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.

Unfortunately, the Canon PowerShot A460's images also showed significantly more noise or speckling than images from those two competing models; this noise was obvious in areas of solid black, such as a ship's hull, and in a clear blue sky.

Canon bundles its flexible ZoomBrowser utility on a CD with the Canon PowerShot A460; you use it to organise, edit, print and share your photos.

The editing tools are not extensive, but they work well and include a very helpful Photoshop-like before/after preview button. Also on the CD is PhotoStitch, which you can use to merge photos into a panorama, though the camera lacks the panorama-assist mode, found on other Canon models, that helps you line up successive shots.

The Canon PowerShot A460 runs on AA cells and delivered roughly average battery life in our tests, lasting 253 shots.

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Canon PowerShot A460: Specs

  • 5Mp
  • 4x optical zoom, 4x digital zoom
  • MultiMediaCard, SD Memory Card, SDHC Memory Card supported
  • 2 x AA alkaline battery (included)
  • built-in red-eye reduction
  • focal length: 5.4mm - 21.6mm
  • optical viewfinder
  • lens aperture:F/2.8-5.8
  • built-in flash
  • 106x40x52mm
  • 165g
  • 16MB built-in flash memory
  • 2in LCD display - TFT active matrix
  • built-in microphone
  • 5Mp
  • 4x optical zoom, 4x digital zoom
  • MultiMediaCard, SD Memory Card, SDHC Memory Card supported
  • 2 x AA alkaline battery (included)
  • built-in red-eye reduction
  • focal length: 5.4mm - 21.6mm
  • optical viewfinder
  • lens aperture:F/2.8-5.8
  • built-in flash
  • 106x40x52mm
  • 165g
  • 16MB built-in flash memory
  • 2in LCD display - TFT active matrix
  • built-in microphone

OUR VERDICT

Overall, the Canon PowerShot A460 is a nice package and a great value.

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