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My minor criticisms notwithstanding, the A510 represents a lot of camera for very little money. For just under £120 you get everything you need for creative photography. It would make an ideal camera for a first-time user, especially someone who wanted to learn more about photography. It has all the creative features you need, and is versatile enough to grow with you as your skill increases.
As is usually the case with Canon cameras, if the A510 had any faults they would be more than offset by the excellent performance and picture quality. The camera starts up in approximately two seconds, which is reasonably quick, and in continuous drive mode it can shoot at an impressive two frames per second for between 10 and 20 frames, and then at about one frame per second until the memory card is full. By contrast, the movie mode performance is rather average, shooting at 640 x 480 resolution at a slow and jerky 10fps, or at 320 x 240 resolution at 15fps, which is still slow and jerky.
Battery life seems to be generally good, although I was able to wear out a pair of Duracell Ultra M3 cells in a long day of shooting and reviewing about 100 pictures. To get the best out of it you’ll need at least two sets of high-performance Ni-MH rechargeables, so you can carry a spare set as well.
With a maximum image size of 2,048 x 1,536 the A510 is best suited to 6 x 4in snapshot prints, and it's also fully compatible with Canon’s new Selphy compact photo printer, available separately.
As you can see from the accompanying sample pictures, focusing, exposure and colour fidelity are all superb. In default mode there is some evidence of over-sharpening, but there is a low-sharpening option in the menu. There is some purple fringing, but whether by good design or good fortune the fringes appear on the upward edge of bright highlights, so the lines that often appear along roof ridges are effectively hidden.
The A510’s autofocus system is particularly good. I tried repeatedly to confuse it, but every time it locked onto the correct subject without hesitation. The macro mode focusing was even more impressive, successfully finding the closest target even when it wasn’t in the centre of the frame. Noise reduction is very good, with only minimal noise at ISO 200 and not a lot more at 400. Exposure and colour rendition are both as good as I’ve come to expect from Canon.
In conclusion, the A510 is a cheap but capable camera, ideal for beginners or those looking for a high quality snapshot camera. Only image size separates it from cameras that are more expensive.
Despite its weather-altering abilities, the Canon PowerShot A510 is a great little camera, and about as good as you’re going to get for under £120. It has all the features you could want, only skimping on image size and a smallish LCD screen. It would make an ideal first camera for anyone keen to learn more about photography, since it has all the creative controls and features that you need.