As the least expensive Canon camera to include optical image stabilisation, the PowerShot A570 IS will no doubt receive a lot of attention this year. Its 7.1-megapixel CCD sensor and 64mm (2.5-inch) LCD aren't remarkable among the current crop of compacts, but its 4x optical zoom lens provides a bit more reach than the usual 3x lenses that continue to dot the competitive landscape.
While we would've liked to see Canon go wide, the lens covers a 35mm equivalent of 35mm to 140mm. This isn't as versatile for group portraits, or the close quarter situations that most casual photographers find themselves in, but larger, longer zoom numbers still tend to sell better.
Grouped conveniently on the right side of the camera, you can easily reach all of the A570 IS's controls with either your thumb or forefinger, making one-handed shooting a definite possibility. As usual though, it's best to use two hands, for stability's sake, if at all possible.
Canon divides the camera's menus between two buttons -- the function/set button and the menu button. You'll find commonly used shooting settings, such as white balance, metering mode and ISO grouped under the function button. The menu button leads to less frequently changed items, such as image stabilisation mode, digital zoom on/off and artificial intelligent autofocus (AiAF) mode, which also lets you turn the face detection on or off.
We would've liked to see a dedicated face detection button, since it's slightly unintuitive to look for it under that menu item, and since the face detection system does more than just autofocus.
Like a lot of Canon's new cameras, the A570 IS includes a Digic III processor chip, which means it also has Canon's face detection. In our field tests, the system quickly and accurately identified faces. Once it identifies them, the system uses your subject's face to focus and meter the scene.
Another feature that comes along with Digic III is in-camera red-eye removal. In this case, Canon lets you pluck the red pupils from your portrait victims in playback mode. Canon's slightly late to this game, since most of its competitors, such as HP, Kodak and Nikon, have included similar functions for a while now.
In addition to image stabilisation, the biggest difference between the A570 IS and its little sister, the A560, is the A570 IS's manual exposure controls. If you're used to being able to shoot in aperture- or shutter-priority mode, or choose your own manual exposure settings, then you should pay extra attention to the A570 IS, since it's also the least expensive A-series camera with full exposure controls.
Canon includes 12 scene modes (five of which can be accessed directly from the mode dial), in addition to stitch assist and movie modes.
Speaking of movie modes, this camera includes four. Two standard modes let you record at either 640x480- or 320x240-pixel resolutions with your choice of 30 frames per second (fps) or 15fps. Fast Frame Rate movie mode lets you record at 320x240 pixels and 60 fps, while Compact movie mode records at 160x120 pixels and 15fps to keep files as small as possible so you can more easily email the clips to friends.
While not a rocket ship with the flash enabled, the A570 IS performed well in our lab tests. The camera took 1.78 seconds to start up and capture its first JPEG, and captured subsequent JPEGs every 1.82 seconds with the flash turned off. That shot-to-shot time slowed considerably to 4.82 seconds between shots with the flash turned on.
Shutter lag measured an alacritous 0.5 seconds in our high-contrast test, which mimics bright shooting conditions, and 1.3 seconds in our low-contrast test, meant to mimic dim shooting conditions. Continuous shooting (aka burst) mode yielded about 1.6fps regardless of image size.
Images looked impressive, especially at lower ISOs, though we noticed some slight artefacts even at the camera's lowest sensitivity of ISO 80, which seemed to become exacerbated by the noise caused by higher ISOs. Still, colours looked accurate, there was plenty of shadow detail, and our images turned out very sharp.