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Usually at this point in the review I take a look at a few of the camera's stand-out features, but in the case of the A490 there's not really much to talk about. It has only four shooting modes, selected by the bottom left button on the rear panel. These are full auto, program auto, scene mode and video mode. In full auto only image size and compression can be adjusted, but in program auto there are a few more options. The A490 has Canon's usual side-bar menu, although it hasn't been honoured with the nice new flashy one from the higher-spec models, with its gradient tones and partial transparency. Instead the A490 has a re-coloured version of the menu system from the previous generation of cameras, adding to its feeling of being a bit of a throwback.
ISO, white balance and colour tone can be adjusted, and there is a limited manual adjustment of contrast, saturation and sharpness available. The camera has three light metering options (evaluative, centre-weighted and spot), and a choice of either centre-zone AF or the somewhat idiosyncratic AiAF system, something which has now been dropped from higher-end models. The eleven scene mode programs are pretty standard stuff, with options including portrait, night snapshot, kids and pets, foliage, and a low-light setting that reduces the resolution to two megapixels.
The A490's video recording mode is also nothing special. It can shoot in 640 x 480 resolution or 320 x 240 resolution, both at 30fps, with mono audio recorded via an on-board microphone. As usual the optical zoom cannot be used while recording, but up to 4x digital zoom is available. Movies are recorded in AVI Motion JPEG format, so they should play back on most computers, but it has to be said that the picture and sound quality isn't brilliant.
There are even fewer options in playback mode, although at least it offers the ability to rotate and re-size, and has automatic red-eye correction. Images can be displayed as a slide show, with a choice of either fade or slide transitions and adjustable play time for each image, but that's about it.