Canon's PowerShot A560 is a suitable big brother to the company's lower-end A550. Both models sport the same chunky-but-comfortable design, 7-megapixel sensor, and 4X optical zoom lens. The A560 distinguishes itself from the A550 (and justifies its slightly higher price) with a larger LCD screen, a higher maximum ISO, and a couple of other features made possible by its upgraded Digic III processor chip. The A550 has Canon's older Digic II chip. You'll have to decide if these differences are important to you, but the fact remains that the A560 is a solid, inexpensive snapshot camera.
Though not quite small enough to slip into your jeans, the A560 is still comfortably compact. At 7.6 ounces and 1.7 inches thick, the camera can fit easily into most jacket pockets and bags. The A560's body has the same L-shaped design found on most of Canon's PowerShot A series, giving it a generous grip. Plus, its large buttons are comfortable to use, and they're laid out logically along the back and the top of the camera.
The A560 looks fairly nondescript, but does offer some interesting features. Most notable among its attributes is its 35mm-to-140mm-equivalent 4X zoom lens, which gives it just a bit more range than the 3X lenses found on most budget cameras. Canon augments the 2.5-inch LCD screen with an optical viewfinder for shooting in dim light or tight quarters. The camera's sensitivity reaches up to ISO 1600, a notch higher than the A550's ISO 800. Another feature the A560 lords over the A550 is face detection. Canon buries the control in the menu system under the artificial intelligent autofocus setting (aiaf), rather than giving it a dedicated button as many of its competitors do, so don't get confused. We found Canon's face detection quick and accurate.
Besides those features, the A560 has the standard handful of scene presets and image adjustment settings. The camera boasts four movie modes, including 30 frames per second (fps) VGA (640x480) and a pleasantly unexpected 60fps QVGA (320x240) high-speed mode. Finally, like most Canon PowerShot A-series cameras, the A560 conveniently takes AA batteries.
In our lab, the A560 performed well in almost all of our tests. After quickly starting up and capturing its first image in 1.5 seconds, we could snap a shot once every 1.6 seconds, a great improvement over similar previous PowerShot models. Unfortunately, with the onboard flash enabled, that time nearly tripled to 4.5 seconds per shot. The camera's shutter proved responsive, lagging only 0.5 second with our high-contrast target and a modest 1.4 seconds with our low-contrast target. In burst mode, we managed to capture 35 full-resolution shots in 21.6 seconds for a rate of 1.6 frames per second.