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Conclusion - Pros

  • Good resolution
  • Bright, vivid - though natural - color
  • Good edge-to-edge sharpness
  • Useful new 35-140mm equiv. 4x zoom lens
  • Reliable focus and exposure
  • Lots of manual controls
  • Excellent build quality for a budget camera
  • Very little purple fringing
  • Excellent flash exposures and color
  • Good screen
  • Excellent battery life from 2x NiMH batteries
  • Zoom-linked flash
  • Usable manual focus
  • Playback histogram
  • Excellent value for money

Conclusion - Cons

  • High noise at ISO 400
  • Focus can be slow - especially at the long end of the zoom
  • Flash recycle way too slow
  • Minimum two-second shot-to-shot time
  • Slow start-up

Overall conclusion

It would be hard to find a more suitable first digital camera for the novice digital photographer than the PowerShot A520. No matter what the situation, the A520 turns out perfectly exposed and focused results shot after shot. And the fact that as well as idiot-proof 'point and shoot' modes and scene modes you get a full array of manual options means it's a camera that you can grow with as your skills develop.

The build quality is excellent, the results - though probably a little 'over-processed' for purists (and almost all are in need of a little sharpening in post processing) are perfect for the target market; bright, colorful and contrasty. Our only serious complaints are to do with some aspects of the speed of operation - focus can struggle in low light at the long end of the zoom (sometimes taking up to two seconds to find its mark), the shot-to-shot time (when not in burst mode) feels very slow if you're trying to grab shots quickly, and the flash recycle time is frankly unacceptable.

So then, we have a solidly built and sophisticated camera that delivers more than one could expect at this price point, a camera that makes taking good pictures easy, but a camera that can sometimes feel frustratingly slow. For the money it seems churlish to complain about the performance of the camera when pushed to take pictures in rapid succession 'under pressure', but if that's your style of shooting, the A520 - or any budget camera for that matter - probably isn't for you. If not, this is a mature and capable product that's well worth a closer look.

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