Canon PowerShot A570 IS Digital Camera

Reviewed by: Jack Reikel, July 2007
Manufactured by: Canon
Requires: An interest in photography, Windows, Mac or Linux PC for image management, editing and printing
MSRP: US$249.95

Lately I've been carrying around a lot of different compact, pocket and point & shoot digital cameras. We've been reviewing these things steadily over the past two years, focused primarily on Nikon. It's now Canon's turn and we're going to see just how well this powerful and respected digital imaging company is doing in the digital photography rodeo. The Canon PowerShot A570 IS as of this writing is the newest and least expensive image stabilized model in the Canon A series, combining 7.1 megapixel image size, with optical image stabilization, 4x optical zoom lens, very good optical resolution characteristics, fully automatic operation switchable to fully manual operation, versatile in-camera image processing, and a comfortable form factor.

We used the camera daily for two weeks in a wide variety of circumstances. Given that the Canon A series is clearly aimed at home consumers — families, individuals, photography enthusiasts — we wanted to find out how well the A570 IS stands up to typically rough use (carried around in pockets, at the bottom of a purse or shoulder bag, swinging from a wrist strap), and of course just how good A570 IS photos can be given a decent photographer and interesting subject matter.


The heart and value of any digital camera is composed of four things: form factor, sensor, lens, image processing. Canon has for many years been justifiably proud of its DIGIC chip-based imaging processing. The DIGIC III processing system in the latest Canon cameras is wonderful, successfully competing head-to-head on all fronts with Nikon, Sony, Fuji, Pentax and Olympus. The processing system in a digital camera applies noise reduction, color management and a number of other things to the data it receives from the sensor. The camera sensor captures light coming through the lens. A good quality lens — well engineered with great clarity and resolution; good coatings to reduce haze, glare and flare — provides the sensor with accurate light from subject matter, which in turn makes the job of the processing system easier. If it's all wrapped up in an ergonomic form factor — providing a good grip, intelligent location of controls, well designed user interface for navigating menus on the rear LCD monitor — then you've got yourself a good camera. The only other important ingredient is a little bit of education for the photographer about the various factors of composition, lighting and subject matter which go into a worthwhile or otherwise interesting photo.

The Canon PowerShot A570 IS has been designed to make use of something called Face Detect. Basically, in Auto mode the processing system is programmed to recognize faces, lock the focusing system on detected faces and base exposure metering on detected faces. All of the other major digital camera makers including Nikon, Sony, Fuji, Pentax, Olympus and so, offer their respective versions of face detection and face priority auto focus and automatic exposure. Outdoors throughout most days, including far too many days with heavy cloud cover, Face Detect worked quite well. Indoors, under typically poor lighting conditions, Face Detect failed as often as it worked. Digital cameras, especially compact models like the A570 IS and all its competitors, have limitations, difficulty with low light being one of the most prominent problems. The whole point of Face Detect is to emphasize the well-known technique of focusing on and exposing for faces in any scene in order to help compose the most interesting photo. It's a technique that works no matter what human or animal subject happens to be in the shot, irrespective of the event or activity. For example, when photographing a CART or Formula 1 race, it's usually always best to ensure the driver's face/helmet is the point of focus. Canon's Face Detect technology can aggregate the focus and exposure setting for up to nine detected faces in a single shot.

Another primary factor affecting digital image quality is something called Noise. The combination of the Canon sensor and the DIGIC III processor is designed to produce good-to-excellent image quality while keeping noise and noise processing artifacts to a minimum. All digital camera makers fight a constant battle with noise. If you're new to this aspect of digital photography, noise in digital camera photos is a visual imperfection which causes normally smooth surfaces and colors to appear textured. Very often, noise in photos printed at small sizes (4"x6", 5"x7") is largely unnoticeable. The same noisy photos printed at 8"x10" or larger suffer noticeably however. Digital noise in photos is caused by a number of factors, not the least of which is taking photos at high ISO settings. In case you're wondering, any ISO setting over 200 is considered high. For the record too, the vast majority of photos taken in normal or usable lighting conditions in which colors are easily distinguished, happen at or below ISO 200. High ISO settings in digital cameras are more a function of, "It's easy to program this so why not offer it as a feature!" than any real need expressed by the vast majority of photographers. If you're shooting in light so low that the camera is bumping up the ISO setting to 600 or 800, pop up the flash. If the subject matter is too far away for the flash to be of use, it's probably time to call it a day and find some place to eat dinner. The fact that digital cameras make it possible to take photos in very low light, doesn't mean that you should actually waste time doing it.

The Canon PowerShot A570 IS is designed around an ergonomically smart body. The prominent grip on the right side provides for a secure hold on the camera even in cool or humid weather. We always advise attaching and using the supplied wrist strap with any pocket or point & shoot camera, but if you occasionally forget to do so, at least the A570 IS will let you grab hold of it without risk. The camera body is also quite solid; the latest polycarbonate plastics are absolutely durable. We're regularly impressed with the build quality of these inexpensive cameras from Canon, Nikon and Sony in particular, although the other manufacturers do almost as well. Fit and finish is excellent, controls work properly with distinct actuation and setting detents providing good feedback. The large, rear LCD screen displays an easy-to-navigate user interface which, after reading the manual, provides you with a large amount of image customization.

For photography enthusiasts, the Canon PowerShot A570 IS offers a wide range of manual controls. A top-mounted dial provides Aperture (Av), Shutter (Tv), Program (P) and Manual modes along with full Auto, pre-programmed Scene modes, and the obligatory and ubiquitous Movie mode. In any of the advanced modes, the rear command pad is used to adjust settings or exposure compensation (EV). Quick access to the Histogram is also provided, allowing you to take test shots, make a quick EV adjustment, then shoot to your heart's content. We were initially hesitant about the usefulness or completeness of the manual modes but were surprised to find that Canon did not hold anything back. While we're seeing it in other Canon A series cameras and in competing models from other makers, it's still a bit of a shock at this price point to be able to switch confidently to Program mode and access advanced exposure compensation features while shooting mostly automatically. Great value for the money is evident on top of the ability to capture terrific, sharply focused photos in well balanced vibrant color with good dynamic range.

The Canon PowerShot A570 IS is also designed for people who just want to be able to take quick photos using a camera which doesn't force them to think about settings and technique. Hitting the power button turns the camera on and extends the lens, ready to shoot, almost instantly. Auto focus is quite fast, shutter lag (the delay between fully depressing the shutter to take a shot and the actual image capture by the camera) is very short, the built-in flash is very accurate with subjects up to 10' (3 meters) away, and the camera stores images on widely available SD cards including the newer SDHC type. Turning the camera off retracts the lens into the camera body and closes the integrated lens cover. Although we left the camera in a fishing tackle box for several days, bouncing around from site to site, there was no damage of any kind to the camera except for a couple of tiny scratches caused by errant fish hooks and lures. Smart people will always keep a portable electronic device or pocket camera in its own case of course, but it's nice to know that the A570 IS won't fall apart if you forget to bring protection. Getting photos off the SD card is accomplished either through your own SD card reader or by using the supplied USB cable to capture from the camera directly to your photo software.

Cons: The image stabilization settings are slightly confusing. The manual explains everything reasonably well, but the LCD display sometimes appears non-stabilized even though IS is active with a half-pressed shutter button. The small, dark and inaccurate viewfinder is useful only for subjects between 8' (2.5 meters) and 15' (4.5 meters) away. Too many megapixels squeezed out of a small sensor means too much digital noise at 400 ISO and beyond.

Pros: Under a wide range of what are considered normal outdoor shooting situations (sunset, sunrise, bright sunlight throughout the day, overcast and so on, the Canon PowerShot A570 IS performs like a champ. While I carp and whine about visible digital noise in low light images taken above 400 ISO, the fact remains that I am being excessively picky. The vast majority of photos are taken at ISO 200 or less. Photos taken with the A570 IS look just great, suitable for framing actually, as long as the composition is half decent and the subject matter is interesting. Most of the time, the A570 IS produces wonderful photos. Canon has put an enormous number of features into this baby; enough to turn the heads of serious amateurs looking for a backup camera to toss in the bag for quick snaps. Image quality is very good, the Digic III processor handles in-camera processing extremely well, and the range of special effects provide tons of creative possibilities. The Canon PowerShot A570 IS is well made and stood up to our bouncing, dusty, damp and generally rough treatment without any problems. On top of it all, it's easy to use and the price is right. Great value. Highly recommended.

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