Canon PowerShot A490 (Silver) review: Canon PowerShot A490 (Silver)

The PowerShot A495 predictably doesn't have a lot of shooting options, and the A490 has even fewer. The most complicated it gets is in Program, which gives you options for white balance, focus, metering, ISO, and color effects. Don't want to touch any of those things? Canon's Smart Auto (simply called Auto now) is very reliable at picking the appropriate settings based on 13 different scene types. Or you can choose from 1 of 11 special scene modes, like Fireworks, Long Shutter, Foliage, or Kids & Pets. Canon renamed its High ISO mode "Low Light" to alleviate confusion, but it's otherwise the same, capturing 2-megapixel shots at ISOs from 500 to 3,200. If you like taking a lot of close-up macro shots, the A490 is a great option for the money. You can get very close--down to 0.4 of an inch--and the autofocus seems improved from the A480, which struggled to properly focus.

The Movie mode is VGA only, with no use of the optical zoom while recording. The video quality is good--on par with a standard-definition pocket video camera. It's fine for a quick clip to post online, but not much else.

Performance, though not dreadfully slow, is still pokey. It takes 2 seconds for the camera to go from off to first shot captured. Shutter lag is a little long in bright lighting conditions: 0.6 second from pressing the release to capture. In dim lighting, the shutter lag is 1 second. Shot-to-shot times are mediocre at 2.9 seconds without flash, jumping to a lengthy 7.1 seconds with it on. Lastly, its continuous shooting time is only 0.6 frames per second. Basically, if you're hoping to catch shots of an active toddler, an athlete in action, or fast-moving pet, this camera isn't a good option.

The photo quality from the A490 is excellent for the money and is actually better than some more expensive models. Of course, it produces the best results below ISO 200--sharp with plenty of fine detail. But even at ISO 800, noise and noise suppression are well balanced, making 4x6-inch prints possible. When photos are viewed at 100 percent, you will see noise, particularly in darker areas of photos. However, it's nothing that would keep me from recommending this model.

The lens has minor barrel distortion at its widest position and no discernable pincushion distortion when zoomed out. Center sharpness is very good, though there was some softness in the extreme corners. The amount of purple fringing in high-contrast areas is average for its class: visible when photos are viewed at full size, but not likely to destroy a photo.

Colors are great from the A490. Blues are a touch lighter than they should be according to our tests, but others are close to accurate, and are bright and pleasing. Exposure is generally very good, though clipped highlights aren't out of the question.

Canon's PowerShot A3000 IS is $20 more than the A495 and has a better lens, a rechargeable battery, and image stabilization, but honestly, I'd rather save the money and get the A495 or the A490. The shooting performance was comparable, but the photo quality was better from the two less expensive models in my tests.

Shooting speed (in seconds)
(Smaller bars indicate better performance)
Time to first shot  
Typical shot-to-shot time (flash)  
Typical shot-to-shot time  
Shutter lag (dim)  
Shutter lag (typical)  
Canon PowerShot A490
2 
7.1 
2.9 
1 
0.6 
Canon PowerShot A495
2 
6.7 
2.9 
1 
0.6 
Casio Exilim EX-Z33
2.5 
3.3 
2.9 
1 
0.8 
Nikon Coolpix S220
2.2 
3.3 
3 
1.3 
0.8 
Pentax Optio E70
2.4 
4.2 
3.3 
1.2 
0.6 

Typical continuous-shooting speed (frames per second)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Canon PowerShot A490
0.6 

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Quick Specifications See All

  • Digital camera type Compact
  • Optical Zoom 3.3 x
  • Optical Sensor Type CCD
  • Sensor Resolution 10.0 Megapixel
  • Optical Sensor Size 1/2.3"