Canon PowerShot A650 IS Review

Product: Canon PowerShot A650 IS Digital Compact Camera
Manufactured by: Canon
Reviewed by: Howard Carson, March 2008
Requires: An interest in photography
MSRP: US$299.95, UK£289.00

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What separates the huge assortment of mediocre point & shoot compact digital cameras from the good ones? Image quality! Canon has consistently come up with designs and technology which continue to keep it in the forefront of compact camera design, usability and image quality. The Canon PowerShot A650 IS Digital Compact Camera is a feature packed, versatile handful designed to please intermediate and advanced amateur photographers and to attract beginner photographers who want something noticeably more complex than so many of the dumbed-down and control-free point & shoot cameras available today.

The PowerShot A650 IS is the top-of-the-line A-series PowerShot model as of this writing. It is a 12.1 megapixel camera with a 6x optical zoom coupled to Canon's patented Optical Image Stabilizer (IS) technology. IS is specifically designed to deliver clear, blur-free images in many low light situations and all through the zoom range. The PowerShot A650 IS is built around Canon's latest generation DIGIC III Image Processor which now provides among other things enhanced Face Detection, ISO 1600 and fast in-camera red-eye correction.

Canon's extremely popular A-series is a curious thing to observe. All of the models in the series are relatively lightweight, use 'AA' batteries (two in most models; four in the A650 IS), and offer a large number of shooting and picture controls. After using the PowerShot A650 IS for a week or so and occasionally perusing the user manual during that time, you'll begin to wonder if Canon made some sort of mistake. The question you end up asking is why Canon decided to pack so many well-designed and easy to use features into a camera at this price point. There's nothing on the market right now which has this much packed into it at this price point and which does so much so well at this price point.

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. 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. (More in the full review)

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. 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. Read the full review at