Flash Off • Auto Flash • Red-eye Reduction Flash • Slow Sync • Forced On
With LCD Panel
LCD Panel Size
LCD Screen Resolution
LCD Protected Position
With LCD Protected Position
4 x AA Batteries • Proprietary Lithium
2 Sec. • 10 Sec.
With Built-in Microphone
With Built-in Speaker
Apple Mac OS 9 • Apple Mac OS X • Microsoft Windows 2000 • Microsoft Windows 98 • Microsoft Windows 98SE • Microsoft Windows ME • Microsoft Windows XP
24 August, 2006
The first Canon A-Series camera with a 10-megapixel sensor, the PowerShot A640 also has a 4x optical zoom lens with a digital tele-converter. The A640 is equipped with a tilt / swivel LCD, 21 shooting modes, and ISO 800 sensitivity for low light shooting.
by Photo-John The Canon PowerShot A640 is a full-featured, 10-megapixel, compact digital camera with a 16:9 widescreen capture mode, image stabilization, and an extra-wide LCD display built into an attractive, sturdy metal body.
Get flash and exposure compensation buttons mixed up
Batteries fall out when accessing SD card
No image stabilization
I've been using the Canon PowerShot A640 since February, when I got it from Canon in order to do a review for the new SDHC (Secure Digital High Capacity) memory card format. The camera was delivered with a 2GB Kingston SD card and most of the review was done with that. Along the way, I used it for road trip photos, product photos for other camera reviews and a bike review, and plenty of landscape, pet, and candid people photos. We even used the A640 for our 2007 PMA Tradeshow video coverage!
The Canon A-Series cameras have been around for quite some time. The A640 is part of a mature camera line that's been proving itself for a few years now. The concept is a compact camera with tons of features and exposure controls that uses easy-to-buy AA batteries. Until the PowerShot G7 departed from the formula, the A-Series cameras were essentially a light version of Canon's top-of-the-line G-Series digital cameras. They offer almost all of the performance of a G-Series camera, for considerably less money. They've consistently been among the top ten most popular digital cameras on PhotographyREVIEW.com and I often recommend them to people who want an inexpensive compact digital camera that can do it all.
Canon PowerShot A640 Features
The "A" in A640 and the other Canon PowerShot A-Series digital cameras indicates that they use AA batteries. Although dedicated rechargeable batteries are nice, AA batteries are easy to find, inexpensive, and AA NiMH rechargables are readily available and have excellent life. AA batteries also means you don't have to carry a charger with you, unless you choose to use rechargeable batteries.
The feature that will attract most people to the A640 is the 10-megapixel sensor. Although no one should expect digital SLR image quality from any compact camera, having a sensor with this many pixels means more detail and great image quality as long as you can keep the ISO low. The maximum resolution is 3648 x 2736 pixels. If you use those pixels right, they'll easily be good for prints 11 x 14 inches and maybe even larger.
After the resolution, the next obvious feature is the tilt/swivel LCD display. This is a disappearing digital camera feature. Canon even eliminated it from their top-of-the-line compact digital, the PowerShot G7. So I'm glad to see it available on the A640. It makes it easier to shoot low and high angles, as well as your obligatory MySpace self-portrait.
For me, the most exciting thing about the A640 and the rest of Canon's A-Series digital cameras, is the range of exposure controls they offer. The A640 has standard point-and-shoot P (Program), and Green modes, as well as a bunch of Scene
Modes to help photographers who want to be more creative. It also has real manual exposure modes that give the photographer direct control of the shutter speed and aperture. Very few point-and-shoot digital cameras offer real manual exposure modes and they make for a much more powerful and capable camera.
Above: Photos taken with the Canon PowerShot A640's digital tele-converter feature set to 1.4x - Click for larger versions.
The Canon PowerShot A640's movie mode will shoot at 640x480 resolution and 30 frames-per-second, for up to one GB of memory. According to the manual, that's about 18 minutes of video. The manual also refers to a 1 GB limit, but doesn't really explain. We shot a lot of short videos with the A640 and never ran into any problems.
Canon PowerShot A640 Design
There's nothing remarkable about the A640, as far as design goes. It's not a pocket-sized camera, but it's much smaller than a digital SLR. It's also not a super-zoom so it's reasonably compact and flat. It's not going to fit in a pocket unless you're wearing some really big pants. People with big hands, who have trouble with super-compact digital cameras, will appreciate the larger size of the A640.
Left: Canon PowerShot A640 tilt / swivel LCD Right: Canon PowerShot A640 mode dial, shutter release, and zoom lever
The most interesting design element is the tilt / swivel LCD display. As I said in the Features section, tilt / swivel LCDs are becoming rare on digital cameras. So it's nice to have one available on an inexpensive A-Series camera. They offer some definite benefits if you like to take pictures at low, high, or otherwise non-standard angles.
Button layout is pretty standard, with a main control dial for Shooting Mode selection on the top of the camera. Menu and Function buttons on the back access camera controls. The Function button is sort of unique to Canon and can be found on all of their compact digital cameras. It accesses a menu of important camera shooting controls like ISO, color balance, quality, etc. Which controls it accesses depends on the shooting mode you've selected.
Although it's not a glamorous camera, the larger size means it has a little more mass, which makes it more stable and less susceptible to camera shake. The grip form of the right side, shutter release, and zoom lever create a nice, comfortable platform to take pictures with. The physical design of the A640 is sort of like an easy chair. It's not sexy, but it gets the job done in a very nice, comfortable way.
Canon PowerShot A640 record mode
Canon PowerShot A640 playback mode with all image info and histogram displayed
The Function button menu on the white balance options
Canon PowerShot A640 main menu
I used the A640 for about 4 months and it really grew on me. Initially, I wasn't that interested since it's a little bigger than I like my compact cameras. Mostly I use a digital SLR so I want a compact camera to fit in my pants pocket or a pouch on the shoulder strap of the backpack I wear while I'm mountain biking. But in spite of the somewhat chunky size, I found myself using it more and more. It's such a flexible and capable camera and the quality of most of the photos I shot was excellent for a non-SLR. I shot all kinds of stuff with this camera - flower close-ups, candid portraits, product photos, landscapes, pet photos, and even mountain bike action photos. There's almost nothing it can't do and unlike some compact digital cameras, I very rarely feel like I should have been shooting with something else.
The thing I like most about the A640 is the exposure control it offers. With my digital SLRs, I'm an all-manual guy. I rarely use auto exposure modes because I like to make my own decisions about shutter speed and aperture settings. However, with the A640 I mostly used aperture priority, choosing an aperture for depth-of-field, and then checking the LCD display to see if the shutter speed was adequate. If that didn't work, I could switch to Tv (shutter priority), or even full manual. It also has Scene Modes and pure auto exposure if you're not ready or interested in manual control. That's part of the beauty of this and other Canon PowerShot A-Series digital cameras. This is a camera that dad can be super techy with, then switch it to the Green mode (point-and-shoot auto exposure) and hand it over to the kids. It really has something for everyone.
A lot of you know that one of my main subjects is mountain biking. The A640 went along on a few mountain bike rides and performed very well. One thing that gets in the way of action photos is shutter-lag. Reaction time with the A640 was very good and I got a lot of very nice mountain bike photos with it. Full manual exposure controls definitely made a difference as I could use the Tv (shutter priority) mode to choose a shutter speed to freeze - or blur the action. Using the flash increased the shutter-lag, but it was still very usable for fast action mountain bike photos.
I have almost no video experience. I watch them and that's about it. We took the A640 to the annual Photo Marketing Association tradeshow and used the movie mode for short interviews and digital camera demos for our 2007 PMA show coverage. We were really pleased with the ease and quality of the A640's movie mode. The video quality was more than adequate and we never had any issues with storage. The tradeshow was also an excellent battery life test. Canon sent the A640 to me with a set of 4 Energizer e2 lithium batteries. Those batteries lasted through the show and for two more months after. That's incredible battery life! I've got a set of NiMH rechargables in the camera now and they're doing pretty good. But those Energizer e2 lithiums rule.
One thing I really missed with the A640 was image stabilization. There are so many compact digital cameras with image stabilization now, and it's such a beneficial feature, that I don't like to use cameras without it anymore. It's the one thing I think would really make this a better camera. Canon does have an A-Series PowerShot camera with image stabilization - the PowerShot A710 IS. But you trade resolution and the tilt/swivel LCD for the anti-shake system. I haven't tested that camera yet. But I'm curious. I think I might be willing to trade the A640's 10-megapixel sensor and LCD for image stabilization. I think the A710 IS might very well deliver more and better photos, even with less resolution, because of the image stabilization.
There were two design-related things that annoyed me about the A640. This may seem nitpicky, but the exposure compensation and flash buttons were a problem for me. I repeatedly got them mixed up and pressed the exposure compensation when I wanted the flash, and the flash button when I was trying to adjust the exposure compensation. This wouldn't be that big of a deal except that when I needed to work fast, pressing the wrong button meant I missed a shot. Any feature or design element that makes you miss a photo is bad.
The other design problem is the battery / memory card compartment. There's nothing to hold the four AA batteries in. Often, when I'd take out the memory card, all of the batteries would fall out of the camera. This isn't a reason to not buy the A640. But it sure is annoying when it happens.
I shot all kinds of subjects in all kinds of light with the A640. I also made prints from our studio tests to get a real world idea of the image quality. At ISO 80 the image quality is near perfect at 8.5x11. I think that the A640 has very usable image quality up to ISO 400 and even ISO 800 is ok, given the need and careful exposure. The higher the ISO, the more critical good exposure is going to be since noise is a bigger problem in shadow areas at high sensitivity. I tried to keep the ISO as low as possible and rarely shot above ISO 200. Although you can see some noise in dark reddish colors and shadows, well-exposed images are very printable up to 11x14, even at ISO 400. I even printed an ISO 800 image (see right) at 8.5 x 11 and felt the image quality was reasonable. I wouldn't use it all the time. But it's not unusable, like high ISO settings are with many compact digital cameras.
I almost always used auto white balance with the A640, and I think it performed very well. Some cameras have temperamental auto white balance that varies a lot depending on the light and subject matter. The A640's color was very consistent and always felt natural. I felt very little need to adjust my photos. They looked very good, right out of the camera.
Click on thumbnails to view sample photos.
Click on thumbnails to view sample photos.
The Canon PowerShot A640 is a great do-it-all compact digital camera. There's very little to find fault with, especially with the small price tag. The image quality is excellent for a compact, the size is a good compromise between pocket-sized and super-zoom cameras, and it's got modes and controls to meet almost any photographic need. The ISO 400 and ISO 800 image quality are good enough that most people won't miss having image stabilization. On the other hand, image stabilization would help people get more and better photos and it's the one thing that I would say is missing from the camera.
There's a reason people keep buying Canon's A-Series digital cameras. I don't think there's any other compact digital camera line that currently delivers as much bang for the buck, and does it with such quality. And the Canon PowerShot A640 is a solid representative of A-Series values and value. In spite of the lack of image stabilization, it's a winner and I will happily recommend it.
Who Should Buy The Canon PowerShot A640
I'm tempted to say that the A640 would be good for anyone. That's because it has something for everyone. It's perfect for the family that wants one digital camera to do it all, or for a serious beginning photographer who needs a camera with manual controls to learn and grow with. It would also make a great camera for a small business that needs a versatile camera or someone doing a lot of photography for online auctions or Web sites. On the other hand, if you're someone who likes to own the best or enjoys the feel of precision, high-end products, you may be disappointed by the A640. It's not that there's anything wrong with it. But its do-it-all, econonomical functionality makes it less than sexy. It's not the Ferrari of the camera world, by any means. It's more like a Dodge minivan - A Dodge minivan with a blower hidden under the hood.
- end -
Weaknesses: Lacks image stabilization. For this price it should come standard
My wife wanted a new digital point and shoot to take pictures of our two new grandsons. She had a Canon film point and shoot. I wanted to get her the best and easiest to use camera possible. We took this camera on a recent trip. I also took my Canon Elan 35mm film camera to compare the two. When we came home I had the digital images down loaded and a slide show with sound completed in less than an hour. It took a week to get the film processed. When we compared photographs, I immediately put my Elans (both of them) on ebay and bought a 5D for myself.
The A640 is an easy to use full featured camera that really gets the job done. Spend the few extra bucks and get the best!
I have had other point&shoot cameras such as the panasonic lz series and was disappointed with color saturation. I then move to the A630 (very good camera as well 8 mg.pix. gave it to my father) The features on these cameras leave the others in the dust and as for quality very hard to beat in a point and shoot.
"My Colors" mode provides PowerShot users with an incredible range of creative photo effects, which can be accessed directly from the camera with no need for post-processing in a computer. Consumers can adjust a specific color within an image to modify the look and feel of their picture. Available My Color playback modes include Vivid Blue, Vivid Green, Vivid Red, lighter and darker skin tones, as well as options for creating black & white, sepia, neutral and positive film effects. Where previously, users could only enable "My Colors" while shooting, the updated My Colors mode lets users retouch captured images as well, without the need for special software applications or tools.
The other thing I really like about this camera is the Two new shooting features for the A-Series line are Safety Zoom and Digital Tele-converter. The Safety zoom function allows users to comfortably explore digital zoom without sacrificing image quality while the new Digital Tele-converter digitally emulates having a traditional tele- converter attached. This helps to eliminate pixel break up as with normal digital zoom.
Over all GREAT Camera
Strengths: 1. Quality, quality, quality.
2. Easy at first, gadgets for later on.
3. Flip LCD is very useful and cool.
4. Takes good enough video by most people's needs.
5. Compared to other 10 MP cameras it's cheap.
6. Wow Factor = Impress your friends
Weaknesses: * use the wrist strap, we dropped ours with the LCD screen open, and now the screen doesn't close properly to the back of the camera. Still works, but annoying. Our fault though. It's too handy of a camera to send away to get fixed.
Easy peasy use at first, lots of bells and whistles for when you get the hang of it. We bought this camera because friends have a similar Canon but with lower MPs. They are totally jealous.
FIRST, the flip around LCD is awesome. When you want to take pictures of yourself this is the perfect option. You have to learn to look at the lens and not the LCD before you shoot though. But, with a digital camera people are always burning off photos of themselves, and then checking to see if they got it right. This camera...just flip the LCD and away you go.
SECOND, I must kindly disagree with the previous review which said that it can be complicated at first. There is an "auto" program which will work for most situations. Once you get more savvy then you can play with the settings.
THIRD, we have ours sets to the "superfine" quality setting. Hey, you never know which picture you will want to frame right? On this setting the card that comes with the camera just won't do. We bought a 2GB card for $50 Canadian, now we're good for 400 photos of the highest quality. We bought a 1GB card just for a upcoming trip, just in case.
FOURTH, the video quality is excellent, but get the big card I just mentioned.
FIFTH, be warned though, the 10 MP pictures are huge files that take up quite a bit of space on emails and your home computer. The size on the computer won't be a big deal for most home computers, but the upload to email will be slow. But hey, they're good quality photos when they get there.
SIXTH, we love the option of for timed photos. Buy yourself a cheap tripod ($5-$20) and then you can take advantage of the timed 10 photos in 10 seconds. This is awesome for group shots, no more worrying about someone with their eyes closed. There will be at least one good one. We used this at New Years Eve, worked awesome. The LCD flip comes in handy again here.
SEVENTH, love the placement of the zoom control. It's a ring around the shot button. Pull right to zoom in, pull left to zoom out.
It's awesome, your friends will be impressed, as will you.
Strengths: Easy to use and well built
Enough pixels to crop and still have large pictures
Very good lens quality
Uses AA Batteries for easy replacement (if needed)
Weaknesses: Only that the camera does not shoot in RAW format, only JPEG
You will need a large SD Card for an extended trip (not really a weakness, just the reality of a large file size) a 2Gb card will give you approx. 400 pictures.
Great Point & Shoot Camera for normal day to day pictures (Vacations, Family visits, and other times when you do not want to drag a large SLR around). Got this camera for my wife on vacation and cannot tell the difference between my SLR and the 640 pictures. Easy to use with still enough options to allow some control. Wife's comment was "Can I have my camera back now". She found it easy to use and not over-complicated, and I found it fun to use without having to think about the camera settings. The file size allows cropping and still having the ability to print large pictures.
While the camera was not abused on vacation, it was used between four people who are not the most gentle on cameras and the camera came through with flying colors.
As a plus, there is a Canon Underwater Case available for this camera. This makes the camera a great vacation camera.
I bought this camera back in 2006 for a cruise to Alaska, took great pictures, but I haven't used it much since then. Just the usual family shots.
I went to a concert at Universal Studios, tried to take photos at night of parade and concert, they cam e out VERY grainy. ANy help.
I leave in 5 d ... Read More »
I am a complete beginner so please bear with me!
I have purchased a Canon Powershot A640 and though I have managed to take a few good shots I am a little concerned by some shots being hazy, both indoors and outside.
I have tried taking the same shots on different settings without success ... Read More »
Hello Camera Enthusiasts,
This is my first time posting here. Again, hello and thanks for having me.
Before I get into my problem, I'd like to say that I have a "little less than nothing" where it concerns operating a camera. Which explains why I bought a Point and Shoot model. Anyway, I final ... Read More »
PhotographyREVIEW has a new review contest for June. For every review you post, you'll be entered to win a Canon PowerShot A640 digital camera. The A640 is a 10-megapixel, full-featured compact camera. It's part of Canon's proven A-Series PowerShot line, which uses AA batteries and packs all kinds o ... Read More »
My pro review of the 10-megapixel Canon PowerShot A640 digital camera has been posted. I've been using it since February, so you could call this a long-term test. And aside from not having image stabilization, I think the A640 is a pretty impressive camera.
[url=http://www.photographyreview.com/ ... Read More »