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Canon Powershot A650 IS Digital Camera Review

Canon Powershot A650 IS Digital Camera Review - As far as dependability and being steady in the picture department is concerned, the Canon Powershot A650 IS is the Paul Burrell of the keen amateur class. Matt Grayson investigates if this camera has a history of ripping off its shirt.

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Canon Powershot A650 IS in Compact Cameras

The A650 IS is a low end bridge camera from Canon with 12Mp, 6x optical zoom and a very good macro feature.

Canon Powershot A650 ISCanon Powershot A650 IS Specification

  • Sensor: CCD - 12.1Mp
  • Image Size: 4000 x 3000 pixels
  • Lens: 35-210mm - f/2.8-4.8
  • Focus: TTL, 1cm Macro
  • Exposure: Programme AE/AP/SP/M
  • Metering : Evaluative/Spot/CW
  • Monitor: 2.5in vari-angle LCD
  • Movie Mode: Yes
  • Storage: SD, SDHC, MMC
  • Batteries: 4x AA
  • AC Adaptor: Optional
  • Video Output: Yes
  • Size/Weight: 112x68x56mm-300g
  • Transfer: USB 2.0

The Canon Powershot A650 IS can be compared with the Nikon Coolpix P5100 at £299 also with 12Mp, but less zoom at 3.5x optical but does have image stabiliser. Another comparison is the Panasonic FX100 at £289 with 12Mp, a 3.6x optical zoom to match the Nikon and Mega optical image stabiliser. Both have similar features to the Canon with the exception of the zoom.

Canon Powershot A650 IS Modes and features
Taking on the guise of a small bridge camera, A650 IS has a large grip on top of which the shutter release sits wrapped in the zoom switch. Apart from that, only the Power button and Mode dial occupy the top of the camera.

The Mode dial has the usual PASM options above the green Auto mode with the addition of the Custom button signified by the letter C. Below Auto are the set programs of Portrait, Landscape, Canon Powershot A650 IS Night shot, Children & pets, Scene modes which has nine more settings of Indoor, Foliage, Snow, Beach, Fireworks, Aquarium, Underwater, ISO3200 and Night scene.

The back of the camera has the Direct print button in the top left next to the optical viewfinder which in turn is sat above the 2.5in flip-out screen. The main portion of buttons dominates the right side of the camera and has the record/playback switch with the exposure compensation button below and the ISO access button to the right. The navigation pad is a lovely smooth ring circling the Function/Set button. It doubles as a Flash options button and Macro button which is a little unusual as four options are normally present.

The Function button brings up the White balance, Drive mode, Colours, Flash compensation, metering, Quality rating and Resolution. In Auto mode, only the Drive mode, Quality and Resolution can be changed in the Functions.

The two final buttons are to change the display of the screen which will scroll through the screen on with no information, with information and turning it off as well as the Menu button which allows changes to the deeper functions of the camera. Two tabs are available in the Menu and these are to change settings to the recording section of the camera and the basic set-up of the camera.

The Recording tab allows changes to things like the AF frame options changing it from centre to Flexizone Canon Powershot A650 IS or Face detect. The Slow synchronisation can be changed from 1st curtain to 2nd curtain, Safety FE is a feature Canon seem to be using in a lot of their cameras now and is a system that will decide if the image will be overexposed with the flash being used and change the aperture and shutter speed to compensate. Nothing to worry about, except the camera will do this in Manual, Aperture and Shutter priority to override any settings you may have put in. Other features available include an AF assist beam, the time the review image is shown on screen after capture and Image stabiliser options.

The Set-up tab allows changes to the Mute, Volume, Start-up image, Power save, Date & time and allows formatting the card. It also allows changes to other options like when the lens should retract if not in use, what language you would like the camera to be in, the Video system be it PAL or NTSC and Print methods. There is also a choice to reset all changes to factory settings.

The lack of the Start up tab impresses me. It is included in the Set-up and that is all it needs.

Canon Powershot A650 IS Build and handling
The A series of the Powershot range are known for being slightly less well made than the S or G series. This generally keeps the price down compared to the higher specification models to appeal more to the keen enthusiast market that the A650 is aimed at.

The body is plastic and the chassis is a mixture of plastic and metal. The lens is a standard Canon so is still good quality and with the 6x zoom, which gives a maximum of 210mm in 35mm terms, can bring most subjects just over 4x nearer to you because the human eye has a 50mm focal length.

Canon Powershot A650 IS The camera is a little heavy, only because it looks like it should be lighter but is well balanced. The lens is slower than I would like to see these days, especially from such a capable company but the focusing is fine with a standard lag that you could expect from any other model.

The battery door has a catch to stop it opening of its own accord and in the battery bay are spaces for the four AA batteries that power the camera as well as make up for possibly a third of the overall weight of the unit. The memory card slot for the SD card is also nestled into the battery compartment and is spring loaded for easy ejection.

Canon Powershot A650 IS Flash options
The flash button on the navigation pad only has three options which are Flash on, Off and Auto and the red-eye reduction options are found in the menu system. The range of the flash is 50cm - 3.5m at wide angle and 50cm - 2.0m at telephoto which I think is really quite pathetic for a camera like this. Technically, it's standard, but the camera is supposed to be better than a compact, for instance, yet gives the same performance.

Canon Powershot A650 IS Performance
Start up time is not the best at just under two seconds and I am surprised at that as the lens drags itself out like an overweight dog going for a walk. The continuous shooting test managed 10 images in 10 seconds giving a half decent time of 1fps but with an extra download time of a couple of seconds making it 12 seconds in total.

The colourchart has given a reasonable result with the usual primary colours being boosted to keep all parties happy for whichever genre you may prefer.

The Macro image has an excellent result as I had to have the lens touching the watch and it wanted to get closer. I set a slow shutter speed and low ISO to force camera shake whilst testing the image stabiliser and, whilst not perfect, gives much better results than the same attempt without Image stabiliser.

The landscape image gives a balanced result although it was a cloudy day. Fringing is present but only on high contrast areas like the white strip on the lock winch and a slight purple line can be detected down the left side of the with bars with a green line down the right.

Canon Powershot A650 IS
The reds and blues are boosted with a good skin tone result and good neutral greys.


Canon Powershot A650 IS
The Macro image is point blank which is likely down to a small sensor. A great image achieved, though.

Canon Powershot A560 IS A shot with image stabiliser off to illustrate the possibility of camera shake. Taken at ISO80 1/15 at f/4.8.


Canon Powershot A560 IS
The ISO, shutter speed and the aperture are the same but this image has image stabiliser on.

Canon Powershot A650 IS
The portrait image is softer but still a little pale. A slight yellowish cast has been applied in camera to warm the image.

Canon Powershot A650 IS
The program mode with the Vivid Colour setting on. The image is more saturated so warmer and sharper which i think is more appealing.

Canon Powershot A560 IS
On a cloudy day, the exposure is pretty balanced. Fringing is apparent on high contrast areas.


Canon Powershot A650 IS Noise test
ISO80 gives excellent detail with no noise present even on low key areas, but it does start to show albeit very slightly at ISO100 which is otherwise a sharp image. ISO200 starts to show slight noise, but only visible at full size image and is probably down to the smaller sensor which gives the great macro results.

ISO400 shows a distinct sharpening of the noise pixels, but is still giving a relatively good result whilst ISO800 starts to sharpen the noise more wbut losing detail in the petals. Meanwhile, ISO1600 has a lot of noise showing and can be seen on the image at all levels, but the result is still very good.

Canon Powershot A560 IS
The ISO80 test.

The ISO100 test
The ISO100 test.

The ISO200 test
The ISO200 test.

The ISO400 test
The ISO400 test.

The ISO800 test
The ISO800 test.

The ISO1600 test
The ISO1600 test.

Canon Powershot A650 IS Verdict
As a cheaper version of the Canon Powershot S5 IS , the A650 doesn't offer all the same build qualities or features like the USM lens, 12x optical zoom or LCD viewfinder yet the S5 is a mere £20 more. Why the A650 is so close in price to the S5 can be anyones guess.

Without that in mind, the camera is a very capable one giving good results if you are willing to wait for them because of the start up time.

If you are wanting a camera that can do what an SLR can do but the idea of the S5 scares you, then take a look at this.

Canon Powershot A650 IS Plus points
Easier menu
Flip out screen is protective and convenient
Near SLR control
Removable lens bezel gives more scope for creativity
Canon Powershot A650 IS Minus points
Slow start up
Patronising overrides like the Safety FE
The price compared to the S5





The Canon Powershot A650 IS costs £329 and is available from the ePHOTOzine shop here.

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Hello Matt Grayson,

In the conclusion you write about the small difference in price between the S5 and this A650.
But you probably pay extra for the extra megapixels.


Eddie Veenhoven

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Hi Eddie,
Thats not all you get with the S5. The lens quality is better, the zoom is bigger, the general overall build and specification is better, yet they are so closely priced.
I speculate whether it is best just to pay 20 more and get an S5 which runs circles around the A650.
The choice is, as always, the consumers, but to me it is a no-brainer.
Glynn 12 1.2k 1 United Kingdom
Hi Matt,

Does the camera have RAW? or is it like the A640 only Jpeg?

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