Advantages And Disadvantages Of Canon PowerShot A590IS

Nov 11, 2008
I own a DSLR and consider myself a photography enthusiast. I wanted a small compact camera with me when I don't want to lug around my DSLR + lenses and equipment. After a previous good experience with the Canon A720 IS, the new A590 IS seemed like a good choice. Since I'm an advanced photographer, I'll focus on the advanced features of this camera. The auto modes work as well as any other camera in its class, but the extensive manual features is what sets apart the Canon A series.

What I like about the camera:

1. Compact, stylish. It's smaller than older A Powershots, and the dark grey color gives it a seriousness compared to the typical bright silver finish.

2. Image stabilization works very well, it allows me to take blur-free photos 2-3 stops below the recommended shutter speed, that means at 35-50mm f2.8 1/10 sec shots are CONSISTENTLY possible indoors without using flash.

3. Good image quality. Expected from Canon, but even better is adjustable contrast, saturation, and sharpness settings, along with the typical JPG compression and resolution sizes.

4. Fast and responsive. I was surprised how responsive this camera is even compared with my DSLR. Shutter lag is very low for a compact digicam, and when I pre-focus with manual focus, it's even faster.

5. Manual modes. Aperture priority and shutter priority are great, the M mode is even better than other A Powershots such as the A720 because now there's a light meter on the right side that adjusts live based on what the camera thinks is the optimal exposure setting. And you can adjust aperture/shutter speed and see how it affects the final exposure. Ideally a live histogram would be even better, but this is very handy.

6. Manual focus. Although the LCD resolution is not good enough, even with the point zoom option, manual focus helps in close-up work and pre-focusing for action or creative photography.

7. Manual flash modes. In addition to automatic flash. The manual flash allows me to adjust the flash power in 3 levels, and prevents a pre-flash. This last part is important for using a remote optical slave flash. I can basically take professional looking studio pictures with this camera with my external flash equipment.

8. Optical viewfinder. I don't use this much yet, but can come in handy in bright sunlight conditions, or when battery conservation is needed.

9. Battery performance seems improved over previous A powershots too. The official specs give it 220 shots on regular alkalines and 500 on rechargeable NiMHs. Good news is they use common AA batteries that you can buy anywhere instead of proprietary models with specific chargers.

Now the negatives. I hope Canon can improve these aspects in their future models.

1. Slow flash recycle times. This is to be expected from a camera that takes AA batteries. Would be nice if the LCD didn't blank out after a full flash discharge. Not a big deal since I use an external flash anyway, and the camera's flash is manually set to medium output as trigger (so recharge is faster). I would not want to give up the AA battery convenience for a faster flash recycle time though.

2. Higher resolution LCD. The 2.5" 115k resolution LCD is ok for framing and casual browsing, but higher resolution would be nice.

3. Live histogram while shooting. This feature is available when reviewing a photo, but not live. Other manufacturers have implemented this, and Canon should also, especially since the unofficial CHDK software mod allows such a feature.

4. Larger aperture would be nice. Such as f/2.0 (instead of f/2.6) at the wide end, and f/4.0 (instead of f/5.5) at the telephoto end. That way a lower (& less noisy) ISO can be used in dim conditions or when fast shutter speeds are needed to freeze action. All the electronics in the world can't replace a good large lens. Also allows more creative depth of field control.

5. A wider wideangle would be nice, 28mm instead of 35mm (35mm equiv). I'd rather see a wider wideangle than a longer zoom.

6. Video feature is not ideal. Optical zoom is not available during recording of video. And the more efficient MPEG4 compression is not used, so video files tend to be large. Also noticed at 640x480 resolution, the highest fps is now 20 instead of 30 from other A models. A definite step backwards.

7. Noise at higher ISOs. This is due to the smaller sensor on compact cameras. But 8 MP is probably the most pixels that can be crammed into a small 1/2.5" sensor. I'd rather have a cleaner picture at 6-7 MP than a noisy 8 MP picture. And if in-camera noise reduction is used, I'd like to see an adjustable setting for how much is being applied.

8. And if I were to be really critical: There's no indicator of what optical zoom level I'm at. Slight image noise is noticeable even at ISO 80 when I zoom in really close on a monitor view. When at the widest angle & aperture, there's slight barrel distortion and blurriness on the corners. Not many compact cameras can do better in terms of image quality, but I'm pointing them out here because even though this camera beats most of the competition, it still has room for improvement.

So overall it's a great camera for the price. Offering great image quality with the auto settings for the casual user, but also a powerful set of features for the more advanced photographer.


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May 16, 2009 03:04 AM » posted by: RJB

Another advantage of this camera is that you can get CHDK for it which allows you access to RAW files and the optical zoom indicator plus a plethora of other stuff.

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