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Performance and Image Quality

Perhaps the 510 HS's biggest shortcoming is its performance. Although the camera isn't the slowest model in its class, start-up and shot-to-shot time are only average, at best. Shutter lag is pleasantly short though, even when using the LCD to trigger the capture. Continuous shooting at full resolution maxes out at about 3.3 frames per second but if you select Continuous Shooting AF, it slows to less than a frame per second. For really fast shooting, you'll have to make do with 3 megapixel images but they'll work well for smaller prints and you get to shoot at almost 8fps. The ELPH 510 HS offers Intelligent Image Stabilization, which has six options that automatically kick in to match what you're shooting (macro, panning, etc.). It works very well.

The most serious frustration when using the 510 is the performance of its touchscreen, which can be extremely laggy, making it very hard on occasion to accurately navigate the camera's menu system and explore its feature set. This is a shame because the 510 is pretty well-featured for its price. One thing to look out for though is that the 510's tiny lithium-ion battery lasts for only about 170 images (and that's being optimistic in my experience), making a second battery a really good idea, especially in cold weather conditions.

Image Quality

The ELPH 510 HS excels at capturing good quality still images which are characterised by rich and accurate colors. Detail capture is generally good (at least in bright light), but softens as you move up through the ISO range of 100-3200. Images are best at ISO sensitivities of 400 or less but are still good up to about 800. After that, results are fairly soft but the lens produces impressively little distortion at either end of its focal range (almost certainly thanks in part to in-camera correction).

Despite its complex 12X optical zoom the ELPH 510 HS is capable of delivering nice, detailed images with minimal distortion and corner softness. Watch out for chromatic abberations though (see image below).
Chromatic abberations can be a problem around high-contrast edges though. Take a look at the extreme left of this image (click for the full-size original).
As we've come to expect from Canon's PowerShot and IXUS range the ELPH 510 HS is a great social camera, and flash metering is very well-balanced. Here, the camera has opted for ISO 800, but despite some visible noise, image quality is high and exposure is pleasant.
A mode that's becoming increasingly common in modern cameras (and not just compacts) is a miniature, or 'tilt/shift' effect. Designed to create the illusion of a miniature scene, the ELPH 510 HS's miniature mode allows you to precisely place the zone of sharpness using the touch-sensitive screen.

Full HD video capture at 1080p with stereo sound and zoom is available at the touch of a dedicated button. A wind filter can be set on the internal menu but sound reproduction, not surprisingly, isn't outstanding. Video footage is good, and easily adequate for posting on the Web or viewing casually with family and friends. For both stills and video shooting under low light, noise is visible in files from the 510 and in high contrast conditions outdoors, the camera is prone to blown-out highlights. Overall though, the 510 is a nice little camera that will keep point-and-shoot users very happy, but its laggy touchscreen makes more 'hands-on' operation more frustrating than it should be.

Video

Video footage from the ELPH 510 HS is good without being outstanding. 1080p video is smooth and relatively detailed, although compression artefacts are visible on close inspection. As you can hear in this clip, taken outdoors, the camera's inbuilt mono mic is very capable, but sound reproduction is a little 'boomy' and unfocussed, and plenty of background noise has crept into the soundtrack here. An effective wind cut option is available when shooting in windy conditions, which is nice to see on a camera at this price point.

1920 x 1080 24fps, 5124MB, MOV, 30 sec. Click here to download original file
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