Canon PowerShot A650 IS review: Canon PowerShot A650 IS

In our lab tests, the A650 IS performed with mediocrity, save for a particularly perky shutter. After a 1.6-second wait from power-on to capturing its first shot, the camera took an arduous 2.8 seconds between every shot thereafter with the flash turned off. With the flash enabled, that wait slightly increased to 3 seconds. Burst mode produced similarly lackluster numbers, capturing 10 full-resolution pictures in 11 seconds for a rate of 0.9 frame per second. On the bright side, the camera's shutter lagged less than 0.5 second with our high-contrast target, and just 0.9 second with our low-contrast target. The A650 IS' slow shot-to-shot and burst numbers can be best attributed to its higher resolution; processing 12-megapixel pictures simply takes longer than lower-resolution pictures. Other 12-megapixel cameras like the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX100, the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W200, and even Canon's own PowerShot G9 each take a second or more between shots with the flash disabled. That said, some aspects of the A650 IS' performance do feel sluggish.

The A650 IS' pictures look great, especially at lower sensitivity levels. The camera's 12-megapixel photos display loads of fine detail, from fine text to pet fur, with a generous dynamic range. Noise starts to become noticeable on computer monitors at ISO 200, and begins to appear on prints at ISO 400 and higher. The noise doesn't become too problematic, however, until ISO 800, where distinct fuzz covers pictures, muddles colors, and obscures details. From ISO 1,600 to the camera's maximum sensitivity of ISO 3,200 (accessible as a scene preset that lowers the resolution to 2 megapixels, rather than through the ISO button), the pictures become downright unusable. Again, these noise levels surprise me very little, as nearly every 12-megapixel camera tested produces similar noise.

The photos aren't entirely without flaws, however. Prominent purple fringing tends to appear on contrasting edges, with higher ISO levels making them look even worse. At the widest position, the A650 IS' lens produces some barrel distortion, as well. You can't readily detect the distortion without a grid, however, and both the distortion and fringing present only minor problems in the camera's pictures. If you shoot at low ISO settings, you can count on generally excellent photos.

With its great picture quality and wealth of features, the Canon PowerShot A650 IS makes a great camera for amateur photographers who either don't want to step up to a digital SLR yet, or who simply want a secondary camera alongside their SLR. Despite its performance and noise issues, the A650 IS presents a fine choice for a flexible, high-resolution, photographer-friendly camera.

Shooting speed (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Typical shot-to-shot time  
Time to first shot  
Shutter lag (typical)  
Canon PowerShot A640 IS
1.7 
1.5 
0.5 
Canon PowerShot G9
2 
1.7 
0.5 
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W200
2.2 
1.6 
0.5 
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX100
2.3 
2.4 
0.6 
Canon PowerShot A650 IS
2.8 
1.6 
0.5 
Casio Exilim EX-Z1200
3.1 
2.3 
0.5 

Typical continuous-shooting speed (frames per second)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)

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Quick Specifications See All

  • Optical Zoom 6 x
  • Optical Sensor Type CCD
  • Sensor Resolution 12.1 Megapixel
  • Image Stabilizer optical
  • Lens 35 - 210mm F/2.8
  • Optical Sensor Size 1/1.7"