Operation and controls

Canon has a very consistent approach towards design and layout of camera controls; the controls and menus on the A570 IS will be very familiar to anyone who's used a Canon compact in the last few years and are almost identical to previous A series models. There is only a comparatively small number of external controls available on the A570 but the excellent design of the FUNC menu means most crucial settings such as White Balance, drive mode and ISO are never more than a couple of button presses away. We've complained before about the lack of an external ISO button (something even point and shoot IXUS models have these days), but you can at least set the direct print button to control ISO.

Rear of camera

The rear view of the A570 IS will find most Canon users in fairly familiar territory - it hasn't changed a lot in the last few years. From the top we've got the play/record mode switch, AE compensation button (also used to alter exposure settings in manual mode and as a delete button in playback mode), direct print button, four-way controller (with the FUNC/SET button in the middle), display and menu buttons. The four-way controller is used to navigate menus, change exposures and to cycle through the flash and focus (auto, manual, macro) modes. The function of the direct print button can be customized for direct access to a number settings such as ISO or White Balance.

Top of camera

Just as previous A series models the A570 IS features an excellent hand grip. As you can see, the top of the camera is home to the main power switch, mode dial and zoom control / shutter release.

Controls & Menus

Canon's menu and on-screen display system has - despite minor appearance tweaks here and there - remained admirably consistent across camera ranges and generations, and it works well enough (though the fact that most settings are changed with menus rather than external buttons or dials can slow manual operation down a little).

Pressing the DISP button cycles between three preview settings; off (use the optical viewfinder), preview image only (no information displayed) and - as shown above - full information. There's plenty of information ranged around the edge of the preview image. Note that the amount of information displayed will depend which mode you are shooting in. There is also an optional grid, which can help keep things straight. Half press the shutter and the camera will set the focus and exposure, indicating the focus point chosen (in AiAF mode), plus the shutter speed and aperture chosen by the AE (auto exposure) system.
Users of previous PowerShots will be perfectly at home with the record mode FUNC menu, which offers fast access to a wide range of controls over shooting and image parameters including metering, white balance, ISO and file size / quality. There's also extensive tonal control available via the 'MyColors' menu. Note that the FUNC menu is normally shown as an overlay on the live preview (as shown here). In AUTO mode - shown here - the FUNC menu has many of its options grayed out, as you can only change the most basic settings.
In shutter and aperture priority modes the setting is changed using the left and right arrow keys. In manual exposure mode the +/- button toggles the setting changed by the left/right arrow keys between the shutter speed and aperture. Half press the shutter and the display shows how far you are from the metered exposure as an EV value. Record mode menu allows you to change everything from AF mode to digital zoom and red-eye reduction. It is also here where you'll find the options for image stabilization.
The lack of external controls is made up for slightly by the shortcut button, which allows you to customize the function of the direct print button (most importantly allowing you to change ISO or White Balance). There was a time when A series PowerShots lacked all the latest Canon features, but these days even models like the A570 IS get a dollop of DIGIC III goodness, including Face Detect AF.
The setup menu - accessible in both record and playback modes - offers control over various camera-related parameters, including audio, file numbering, date and time and card formatting. The play menu offers the usual range of options, including protecting, rotating and deleting images, plus a sound recorder.
One of the three alternative play mode views includes a histogram display and exposure information. In play mode you get the usual option for viewing thumbnails (3x3).
You can also magnify saved images up to 10x. One thing you don't get on an A series is Canon's smart new slideshow and transition options. The A570 IS has Canon's now standard Print menu, which simplifies the direct print process (something I must confess I've rarely used on any camera).