It seems unreal now that the digital point-and-shoot market was still alive in 2010, when I bought each of my parents a new Canon PowerShot A495 camera for Christmas. Within a few years, everyone would use their phones for casual photography instead. Nevertheless, here are my parents having opened their camera gifts on Christmas Eve that year. I bought A495s in blue for Dad and in silver for Mom. The camera was available in red, too.
Here’s Dad using his PowerShot A495 two Christmases later. It was one of Canon’s entry-level digital point and shoots, and it was new in 2010. It listed for $129, but I remember finding a Cyber Monday deal for $100. These cameras performed well, delivering the best image quality I’ve ever seen at that price.
Mom and Dad are both gone now. While cleaning out Mom’s condo recently after she passed away, I found both of their A495s. Mom’s was a goner thanks to badly corroded batteries inside. Take the batteries out of your cameras when you’re not using them, people! Dad’s still worked, though, so I brought it home.
This 10-megapixel camera uses a 1/2.3-inch CCD sensor. Maximum image resolution is 3648×2736 pixels. It packs a 6.6-21.6mm (37-122mm equivalent) f/3-5.8 Canon Zoom lens set in a shutter that operates from 1/2000 to 15 seconds. It supports ISOs from 80 to 1600, and can be set to select ISO automatically based on lighting conditions. Two AA batteries power the A495.
The rear controls are appealingly arranged. Canon substituted a mode button for its usual mode dial; it’s at the bottom, on the left. You press it to cycle through the available modes: automatic, programmed exposure, scene mode which makes 13 effects available, and video. The menu button is next to it. The function pad is above them. The button to review stored images is above it, and then at the top is the rocker to zoom in and out.
The top is appealingly simple: on/off and the shutter button. The camera is super small and light — 3.7×2.4×1.2 inches and a shade under seven ounces. Easy shooting ahead!
At the widest angle, the flash lights up to 3 meters away. Flash is on by default. In Auto mode, press the Flash button twice to turn it off. In Program mode, you need to press it five times.
Being an entry-level camera, it has some limitations. The flash takes up to seven seconds to charge, which means you’ll miss that fast-moving toddler on his way by. Video mode maxes at 640×480 pixels at 30 frames per second. It offers a continuous shooting mode, but at maximum resolution it manages only 0.9 frames per second. None of that will be a problem if you’re making casual snapshots in good light, as was probably the way 99 percent of owners used this camera 99 percent of the time.
If you like digital point and shoots, see also my reviews of the Kodak EasyShare C613 (here) and Z730 (here), and the Canon PowerShot S80 (here) and S95 (here), and the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-H55 (here). Or see all of my camera reviews here.
I shot a few dozen images with this camera and was all ready to write this review. I copied the files to my computer only to discover that they were all 640×480 pixels. It was just like Dad to set his camera that way. He was frugal to the core, and the minimum resolution would let him put the most images on his SD card. But 640×480 is nearly a useless resolution except for uploading to Facebook. So I reset the camera to default settings and started over.
Using the Canon PowerShot A495 couldn’t be easier: frame and press the button. If you like, press the shutter button halfway so it locks focus and exposure, which lets you reframe if you need to, and then press the rest of the way to take the photo.
I didn’t shoot a single person with this camera, but its autoexposure system is able to recognize when you’re shooting people. It also recognizes when your subject is a landscape, or when your subject is close to the lens. It even tries to work out exposure so that backlit subjects are not in silhouette. The A495 shows an icon for the appropriate scene mode in the upper-right corner of the screen. I was pleased that I could move to within a couple inches of a subject in Auto mode, and the A495 switched to macro mode the second I pressed the shutter button.
As you can see, these images look great — sharp and full of color. They look as good as anything I shoot casually with my much more expensive and capable Canon PowerShot S95.
Unfortunately, the A495 suffers from a fatal flaw: the screen is incredibly reflective. In bright sun, I often could see only the reflection of my shirt or my face in the screen. This made framing almost impossible.
Another serious bummer about the A495 is that it chews through batteries. Dad left batteries in it; I used them up fast. I put in two fresh ones and after two photo walks the “low battery” symbol blinked angrily on the screen. I put in two more fresh ones and after two more photo walks, the same thing. Each pair of batteries let me capture fewer than 100 photos.
Curiously, a wafer-thin CR1220 button battery lets the A495 remember the date and time setting. This battery is dead in my A495. Every time I turn on the camera, it asks me to set the date and time. You can push past that setting by pressing any of the buttons on the function pad. Interestingly, when you do that all images are dated 1/1/1980!
I put the A495 in Program mode, pressed the Func Set button, scrolled down to the color mode selector, and enabled Vivid Color. I use a similar setting (Positive Color) all the time on my PowerShot S95 because the default color setting is dull. On the A495, Vivid Color is vivid.
I also tried the Sepia mode, just for giggles. The A495 also offers Neutral Color, Black and White, and Custom Color modes. Custom Color lets you adjust saturation, contrast, and sharpness to your liking.
The A495’s function settings and menus are just like any other contemporary Canon digital camera. I learned these settings well on my S95, which I’ve used the tar out of since it was new in 2010. For the A495, I mostly discovered what settings it doesn’t have that the much more capable S95 does.
I shot in Program mode about half the time. There I selected macro mode, and it worked beautifully. Typical of digital point and shoots, macro mode works best when the lens is zoomed all the way out.
I made a couple images in my living room with the flash on. You’ll have to take my word for it that the flash lights evenly; none of the images were remotely interesting enough to share. Here’s another suburban scene for you instead.
To see more from this camera, check out my Canon PowerShot A495 gallery.
The Canon PowerShot A495 is almost the perfect inexpensive digital point and shoot. If only its screen weren’t so reflective! It was frustrating trying to block the sun from the screen so I could see what was on it.
Even so, the A495 is a good choice for a used digital point and shoot. It appears to be a popular choice, too, given the prices I see them go for on eBay. $40 to $60 is typical, which seems awfully high to me. Hmm, maybe the phone in my pocket isn’t such a bad choice after all.