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Canon PowerShot A480 review: Canon PowerShot A480

Canon PowerShot A480

Joshua Goldman
Joshua Goldman Managing Editor / Advice
Managing Editor Josh Goldman is a laptop expert and has been writing about and reviewing them since built-in Wi-Fi was an optional feature. He also covers almost anything connected to a PC, including keyboards, mice, USB-C docks and PC gaming accessories. In addition, he writes about cameras, including action cams and drones. And while he doesn't consider himself a gamer, he spends entirely too much time playing them.
Expertise Laptops, desktops and computer and PC gaming accessories including keyboards, mice and controllers, cameras, action cameras and drones Credentials More than two decades experience writing about PCs and accessories, and 15 years writing about cameras of all kinds.
4 min read

The key to appreciating the Canon PowerShot A480 is not to expect much. The camera has basic low-end camera specifications and features at an inexpensive price barely more than $100. Generally, you have to spend about twice that to start getting newer technologies and features, and the A480 adheres to that. But the camera takes a good photo as long as, again, you're not expecting too much and your needs are modest.


Canon PowerShot A480

The Good

Simple; cheap; relatively small; AA battery powered.

The Bad

Chunky, plastic design; leisurely performance.

The Bottom Line

The Canon PowerShot A480 may be a basic low-priced compact camera, but at least it takes good photos.

Key specifications Canon PowerShot A480
Price (MSRP) $129.99
Dimensions (WHD) 3.6x2.4x1.2 inches
Weight (with battery and media) 6.7 ounces
Megapixels, image sensor size, type 10 megapixels, 1/2.3-inch CCD
LCD size, resolution/viewfinder 2.5-inch LCD, 115K dots/None
Lens (zoom, aperture, focal length) 3.3x, f3-5.8, 37-122mm (35mm equivalent)
File format (still/video) JPEG/Motion JPEG
Highest resolution size (still/video) 3,648x2,736 pixels/ 640x480 at 30fps
Image stabilization type Digital
Battery type, rated life AA alkaline (2), 200 shots

The A480 is a stubby little camera. Available in four colors--red, blue, silver, and black--it's not very wide or tall, but is more than an inch thick, so while it'll fit in a pants pocket, it might be a tight squeeze. From the front the camera looks reasonably stylish. The lens is narrow at a 35mm-equivalent of 37mm and it has an optical zoom of 3.3x; standard for inexpensive compact cameras. Regrettably, the control buttons on back look and feel like second-rate plastic, and the LCD, while a decent size, is fairly low resolution. To its credit, though, Canon kept the controls straightforward and simple, and the menu systems are likewise uncomplicated.

This model is powered by AA batteries, something most people find convenient. However, you'll only get about 200 shots out of the A480 before they'll need replacing. Getting two NiMH AA rechargeable batteries should more than double your shot count, though.

General shooting options Canon PowerShot A480
ISO sensitivity (full resolution) Auto, 80, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1,600
White balance Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Tungsten, Fluorescent, Fluorescent H, Custom
Recording modes Auto, Program, Special Scene, Movie
Focus Face AiAF, Center AF
Metering Evaluative, Center-weighted, Spot
Color effects Vivid, Neutral, Sepia, Black & White, Custom
Burst mode shot limit (full resolution) Unlimited continuous

Being the no muss, no fuss camera that it is, the A480 predictably doesn't have a lot of shooting options. The most complicated it gets is in Program Auto that gives you options for white balance, focus, metering, ISO, and color effects. Don't want to touch any of those things? Leave it in Auto or choose from one of 12 special scene modes like Fireworks, Slow Shutter, Night Snapshot, or Kids & Pets. If you like taking a lot of close-up macro shots, the A480 might not be the best choice for you. You can get reasonably close--down to 1.2 inches away from a subject; however, the autofocus system wasn't terribly accurate that close, even though subjects looked in focus onscreen.

Performance, though not dreadfully slow, is still pokey. It takes nearly 2 seconds for the camera to go from off to first shot captured. Shutter lag is below average in bright lighting conditions at 0.6 second from pressing the release to capture. A positive: it performs identically in dim conditions. Shot-to-shot times are mediocre at 2.7 seconds without flash and jumping to 5.6 seconds with it on. Lastly, its continuous shooting time is only 0.6 frames per second.

Photo quality from the A480 was better than expected. Center sharpness and detail are very good for such an inexpensive camera; however, photos do soften up as you head off-center and noise/graininess is visible at full size, even at ISO 80. The A480 performs true to its class, delivering its best photos below ISO 200 and begins declining between ISO 200 and ISO 400. Though ISO 800 photos aren't great, they're usable at small sizes. ISO 1,600 is bad and only recommended for low-light emergencies where quality takes a backseat to getting a shot. Color is uniformly excellent and makes up for a lot of the camera's other photo issues. Unfortunately, lens distortion causes quite a bit of purple fringing; it's to be expected at its price, but that doesn't make it any better. If you plan to print photos larger than 8x10 or even 5x7, there's a good chance you'll be disappointed with the results. (See the slideshow for an example.) Overall, you're really not going to find better photos for the cost of the A480.

It's tough getting overly critical about a camera as inexpensive as the Canon PowerShot A480. It really is enough, at least to me, that it's small, attractive, and produces decent photos at this price point, and without any real skill or effort required on the part of the photographer. However, if you're expecting more than just snapshot photos, I'd save up for something else.

Shooting speed (in frames per second)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Time to first shot  
Typical shot-to-shot time (flash)  
Typical shot-to-shot time  
Shutter lag (dim)  
Shutter lag (typical)  
Canon PowerShot SD1200 IS
Kodak EasyShare M1093 IS
Nikon Coolpix S230
Canon PowerShot A480
Pentax Optio E70

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

Find out more about how we test digital cameras.


Canon PowerShot A480

Score Breakdown

Design 7Features 7Performance 6Image quality 7
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