Canon PowerShot A650 IS Digital Compact Camera review continued

Indoor shooting is not a strong suit. The built-in flash is competent, not great, although the flash compensation control is terrific because it lets you dial back the flash power to prevent it from overpowering or blowing out nearby subjects. Longer than normal exposures off a stable base or tripod at low ISO, flash turned off, can be quite noisy—surprisingly so actually. As a matter of fact, shooting some indoor objets d'art using bright natural light from a nearby window did a good job of confusing the camera into mis-setting the white balance. That particular problem is easily solved with A650 IS because a press of the rear Func/Set button brings up all the white balance selections so that you can quickly choose the best one for the lighting conditions. Manually setting the white balance is the best idea for indoor shooting with this camera. Most indoor noise issues disappeared when we turned the flash back on.

Speaking of noise—currently one of the hottest topics of conversation on most of the online photography forums—the PowerShot A650 IS does quite well. Noise at ISO100 through 200 is very well controlled and essentially non-existent in most outdoor shots and most well-controlled indoor flash shots. Noise begins to intrude noticeably at ISO400 which will usually limit your print sizes to 8"x10"/A4 paper. Beyond ISO400, unless you're really careful and lighting conditions are excellent, image quality can be usable but even with lots of post-processing don't expect to get clean prints any larger than 4" x 6"/10cm x 15cm.


The Canon PowerShot A650 IS has something called a Print/Share button located on the upper left rear corner. Connect the camera to a Canon CP, SELPHY or PIXMA Photo Printer or any PictBridge-compatible photo printer, PC or Mac computer, then press the lit Print/Share button and either print or transfer photos to a computer. We've got a PIXMA photo printer and the results we got out of the A650 IS are quite good. You can also print stills using the Movie Print function to output shots extracted from a recorded movie on a single sheet with a Canon SELPHY Compact Photo Printer. We don't have a SELPHY of any kind to test this feature.

The PowerShot A650 IS is equipped with Canon's Optical Image Stabilizer Technology (IS). It's designed to detect camera shake, correct it instantaneously (within certain physical movement limits) and thereby helps to ensure a higher percentage of sharp photos. It works well in practice, but IS (and Nikon's version, called Vibration Reduction or VR, and competing technologies from other makers) isn't a cure-all in the A650 IS or any other camera.

Canon's DIGIC III processor provides Face Detection technologies, a very popluar feature in most of the compact cameras on the market right now. Face Detection AF/AE sets the focus point and exposure for the faces of your subjects (people, pets, farm animals, wildlife closeups too sometimes), something made possible by the enormous amount of processsing power offered by the DIGIC III. The Face Detection feature also adjusts the built-in flash to more accurately light your subject in an effort to avoid over or underexposed faces as much as possible. The A650 IS I reviewed tended to overexpose images by about 2/3 of a stop which I compensated for by dialing back the EV and storing it permanently in the programmable Custom setting.

Cons: The 173K pixels in the LCD are sufficient for a variety of purposes but pale in comparison to the bright, razor sharp, high resolution LCDs we're starting to see on cameras from competing makers. The shoot/playback switch operates coarsely—functional but somewhat inelegant—and it's hard to figure out why Canon has stuck with this sort of switch when all the other makers have mercifully moved to playback buttons. The single metal strap lug is useful but barely large enough to accommodate a small steel split ring for those people who want to attach a top quality (UpStrap or Optech) wrist strap. Most of the camera makers are herewith reprimanded and spanked for not providing better strap lugs on most of their compact cameras. Dynamic range is only slightly above average for this class of camera so you still have to be very careful with exposures of high contrast subjects. The Optical Image Stabilization (IS) control is located two layers deep in a configuration menu, so it takes more than a few moments to turn it on and off. Might as well leave it on all the time, while also remembering that IS does not always guarantee blur-free photos. The creditable Movie mode can be ruined somewhat by wind noise even in very light breezes.

Pros: I don't understand how Canon does such a consistently superior job with so many of its point & shoot cameras. Competing camera makers must spend hours every day wondering just how Canon comes up with so many good compacts every year. That's not to say other manufacturers produce junk—far from it. But Canon leads the pack because some people over there are really thinking carefully about the best combinations of features, functions, controls, image quality and usability. The variable flash power setting is incredibly useful for making well-balanced portrait photos and for controling fill light—a wonderful feature to have in a camera in this price range. The Canon PowerShot A650 IS can consistently capture well balanced, richly colored photos in a wide range of shooting conditions. The Vari-angle articulating LCD screen is wonderfully useful and offers decent quality image playback too. Movie mode works well enough to make most people think twice about the need for a separate digital video camera. Movie audio is well controlled, with very little noise and clear recording albeit mainly in relatively calm wind conditions. Prominent grip on the right side fits most hands well and provides good control and handling. Uses popular and competitively priced SD storage cards. Very easy on batteries, consistently getting between 450-550 shots out of four 2500mAh Energizer NiMH rechargeable AAs. Price conscious photographers in need of the best value at this price point need look no further. SOHO and small business owners looking for an office or carry-around camera for use with clients and on job sites should consider the A650 IS. Image quality is suitable for framing and you'll have to spend a lot more money to take the next significant step up. Highly recommended.



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