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Canon PowerShot A520 4 to 5 Megapixel

4 star rating
                      4 / 5 (7 Reviews)
MSRP : $299.00

  • Image Sensor TypeCCD
    Resolution4.2 Megapixel
    Optical Zoom4x
    Camera TypeStandard Point and Shoot
    Interchangeable LensNot Interchangeable Lenses
    35mm Zoom Lens35 - 140 mm
    Digital Zoom3.6x
    Focus TypeAutofocus & Manual Focus
    Focus Range18 in. to Infinity (w)
    Macro Focus Range2 - 18 in. (w) / 11.8 - 18 in. (t)
    Focal Length5.8 - 23.2 mm
    Camera Resolution4.2 Megapixel
    Image Resolutions640 x 480 • 2272 x 1704 • 1600 x 1200 • 1024 x 768
    Video Resolutions320 x 240 (QVGA) • 640 x 480 (VGA) • 160 x 120
    Max Movie Length180 Seconds
    Video FormatAVI • Motion JPEG
    Aperture Rangef8/f8 (w/t) - f2.6/f5.5 (w/t)
    Shutter Speed15 - 1/2000 sec
    White BalanceAuto • Manual • Daylight / Sunny (Preset) • Cloudy (Preset) • Fluorescent (Preset) • Tungsten (Preset)
    Frames Per Second1.9 Frames
    Memory TypeSD Card
    Compression ModesFine • SuperFine • Normal
    Compression TypeJPEG
    File Size (High Res.)1.96 MB (65 images on 128MB card)
    File Size (Low Res.)0.08 MB (about 1,600 images on 128MB card)
    ISO SpeedsAuto • 50 • 100 • 200 • 400
    Flash TypeBuilt-In
    Flash FunctionsFlash Off • Auto Flash • Fill-in Flash • Red-eye Reduction Flash
    LCD PanelWith LCD Panel
    LCD Panel Size1.8 in.
    LCD Screen Resolution115,000 pixels
    LCD Protected PositionWithout LCD Protected Position
    Interface TypeUSB
    Video InterfaceVideo Out
    Battery Type2 x AA Batteries
    Battery Life300 Images
    Self Timer2 Sec. • 10 Sec.
    Mp3 Built In
    Built-in MicrophoneWith Built-in Microphone
    Tripod MountWith Tripod Mount
    Operating SystemApple Mac OS X • Microsoft Windows 2000 • Microsoft Windows 98SE • Microsoft Windows ME • Microsoft Windows XP
    Width3.57 in.
    Depth1.51 in.
    Height2.52 in.
    Weight0.4 lb.
    Warranty1 Year
    Included Accessories2 x AA Batteries • Software • USB Cable • Video Cable • Hand Strap • 16 MB Memory Card
    Release DateFebruary, 2005
    Product ID23626623

Product Description

For quality images and sophisticated features, the PowerShot A520 is by far the leader among popularly priced digital cameras. With 4.0 Megapixel resolution, Canon's exclusive DIGIC Image Processor and a new, longer 4x optical zoom, images are crisp and bright with true-to-life color. The new ergonomic grip and big 1.8 inch LCD screen make this camera as fun to use as it is easy.

by Loren Crannell

The Canon PowerShot A520 is a compact digital camera designed for the person on the run. It has a 4.0-megapixel CCD and a 1.8-inch LCD display. The A520 is a continuation of the Canon Powershot A-Series camera line, which provides advanced features with good image quality at an affordable price. Street prices start around $170.00

Price: $170 US

Canon PowerShot A520 Pros and Cons
  • Lightweight and compact
  • Manual controls
  • Readily available AA batteries
  • Anti-shake technology
  • No ISO info in EXIF data
  • Shutter lag very noticeable
  • Monitor is small compared to comparable cameras
  • Noise at higher ISO settings
  • Plastic body
Canon PowerShot A520 Studio Test Images
Canon PowerShot A520 Studio Samples ISO 50 Sample >>
ISO 100 Sample >>
ISO 200 Sample >>
ISO 400 Sample >>

More Canon PowerShot A520 Resources
All Canon PowerShot A520 Photos >>
Owner-posted Canon PowerShot A520 reviews >>
Write a Review >>
Canon Web site >>

Canon PowerShot A520 - front and back
I have been impressed with Canon's digital camera quality for some time. Two years ago I took a Canon G3 on a trip to Paris. And I use Canon digital SLRs for my professional photography work. The Canon PowerShot A520 is the first Canon consumer point-and-shoot digital I've had the opportunity to use. Although it's only a 4-megapixel camera, I was still interested. I wanted to see how it would perform as a point-and-shoot camera for family and spontaneous personal photography.
Canon PowerShot A520 Design
The camera feels very good despite its small size. Controls are well laid out and consistent with previous models. Even though I had never used this camera before, I was able to get around using my knowledge of the Canon G3. Consistency is important. As people upgrade or replace their cameras, it's nice that they don't have to learn a completely new camera control layout. It only took a couple of button pushes to change any setting on the camera, including exposure control, white balance, ISO. The zoom is adjustable through use of a thumbwheel beside the shutter release; it controls a 4.0-times optical zoom (35mm-140mm equivalent) and a 3.6-times digital zoom.

Canon PowerShot A520 - Controls Canon PowerShot A520 - Battery
Left: Canon PowerShot A520 Shooting Mode Controls
Right: Canon PowerShot A520 Battery Compartment

Included is a 1.8-inch lcd monitor that is quite small in comparison to those of other digital cameras, but to be fair, those cameras cost $50-100 dollars more. It is possible to have so much data on the monitor that you have very little screen left for composition. The camera is driven by two double-A batteries, giving the Canon a convenient and readily available power source. I have been able to shoot for over a week on lithium batteries without having to change the batteries. Overall, I was very impressed with the entire design of the Canon A520, with the reservation coming from having to deal with a small screen. The durability of the camera came into question when I stumbled and it suffered a small impact. As a result, the shutter cover didn't open fully. I was able to get it to open by tapping it with my finger, and eventually it started to work on its own again. A couple of friends who own this camera or the prior versions ran into this problem as well.

Canon PowerShot A520 - LCD Display
Canon PowerShot A520 detailed playback display, with histogram

Canon PowerShot A520 - LCD Display
Canon PowerShot A520 main menu
Canon PowerShot A520 - LCD Display
Canon PowerShot A520 menu during capture

Canon PowerShot A520 - LCD Display
Canon PowerShot A520 Exposure compensation setting
Camera Experience
It takes a little over two seconds for the camera to turn on, extend the lens, and be ready to take a picture. Once you are ready, you can easily compose a shot with the lens control button on the upper right of the camera. I found that I didn't need to use both hands to compose or to use the zoom button while taking a picture.

When the optical zoom is in use, the screen does not show when the camera switches from optical to digital zoom. Digital zoom quality is usually poor, so it's important to know when the camera goes from optical to digital zoom. An indicator should have been included in the A520's display. The screen will show histogram, exposure detail, white balance, and focus points. White balance is good for a camera at this price point, the best setting being automatic white balance. The daytime white balance setting was also very good for capturing a beautiful sunset without having to edit the photo. You can carry this small camera around and choose a white balance setting quickly to provide reliable results. While the auto white balance setting is good, I would still adjust the settings manually at times. For example, i would use the indoor setting when indoors under tungsten house lighting. I found that the camera tends to a yellow bias when on auto white balance in this situation.

There are other features on this camera, such as manual, aperture, shutter priority, and program modes that expand its capabilities. Exposure control is very easy, and i was grateful for an ISO 50. With most small digital point-and-shoots, you don't have anything greater than f/8 to limit the light that goes into the camera. Many times you are faced with very bright conditions, and a lot of small cameras cannot capture this data. Looking at the color mural shots, I found the light was very bright, but the Canon A520 did a great job of taking a good shot. Along with pre-programmed scene modes, portrait mode, and a landscape mode, the camera is very well rounded. Overall it was extremely easy to use and a pleasure to work with.

Image Quality
I found great quality in ISO 50 and 100, but noise levels were high at 200 and 400. Along with a lack of high ISO capabilities, there was a general lack of dynamic range. If you look at the photo with a skateboarder under a tree, the shadows are very dark, and the noise is easy to detect. If you are shooting scenes with heavy shadows, then this camera may not be able to pick up enough detail. I used evaluative exposure metering to test the its ability to find the right setting for real-life situations. Granted, this is a tough area for film and digital imaging alike, but a P&S shouldn't require a light meter. The shadow detail shortfall is not so bad that it should make you steer away from the camera, but it should be noted.

Canon A520 Mountain View Sunset Canon A520 Google Employee Skateboarder Canon A520 Mountain View Sunset
Click on thumbnails to view sample photos.

Canon A520 Alviso Mural Canon A520 Alviso Vibrant Color Canon A520 - Family Photo
Click on thumbnails to view sample photos.

On a more positive note, images with good consistent color allow for vibrant hues and very good human skin tones. In my opinion, the main reason many consumers buy a camera like this is to take photos of loved ones, and it did well for images of people in daylight and under flash. Even in pure automatic mode the camera's flash, speed selection, and resolution were acceptable for quality prints up to 8x10. I was particularly impressed with the vibrant mode in the functions. It reminded me of images straight from a Velvia 50 slide, and it was very nice to see a small camera packing such vibrant colors.

Images not subjected to in-camera processing provide sufficient depth to allow for some Photoshop maximization. My test images needed slight contrast and curve adjustments to get the most out of each shot, but I don't think anybody needs to be a Photoshop expert to get the images to print. Canon also provides a print mode when the camera is attached to a Canon printer; this allows for convenient printing and may eliminate the need to make any adjustments using software.

The Canon A520 is lightweight camera with credibility. When you are out-and-about, it can go with you without slowing you down. For the money, it will give you great shots of your family and personal events. The thing I liked the best was its ease-of-use, and I liked the availability of usable manual controls. You can actually use this inexpensive camera to learn about the fundamentals of photography and have enough features to take shots without thinking.

The main problem for me was the image noise at ISO 200 and 400, and the lack of shadow detail was sometimes troubling. Since I shoot mainly landscapes and travel photos, these things are important to me on a personal level, but if you are shooting people, then they are not as important. Shutter lag was annoying, and it seems to be among the longest I've experienced for a while. I lost a couple of shots due to the delay, which was annoying.

Mainly this camera should be considered on its affordability and quality. It's hard to find a camera at $170 that will give so much flexibility and such good results. Of course there are better cameras for $50-$100 more, but it's nice to have a reasonably priced option.

Who Should Buy The Canon PowerShot A520
If you want an inexpensive camera that you can take everywhere, then this is your camera. If you want a camera to use to learn the fundamentals of photography or wish for manual features, then this one will also be a good choice. For the price, you will find that the camera will allow you to have beautiful images for most print sizes. I think that one could give this type of camera to a juvenile for first photography experiences. Additionally, if you rarely make prints greater than 8x10, you will find this a great value. People who are looking for equipment for nature or outdoor photography shouldn't use this camera, but I don't think that this is the target market. Overall, it's great for almost any user looking for an affordable digital P&S camera. Most important, as a consumer, look at your options and compare other similar cameras before you buy.


Canon PowerShot A520 box contents
Contents of the Canon PowerShot A520.

  • PowerShot A520 Body
  • Wrist Strap WS-200
  • MultiMediaCard MMC-16M
  • 2 AA-type Alkaline Batteries
  • Digital Camera Solution CD-ROM
  • AV Cable AVC-DC300
  • Interface Cable IFC-400PCU
Other Resources:
Canon PowerShot A520 User Reviews >>
Write a Canon PowerShot A520 Review >>
Canon PowerShot A520 Sample Gallery >>
Canon Web site >>

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Reviews 1 - 5 (7 Reviews Total) | Next 15

User Reviews

Overall Rating:3
Value Rating:4
Submitted by Bruno Vasquez a Expert

Date Reviewed: June 12, 2007

Strengths:    Price, features.

Bottom Line:   
This is the family's camera. Easy to use but with enough advanced features to help produce exiting pictures. Fairly well priced for the trinket, the only drawback so far is the lens protective shutter always gets stuck when you first turn on the camera.

Expand full review >>

Duration Product Used:   6-10 years

Price Paid:    $175.00

Purchased At:   Circuit City

Type of photography:   Other

Overall Rating:4
Value Rating:5
Submitted by jewels a Intermediate

Date Reviewed: November 10, 2006

Strengths:    excellent photo quality for 4 meg
good color
easy to use menu
small, light
uses 2 aa
video good!

Weaknesses:    fairly slow start up
flash recycle time...very long and eats batteries
SHUTTER LAG, not a good action camera

Bottom Line:   
this was a warranty refurb. that replaced a faulty a70. It is a fine casual small digi to have, but a slow responder. Images are sharp, saturated and look great...but you need the light because the flash recycle time is unbearable and eats batteries. Yes, this is true.

Expand full review >>

Duration Product Used:   2-5 years

Purchased At:   warranty replacement

Similar Products Used:   a70 canon
panasonic dmc-fz5
d50 nikon
film cameras

Type of photography:   Other

Overall Rating:4
Value Rating:4
Submitted by al. a Casual

Date Reviewed: November 8, 2006

Strengths:    -rugged - I have dropped this camera three times during mountain bike rides
-multiple auto-settings, macro, manual settings, etc
-excellent battery life (use rechargeables)

Weaknesses:    -sticking shutter cover - not just my problem

Bottom Line:   
I like to take a lot of pictures of my family and my mountain bike rides. For my purposes this camera is perfect. It is fairly small, (although not the smallest) and doesn't eat batteries like some digital cameras I have used in the past. The pictures are good, although some red eye is unavoidable under certain conditions. Action shots turn out nicely and there is little shutter lag so I can usually get the shot I want.

Expand full review >>

Duration Product Used:   2-5 years

Price Paid:    $200.00

Purchased At:   best buy

Type of photography:   Sports

Overall Rating:5
Value Rating:5
Submitted by alg a Intermediate

Date Reviewed: February 16, 2006

Strengths:    Very good image quality from close ups to landscapes for a compact zoom P/S. Small size, ability to shoot full manual. 245 frames at superfine and largest size on a 512 MB SD memory card, decent zoom range.

Weaknesses:    Very poor performance at ISO 200 and 400, unacceptably long flash recharge time.

Bottom Line:   
I bought this to back up/compliment my dSLR camera for those times when carrying an SLR just isn't practical. What I really like is the ability to shoot fully manually if one wishes (including ability to use preset or custom white balances) or to flip the dial and shoot fully auto for the folks who aren't as familiar with photography (great for handing the camera over to someone to take some images for you). Image quality is very good. If you know some basics about photography and know what you can and cannot do with the camera then can actually produce excellent images with it.

Expand full review >>

Duration Product Used:   2-5 years

Purchased At:   newegg.com

Type of photography:   Outdoor

Overall Rating:3
Value Rating:4
Submitted by nirvana4u a Casual

Date Reviewed: February 1, 2006

Strengths:    night shot is very goood compared to others makes of this range,picture quality very fine,digital zoom is sexy

Weaknesses:    shutter speed is low,good to take still snaps rather,in a slight motion aslo photos becomes hazy

Bottom Line:   
this was my first digital camera,with 4mp,i use have a old one with less than 1mp,after take photos with this hotie the resolution was awesome.the first i used to take photos of my criket match in the feilds,the photos very incredible,all became fan to this little one

Expand full review >>

Duration Product Used:   2-5 years

Price Paid:    $310.00

Purchased At:   kolkatta

Similar Products Used:   i dint used similar one,i campered mine with my friends others makes of the same range

Type of photography:   Outdoor

Reviews 1 - 5 (7 Reviews Total) | Next 15

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