Finally we come to the most critical issue, picture quality. All in all, I have to say that I was very impressed by the pictures produced by the CU-6530 in nearly all conditions.
The exposure system copes extremely well in good lighting conditions, and as a result colour rendition is rich and vivid, although it does tend to over-saturate when shooting into the light. However this can be corrected by using the spot metering or back-lighting options.
The lens is also very good, comparable in quality to the improved Pentax Sliding Lens system found on the S6. It produces good edge-to-edge sharpness with very little sign of the blurred corners produced by some compact zoom lenses. Barrel distortion at wide angle is noticeable, as is a slight darkening of the corners of the frame, but not enough to be considered a problem.
One point worth mentioning is that the default sharpness setting is far too harsh, producing lines around high-contrast edges and some sharpening artifacts. However, setting the sharpening to ‘low’ in the menu produced much nicer results, again comparable to other more expensive cameras.
Although image noise is a problem for the CU-6530 in low-light conditions and at longer shutter speeds, it is generally very well controlled and not obtrusive. The maximum ISO setting is only 200, but under normal conditions this setting is not too noisy, although it does lead to some loss of detail. In good light and using the 50 ISO sensitivity setting, this camera can produce extremely high quality photos, comparable with any of its more expensive rivals.
The Acer CU-6530 is remarkable value for money, and compares favourably with many more expensive cameras in terms of both performance and picture quality. It is well made, attractively designed and has an above average specification. It also comes with a generous bundle of accessories, although the supplied 64MB card is very slow. All in all, a genuine bargain and an auspicious debut in the UK camera market for Acer.