The external controls are nicely designed and sensibly arranged, and are easy and generally intuitive to operate, although some of the lettering is rather hard to read. A number of options are available with a single button press, including a very useful backlight compensation feature, and also exposure compensation.
The only real handling problem is the lack of a useful thumb grip on the back. The rounded shape of the camera body makes it a little bit slippery to hold. It could do with some sort of textured panel or lip on the right below the zoom control, a feature found on most other similarly sized cameras.
Again in contrast to most budget cameras, the menu is quick, clear and concise, although the non-standard navigation takes a little getting used to, with ‘set’ taking you on to the next page, rather than the right-arrow as is more usual. Top position on the menu is the scene mode selection, with a respectable 18 modes available, including a user-defined setting, again keeping pace with other more expensive cameras.
The other menu options are fairly limited, and there are a few things missing I would have liked to see. There are no alternative focus or exposure modes, and the only metering options are multi-point or spot metering, but at least sharpness and contrast are adjustable.
In terms of overall performance, the CU-6530 is comfortably above average. The AF system is not the fastest around, taking around a second to focus in good light, slightly longer in low light although it does have an AF illuminator. In continuous shooting mode and full resolution, the CU-6530 can fire off five shots in three seconds, which is good, but it then takes nearly 20 seconds to write them to the supplied memory card, during which time the camera is locked. Using a better quality card this delay was reduced to just over 10 seconds, a far more reasonable time. The battery is a big 3.7V 820mAh lithium-ion cell, which easily powered the camera for several days on a single charge.
The only major performance problem is the built-in flash, which is both under-powered and poorly metered, barely meeting its stated range of just 2.4 metres, but still burning out highlights at close range. The exposure system attempts to compensate by increasing the ISO sensitivity, but this only results in high levels of image noise. It produced good results only under optimum conditions, indoors with the subject at about 1.5 metres.