Taking the camera off Smart Auto gives you access to a Program Auto mode as well as all the scene modes, creative-effects modes, and miniature effect and slow-motion video recording. However, they're laid out in one long list, so if you're the type to change modes frequently, this can be a pain. Canon's Smart Shutter option is there, too; it includes a smile-activated shutter release and Wink and Face Detection self-timers.
The 520 HS has reasonably snappy performance. From off to first shot is 2.1 seconds, and shot-to-shot times average 1.9 seconds. Using the flash bumps that up to 3.2 seconds between shots. Shutter lag -- the time it takes from pressing the shutter release to capture without prefocusing -- is only 0.3 second in bright lighting and 0.6 second in dim conditions. Its continuous shooting speed hit 2.8 frames per second at full resolution in our tests. However, that's with focus and exposure set with the first shot, so not ideal for catching fast-moving subjects. It's an OK choice for regularly shooting active kids and pets or sports because its low shutter lag gives you a fighting chance of getting a shot, but it might not be the one you wanted.
As I said at the beginning of this review, the Elph 520 HS is a nice-looking camera. But being as small as it is, there is barely enough room for its controls. The buttons, zoom lever, and shooting-mode switch are all very tiny. For the most part they are easy to press and use, but they are close together so mispresses may happen.
What's worse, though, is that instead of a standard directional pad with a select button at the center, Canon squishes the buttons together so they don't immediately look like directionals for navigation, and puts the select button below them instead of at the center. If you shoot in auto all the time and never change settings, it's not a huge deal, but for anyone who likes to change shooting modes and adjust settings, it can be fairly frustrating to use.
Should you want to connect to a computer, monitor, or HDTV, there are Mini-USB and Mini-HDMI ports on the body's right side. The battery and memory card compartments are on the bottom behind separate sliding doors. The battery does not charge in-camera, and with this camera's short battery life, you'll probably find yourself opening the compartment quite a bit. It's only CIPA-rated for 190 shots, but using movie capture, burst shooting, or pumping up the screen brightness will shorten life. Also, the camera uses microSD cards, so if you had hopes of using an SD card you already owned or just aren't a fan of these tiny memory cards, this camera isn't for you.
The Canon PowerShot Elph 520 HS is a good choice for those already happy with their smartphone's photos and movie clips, but looking for a cute, little camera with a long zoom and faster performance. If you're after significantly better results, though, you'll need to go with a slightly larger camera, like Canon's PowerShot Elph 510 HS.
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
|Time to first shot||Typical shot-to-shot time||Shutter lag (dim)||Shutter lag (typical)|
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
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