As the least expensive Canon camera to include optical image stabilization, the PowerShot A570 IS will no doubt receive a lot of attention this year. Its 7.1 megapixel CCD sensor and 2.5-inch LCD aren't remarkable among the current crop of compacts, but its 4X optical zoom lens provides a bit more reach than the usual 3X lenses that continue to dot the competitive landscape. While we would've liked to see Canon go wide, the lens covers a 35mm equivalent of 35mm to 140mm. While this isn't as versatile for group portraits, or the close quarter situations that most average snapshooters find themselves in, larger, longer zoom numbers still tend to sell better. If image stabilization doesn't float your boat and you never use manual exposure controls, you may want to step down to the A560, which is otherwise very similar to this model.
Like a lot of Canon's new cameras, the A570 IS includes a Digic III processor chip, which means it also has Canon's face detection. In our field tests, the system quickly and accurately identified faces. Once it identifies them, the system uses your subject's face to focus and meter the scene. Another feature that comes along with Digic III is in-camera red-eye removal. In this case, Canon lets you pluck the red pupils from your portrait victims in playback mode. Canon's a bit late to this game, since most of its competitors, such as Hewlett-Packard, Kodak, and Nikon, have included similar functions for a while now.
In addition to image stabilization, the biggest difference between the A570 IS and its little sister, the A560, is the A570 IS's manual exposure controls. If you're used to being able to shoot in aperture- or shutter-priority mode, or choose your own manual exposure settings, then you should pay extra attention to the A570 IS, since it's also the least expensive A-series camera with full exposure controls. Canon includes 12 scene modes (5 of which can be accessed directly from the mode dial), in addition to stitch assist and movie modes. Speaking of movie modes, this camera includes four. Two standard modes let you record at either 640x480 or 320x240 pixel resolutions with your choice of 30 frames per second (fps) or 15fps. Fast Frame Rate movie mode lets you record at 320x240 pixels and 60 fps, while Compact movie mode records at 160x120 pixels and 15 frames per second to keep files as small as possible so you can more easily e-mail the clips to friends.
Grouped conveniently on the right side of the camera, you can easily reach all of the A570 IS's controls with either your thumb or forefinger, making one-handed shooting a definite possibility. As usual though, it's best to use two hands, for stability's sake, if at all possible. Canon divides the camera's menus between two buttons; the function/set button and the menu button. You'll find commonly used shooting settings, such as white balance, metering mode, and ISO, grouped under the function button. The menu button leads to less frequently changed items, such as image stabilization mode, digital zoom on/off, and artifical intelligent auto-focus (AiAF) mode, which also lets you turn the face detection on or off. We would've liked to see a dedicated face detection button, since it's a bit unintuitive to look for it under that menu item, and since the face detection system does more than just auto focus.
While not a rocket ship with the flash enabled, the A570 IS performed well in our lab tests. The camera took 1.78 seconds to start up and capture its first JPEG, and captured subsequent JPEGs every 1.82 seconds with the flash turned off. That shot-to-shot time slowed considerably to 4.82 seconds between shots with the flash turned on. Shutter lag measured an alacritous 0.5 second in our high-contrast test, which mimics bright shooting conditions, and 1.3 seconds in our low-contrast test, meant to mimic dim shooting conditions. Continuous shooting (aka burst) mode yielded about 1.6 frames per second regardless of image size.
Image quality was impressive, especially at lower ISOs, though we noticed some slight artifacts even at the camera's lowest sensitivity of ISO 80, which seemed to become exacerbated by the noise caused by higher ISOs. Still, colors looked accurate, there was plenty of shadow detail, and our images turned out very sharp. The A570 IS's automatic white balance returned yellowish images with our lab's tungsten lights, so you'll want to switch to the tungsten preset, which provided pleasingly neutral results, if shooting indoors around incandescent lights. Canon keeps noise under control through ISO 200. While noise is noticeable at ISO 200, especially on a monitor, it is fairly minor and shouldn't be a problem in prints. At ISO 400, noise turns grittier with more discrete speckles showing up, though shadow detail and sharpness remain fairly intact. Noise rises precipitously at ISO 800, creating a dense snowy covering over the entire image, obscuring much of the shadow detail and softening finer details. By ISO 1600, most shadow detail and sharpness is lost and images are covered in a blizzard of white and colored speckles. We suggest sticking to ISO 400 and below whenever possible, especially if you plan to make prints larger than 4x6 inches.
Overall, the PowerShot A570 IS is a solid compact camera that offers a lot of value for your money. We were a bit disappointed with its high ISO noise, but you'll be hard pressed to find a compact camera at a price like this that has manual exposure controls, optical image stabilization, flash output control, and speedy performance. Plus, similar to all the A-series cameras, this one runs on AA batteries, so if you run out of power, you don't need to wait for charging.
|Typical shot-to-shot time||Time to first shot||Shutter lag (typical)|