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Canon PowerShot ELPH 510
Tuesday, January 3, 2012  

From a purely technical standpoint, the Canon ELPH 510 HS is a 12.1 Megapixel compact digital camera with a 12x zoom and a 3.2in touch-screen. But, from a practical standpoint, it may be one of the best travel cameras we have tested to date, certainly the best offering from Canon. The ELPH 510 is the top of the line in the ELPH model lineup and is one of only two models with touch screens. The 12x zoom puts it at the very top of the zoom capabilities within the ELPH lineup.

With the addition of the touch screen, Canon has pretty much done away with physical buttons and dials on this model. Of course, there is a power (on/off) button, a shutter release with zoom ring, a mode switch (Smart Auto or Manual) and a Playback button, but otherwise, everything requires a trip to the touch screen. The back-illuminated CMOS sensor is indicated by the HS designation (high-sensitivity) and brings with it the ability to shoot full 1080p HD video at 24fps. The ELPH 510 also highlights Canon's IS stabilization.

The ELPH 510 is packed with features, as you would expect in a top-of-the-line Canon compact camera. However, this camera's real strength, as far as we are concerned, is that it is a great 'out-of-the-box' automatic performer. The camera is a perfect travel companion for those who want to take great travel photos using point-and-shoot simplicity.

DESIGN


The ELPH 510 HS may be the largest model in the ELPH family, but it's still compact enough to slip in a shirt or jacket pocket. Our red model had a beautiful finish that exuded quality. It is, after all, a Canon. It is also available in black and  in silver. The finish looked as though it would withstand a moderate amount of abuse without signs of wear.

The LCD screen is 3.2 inches with a 16:9 aspect, perfect for shooting HD video, but a little annoying when shooting 4:3 photos since you get the black bars on both sides of the screen. That was not a big issue for me, since I shoot as much video as I do still photos. When shooting photos, the space where the black bars appear is occupied by various touch screen icons and "buttons", so it all works out. The screen is pretty bright and has good detail, even outside in the sun.

The Smart Auto/"Manual" mode switch on top of the ELPH 510 lets you switch between the camera's full automatic operation and the most recently selected scene mode, from which there are many to choose:  Program, Movie Digest, Portrait, Kids & Pets, Smart Shutter, High-Speed Burst, Best Image Selection, Handheld NightScene, Low Light, Fish-Eye Effect, Minature Effect, Toy Camera Effect, Monochrome, Super Vivid, Poster Effect, Color Accent, Color Swap, Beach, Foliage, Snow, Fireworks, Long Shutter, iFrame Movie, Super Slow Motion Movie.

The only way to shoot video is by pressing the red RECORD icon on the touch screen. This will instantly cause the screen to switch from 4:3 photo view to 16:9 full screen. The red RECORD button changes from round to square on the screen and becomes the STOP record button. Of course, you can shoot photos in 16:9 ratio and avoid the screen changing aspect ratios altogether, but you will have to sacrifice shooting in full resolution.

The tripod mount on the bottom of the ELPH 510 is positioned far to the left side, right next to the battery compartment. While this does provide the benefit of being able to access the memory card slot (located on the far right side/bottom) without removing the tripod mount, it causes the camera to be very unbalanced when using a small tabletop tripod. The camera kept wanting to fall over since all the weight was on one side. The battery itself, an NB-9L, is very compact, about the size of a AA battery. The provided travel charger has pop-out prongs making it a very good camera for travel without having to carry cables and plugs. The camera uses SD, SDXCor SDHC memory cards which are readily available and quite economical. Keep one of your fingernails untrimmed so you can pop open the little door covering the USB and HDMI ports on the top right of the camera. The camera does not ship with any cables.

The flash unit is mounted on the left  front panel and, while it runs the risk of being inadvertently blocked by your left forefinger when shooting, I personally prefer this to the pop-up flash of the PowerShot SX 230 we tested last month. The flash can be "forced" on or off, or you can let the camera decide when and how the flash fires by leaving it in Auto mode. You can also adjust flash exposure using the touch screen and this is one of the camera's most elegant features. Red-eye reduction can be turned on/off through the camera's touch-screen menus. You can also add an external flash unit from Canon that is compatible with all ELPH/PowerShot cameras. The external flash can be mounted to the tripod mount via a provided bracket, or hand held. It's $150, but pretty cool nonetheless.


The Digic 4 processor built into the ELPH 510 has a very sophisticated way of setting exposure when the camera is set in the Smart Auto mode. It can actually detect if there are people in the frame, whether or not they are moving, and check the current lighting conditions. It can even detect whether or not the camera is mounted on a tripod or hand held. Once all of this is determined, it intelligently selects from one of the many scene modes to set the camera's exposure. Is there anything it cannot do? I don't know how it works, but it does a pretty darn good job when set to Smart Auto.

The 12x zoom lens (optical) has an equivalent range of 28mm to 336mm. While there may be other cameras with longer zoom ranges, 12x is actually pretty impressive and allows the camera to remain very thin. Even though I would prefer a 24mm to 25mm wide angle, the 28mm lens works fine for most indoor shots and landscapes. The trade- off of zoom power for a thin form factor is a good one, in my opinion.

PHOTO SHOOTING MODES

In Program mode (P) you can control ISO, White Balance and color as well as exposure compensation. You also have access to a variety of scene modes. These modes can be selected through the touch screen when the camera is in the "manual" mode (via the switch on top of the camera). Tapping the icon for the current scene mode (upper left) will bring up a page of icons representing various scene modes. The icons are large and easy to press. There are so many scene modes that they are "paged". Each page displays six icons/modes and tapping a left or right arrow will bring up the next/previous page of choices. All in all, there are 24 differerent scene and special effect modes. Canon decided to mix special effects in with the scene modes for some reason, so that takes a little getting used to.

With Creative effects, you can choose from some of the ELPH's more gimmicky options like Toy Camera, Miniature, Color Swap, and Poster Effect. The Monochrome, Super Vivid, Fish Eye and Color Accent are pretty cool, too. The Best Image Selection mode causes the camera to snap five shots in succession and chooses the best of the bunch. Only the best one (chosen by the camera) is stored on the memory card. However, the resulting photo is limited to three megapixels, so I never found this feature to be particularly useful.


VIDEO SHOOTING MODES


The ELPH 510 HS can record full HD video at 1080p/24fps. There is also a setting for 720p and 640 X 480, both at 30 frames per second.
Video can be shot in either Smart Auto or Program modes. Exposure compensation settings, however, are ignored, or at least I could not figure out how to make it work.

There are a variety of Creative effects that you can apply when shooting video.
One popular mode is Miniature mode. But perhaps the most useful is the Super Slow Motion mode which records 640 X 480 video at 120fps or 320 X 240 at 240fps. When you play these back at 30 frames per second, you end up with a 4 or 8 times slower video. So, if you want to video your golf swing for analysis, this is a VERY cool feature!

We found the image stabilization employed when shooting video to be superior to most other cameras in this category. Canon has really nailed it when it comes to handheld, anti-shake video technology.

A Class 6 SDXC (or higher) memory card is recommended for recording video.


USING THE CAMERA

 
The big story on this camera is the touch screen. I have decided I can live with it, or without it. I would not buy the camera because of it, nor would I refuse to buy the camera without it. One thing for sure, it takes some getting used to. My biggest gripe was when I wanted to shoot video. There were a couple of times that I thought I had successfully pressed the red RECORD button, only to learn later that I was not recording anything. Just as frustrating, I thought I had pressed the STOP record button, only to learn I had recorded 12 minutes of junk video I did not want. At the very least, I wish Canon would add a physical MOVIE button to the camera body.

The touch screen in general is finicky, as are all touch screens I have played with. It requires a fair amount of pressure to engage an icon. Again, it takes some getting used to. Navigating Canon's menus is a real pain in the butt with the touch screen. Scene selection and exposure control is much more elegant.

The shutter release button and zoom/wide switch all work very smoothly. There are two zoom speeds and you can zoom in/out while shooting video, albeit in one speed only. Auto Focus is deadly accurate and you can touch the screen to set the focus point, one of the best uses for the touch screen. This is also very cool when you have AF tracking turned on (Face detect).


The camera feels good in the hand and is light enough and small enough to be comfortable. Battery life was excellent. The time between shots was a little slower than other cameras we have tested and the ELPH 510 takes about three seconds to boot up. Performing simple tasks like setting the self-timer are also very intuitive through the touch screen menus.

SUMMARY

The Canon ELPH 510 HS is my favorite Canon pocket digital camera to date. I much prefer it over the PowerShot Sx230 we recently tested. Even though I am not a huge fan of the touch screen, I could get used to it, and may even grow to like it. Photo and video quality are both excellent and I love the compactness of the camera. The ELPH 510 HS is a great camera for travel use. You don't have to be an expert photographer or haul around heavy, bulky camera equipment to get great snapshots. Get the ELPH 510 HS, switch on Smart Auto, throw it in your shirt pocket and go have some fun!

WHAT WE LIKE:

  • Canon quality
  • Great photo and video quality
  • Variety of scene modes and creative filters
  • Excellent Smart Auto mode

WHAT WE DON'T LIKE:

  • Lack of dedicated physical Movie Record button
  • Finicky touch screen

SAMPLE PHOTOS

Click the thumbnails below to see larger images.


 




Shot at 28mm wide
Shot at 12X zoom



 


VIDEO REVIEW



     
     
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3 Comments
 
MOHAMMED
 
That depends on the retosulion that you will choose. Canon A710IS has 6 different retosulions to choose from:a) Large, (3072 x 2304)b) Middle1, (2592 x 1944)c) Middle 2, (2048 x 1536)d) Middle 3, (1600 x 1200)e) Small, (640 x 480)f) Wide, (3072 x 1728)Each of these retosulions are also classified as to Superfine, Fine and Normal.Best quality would be 3072 x 2304 at Superfine quality and size of one picture is approximately 3MB file size. So that will give you roughly 624 pictures for your 2GB memory card. However, you don't need to save at this large size unless you intend to print your picture in an A3 size to get good quality.Smallest size would be 640 x 480 at Normal quality, size of which is approx. 84kB file size so that will save you 17,260 pictures.To give you an idea of the size of each classification, please see the table below:1) Large, 3072 x 2304 a) Superfine3.0 MB b) Fine 1.9 MB c) Normal902 KB2) Wide (16:9), 3072 x 1728 a) Superfine2.3 MB b) Fine 1.4 MB c) Normal 678 KB3) Middle 1, 2592 x 1944 a) Superfine2.4 MB b) Fine 1.5 MB c) Normal 695 KB4) Middle 2, 2048 x 1536 a) Superfine1.6 MB b) Fine 893 KB c) Normal 445 KB5) Middle 3, 1600 x 1200 a) Superfine1002 KB b) Fine 558 KB c) Normal 278 KB6) Small, 640 x 480 a) Superfine249 KB b) Fine150 KB c) Normal84 KB
 
Friday, May 11, 2012 4:00 AM  
 
 
RICKEE RICHARDSON
 
@JEFF, Startup time is very fast and the high-speed burst images were acceptable for a camera in this price range.
 
Wednesday, March 28, 2012 10:46 AM  
 
 
JEFF
 
how is the start-up time and quality of the high speed image bursts?
 
Wednesday, March 28, 2012 10:41 AM  
 
 
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