The Canon Powershot A610 is a five megapixel digital camera with a four times optical lens. What really set this camera and a few other Powershot cameras apart from the competition is that they offer a number of advanced controls at a very reasonable price. This includes fully manual exposure. Therefore although the Powershot A610 can be used as a simple point and shoot camera it also has a number of useful tricks up its sleeve.
This camera is suitable for anyone who is looking to take their photography to the next step without spending a fortune. It is also suitable for families or couples where someone is looking for additional features and controls whereas others are looking for the simplicity of a point and shoot digital camera.
I was impressed by all the test shots taken with the Powershot A610. The most striking feature of all the shots is the level of clarity and sharpness found in each image. In terms of image quality this places the camera significantly above the majority of digital cameras I have tested.
Looking at the outdoor test shots as well as the crisp images there is also plenty of depth to the colours. Greens and blues come out especially well. This should mean that any landscape style shots you take with the camera will produce a very pleasing result. Light and dark areas in the picture are handled well without being outstanding. Digital cameras often struggle with pictures showing areas of high contrast. The results from the Powershot A610 are about par for the course.
Viewing the dedicated test for colours it is perhaps not surprising to see blue well represented. If anything the blue might be considered to be overdone. It is certainly the most dominant colour. This is typical of Canon digital cameras and may not be to everyone's taste.
Both the indoor and outdoor portrait shots are very good. Again the quality of the lens and focusing system comes into play and the indoor shot is much sharper than the result achieved by many other cameras. As is the case on many occasions there is a touch of red eye showing in the indoor picture. The built in flash unit also manages to light the picture well and again this stands up in comparison with other cameras.
The indoor shot taken of bottles in more or less complete darkness also underlines the power of the flash. It produces a very bright image and again the camera manages to focus successfully.
To finish ne a high note the macro test shot is just about the best close up photo I have managed to produce. It is extremely sharp, well lit and shows up detail exceptionally well.
Shutter Lag and Recycling Times
The Powershot A610 managed to take a single shot in 0.35 seconds. This is average time. To be honest I would have liked to have seen a time a little faster. It took 6.05 seconds to take five consecutive shots. This works out at a rate of one photo more or less every 1.21 seconds. This is a very fast time. Although there are faster cameras around I would say that shutter lag is not an issue that should stop you from buying this camera.
You can compare this camera to other models by taking a look at the Shutter Lag Comparison Table.
The 4x optical zoom lens has a focal length equivalent to 35-140 mm in 35mm format. For close up photography the camera can focus from just 1cm away from the subject. There is also a 4x optical zoom feature.
For composing images there is an optical viewfinder. If you prefer there is also a 2" LCD screen. What I really like about the LCD screen is that you can pull it away from the camera and twist it at an angle to suit you. This means that on a sunny day you can tilt the screen away from the sun. It is also handy when you are using a tripod or shooting at an awkward angle. The screen is made up of around 115,000 pixels.
The built in flash unit has a range of 4.2m. This reduces when the zoom lens is in use down to a minimum of 3m. You can also vary the power of the flash. This is a useful feature to have. The flash modes available to you are automatic, always on and always off. You can also select red eye reduction, slow sync speed and first or second curtain synchronisation. To increase the power of the on camera flash you can buy Canon's High Power Flash (HF-DC1).
There are a range of preset scene modes to choose from. These help you to take the best possible shot for different types of photo opportunity. All you need to do is select the most appropriate one. The scenes are: Portrait, Landscape, Night Scene, Night Snapshot, Kids & Pets, Indoor, Foliage, Snow, Beach, Fireworks and Underwater.
In addition to these you also have features like Stitch Assist and My Colours. Stitch Assist helps you to join shots together to create a panoramic style photo. My Colours provides you with an assortment of colour controls. For example you can swap colours in a photo or create a black and white shot with a single colour appearing. This technique is often used when photographing a flower. The flower will then stand out against a black and white background.
Further features on similar lines let you use Vivid and Neutral colours, Low Sharpening, Sepia and Black and White.
Movies can be shot at a maximum resolution of 640 x 480. These can be captured at a top speed of 30 frames per second. This is good enough to playback on a television. In addition there is also a mode that lets you shoot a minute of footage at a rate of 60 frames per second at a resolution of 320 x 240. You can play these clips back in slow motion. This can be useful for analytical work such as watching back a golf swing. Zoom is available while movies are being shot.
For when you would like to appear in the picture a self timer is available. You can set this to a delay of two or ten seconds. There is a also a custom delay. This can be set between one and thirty seconds. It can fire off up to ten shots at the end of the delay period. To help preserve the memory of a shot you can add up to sixty seconds of voice memo to a photograph you have already taken.
The Powershot A610 offers fully manual exposure. Aperture and shutter priority is also available. The maximum aperture settings are f2.8 and f/4.1. Shutter speeds can be set between 15 seconds and 1/2500 seconds. There is a custom mode that lets you save key settings.
Other advanced features include three types of metering (Centre-weighted average, Spot), exposure compensation (+/- 2 EV in 1/3 stop increments), ISO equivalents (AUTO, 50, 100, 200, 400) and white balance settings of Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Tungsten, Fluorescent, Fluorescent H and Underwater. There is also a Custom white balance setting.
Continuous shooting is also available. This allows you to press down the shutter button and keep taking pictures. This has a top speed of 2.4 frames per second. The camera keeps shooting all the time the shutter button is pressed down until the memory card is full.
Another feature to help you take the perfect picture is a histogram.
Canon supplies all the necessary cables and software to connect the Powershot A610 to a computer, television and a PictBridge compatible printer.
To further increase the flexibility of the camera you can add conversion lenses to it. These increase either the telephoto (1.75x TC-DC58N) or wide angle (0.7x WC-DC58N ) capabilities. You will need to buy a lens adaptor to be able to fit the conversion lenses. There is an underwater case available as well. This is the WP-DC90 and it is waterproof to a depth of 40m.
Ease of Use
With plenty of features available to use it is likely to take a while to get fully acquainted with the Powershot A610. You can use the camera as a straightforward point and shoot model until you can spare the time required to run through the manual. All the main controls are found either as buttons on the back of the camera or on the control dial that sits on top. As ever I find the Canon menus on the busy side and it can take a while to find your way around.
You can pick up a Canon Powershot A610 for around £200. This compares to around £150 for a Sony DSC S90, £200 for a Pentax Optio SVi and £225 for a Canon Powershot A620. The fact that I have found it very hard to find cameras to compare this camera to shows how in many ways it has its own niche in the market. The DSC S90 is only a four megapixel model and has less manual controls and features. The Optio SVi is a more stylish model with a 5x optical zoom lens. The Powershot A620 is more or less identical but it has seven megapixels.
The Powershot A610 has a fairly standard design for this type of digital camera. It looks a little similar to a traditional 35mm film camera. It is rectangular, but with a good sized grip on the front of the camera. This really helps you to get a good grip when you are taking a photo. If you are looking for a slim digital camera that will slip unnoticed into a pocket then this is not the camera for you. It is much larger in comparison.
The camera weighs in at 235g and has dimensions of 104.8 x 66.0 x 49.1mm. It has a plastic body.
Batteries and Memory Cards
Four AA batteries are required to operate the camera. Canon suggests that you should be able to take around 350 shots with the Powershot A610 before you need to change the batteries. I always take these figures with a pinch of salt but it is fair to say you should get an impressive number of photos before a set of batteries run out. Even so it is worth remembering that four AA batteries at a time add to the running costs. Therefore it is worth considering a set of rechargeable batteries to go with the camera.
SD cards are used to store images on. A 16mb card is supplied as standard. I was able to take 12 shots using the default settings before the card was full. Therefore it is advisable to pick up a high capacity card as well. Click here to save money on SD cards.
Points I like:
Sharpness of the photos
Indoor photo quality
Feature set at reasonable price
Angle of LCD screen can be varied
Where it is not so hot:
Small SD card supplied
Overall I think the Canon Powershot A610 is a real winner. The picture quality is excellent. Even indoors I was impressed by the quality of the images I was able to produce. With a full set of manual controls and many other settings available as well this camera is a clear step up from a standard point and shoot camera. The price is very reasonable too.
Canon Powershot A610 Front View
Canon Powershot A610 Back View
Canon Powershot A610 Top View