Canon has updated 2009's PowerShot A480 with two models: the PowerShot A490 and the PowerShot A495. The A490 costs about £15 less than the £95 A495, but it's only available in silver, doesn't have a 'face self-timer' feature, and uses 13 scene settings for its 'auto' mode, whereas the A495 uses 18. Both 10-megapixel cameras turn out great photos for their budget price tags. The biggest downside is that they aren't remotely fast when it comes to shooting performance -- shot-to-shot times are particularly long.
Chubby in your pocket
The A495, which is available in red, blue and silver, is chubby, but still reasonably compact. It's not very wide or tall, but it's more than an inch thick, so, although it'll fit into a trouser pocket, it might be a tight squeeze. From the front, the camera looks reasonably stylish, with appealing rounded corners. Unlike the A480, the buttons don't feel cheap, and are clearly marked. In fact, the overall build quality seems improved. Plus, Canon has kept the controls straightforward and simple, and the menu systems are likewise uncomplicated.
On top are the power and shutter-release buttons, with the remaining controls on the back, to the right of the 62mm (2.4-inch) LCD display. A zoom rocker sits above a button for playback, a four-way control pad with a select button, and shooting mode and menu buttons. The menu button pulls up two tabs of general settings, whereas the select button (labelled 'func set') opens shooting-mode-specific options. Overall, the camera's easy to control and should be simple enough for beginners to use immediately.
The lens is narrow at a 35mm-equivalent of 37mm, and it has an optical zoom of 3.3x, which is standard for cameras in its class. The LCD, although a decent size, has a fairly low resolution. It gets fairly bright, but it can still be difficult to see in direct sunlight.
The A495 is powered by AA-size batteries -- something many people find convenient. You'll only get about 150 shots out of the A495 before they'll need replacing, though. Getting two NiMH AA-size batteries should more than double your shot count.
The A495 predictably doesn't have many shooting options. The most complicated it gets is in 'program' mode, which gives you options for white balance, focus, metering, ISO and colour effects. Don't want to touch any of those things? Canon's 'auto' mode is very reliable at picking the appropriate settings based on 18 different scene types. Or you can choose from one of 13 special scene modes, like 'fireworks', 'long shutter', 'foliage' or 'kids and pets'.
Canon renamed its 'high ISO' mode to 'low light' to avoid confusion, but it's otherwise the same, capturing 2-megapixel shots at ISOs from 500 to 3,200. The highlights are the new 'super vivid' and 'poster effect' modes, which do what their names suggest. Canon also includes a 'face self-timer' feature, which, when activated, will wait to take a shot until the camera detects an additional face in the frame.