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Canon PowerShot A490 / A495 Ken McMahon, April 2010

Canon PowerShot A490 / A495 verdict

The Canon PowerShot A490 / A495 is a budget compact with a 3.3x zoom lens, 10 Megapixel sensor and 2.5in screen. It retains many of the features of the A480 that it replaces, adding Canon's Intelligent Auto exposure with scene recognition, improved face detection AF and some new scene modes to a slightly redesigned body. It also supports the new SDXC memory cards whilst retaining compatibility with existing SD and SDHC cards.

The A490 shares the A495's feature set, with a slightly less sophisticated intelligent auto and AF system, and fewer scene modes. It's available in silver only, and in the UK is sold exclusively by Argos. Like earlier A series Powershots, the A490 / 495 relies on a pair of AA batteries for power.

The A490 / A495 is designed for simplicity, featuring fewer external controls than higher end PowerShots. The mode dial is replaced with a single button which activates a menu and display information overlays, which on other PowerShots have a dedicated button have been moved to menus. Before our final verdict, let's see how it compares to one of the most affordable rivals around right now, along with whether it's worth stepping-up to the next model in Canon's range.



Compared to Canon PowerShot A3000 IS / A3100 IS


The Canon PowerShot A490 / A495 is a real stand-out budget choice, beating the more expensive PowerShot A3100 IS / A3000 IS hands-down in our image quality tests. It lacks the higher resolution of the A3000 IS / A3100 IS, but unless you like to make big prints, this is unlikely to be an issue for you. The A490 / A495 out-performed the A3000 IS / A3100 IS in both our real-life resolution and high ISO noise tests.

So, a better camera for less money, right? In terms of picture quality, absolutely. In terms of other things like zoom range, maximum aperture, screen size, battery life, physical size and good looks, the A495 / A490 is one step behind the more expensive Canon Compact

Where the A495 / 490 really loses out to the A3100 IS / A3000 IS is in low light capabilities. Although its high ISO performance is very good, it lacks any form of image stabilisation and on the A3000 IS / A3100 IS that means you can still be taking sharp hand-held photos long beyond the stage where other cameras will be recording fuzzy blurs. The other big drawback with the A490 / A495 is the flash recycling time. If you take a lot of indoor pictures and don't like having to wait around this may not be the best choice for you.

See our Canon PowerShot A3000 IS / A3100 IS review for more details.



Compared to Nikon COOLPIX L22


Despite the fact that it's significantly less expensive than the PowerShot A490 / A495, the Nikon COOLPIX L22 actually looks like the more expensive camera. And when you look at the specifications you begin to wonder if it's low price isn't an oversight. The L22 has 2 Megapixels of resolution more than the PowerShot A490 / A495, an screen that's bigger by half an inch with twice as many pixels and a zoom lens that extends beyond the reach of the Canon compact at the telephoto end.

The COOLPIX doesn't have optical image stabilization, but then neither does the A490 / A495, and the COOLPIX at least has Electronic VR post-processing, ineffective as it was in our tests. The COOLPIX also lacks a lot of the control options provided by both the Canon compacts. For many people this will be its major attraction, but if you like to be able to take control occasionally, you may find its totally automated approach frustrating. And lastly there's the quality, In our real-life resolution tests the COOLPIX L22 failed to match up to the quality of either of the Canon compacts and was well behind behind the A490 / A495 which turned in an outstanding performance.

The question you have to ask yourself is how important is top-notch image quality and some degree of control over camera settings to you? If neither of those things is near the top of your list, the COOLPIX L22 is a great value for money buy.

See our Nikon COOLPIX L22 review for more details.

Canon PowerShot A490 / A495 verdict

The Canon PowerShot A495 is a budget-priced compact with the image quality of a camera in a different league. In our tests it outclassed both its more expensive stablemate, the Canon PowerShot A3000 IS / A3100 IS and the less expensive Nikon COOLPIX L22.

There are however some things about the A490 / A495 that leave you wishing Canon had pushed things just that little bit further. A slightly wider zoom range, a bigger and more detailed screen, optical image stabilization - any one of these would have taken the camera to another level. Arguably, that level is where you'll find the PowerShot A3000 IS / A3100 IS, but it's more expensive and lacks the A490 / A495's superb all round image quality.

And that really is this model's biggest selling point. It has a fairly pedestrian specification which is unlikely to set your heart racing the way the COOLPIX L22 might, with its impressive array of features that surely belong on a more expensive model. But if what you're looking for is a capable enough budget compact that offers superb picture quality then you won't be disappointed.

Good points
Simple and elegant design.
Superb image quality for the money .
Convenient power source.
Some control over settings.

Bad points
No optical or sensor-shift image stabilization.
Slow flash recycling.
Relatively small and low resolution screen.
Limited zoom range.


(relative to 2010 compacts)

Build quality:
Image quality:


17 / 20
17 / 20
16 / 20
16 / 20
17 / 20


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