Canon's PowerShot A460 has a sophisticated and durable look to it, yet it costs only around £100.

Although nicely designed, the Canon PowerShot A460's boxy and chunky shape prevents it from being carried comfortably in a pocket. It will fit nicely into a small bag, however.

The 5Mp Canon PowerShot A460 offers a 4x optical zoom, whereas most cameras at this price level have only a 3x zoom. Plus, the Canon PowerShot A460 has three metering modes (evaluative, centre-weighted and spot); most competitors have only one. The Canon PowerShot A460's function-set menus offer exceptionally quick access to settings and are easy to use. Key controls are grouped together in an intuitive list.

The zoom control is a little unusual - instead of having a separate wide-telephoto toggle, the Canon PowerShot A460 uses the top and bottom positions of the four-way thumb control for zooming. The thumb control works well enough, although its function won't be obvious to a first-time user, and its placement on the back makes the camera a bit awkward to operate one-handed.

The Canon PowerShot A460 starts up quickly, in 2 seconds, and offers both an eye-level viewfinder and a bright 2in LCD screen. A simple mode dial lets you select full auto (with a limited selection of menu options), manual (still automatic, but with some user settings, such as ISO and white balance), scene modes and movie mode.

You get a choice of eight scene modes - a typical set that includes portrait, night scene, foliage, beach, snow and fireworks. But oddly, you'll find no sports or action setting. The Canon PowerShot A460 also lacks a built-in help system to explain the modes, though for most people they should be self-explanatory. However, it does have a super macro mode that lets you get really close to your subject (up to just 10mm away).

A separate menu button pops up a list of less-common camera settings, such as a date stamp and digital zoom on/off. You'll also find grid lines and red-eye settings there. The menus are short and only one layer deep.

The Canon PowerShot A460 earned an overall image quality score of Good from the PC Advisor Test Centre, with roughly average ratings for color and exposure accuracy, and below-average points for sharpness. Photos we took outdoors at a waterfront area showed good colour saturation and image sharpness - better than photos from the comparable Kodak EasyShare C653 6.1Mp compact camera and Nikon Coolpix L10 5Mp compact cameramodels we tried at the same time.

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