Canon's PowerShot A560 is a suitable big brother to the company's lower-end A550. Both models sport the same chunky-but-comfortable design, 7-megapixel sensor, and 4X optical zoom lens. The A560 distinguishes itself from the A550 (and justifies its slightly higher price) with a larger LCD screen, a higher maximum ISO, and a couple of other features made possible by its upgraded Digic III processor chip. The A550 has Canon's older Digic II chip. You'll have to decide if these differences are important to you, but the fact remains that the A560 is a solid, inexpensive snapshot camera.
Though not quite small enough to slip into your jeans, the A560 is still comfortably compact. At 165 grams and 43mm thick, the camera can fit easily into most jacket pockets and bags. The A560's body has the same L-shaped design found on most of Canon's PowerShot A series, giving it a generous grip. Plus, its large buttons are comfortable to use, and they're laid out logically along the back and the top of the camera.
The A560 looks fairly nondescript, but does offer some interesting features. Most notable among its attributes is its 35mm-to-140mm-equivalent 4X zoom lens, which gives it just a bit more range than the 3X lenses found on most budget cameras. Canon augments the 2.5-inch LCD screen with an optical viewfinder for shooting in dim light or tight quarters. The camera's sensitivity reaches up to ISO 1600, a notch higher than the A550's ISO 800. Another feature the A560 lords over the A550 is face detection. Canon buries the control in the menu system under the artificial intelligent autofocus setting (aiaf), rather than giving it a dedicated button as many of its competitors do, so don't get confused. We found Canon's face detection quick and accurate.
Besides those features, the A560 has the standard handful of scene presets and image adjustment settings. The camera boasts four movie modes, including 30 frames per second (fps) VGA (640x480) and a pleasantly unexpected 60fps QVGA (320x240) high-speed mode. Finally, like most Canon PowerShot A-series cameras, the A560 conveniently takes AA batteries.
In our lab, the A560 performed well in almost all of our tests. After quickly starting up and capturing its first image in 1.5 seconds, we could snap a shot once every 1.6 seconds, a great improvement over similar previous PowerShot models. Unfortunately, with the onboard flash enabled, that time nearly tripled to 4.5 seconds per shot. The camera's shutter proved responsive, lagging only 0.5 second with our high-contrast target and a modest 1.4 seconds with our low-contrast target. In burst mode, we managed to capture 35 full-resolution shots in 21.6 seconds for a rate of 1.6 frames per second.
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
|Typical shot-to-shot time||Time to first shot||Shutter lag (typical)|
Photos looked pretty good, though they're marred by overprocessing and fringing in spots. Colours reproduce well, though indoor photos shot with automatic white balance come out very yellow, a common problem for most snapshot cameras. Noise is low up to ISO 400 sensitivity, where a fine grain starts to appear. Images are predictably noisy at ISO 800 and ISO 1600 sensitivity, with speckling damaging fine details and softening colours. ISO 800 and higher settings are usually reserved for low-light and high-speed shooting, and everyday snapshots shouldn't have many problems.
With quick performance and decent photos, the Canon PowerShot A560 makes a solid budget camera. It doesn't boast a bevy of special features and isn't particularly small or light, but it's a strong choice if you don't want to spend a lot for your snapshots. If your caffeine-ridden, shaky hands often make your pictures blurry, you should note that the next model up in Canon's line, the A570IS, is very similar to this one, but also includes optical image stabilisation.