white balance, focus and other controls. Additionally, the underwhelming LCD has a slow refresh rate that displays a stuttering image whenever the camera pans or the subject is moving quickly. More problems occurred when trying to view the LCD at an angle. Solarizing was apparent almost as soon as the camera was slightly tilted off axis. When shooting outside on a snowy and overcast day, the LCD struggled to reproduce a range of white tones, instead blowing out all the detail in the whites. These issues made the LCD hard to use and doesn’t bode well for the beginning user looking for visual cues while shooting.
The Canon PowerShot A460 comes with an in-camera flash that is positioned to the left of the lens’ center axis. The flash position should be worrisome for users looking for an even diffusion of light since the off-center position will result in shadows cast to the side of subjects. Surprisingly, the flash seemed to perform quite competently when shooting in low light situations and at a close, portrait range. The flash settings for the camera can be accessed and altered by pressing the right arrow of the four-way control. Pressing the right arrow repeatedly will allow the user to scroll through auto, on and off. In addition to these features the photographer will be able to turn red-eye correction on and off through a sub-menu listed in the record menu. There is a slow-syncro shooting mode located in the record menu.
The flash range for the A460 is a bit limited: 1.5 feet to 9.8 feet inches wide and 1.5 feet to 6.6 feet inches telephoto. Shooting in the macro mode will alter the flash range to a 12-inch minimum distance and a 1.5 foot maximum for both wide and telephoto.
The Canon PowerShot A460 comes with a 4x optical Canon Zoom telescoping lens. A polished silver ring surrounds the lens barrel and is raised slightly from the camera body. The barrel retracts into the camera body and the lens cover closes when the playback mode is engaged for an extended period of time. The Canon Zoom lens has a variable focal length of 5.4 to 21.6 mm with a 35mm film equivalency measuring 38 to 152 mm. The lens has a maximum aperture of f/2.8 at its widest setting while it reduces to a maximum aperture of f/5.8 in telephoto. While similar to the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W35 at the widest aperture of f/2.8 the DSC-W35 does eke out a better maximum aperture of f/5.2 in telephoto.
The zoom control itself on the A460 is terrible, with the user having to press the up and down arrows on the four-way control to activate. Zoom steps were few and far between and the control's sluggish reaction left many action shots un-captured.
Design / Layout
The model design of the Canon PowerShot A460 is not going to be winning any awards for being unique, innovative or fashionable unless the design world begins looking to bricks as its major point of inspiration. This low-slung camera is thick and a bit clunky and it certainly isn’t going to turn heads with its utilitarian design. The controls tend to blend into the body of the camera; there's a limited number, however, the camera back still appears cramped and disorderly. The A460 lacks clean lines and instead has odd projections and cutaway sections on all sides of the camera. The lack of coherent design or thought makes this camera an oddball and not in that loveable Charo-esque way.
The Canon PowerShot A460 isn’t a camera to slip into a back pocket when out on a day hike. In fact, this beast of a camera didn’t exactly fit in the pocket of a winter overcoat during a day trip to the lake. Its hefty build make it difficult to bring this camera along just for the fun of it. It will likely be left at home until an event filled with snapshot moments is assured to occur.
The camera weighs in at 5.82 ounces without batteries or a memory card. With two AA batteries in place, the weight tallies to just under half a pound. The A460 measures 4.17 inches wide x 2.04 inches high and 1.58 inches wide. Expect to be purchasing a camera carrying case if buying this model, as it’ll be essential when not shooting. The one design benefit in terms of size and portability comes in the construction and design of the battery/memory card cover and locking mechanism and the tightly snapping port covers. These protective devices assure users that, even if jostled significantly, the underlying components will remain safely shielded from damage.
The Canon PowerShot A460’s thick width makes handling a bit tricky. It is easy for larger hands to miss the grips on the front and back of the camera and instead hold it with two hands. Because the LCD monitor suffers from solarization whenever the camera is even slightly tilted, the handling ease is further complicated. Shooting one-handed is possible with a bit of adjustment but it isn’t the most comfortable arrangement. The grip on the front of the camera for fingers on the right hand is only marginally successful when shooting one-handed and after shooting in this position for a few shots it becomes uncomfortable to maintain a proper grip. Thankfully, users won’t need to worry about compromising audio quality or blocking the flash since Canon wisely placed these features away from the left hand.
Control Button/Dial Positioning/Size*(6.5)*
The Canon PowerShot A460’s controls are sizable, however difficult to engage. One of the major initial issues with the controls is the lack of differentiation between the controls and the camera body. For whatever reason, Canon decided to finish the controls the same as the camera. Visually this makes it hard to gauge where controls are when shooting quickly and makes general navigation unnecessarily laborious. Additionally, the controls are labeled with up to three different icons or text-based labels. This adds to the visual confusion and makes for a nightmare if shooting digitally for the first time. There is no major difference in font, label size or color. If buying this camera, it would be wise to spend a bit of time with the owner’s manual before beginning to shoot.
Although the Canon PowerShot A460’s menu system varies in layout and style, the overall system is intuitive to navigate. Additional help information would be handy for novice users starting to engage manual controls but some referral to the camera user guide should clear up any confusion that may occur when in both shooting and playback modes. The large four-way control makes navigating the menu easy and settings and sub-menus can be quickly entered and altered via the set and menu buttons. Clear labels indicate when these buttons should be engaged in order to make adjustments to settings. By splitting up controls and features into several menu systems Canon makes navigating menus simple.
The Canon PowerShot A460’s Rec. Menu is different from a shooting menu in a number of ways. This menu doesn’t provide access to manual controls. Instead it contains options to control auto focus behavior and assistance, red-eye reduction, and digital zoom. The only setting that seems a bit out of place in this menu is the light metering option that camera manufacturers normally cluster with the rest of the manual control settings. When needing to adjust this setting, the initial impulse was to enter the function menu where the A460’s manual controls are largely concentrated. The record menu uses a largely text-based scroll-down system with an opaque gray background. Scanning this menu and the sub-settings is accomplished entirely through the four-way control located on the back of the camera body.
The function menu uses a live view display with a graphic overlay on the left and bottom edges of the LCD screen. Sub-menu options are listed along the left edge and are scanned via the four-way control’s up and down arrows. Once an appropriate sub-menu has been highlighted, the user can scan the options listed along the LCD with the four-way control’s left and right arrows. Directly above the settings for each submenu there is a text description of the contents of each sub-menu. Further information could be helpful for novice users but the clean and uncluttered system found here is a welcome and somewhat surprising relief when contrasted to the design of the camera’s back face. The function menu is accessed by pressing the function/set button located beneath the four-way control.
The playback menu is perhaps the least logical of all the menu systems with opaque sub-menu screens opening once a selection is made.
The Canon PowerShot A460’s setup menu is identical in design and layout to the Rec. menu and can be found in both shooting and playback modes. Access to the setup menu is gained by pressing the menu button on the back of the camera and moving to the right of either the playback or rec. menu tab located at the top of the menu system.
**Ease of Use ***(6.5)*
If left in auto mode, the Canon PowerShot A460 will never overwhelm the user. Sure, certain necessary controls like zoom are absurdly placed and poorly labeled, but the menu system is simplified in auto mode. But once the auto mode is switched off, all bets are off the table. The layout and design of the Function Menu is illogical when taking into consideration settings like the long shutter speed and image compression. For its reasonable price and intended point-and-shoot audience, this model could definitely benefit from a design overhaul that would make it coherent regardless of shooting mode. Spend the afternoon with the owner’s manual before taking the camera out for a spin will definitely be beneficial.
**Auto Mode ***(7.0)*
Those users searching for a basic auto mode will be pleased with the Canon PowerShot A460. The auto mode is engaged by rotating the mode dial to the red camera symbol. The image size and self-timer settings can be accessed in the function menu and the record menu is slightly truncated. The flash settings for auto mode are similarly limited – users may only turn the flash on and off. The macro mode is also available to auto shooters. Overall, the auto mode performed well. The limited number of controls and menu systems will alleviate any confusion on the user’s part. Users should expect consistent results without hassle when using the Canon PowerShot A460’s auto mode.
Photographers wishing to shoot low-quality video clips with their digital camera will get a reasonable amount of effects options on the A460 but not too much in the way of recording modes. While in movie mode, the menu systems and options are greatly truncated. Users may adjust auto focus, digital zoom and display overlay in the record menu. In the function menu the controls are reduced to white balance, self-timer, My Color mode, image size and shooting mode. Video quality settings for this camera provide users with a couple of different options but none of the options provide full 30 fps or 640 x 480 resolution at the same time. Thus users will either need to compromise on the resolution or frame rate when shooting video with this camera. As noted previously the image settings for movie mode are listed in the function menu and once highlighted, the photographer can select between 640 x 480 at a miserable and stuttering 10 fps, or 320 x240 reduced resolution at a full 30 fps or the entirely avoidable 160 x 120 compact mode with a 15 fps rate.
The PowerShot 460 records monaural audio via a small microphone positioned near the lens ring of the camera. The position of the microphone eliminates a large amount of handling noise but unfortunately records the mechanical adjustments made by the camera during shooting.
The Canon PowerShot A460 has a continuous shooting mode that can be engaged and altered via the function menu. Canon quotes the burst mode at 1.5 frames per second, but we clocked it at under a frame per second. The burst mode is only available in manual mode - that's unfortunate since novice users may find this control especially helpful when shooting action photos at sporting events or a children’s birthday party, for example. The burst mode setting will capture pairs of photos at a time with a two second delay before the next two photos are captured. This will continue as long as the shutter button is pressed and until the memory card is full. The ability to shoot continuously until capacity is reached is standard for more expensive digital cameras but in the budget market, this is less often the case.
In the playback mode, users can view recorded images either individually, in a slideshow format, or as a multi-up display. Unfortunately the multi-up display activation is anything but obvious and it will take reviewing the user manual to discover that pressing the function/set button for an extended period will result in a nine-image thumbnail. Figuring this out intuitively is quite simply, impossible. Why Canon couldn’t just have the thumbnails open immediately is beyond us.
The Canon PowerShot A460 is light on in-camera editing options and features. The My Colors mode that is found in the playback mode on more expensive Canon point-and-shoot digital cameras is not realized on this lower priced model. There are only options to rotate images, attach sound memos to still images, protect, erase and transfer order.
Deleting images is accomplished by pressing the down arrow on the four-way control. The up arrow allows users to zoom in on a photo. Unfortunately, the playback zoom can only zoom into the center point and the frame cannot be shifted to the left or right like other similar digital cameras. Movie files can be reviewed by first selecting the appropriate clip and then pressing the function/set button which will then open a VCR display along the bottom of the LCD screen. Video files can be reviewed at regular playback speed, slow motion, first frame, previous frame, next frame and last frame.
Sound memos of up to one minute in length can be recorded and saved with selected images.
Custom Image Presets*(7.0)*
The Canon PowerShot A460 has eight preset scene modes, accessible through the scene mode setting (SCN) on the mode dial. Once the scene mode is engaged, the photographer can select different scene modes by pressing the function/set button on the back of the camera body. The scene modes are displayed as the first option in the upper left corner of the LCD screen. The scene mode options for this camera are portrait, night snapshot, kids and pets, indoor, foliage, snow, beach and fireworks. It takes several seconds before some of the scene modes engage fully, so whipping through these settings isn’t so feasible.
While other manufacturers have been climbing the scene mode ladder to over 30 options, the A460’s 10 settings (8 preset options) will more than suffice for the standard point-and-shooter. By keeping the list short and sweet, Canon assures easy engagement without confusion and the need to consult the manual.
Manual Control Options
The Canon PowerShot A460 comes with a number of manual controls, although it falls short of providing budget consumers with control over focus or aperture. The A460’s manual controls are: exposure compensation, white balance, ISO, and metering. All but the metering options are within the function menu. Slow shutter speeds are listed as a sub-sub-menu in the function menu and can only be reached by first highlighting the exposure compensation sub-menu and then pressing the menu button. It’s like digging for treasure, but way less rewarding since all that's accomplished is locating a control that should have been apparent from the start.
The manual control settings can’t be accessed when shooting in auto mode. Only exposure compensation can be altered when shooting with scene modes. The movie mode only allows access to the white balance settings for manual adjustment. Overall layout and accessibility to manual controls is an area that Canon has pretty much locked down. If the metering mode were moved to the function menu users would only need to enter one menu system to make all adjustments to manual controls.
The A460 has a 5-point AiAF system with the option to switch from this default mode into a 1-point fixed AF center frame. Switching between these two modes is possible via the rec. menu and the AiAF sub-menu where the user can choose to turn the 5-point system on or off. Auto focus took a little over a second to settle once the shutter was partially pressed. Resetting the focus to a different subject took slightly longer. The camera makes a fair amount of mechanical noise when setting the auto focus and although the sounds aren’t alarming, they are present. Shooting in low light with only the auto focus may test a user’s patience. After several seconds of attempted adjustment the camera remained out-of-focus and display an on-screen indicator that alluded to the lack of a precise focal subject. The flash helped, but in situations where a flash isn’t appropriate it might be necessary to move your subject to better light or higher contrast.
Additionally, the Canon PowerShot A460 has other focusing features like an AF-assist beam, a macro mode that allows for shooting between 5 and 47 cm in wide or 25 to 47 cm in telephoto and a Super Macro mode that has a focusing range of 1 to 5 cm in wide angle. The macro modes works well - photographs are consistently in focus, although the low quality, low resolution screen doesn’t make it an easy task. Luckily the camera continues to display a green square indicating focal area and focus success for users who don’t wish to rely on shaky on-screen image quality.
*Manual Focus (0.0)
*The Canon PowerShot A460 does not have any manual focus options. Although this isn’t too surprising for a low budget camera, the lack of a manual focus is definitely limiting, especially for the beginner hoping to advance their skills.
The Canon PowerShot A460 offers evaluative, center weighted average, and spot metering modes. Users will be surprised to find that metering control is not included in the function menu alongside all the other manual control options. Instead the metering mode options can be found in the rec. menu. Aside from the odd placement, the inclusion of a manually-selectable metering mode is helpful.
Exposure compensation is easily accessible in the A460’s manual shooting mode. The exposure compensation sub-menu is listed along the left side of the LCD screen. A live view provides users with a preview of the settings. The A460’s exposure compensation scale is from +/-2 EV in 1/3-step increments. Adjustments are made to the exposure settings by pressing the left and right arrows of the four-way control. Overall, the A460’s exposure options are standard for a camera in this price range.
**White Balance ***(7.5)*
In addition to an automatic setting and a handful of preset options, the PowerShot A460 also comes with manual white balance. The white balance menu is located within the function menu, opened by pressing the func./set button on the back of the camera body. The white balance sub-menu is clearly labeled navigated using the left and right arrows of the four-way control. White balance options are: auto, daylight, cloudy, tungsten, fluorescent, fluorescent H, and the aforementioned custom mode. Custom white balance is quickly set and there were no complications when making the adjustment. Like ISO and exposure compensation, changes to white balance can be previewed with the live view screen.
The Canon PowerShot A460’s ISO sensitivity options are found in the function menu. They are: auto, 80, 100, 200, and 400. ISO is selected and adjusted on the A460 with the four-way controller. The ISO options on the A460 are much more limited than most current cameras on the market. It should be noted that the noise displayed on the LCD screen is vastly different from the noise in the final image. The low resolution LCD has an extremely difficult time replicating shadows and dark content matter and tended to spit up random pixels throughout the image that ranged from light blue to green to purple. That said, noise is definitely an issue with this camera even with the automatic noise reduction feature that engages at speeds of 1.3 seconds or slower. A word to the wise if shooting with this camera: take a moment and, if possible, move your subjects to a brightly lit space or engage the flash.
**Shutter Speed ***(0.0)*
The Canon PowerShot A460 has an automatic shutter speed range of 15 seconds to 1/2000th of a second. Additionally, the camera has a manually controllable slow shutter speed range from 1 second to 15 seconds that can be found in what perhaps may be the least logical menu design ever created on a point-and-shoot camera. Instead of having an obvious shutter speed menu, Canon has placed the shutter speed in a secondary sub-menu that can only be accessed when the exposure compensation setting in the function menu is highlighted. Once this sub-menu is highlighted the user can then press the menu button at which time the shutter settings will be displayed. Quick? No. Logical? No. Intuitive? No. A user-friendly design for the budding novice photographer? Hardly. With this many twists and turns it’s surprising that this camera doesn’t come with an alternate owner’s manual designed by Borges.
Users can choose from the following shutter speeds: 1, 1.3, 1.6, 2, 2.5, 3.2, 4, 5, 6,8, 10,13 and 15 seconds. These settings can be scanned by pressing the four-way control’s left and right arrows.
The Canon PowerShot A460’s aperture settings can’t be manually controlled. The maximum automatic aperture setting for this camera is f/2.8 in wide and f/5.8 in telephoto.
Picture Quality / Size Options*(7.5)*
The Canon PowerShot A460 allows for control over both picture quality and size. Listed within the function menu, the size options for this point-and-shoot camera are L (Large, 2592 x 1944), M1 (Medium 1, 2048 x 1536), M2 (Medium 2, 1600 x 1200), S (Small, 640 x 480), Postcard (1600 x 1200), and wide (2592 x 1456). It should be noted that the wide setting is not a true 16:9 image since the CCD is not a 16:9 chip. Also, the width in the highest resolution is identical to the width in the "wide" mode while the height is reduced. This application of black bars to the top and bottom of images is called "letter-boxing" and is often applied to 4:3, 3:2 or other aspect images in an attempt to appear 16:9.
This camera also has control over compression levels and getting to them is admittedly confusing and odd, but once complete the user is unlikely to forget. Accessing some settings, such as compression, in the function menu is possible by pressing the menu button once the sub-menu setting is highlighted. In the case of compression the user must first highlight the image size sub-menu and then press the menu button. Once this is complete the user will be able to select between compression levels of superfine, fine and normal.
Picture Effects Mode*(7.75)*
The Canon PowerShot A460 comes with a version of Canon’s My Color mode. While not as replete as more expensive models, the features found here will definitely provide users with some interesting possibilities. The My Colors mode is in the function menu of the shooting mode. Once selected, a number of interesting options come to light. The My Colors mode allows users to preset their camera’s color palette. Settings are: vivid, neutral, sienna, black & white and custom colors. The custom colors option enables adjustments to be made to contrast, sharpness and saturation. When it comes to point-and-shoots, the amount of in-camera digital effects increases as the price goes up. To have even the basics for under $150 is a pleasant surprise.
Connectivity / Extras
Software programs included with the Canon PowerShot A460 will vary based on the photographer’s operating system. Macintosh users are provided with ImageBrowser 5.8, PhotoStitch 3.1 and EOS Utility 1.1. Windows users can expect to receive ZoomBrowser EX 5.8, PhotoStitch 3.1, Camera TWAIN Driver 6.6, EOS Utility 1.1. Installation of software was simple and only took a couple of minutes to complete.
The EOS Utility component enables users to download images from the camera either as full or selected download. If using the selected download, users will be provided with an extensive list of pertinent file information and a histogram of the selected photograph. Users will also be able to alter and confirm camera settings along with uploading images to the camera.
Once image transfer from EOS Utility is complete, the ImageBrowser software will automatically open. ImageBrowser is a standard viewing, organizing and editing image software programs with a simple and intuitive design. Users can organize their photos by capture date or personal category. Images can be viewed in preview format, as a thumbnail list, or as a "TimeTunnel". Don’t get too excited, the time tunnel feature, while an interesting foray into new a interface, is still rather rudimentary. Editing options are minimal with trim image, color/brightness adjustment, red-eye correction, text insert, level adjustment, tone curve adjustment, sharpness and auto adjustment. The program certainly isn’t exhaustive or overwhelming, but it will suffice for basic editing. Users can also view photographs in a slideshow format and edit video clips using the movie edit feature that is lackluster in controls and features but does possess an interesting and useful still extraction feature.
The final feature of note in the software package is a PhotoStitch program that allows photographers to easily import, arrange, rotate, switch, and merge images for panoramic photography.
Jacks, ports, plugs*(6.25)*
**The Canon PowerShot A460’s jacks, ports and plugs are located on the left and right sides of the camera body. On the left side there is a small rubber port cover located in the lower rear corner. This small port cover is easy to overlook, but once located and flipped open it will reveal the AV analog out port for viewing of images on either television or other RCA-input viewing device. On the right side of the camera body beneath a larger and more prominent port cover that flips open from its back edge are the DC IN and USB connection ports. This port cover is attached to the camera body via a thick beefy hinge and, although difficult to move out of the way when trying to connect cables, the cover snaps snugly into place when ports were not in use. On the bottom two-thirds of the camera’s right side is a third and final cover that is opened by sliding a mechanism forward while pulling downwards on the port cover. This combination of actions will flip the cover up and open and reveal both the battery and memory card slots for the camera. This cover is built out of hard plastic similar in composition to the camera body.
Direct Print Options*(7.0)*
The Canon PowerShot A460’s printing system is easier to use than prior models. The one-push button on the back of the camera body allows users to transfer images to both their personal computer and PictBridge-compliant printers. Once the camera is tethered to the printer with a USB cable, the user just needs to switch the camera into playback mode and select the image for printing via the left and right arrows on the four-way control. Once the image is selected, a press of the print/share button will send the image to the printer. This is perhaps the simplest system found on the A460 and it will come as a welcome relief.
The Canon PowerShot A460 comes with two AA batteries. Users will need to purchase additional batteries for shooting beyond the first couple of hours. The battery slot is located on the right side of the camera body beneath a cover that also protects the camera’s memory card. Sliding the locking mechanism forward while sliding the whole cover down opens the cover. Once this is complete users will be able to insert and replace batteries. This position is actually a bit tricky if shooting on a tripod since the batteries will remain in the body of the camera once open. If attached to a tripod the user would need to tip the entire setup to the right in order to slide the batteries loose. It should also be noted that the only thing keeping the batteries in the camera is the battery/memory card cover. Once this is open the batteries can easily fall out.
The Canon PowerShot A460 comes with a 16 MB SD memory card. In addition to the SD card format, the A460 also accepts SDHC and MMC memory cards. Although small, the included 16 MB memory card will provide users with space for up to five of the highest quality still images before erasure or transfer is necessary. While limiting on its own, this memory card will definitely come in handy as a back up card when those last couple of shots just won’t fit on a larger additional memory card. The memory card is inserted vertically into a slot located on the right side of the camera body beneath a cover that also protects and holds the camera’s batteries in place. This cover has a locking mechanism that must be engaged to open. This design prevents the cover from accidentally opening and will protect the camera during travel.
Sound Memo - Users can select individual still images and record an accompanying audio clip via the sound memo function found in the playback menu. The sound memo option will record up to one minute of audio using the in-camera microphone located on the front of the camera body.
Accessory High Power Flash Unit – This accessory flash can be purchased through a number of online retailers and will allow users to enhance the Canon PowerShot A460’s in-camera flash. It attaches to the bottom of the camera body via a connecting bracket.
Currently retailing for just over $100 online, the Canon PowerShot A460 offers a 1/3.0 inch 5 MP CCD; 10 total shooting modes, including movie mode with audio capture; and an extensive manual mode that includes control over ISO, exposure compensation, metering, long shutter speeds, and custom white balance. While the A460 isn’t the slimmest or sleekest camera on the market - it might have had that designation if it had been released in 1998 - it is fairly robust and will be able to withstand some abuse.
Unfortunately, it isn’t all sunshine and peaches for this modest point-and-shoot. The problem with this camera comes from the lack of coherent design both externally and internally. The back of the camera is cluttered with labels and icons and the placement of essential controls like zoom are anything but intuitive. Adding to this, the function menu system includes hard-to-discern sub-menu layers that will most likely remain undiscovered for months. However, the A460 performed well for its price range and produced images with accurate colors, decent dynamic range (at its lowest ISO settings), and near spot-on white balance. While the design could use some modifications, the A460 is a strong value for its price. Although consumers looking for a bit more image quality at this price point should look to the Sony W35.
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W35 – This introductory model by Sony has a** **1/2.5 inch Super HAD 7.2 MP CCD and a far slimmer and more-honed camera design. This model does have a smaller 3x optical zoom lens, but includes a number of preset shooting modes that include a High Sensitivity setting for capturing at up to 1000 ISO. The DSC-W35 has a 2.0-inch LCD with 85,000 pixels, similar to the Canon PowerShot A460, and far fewer manual controls when compared to the surprisingly extensive offerings with the less expensive A460. The DSC-W35 allows control over focus but there are only five different focal distances to choose from. There are two areas where the DSC-W35 beats the A460: the ability to shoot with a live histogram and add conversion lenses. The DSC-W35 has a slightly higher MSRP of $179.99.
Kodak EasyShare C703 – This point-and-shoot camera by Kodak is currently priced at $159.95 through the Kodak website. It has a cleaner and simpler external design in comparison to the A460. The 1/2.5 inch, 7.1 MP C703 comes with a 3x optical zoom lens, 32 MB of internal storage, SD/MMC compatibility and a larger 2.5-inch LCD screen and a real image optical viewfinder. The camera has a maximum aperture of f/2.7, a smaller shutter speed range, and some manual controls like exposure compensation and ISO. Other parameters such as multiple metering modes and custom white balance are not included. The movie mode included with the C703 has a far superior video and audio capture option of 640 x 480 at 30 fps.
Fujifilm FinePix A610 – The A610 drops under the A460 price tag with an initial price of $129. This camera is equipped with a 6.3 MP CCD, 3x optical zoom and a 2.5-inch, 115,000-pixel LCD screen that, at least on paper, makes the A610 a strong contender in the budget market. One area where Fujifilm has often fallen short is in the quality of construction in their digital cameras and although gradual improvements have been made it will be interesting to see how this year’s models hold up to daily wear and tear. The A610 also features Fujifilm’s new graphical user interface system and 10 MB of internal memory. The movie mode on this camera is similarly disappointing when compared to the A460 although this model isn’t even able to shoot at a full 640 x 480 and audio can’t be recorded.
Panasonic Lumix DMC-LZ3 – This digital camera by Panasonic has a slightly higher price tag of $179.95 but includes features like an optical image stabilization system and an impressive 6x optical zoom lens for just a few clams more than the A460. The camera comes with a 1/2.5 inch 5 MP CCD, a 2.0-inch LCD screen with a low resolution of 85,000 pixels, 5 auto focus shooting modes, and manual control over white balance, exposure, ISO with a high sensitivity mode that goes to ISO 1600, backlight compensation, and a whole host of preset scene modes that include multiple baby modes and a soft skin option for mid-eighties-style glamour shots. The DMC-LZ3S comes with 14 MB of internal memory and is capable of recording both stills and video. Audio can be recorded simultaneously or as 10-second attachments to still images. Video can be captured at a full resolution of 640 x 480 at 30 fps, so out of all the comparative cameras, users will find the video results captured with this model to be the least compromised. With a far less cluttered external interface and well labeled controls the DMC-LZ3S is a welcome counter-point to the less intuitive A460.
Who It’s For
Point-and-Shooters – Better labels, more space, better layout and separation of controls would drastically improve the chances of this camera being an option for the point-and-shoot market. In its current incarnation though, it’s hard not to recommend this camera based on price and performance alone.
Budget Consumers – This is certainly a camera intended for the budget market with a price tag that puts it around $100 online. And while it is inexpensive, that does mean that users should expect some big compromises. A terrible LCD screen, limited manual modes, a large bulky camera body, and a poorly designed exterior all make this a budget purchase with heaps of baggage.
Gadget Freaks – With a standard set of features and basic camera design, the Canon PowerShot A460 is unlikely to appeal to the gadget freak, even one on a budget.
Manual Control Freaks – While the A460 offers a good deal of control for its design and price point, it really doesn't have much to offer this demographic.
Pros/Serious Hobbyists – There would be no reason for the pro or serious hobbyist to consider the Canon PowerShot A460, except perhaps as a training tool for their children.
Eschewing the current trend of downsizing bulky point-and-shoot cameras, the sizeable Canon PowerShot A460 has some attractive features for both novice and more advanced snapshoters. The camera comes with a 1/3.0-inch 5 MP CCD, a 4x optical zoom lens, eight shooting modes, and manual control over ISO, metering, white balance, exposure compensation, and long shutter speeds. Unfortunately, there are a number of shortcomings that make this a less-than-gushing review. For one, the 2.0-inch LCD has just 86,000 pixels and the onscreen display is truly atrocious when in pre-capture mode. Along with the substandard LCD, Canon fixed a near-useless real image optical viewfinder to the back of the camera that bears little resemblance to the captured image.
The Canon PowerShot A460's external design is minimal and clumsy, with poorly labeled and oddly placed controls and an internal menu structure that will confuse and overwhelm novices unfamiliar with the Canon system layout. All-in-all, the design of the camera eliminates any claim that this camera is user-friendly.
The A460 only extends its ISO up to 400, limiting its use indoors and in low light conditions; however, its image quality and performance characteristics in bright conditions are decent. The A460 won't be in the running for DCI Camera-of-the-Year, but it is a solid performer among near $100 models. Images from the A460 contained reasonably accurate colors, with acceptable dynamic range, and excellent white balance accuracy. We would have liked to see a stronger handling of noise at ISO 400, along with a wider sensitivity range, but it is after all, a $100-$150 camera. Among its direct competition, the A460 holds its own, though consumers willing to toss an extra $50-$100 in to the camera budget will find cameras of a different caliber.
**Click thumbnails to view the high-resolution images
Specs / Ratings