For those who grab pictures for Web display, need only snapshot-size prints, or want an easy-to-use camera to promote their online-auction wares, the Canon PowerShot A60 delivers the goods. If a mere 2 megapixels suits your needs, you won't have to give up useful features such as versatile exposure options, continuous shooting as fast as 2.6 frames per second, and up-close-and-personal macro capabilities.
While not small by the standards of current 2-megapixel cameras, the PowerShot A60's solid 11.3-ounce body fits easily in your hand, thanks to its comfortable gray-plastic handgrip. The bright, 1.5-inch LCD; the four-button cursor keypad; and the other camera controls dot the back surface, while the mode dial and the zoom toggle are up top where your index finger and thumb can easily reach them. Most frequently changed settings are grouped in a convenient menu activated by the Func key, while other camera-setup items are relegated to the main menu system. If you're a novice, you'll need to spend some time with the manual to find out what all the controls do, but you'll be able to turn on the green Auto mode and start taking snapshots with the PowerShot A60 right out of the box.
The A60 has a surprisingly full feature set for a 2-megapixel camera. The 3X zoom lens gives you a 35mm-to-105mm range (35mm-camera equivalent), and you can purchase wide-angle, telephoto, and close-up lens converters if you want to extend it. The A60's macro focus extends from 2 inches to 1.5 feet with the lens set to wide angle, and 10 inches to 1.5 feet in the telephoto position. In addition to fully automatic operation, the A60 has a programmed mode that lets you override the camera and apply your own ISO, exposure-compensation (plus or minus 2EV), white-balance, metering, and autofocus-mode preferences. Creative snapshooters can choose a variety of exposure modes, including shutter priority, aperture priority, several automatic scene modes, and full manual. If you're looking for special effects, this camera offers vivid color, neutral color, low sharpening, sepia, and black-and-white modes. Its movie mode can capture roughly 180 seconds of 15fps video with sound at 320x240 or 160x120 resolution. Canon also sells an underwater housing for the PowerShot A60.
The PowerShot A60's performance was strictly middle-of-the-road for cameras in this category. The A60 took about 5 seconds to squeeze off a first shot after powering up. We lost a few impulse shots because nothing happened when we firmly pressed the power button; it took some practice to get the camera to power up on the first try by pressing and holding the button. Once it was powered up, we were able to snap off a picture every 1.9 seconds, or every 4.32 seconds with the flash. Burst shooting was quick: we captured six full-resolution pictures in less than 3 seconds. Shutter lag was about average for this camera's class, at about 0.9 second under optimal autofocus conditions and only a shade more than 1 second under dim and low-contrast conditions.
When viewed onscreen and printed at small sizes, our test images looked very good for their 2-megapixel class. The colors were vivid, and the flesh tones were especially realistic. The flash illuminated scenes evenly up to the maximum recommended flash distance of 14 feet. However, moderate enlargement unveiled the lack of detail you'd expect from 2-megapixel resolution, and some artifacts were noticeable in the darker areas. Noise was relatively low at most ISO settings, rearing its ugly head only at ISO 400. Overall, the PowerShot A60 produced images that were more than acceptable for small prints and Web display.