Although the Canon PowerShot S410 lacks the manual controls that serious photographers demand, as well as the scene modes and the high-res video capture that some of its competitors offer, it has enough shooting options to please those in the point-and-click crowd who just want a good basic feature set and high-quality snapshots. Replacing the very similar , this 4-megapixel PowerShot's major new feature is a Print & Share button for easier direct printing. The Canon PowerShot S410's stainless-steel and metallic-plastic body is studded with more controls and indicators than a luxury SUV, but they're logically arranged and easy for the point-and-shoot photographer to access. At 3.4 by 2.2 by 1.1 inches and 8 ounces with battery and media installed, this Digital Elph model just makes it into the ultracompact camera category.
The top surface sports a microphone, a speaker, a power-indicator LED, a shutter release encircled by a zoom lever, and an on/off button that's recessed to prevent powering down by accident. You can trip the shutter and operate the seven-step zoom lens with just your forefinger, which makes one-handed shooting easy.
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|The mode dial at the upper left of the camera back lets you select fully automatic shooting, a panorama mode, video-clip capture, or a manual mode that gives you access to more settings. A separate switch at the upper right lets you choose capture or playback mode; unfortunately, there's no quick-review button to give you a glance at your last shot while in capture mode.|
Mastering the controls arrayed on the back panel may take a little practice for novices. The four buttons below the 1.5-inch LCD include a Function key that summons one set of menus for adjusting exposure compensation, white balance, ISO, color effects, compression level, and resolution, as well as a Menu key to access a separate three-page system for other shooting and setup options. The Set key lets you make selections, while the Display button turns off the LCD or pulls up a roster of current settings. In playback mode, the Display key activates a histogram, too.
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|The Print & Share button facilitates one-touch direct printing with PictBridge- and Canon Direct Print-compatible printers.|
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|In addition to allowing LCD menu navigation, these controls give you direct access to metering and focus modes, flash settings, continuous shooting, and the self-timer. Switching between low-speed and high-speed continuous shooting requires a trip to the menu system, however.|
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Unusual in a camera of its small size, the PowerShot S410 uses a Type I CompactFlash memory card. It doesn't take the thicker Type II variety.
There are no aperture- or shutter-priority options, and manual mode doesn't give you a manual exposure option. Instead, it lets you set white balance; light sensitivity from ISO 50 to ISO 400; evaluative, center-weighted, or spot metering; and a long-exposure mode (up to 15 seconds). The lack of exposure controls is exacerbated by the fact that the Canon S410 has none of the scene modes found in most other cameras in this class, so it doesn't offer programmed settings for common subjects such as sports and portraits. On a brighter note, there are macro and landscape focus modes, as well as slow-sync flash for night shots and a panorama mode.
On the plus side, this Canon Elph uses a nine-point light-assisted autofocus mechanism to guess the point of interest, even if located off-center, and outlines the autofocus/exposure area with green boxes on the LCD. Standard center-point focus is available, too. Also cool is the camera's ability to optionally sense whether a picture was taken in landscape or portrait orientation, then display the shot right side up during review so that you don't have to turn the camera.
The modest number of effects includes Vivid Color, Low Sharpening, Sepia, and Black And White modes. Photos can be stored at one of three levels of JPEG compression; no TIFF or RAW format is available. You can also shoot up to three minutes of video clips with sound at 320x240 or 160x120 resolution, or you can create voice memos of up to 60 seconds.
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Battery life was good, producing 419 shots--half with flash--during a session that included lots of zooming, picture review, and other power-robbing functions. The proprietary lithium-ion battery comes with an extracompact cord-free charger with foldout prongs for plugging into an AC socket.
Under high-contrast conditions that allowed the autofocus mechanism to work quickly, shutter lag was a respectable 0.8 second. Canon's Quick Shot mode, which freezes the LCD view during autofocus, slashed shutter lag to 0.4 second. Under low-contrast conditions, even the PowerShot's focus-assist light couldn't reduce shutter lag to less than 1.8 seconds.
This camera has both low-speed and high-speed burst modes. The low-speed mode managed 5 shots in about 3 seconds at full resolution and minimum compression. The high-speed setting grabbed 132 shots in slightly more than a minute using the lowest 640x480 resolution.
The Canon PowerShot S410's little optical viewfinder shows only 80 percent of the actual image and has no diopter adjustment, so we think people will prefer to use the LCD as a viewfinder. At 1.5 inches, the LCD is relatively small, but it shows 100 percent of the image and provides a clear view, even in bright light. Image quality was excellent, with appropriate exposures, pleasing colors, and broad tonal ranges under many different conditions--even with tricky subjects. Flesh tones were also realistic, if a bit warm. Under incandescent lighting, the Canon S410's automatic white balance produces the same orange cast as all the rest of the PowerShots; just switch to the incandescent white-balance preset to get rid of it. Sharpness and image detail were excellent for this camera's class.
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|The PowerShot S410 handled challenging subjects such as this one well, capturing lots of detail in both highlight areas and shadows on the branches, with a rich and well-saturated sky.|
At lower ISO settings, our test images were clean and virtually noise-free; although noise inevitably increases at ISO 200 and ISO 400, it's not noticeable enough to mar your photos unless you make very large prints. The Canon PowerShot S410 provides automatic noise reduction for exposures of 1.3 seconds or longer. Our test photos were free of most other flaws that affect digital images, with only minimal purple haloing in high-contrast areas near the edges of the image.
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|Our test shots were well exposed with pleasing colors. One of the few flaws we noticed was minimal purple haloing in high-contrast areas near the edges of the image.|