Canon PowerShot Elph 510 HS review: Canon PowerShot Elph 510 HS

In addition to the company's standard creative-shooting options--Color Accent and Color Swap--it has other creative options: Toy Camera, Monochrome, Miniature Effect, Fish-eye Effect, a Super Vivid mode that intensifies colors, and a Poster Effect that posterizes photos. These modes aren't necessarily must-haves, but they can be fun to play with, if only to add some interest to what would be an otherwise boring shot. Plus, they're available when shooting movies, too.

The 510 HS's Movie mode can capture clips at resolutions of up to 1080p full HD at 24 frames per second. Drop down to 720p or VGA and it records at 30fps. There is an Apple iFrame format mode that creates smaller video files to make importing, editing, and Web sharing easier. You also get a Super Slow Motion mode that records at 120fps or 240fps. The slow-motion clips are only at a resolution of 640x480 or 320x240 pixels, respectively, so they're really only suitable for viewing at small sizes, but fun nonetheless.

Shooting performance is a bit mixed. From off to first shot is 2.5 seconds, which isn't great, but touch-screen cameras as well as those with long lenses generally take a little longer than a regular ultracompact. However, it doesn't really speed up any from shot to shot, taking an average of 2 seconds and nearly double that with the flash. Shutter lag--how quickly a camera captures an image after the shutter-release button is pressed without prefocusing--is very good, though, at 0.3 second in bright lighting and 0.6 second in dim. With the lens extended in low light, it was a bit slower to focus, but that's common with megazooms.

The camera's continuous shooting is capable of capturing at 3.3 frames per second, with focus and exposure set with the first shot. It can shoot until your memory card fills up, though, which is nice; competing cameras have a burst limit and make you wait while images are stored before you can shoot again. The 510 HS does have a continuous option with AF, but that slows the shooting to 0.8fps. The camera also has a high-speed burst mode that can shoot 3-megapixel photos at up to 7.8fps. The results are very good compared with similar modes on other cameras I've tested, suitable for small prints and definitely for Web use.

To sum up, if you're trying to shoot active kids or pets or sports, you'll be able to do it as long as you have plenty of light especially if you're using the zoom lens. Using the zoom indoors, you're probably going to end up with some blurry shots and probably not what you were trying to capture.

The Canon 500 HS's touch screen controls
Canon lets you customize the touch-screen interface so you have the settings you want at your fingertips.

Jamming a wide and long lens into a tiny body is pretty incredible. I really like the look of the camera, too, but the slick finish on the front gives you no grip and collects fingerprints. On back is a bright, high-res 3.2-inch touch-screen LCD, so there's only a handful of physical controls: power, play, and shutter release buttons; a zoom ring around the shutter release; and a shooting mode switch on the top of the body. Everything else is handled with the touch interface.

The screen is fairly responsive and can be calibrated to your touch, but the interface itself can be a little trying at times to navigate. Canon does include the option to rearrange and customize the layout of the main shooting screen, though, so if you want fast access to ISO or white balance, you can add those icons to your screen. One of the best uses for a touch screen is for focusing on specific subjects by tapping on them, which this Canon does. You can also tap to focus and shoot.

In Playback mode, the touch screen can be used for flipping through or scrolling between images, selecting photos to delete or mark as favorites, starting a slideshow, and magnifying a section of a photo by tapping on the part you want to see more closely.

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 under a nonlocking sliding doors. The battery does not charge in-camera, and that touch screen doesn't do its shot count any favors, so you'll probably find yourself opening the compartment quite a bit. Battery life is CIPA-rated for only 170 shots, but using movie capture, burst shooting, or pumping up the screen brightness will shorten life.

Conclusion
Canon still seems to be playing catch up with its point-and-shoots, but the Canon PowerShot 510 HS shows that they don't have far to go. If you're looking for a tiny, long zoom camera, the 510 HS is one of the best you're going to find.

Shooting speed (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Time to first shot  
Typical shot-to-shot time  
Shutter lag (dim)  
Shutter lag (typical)  
Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS10
1.9 
1.1 
0.7 
0.4 
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX7V
1.7 
1.4 
0.7 
0.4 
Nikon Coolpix S8100
1.1 
1.5 
0.7 
0.4 
Canon PowerShot Elph 510 HS
2.5 
2 
0.6 
0.3 

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

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Where to Buy See all prices

Canon PowerShot Elph 510 HS (Black)

Part Number: 5685B001 Released: Oct 1, 2011
MSRP: $349.00 Low Price: $188.88 See all prices

Quick Specifications See All

  • Release date Oct 1, 2011
  • Digital camera type Ultracompact
  • Optical Zoom 12 x
  • Optical Sensor Type CMOS
  • Sensor Resolution 12.1 Megapixel
  • Image Stabilizer optical
  • Optical Sensor Size 1/2.3"