- Review Date: 04/03/2013
- Bottom line: Canon's compact, entry-level PowerShot A2600 is capable of producing sharp images, but image quality suffers in lower light. It'll only cost you $150, but it's not the best value you'll find.
- Pros: Sharp lens. Inexpensive. On-screen help mode. 3-inch LCD. Includes battery charger.
- Cons: No optical image stabilization. No optical zoom during video capture. Noisy images.
The Canon PowerShot A2600 ($149.99 direct) is one of the less expensive cameras in the company's point-and-shoot lineup. The 16-megapixel shooter has a 5x zoom lens, the same design that is found in our Editors' Choice budget camera, the Canon PowerShot A1400. There are a few differences—the A2600 uses a rechargeable lithium-ion battery, is a bit slimmer, and doesn't have an optical viewfinder—but from an image quality perspective they are essentially the same. The A1400 is a better value, but if you are turned off by its use of AA batteries, the A2600 is worth a look, though you'll pay a $40 premium.
Design and Features
The A2600 employs a two-tone design; it has a blue, red, pink, or black faceplate with a silver backside. There's also an all-silver version. It measures 2.2 by 3.9 by 0.8 inches (HWD) and is light at 4.8 ounces. Compare this to the 2.4-by-3.7-by-1.2, 6.1-ounce A1400, which is thicker due to its use of AA batteries. The rear LCD is 3 inches and features a 230k-dot resolution. You're not going to find many budget cameras with better displays than this, although the Olympus VR-340
The lens is a 5x zoom design. It covers a 28-140mm (35mm equivalent) field of view, which is wide enough for group and landscape shots and gives you a good bit of zoom for telephoto shooting—just don't expect to use it for, say, serious birding. The lens starts at f/2.8, which is fast enough to use in brighter, indoor lighting at ISO 400 without having to engage the flash. It dwindles to f/6.9 as you zoom all the way in, which should be reserved for outdoor use in daylight when shooting with this camera.
The camera defaults to Auto mode out of the box, but you can switch out of it you'd like more control over your picture taking. There's isn't a full Manual mode, but Program shooting lets you adjust the metering pattern, White Balance, ISO, Exposure Compensation, Focus Range, and Drive Mode. There are also a number of standard scene modes available outside of Auto. Regardless of the mode you are in, you'll always be able to activate the self timer and adjust the file size or the recorded video resolution.
Physical shooting controls are limited. There's a dedicated Record button to start rolling video footage, and a button to control the flash. Other buttons are for non-shooting functions—Eco enables a power-saving mode that is quick to put the rear LCD to sleep, and there are the standard playback, delete, and information display controls. There is a Help button, a big question mark on the back of the camera, that brings up an on-screen guide. Photographic novices will appreciate this, as it explains a lot of menu functions in real-world terms and gives tips on taking better photos.
Performance and Conclusions
The A2600 starts and shoots in about 1.7 seconds, notches a 0.3-second shutter lag, and is capable of taking a photo every 1.4 seconds when set to continuous drive mode. It's about as speedy as the Samsung DV150F, an inexpensive camera with dual LCD screens and built-in Wi-Fi. It starts in 1.8 seconds, records a longer 0.4-second shutter lag, and requires a 1.5-second wait between shots.
I used Imatest to check the sharpness of images captured by the A2600. The results were nearly identical to those from the less-expensive A1400. This isn't surprising as the two cameras share the same sensor and lens specifications. The A2600 does better than the 1,800 lines per picture height required for a sharp image; it scored 2,124 lines on the test. Sharpness is an area in which some inexpensive cameras struggle; the Olympus VR-340 only managed 1,733 lines on the same test.
Imatest also checks for noise which can make an image look grainy and sap detail. Noise increases along with the sensitivity to light, measured in ISO. The A2600 uses a CCD image sensor, a technology which generally doesn't do that great a job controlling noise when compared with more expensive CMOS sensors. The camera's lowest ISO setting is 100, and doubling its sensitivity to ISO 200 is the best you can do before crossing the 1.5 percent mark for noise. At ISO 400 the image is 1.8 percent noise, although detail is still pretty good at this setting. Noise increases to 2 percent at ISO 800 and detail goes away quickly. Canon's top-of-the-line A series camera, the PowerShot A4000 IS
The video quality is limited to 720p25 in QuickTime format. The footage is a bit grainy, and there's no optical zoom available during recording. You can set the lens prior to starting a clip, and digital zoom is available—but using that quickly degrades video quality. There's only one port on the A2600, a mini USB connector, but standard SD, SDHC, and SDXC memory cards are supported. The battery is rechargeable, and a dedicated wall charger is included—a departure from many recent point-and-shoots that require you to charge the battery in-camera.
Photographers on a budget will appreciate the A2600's price, sharpness, and handling, but they'll also have to live with its so-so performance at higher ISO settings. The camera's CCD sensor can't keep up with CMOS models in low light, and the lack of optical image stabilization doesn't help matters. You may want to consider the Canon A4000 IS as an alternative; it was originally priced at $200 but is now selling for less, offers similar performance, and has a stabilized lens. Our Editors' Choice for budget point-and-shoots is the PowerShot A1400, which delivers image quality that is essentially the same as the A2600, and gives you the added benefit of an optical viewfinder—all for $110. The A1400 does use AA batteries rather than a rechargeable one, which could be viewed as a demerit by some.
This review is in partnership with PCMag.com.