Here’s my review of the Canon PowerShot A470, an entry-level camera with a 3.4X zoom lens, 2.5 inch LCD and good camera performance. And for under $150, it sounds like a bargain. How does the camera perform? Find out now.
DPInterface Canon PowerShot A470 Review
Brad Soo – October 23rd, 2008
The PowerShot A470 is currently the lowest priced entry-level camera that Canon has to offer. In addition to having a DIGIC III processor with Face Detection, it has a larger 2.5 inch LCD (up from 2 inches on the A460) and great performance. And of course, we have our usual megapixel step-ups, the A470 now has 7 megapixels.
Size and Weight
(200.6) 104.8 x 55.1 x 40.7 mm (165 g) – Canon PowerShot A470
(196.4) 101.2 x 63.8 x 31.4 mm (160 g) – Canon PowerShot E1
(163.8) 94.2 x 54.6 x 15.0 mm (113 g) – Casio Exilim S10
(168.0) 91.0 x 55.0 x 22.0 mm (110 g) – Fujifilm FinePix J10
(167.7) 92.0 x 56.5 x 19.2 mm (116 g) – Kodak EasyShare M883
(163.0) 90.0 x 55.0 x 18.0 mm (145 g) – Nikon Coolpix S210
(161.0) 89.0 x 55.5 x 16.5 mm (104 g) – Olympus Stylus FE360
(192.8) 97.5 x 62.0 x 33.3 mm (141 g) – Panasonic Lumix LZ10
(182.0) 98.0 x 59.0 x 25.0 mm (130 g) – Pentax Optio E60
(170.1) 91.4 x 58.4 x 20.3 mm (110 g) – Samsung SL201
(181.5) 91.4 x 61.0 x 29.1 mm (140 g) – Sony Cyber-shot S730
All the weight figures above show when the camera is empty without a battery or memory card
The Canon PowerShot A470 is a compact, but not tiny, camera that can fit into your pocket. I got comments like “isn’t that camera kinda ‘thick’?” from several people I showed the A470 to. However that’s not entirely true, the A470 isn’t huge but is nowhere as tiny or thin as, say a Digital ELPH.
The PowerShot A470 has a bundle typical of an entry-level camera; nothing special, just the nuts and bolts to get you up and snapping:
- 2 AA alkaline batteries
- Wrist strap
- USB and A/V cables
- Camera software CD
- User’s manual
Canon includes a 16 MB MMC card with the PowerShot A470 which is too little for any practical picture taking. The A470 supports SD, SDHC (SD card which are 4 GB and above) and MMC (typically slower than SDs) memory cards and I recommend getting started with at least a 2 GB SD card.
The PowerShot A470 uses AA batteries, which are both cheaper and more conveniently available than lithium-ion batteries. Canon bundles the A470 with two AA alkaline batteries which are not rechargeable and unfortunately, they won’t power the A470 for long (Canon says they’ll last for about 150 shots) and find themselves in the recycling bin quickly. It’s best to get a set of rechargeable NiMH batteries (400 shots, CIPA Standard) and a fast charger with the camera. For one thing, they last a lot longer than alkaline batteries and you can recharge and reuse them.
The Canon PowerShot A470 comes in at the bottom of the stack of entry-level cameras which use AA batteries. Normally that would be a bad thing, but this situation is an exception. With a battery life rating of 400 shots per charge, the A470 beats most other fixed-lens cameras… but it’s just a sidenote that there are still some cameras which beat it.
400 shots – Canon PowerShot A470
450 shots – Canon PowerShot E1
280 shots – Casio Exilim S10*
150 shots – Fujifilm FinePix J10*
200 shots – Kodak EasyShare M883*
220 shots – Nikon Coolpix S210*
160 shots – Olympus FE360*
200 shots – Olympus FE370*
460 shots – Panasonic Lumix LZ10
620 shots – Pentax Optio E60**
Not rated – Samsung SL201
440 shots – Sony Cyber-shot S730
* indicates the camera uses a proprietary lithium-ion battery
** the Pentax Optio E60’s battery figure is based on lithium AA batteries
All the cameras above are rated with rechargeable batteries according to CIPA Standard
There aren’t many accessories available for the Canon PowerShot A470, just an AC adapter and various camera carrying cases.
Canon PowerShot A470 has been redesigned slightly since the previous model. Though it’s still not very slim by compact camera standards, it looks less boxy now and still comes in four color schemes of your choice.
All the A470’s controls are located on the right of the camera, making shooting with one hand a breeze. The larger LCD takes up more real estate on the back and consequently, the optical viewfinder is now gone and all the buttons have been pushed a little to the right. As far as build quality goes, the A470’s plastic construction is of average quality.
The front of camera features the new 3.4X zoom lens equivalent to 38-132 mm and has an aperture range of f3.0 – f5.8. The old lens on the A460 was slightly faster and had more zoom on the telephoto end but as far as compact budget cameras go, the A470 does have more reach than the typical 3X lens.
To the top right features the PowerShot A470’s built-in flash which is on the weak side. The maximum range is from 30 cm to 3 m at wide-angle and it goes down to 2m at full optical zoom, both at ISO Auto. Directly below the camera’s flash is the autofocus-assist/self-timer/red-eye reduction light. This light performs three duties: it illuminates dark scenes to help the camera to focus, acts as a visual countdown indicator in self-timer mode and becomes red-eye reduction lamp when the flash is used to take a photo.
On the opposite side of the lens is a small hole – that’s where the microphone is; used when recording movie and sound clips.
And now I’ll turn the camera around so we can check out the back of the Canon PowerShot A470. That’s the 2.5 inch LCD over there, but while large in size, it’s low on resolution; boasting just 115,000 pixels. The display brightens automatically in low-light and the screen was just as viewable outdoors; a good thing too since the optical viewfinder is gone on the A470. I doubt many (if at all) people would care though, since majority of people just compose using the LCD – rarely do I see anyone using the viewfinder on their compact camera nowadays.
Going to the right of the A470, you’ll find the camera’s mode dial which move you between five modes:
-Playback (pretty obvious this is the place to review photos you’ve taken)
-Automatic (like it says, just point-and-shoot – you can change the flash and macro settings, but that’s about it)
-Manual mode (not really manual, it just unlocks the menus which allow you to change things like ISO and white balance)
-Movie record mode
There are few buttons on the A470, all clearly labeled so they shouldn’t be too hard to figure out. Let’s start with the four-way controller.
- Up – Zoom in
- Down – Zoom out
- Left – Focus mode (Normal, macro, landscape)
- Right – Flash setting (Auto, on, off; red-eye reduction and slow sync are turned on/off in the menu)
The up-down controls used for zooming in and out of photos seems kinda cameraphone-esque, reminds me a lot about using my Pocket PC. Nothing wrong here but a dedicated zoom controller would be nice, with the up/down controls assigned to more useful things like ISO speed.
Surrounding the four-way controller are three buttons. The menu and print buttons are pretty self-explanatory; the latter is normally functional only when the camera is connected to a printer but you can assign a shooting mode feature to it too! The FUNCtion/SET button brings up the function menu which allows quick access to settings such as image size and quality. It also doubles to ‘select’ items in menus.
Let’s take a brief look at what’s in the function menu before we move on, shall we?
- Sub-mode (Program, super macro) varies according to mode on the dial
- Exposure compensation (+/- 2 in 1/3 steps)
- ISO speed (Auto, High Auto, 80, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600)
- White balance (Auto, daylight, cloudy, tungsten, flourescent, fluorescent H, custom)
- Drive mode (Single shot, self timer 2 or 10 seconds, custom timer, burst)
- Photo effects (Standard, vivid, neutral, sepia, black & white, custom, My Colors)
- Image size and compression
On the top of the camera, there are just two buttons: the power button and shutter button, plus a speaker towards the very right. There’s nothing else except the wrist strap mount on the very right of the camera – Told you the A470 was a simple camera!
This side of the A470, housed under a single rubber cover, is where the camera’s three ports (A/V out, USB and AC adapter) are located.
Then on the right side of the A470 is the battery and memory card compartment. There’s no clip which holds the batteries in place so be careful when swapping memory cards. If you look closely below the AA batteries at the tray labeled ‘CR1220’, that’s where a small watch battery used to power the camera’s internal clock is stored.
Under the PowerShot A470 is a plastic tripod mount. And with that, we’ll go on to taking pictures with the A470…
Taking pictures (Shooting mode)
In terms of information display, the Canon PowerShot A470 doesn’t tell you much on its shooting screen. There’s the camera settings from the function menu and an optional 3X3 framing grid you can turn on but no live histogram to be found here.
The 7 megapixel PowerShot A470 has other image size choices available in case you want to shoot at lower resolutions, and they include: 7 MP, 5 MP, 3 MP, 2 MP and VGA. There are three compression options available; Superfine, Fine and Standard… I’d recommend choosing Fine since Superfine file sizes are a bit large while Standard compresses pictures noticeably. A date stamp feature is available which, as the name says, puts on the date that a picture was taken… but there is a limitation to using the 2 megapixel setting for this; I suppose Canon doesn’t think you’ll print any more than 4 x 6 for date stamped photos.
Let’s take a look at the Canon PowerShot A470’s menu system now:
- AF mode (Face detection, 9 point AF, center AF)
- AF point zoom – magnify the area the camera focused on
- Digital zoom – you should keep this turned off, it lowers picture quality
- Flash settings – turn red-eye reduction and slow
- Metering method (Evaluative, center weighted, spot)
- AF assist beam
- Shooting and review info
- Auto review
- Auto category – the camera attempts to organize your photos into categories automatically
- Display overlay
- Set print button – customize what this button does in shooting mode
There aren’t any other exciting or unique features that the Canon PowerShot A470 so I’ll jump right to talking about its closeup modes. There are two macro modes available on the A470. The first normal macro mode has a minimum focusing distance of 5 cm at wide-angle and 25 cm at telephoto which is quite decent. The second is super macro mode which is more impressive – it locks the lens at wide-angle but cuts the focusing range to 1 – 10 cm. the first ‘normal macro’ mode has a minimum focus distance of 20 cm which isn’t at all impressive. The other one is Super Macro mode, which zooms a little into the photo and limits the focusing range to 7 – 50 cm. While that 7 cm range is more like it, there are still other cameras out there which can go in closer to around 3 to 5 cm.
The Canon PowerShot A470 is fairly conservative in terms of number of scene modes. There aren’t many, but I suppose they’ll be sufficient for most shooting situations: portrait, foliage, snow, beach, sunset, fireworks, aquarium, indoor, kids & pets and night snapshot. The Canon PowerShot A470 also has face detection which works in conjunction with any of its shooting modes.
As an entry-level camera, the A470 is pretty bare in terms of manual controls, but one thing that I appreciate here is manual control over long shutter speed. You can select a shutter speed from 1.3 to 15 seconds to take night shots.
The video mode on the Canon PowerShot A470 has improved versus the A460 but is still beaten by most of the competition. The camera is able to record VGA (640 X 480) movies with sound at just 20 FPS (The norm is 30 FPS, which many other cameras at this price point already have) so don’t be surprised if video motion comes out a little on the choppy side. A long play option doesn’t change things much, it just compresses the file size so you can record longer movies.
If you’re looking for smoother video, there’s an option which records at 30 FPS but lowers resolution to QVGA (320 X 240). For both VGA and QVGA resolutions, there’s a limit of 4 GB or 60 minutes per movie clip, whichever comes first.
Finally there’s the 160 X 120 recording setting, which is too small to be useful nowadays in my opinion, which shoots at 15 FPS for up to 3 minutes per clip.
There aren’t too many other things to play around with, you can’t use optical zoom while shooting. Full resolution video motion was a bit choppy at 20 FPS while audio quality was acceptable.
For an entry-level camera, the PowerShot A470 starts up pretty quickly, in about one second that is. Focusing is quick, taking between 1/5 to 1/2 second and the camera had no problem focusing in low-light too.
Shot-to-shot speed – 1 shot every 1.5 seconds, above average
Flash recharge time using a fully charged battery – 8 seconds on average
The A470 is one of those few cameras where you can half press the shutter button and pump several shots without having to refocus or enter burst mode. And speaking of burst mode, the Canon PowerShot A470 has a nice one which shoots at a little under two frames per second… 1.8 FPS to be exact. You can keep snapping away at full resolution until the memory card fills up which is very good.
The camera’s lens moves from wide-angle to telephoto within 1.6 seconds but the movement produces an audiable sound (which is the reason you can’t use it while recording movies) and there are less than ten steps within the zoom range.
Finally, as you would expect from the A470’s rather speedy performance, it turns off within 2 seconds. Overall I was very pleased with the Canon PowerShot A470’s above average speed… having reviewed several [sluggish] entry-level cameras lately, I am delighted that at least one manufacturer had a budget camera with very good performance.
The Canon PowerShot A470 takes pictures quickly, and now we’ll see if it takes good pictures:
ISO 80 (f3.0, 1/8 sec)
ISO 100 (f3.0, 1/15 sec)
ISO 200 (f3.0, 1/30 sec)
ISO 400 (f3.0, 1/60 sec)
ISO 800 (f3.0, 1/125 sec)
ISO 1600 (f3.0, 1/250 sec)
Let’s take a close look at those sample crop photos now. At ISO 80 and 100, pictures look clean and very usable. The ISO 80 crop is a tad cleaner than ISO 100 if you really pixel peep, but no issues here. Noise levels go up slightly at ISO 200, they’re certainly more visible now. There’s even more traces of noise in the ISO 400 crop.
Noise becomes more apparent at ISO 800 and this is where details have gone downhill and images look a bit messy. You could use this for really small 4 x 6 prints or a digital image frame but nothing more. Colors are still accurate throughout the ISO 80 – 800 range as you can see. At ISO 1600, noise becomes worse and pictures lose saturation, I doubt there’s much or any use for this kind of image quality.
The Canon PowerShot A470 produces pretty decent photos, color accuracy was good, noise was controlled and chromatic aberration (color fringing) levels were low. Distortion was not an issue either, the pincushion distortion at telephoto was barely noticeable in real life. The only thing here was redeye which appeared in people photos, which thankfully could be removed in playback via the tool in the menu.
Wanna see some full-sized photos taken with the camera? Check out the Canon PowerShot A470 photo gallery.
The Canon PowerShot A470 has a pretty basic playback mode. You can browse through pictures (complete with transition effects) and play video with sound… and also, you can rotate, print mark, resize, attach voice clips and playback photos as a slideshow. You can magnify still photos by 10X and take a look around using the 4 arrow buttons.
Images can be displayed as single photos, in sets of nine thumbnails or by category. You can also use the JUMP feature to skip several photos at a time or to go to a certain shooting date… not as convenient as the calendar view found on some other cameras but it works. There’s a red-eye removal tool in playback which is very helpful (And it works) in removing red eye from your people photos.
The Canon PowerShot A470 displays a lot of information about your photos, more than most budget cameras. There’s shooting settings, exposure information (that includes shutter speed and aperture value) and a histogram as well. Like some of the higher end Canon cameras, overexposed areas of your photos will blink as well!
The 7 megapixel PowerShot A470 is a budget entry-level camera which is easy to use. It has a decent and usable (but not exceptional) 2.5 inch LCD, large buttons and good battery life. The camera is simple, being an entry-level one, there’s no suite of manual controls here but you still can find long shutter speed control and custom white balance, plus a handful of scene modes. Design wise, the camera is mostly plastic, but it doesn’t creak or anything… there are few buttons but there’s something I’d like to nitpick about that; a dedicated zoom controller is missing and I’m sure those up/down buttons for zoom could be put to better use if there was one.
While the camera’s performance was excellent (even more so when you consider this is an entry-level camera), the A470’s 20 FPS movie frame rate wasn’t too impressive. Then again, the main purpose you’re getting a camera is to take photos, and the PowerShot A470 does take good photos. Noise levels were good till ISO 400 and you could still savage ISO 800 shots, and photo distortion overall was low.
While I reviewing the A470, it is also my responsibility to tell you that Canon recently announced the newer PowerShot E1 which replaces the A470 at the $200 price point. The E1 has 8 megapixels, a 4X stabilized lens and an optical viewfinder (and not many other changes). Does that mean you should stay away from the A470? No, in fact, it’s the opposite since the A470 can now be found at even cheaper prices, around the $100 range! So if you’re looking at a bargain basement priced camera with a decent feature set, fast performance and good image quality, by all means take a close look at the PowerShot A470.
- Very low selling price
- Good battery life (but some cameras are still better)
- Decent LCD visibility (though see below)
- Fast performance in all areas
- Long exposure mode and custom white balance; both rare on budget cameras
- 1 cm super macro mode
- Redeye correction, comprehensive info display in playback
- Image quality is good at ISO 400 and below, ISO 800 for small prints
- Low LCD resolution
- No dedicated zoom controller
- Lens isn’t too wide, not stabilized either
- No optical image stabilization
- Choppy 20 FPS VGA movie mode
- 2 GB SD card
- Set of 4 AA rechargeable batteries and a fast charger