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It may look like a simple point-and-shoot camera, but Canon's PowerShot A410 has a few tricks up its sleeve.
Canon's 3.2-megapixel PowerShot A410 is like a magician's hat - just when you think there can't possibly be anything left in it, out pops a rabbit. No, silly, rabbits don't actually pop out of the A410 - we're making an analogy: The A410 is a great point-and-shoot camera that will surprise you with its unusual visual tricks.
Ergonomically, the A410 is just the right size: not a teeny-weenie boutiquer that cries out for baby fingers, and not a big, clumsy brick. The optical viewfinder is a great alternative to the 1.5-inch LCD, which can vanish in bright sunlight.
The A410's 3.2X optical-zoom lens (the equivalent of 41mm to 131mm on a 35mm camera) telescopes out in less than a second after you press the power button. With a large maximum aperture of f/2.8 (at full wide angle), you can capture images in most low-light situations without the flash. But when the flash is needed, it takes a full five seconds to recycle between shots, and its reach is only about 10 feet.
There's practically no delay (shutter lag) between when the moment you press the shutter button and when the picture is actually taken. You can take your next picture in about a second - fast for a point-and-shoot. When set to continuous mode, the camera can blaze along at 2.5 frames per second and keep on clickin' until it runs out of memory-card space - and that's going to happen in a wink with the wimpy 16MB MultiMediaCard that Canon supplies. We used a 128MB SanDisk Ultra II SD (interchangeable with an MMC) that gave us 74 high-resolution images instead of the eight we could fit on the bundled card.
The A410's Achilles' heel is that its slowest shutter speed is only one second; there's no bulb setting that allows for longer exposures. Some low-light night scenes we shot were underexposed. On the up side, there's a fast 1/2000-second setting to freeze action, which is more relevant to everyday shooting. There are also eight scene modes (including Portrait, Landscape, and Action), a setting for panoramas, and a supermacro mode for taking close-up shots up to a half-inch from your subject.
And then there are those extra tricks we mentioned earlier. Photo Effects can make pictures more vivid, desaturate them, capture them in sepia or black-and-white, or just soften the outlines. My Color settings push the envelope further by allowing you to swap one color for another or drop out every color except the one you choose for a neat color-accent image. It can even save both the full-color image and the one you've chosen to accent.
Once we had worthwhile shots, we rolled out some impressive 11-by-14-inch prints on an Epson Stylus Photo 2200. We then connected the camera to the $99 Canon Selphy CP510 printer (see Reviews, p48), selected an image to output, pressed the A410's Print/Share button, and in less than a minute had a beautiful 4-by-6-inch borderless photo.
The bottom line. The A410 is a great entry-level or second camera with excellent color, sharp definition, and low noise. Best of all, it has some unique features that'll let you perform some great visual magic.
Dropping out all the colors except the one you choose to keep (in this case, yellow) is one of the A410's many creative features.
CONTACT: 800-652-2666, www.canonusa.com
REQUIREMENTS: USB-equipped Mac, Mac OS 8.6 to 9.x or 10.1 or later
Feature-rich without being overwhelming. Fast. Fine picture quality. Cool photo effects.
No video-out. Jerky movies without sound. Flash has long cycle time. Bundled with wimpy 16MB memory card.