Operation and controls

Canon has found a formula for camera operation and control that works well, and the A620 will be very familiar to anyone who's used a Canon compact in the last few years. The control layout is almost identical to the PowerShot A95 it replaces, although the slightly different body design and larger screen means a few of the buttons have moved, and a couple have new functions. As mentioned earlier I was disappointed to see that the ISO button (seen on the latest Ixus / Elph models) didn't make its way onto the A620. There is also now a dedicated AE compensation button (which also covers AF frame location and switches between apertures and shutter speeds in manual mode).

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Despite being a 'budget' model the A620 - like the A95 before it - has a real wealth of photographic features, and though most advanced options are only accessible via menus (rather than via external controls), the interface is well designed and fast to use.

Rear of camera

The rear view of the A620 will find most Canon users in fairly familiar territory - it's very similar to the A95, and offers a similar set of controls to the more expensive G and S series cameras. Although I personally would like to see a couple more external controls (for drive mode, white balance and ISO setting for example), the excellent FUNC menu design means these settings are never more than a couple of button presses away.

Top of camera

The A620 is marginally deeper than the A95 (due to the slightly deeper - and better - grip). As you can see, the top of the camera is home to the main power switch, mode dial and zoom control / shutter release.

Display and 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. There's nothing particularly new here - but then why change a system that works?

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. In these shots we've also turned on the 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.

In P (Program) mode you can activate a program shift function by pressing the +/- button after the exposure has been calculated, which is a bit fiddly, but useful.

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.
Novice photographers get a selection of subject-based 'scene' modes (accessed from the SCN position on the mode dial). Changing subject mode is again a simple matter of pressing the left and right arrow keys. A manual focus option (activated by pressing the Macro/down arrow twice) has the option - not turned on in this shot - to magnify the central portion of the preview for more accurate focus assessment.
AE-compensation - available in all auto exposure modes except the 'idiot-proof' AUTO - is a simple case of pressing the +/- button and using the left/right arrow keys to change the value. The screen brightens or darkens to reflect the effect of any AE-compensation in use. Selecting the 'My Colors' option on the mode dial brings up several extra options, allowing you to boost certain colors, swap colors in the scene (screenshot), remove all but one color (all other colors come out black and white) or set custom colors (screenshot). It's not Photoshop, but it's a nice novelty.
Pressing the FUNC menu brings up the usual array of shooting options, covering everything from AE compensation to white balance, sensitivity, picture effects, drive mode, metering and image size/quality. It's fast, and doesn't clutter up the screen. Note that the menu is normally shown overlaid on the preview image - we've used a plain background for clarity. The record menu is where you find controls you're likely to need much less frequently, including focus mode, red eye reduction, digital zoom and so on.