Is my Canon a lemon?
June 17, 2008 7:10 AM   Subscribe

I'm really disappointed with my (fairly new) Canon PowerShot A570IS digital camera. It seems to eat batteries and the images seem really noisy. Can you help me work out whether (a) I'm imagining it or (b) I've just got a dud unit or (c) if I've got the settings wrong somehow.

I had one of its predecessors, an A85, which I loved, ran forever on one set of batteries and produced excellent photos. It died after a very busy life (and being heavily used by my young children!) so I replaced it with a newer version that had had excellent reviews in lots of places.

I've checked reviews more recently (and searched on here) but can't see anyone else with these problems.

And if I should be posting this to a photography forum instead, do please suggest one.

Thanks. I'm hoping the answer's going to turn out to be (c) somehow...
posted by monster max to Technology (14 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I found this on a review for that model:

"I did have one unusual issue with this particular model. It went through batteries in just a few shots. I believe the battery door itself was defective because opening it and closing it again usually resolved the low power indication (which shuts off the camera). And there was a little play in the door, too. This kind of thing happens on review samples, so it may not be a problem in fresh-from-the-box retail units, but fair warning."

Maybe that helps with the power issue.
posted by sanka at 7:17 AM on June 17, 2008

We just bought a Canon PowerShot A590IS and were really surprised and disappointed with how quickly the "low battery" comes on.

However, it seems to keep working for quite a long time after it starts complaining. Keep using it it actually stops working -- you may find that it's not eating batteries as quickly as you think.
posted by Perplexity at 7:22 AM on June 17, 2008

Hrrm, I've had a A520 that I loved and just picked up a A720. Could be a lemon.

I pretty much only shoot in Auto mode, turning Flash and/or Macro on as needed. Seems to work great for me.

My only recommendation would be to switch to Lithium batteries. I found that the Lithiums are much better than standard alkaline. My guess is that the Lithiums can handle a much higher current draw than the alkalines. Could be that the heavy recharge is messing with the longevity of the alkalines.

The only other possibility is a slow or bad memory card. If the data can't be moved onto it easily, the camera may bog down a bit as it tries to deal with errors or slowness on the memory card. This is unlikely, but if you have a cheap memrory card, you might want to try an upgrade.

Good luck.
posted by Argyle at 7:23 AM on June 17, 2008 [1 favorite]

How interesting, sanka! Our Canon -- originally an S1-IS -- also ate through regular batteries; the guy at the store where we bought it said that was normal, and getting rechargeable ones did make a noticeable difference. Now, having gone a step further, I'm a huge fan of Eneloop batteries - they don't discharge over time as much as other rechargeable batteries, which means that spontaneous photo sessions don't end after one shot.
posted by amtho at 7:24 AM on June 17, 2008

I have a 570 and I don't seem to notice these issues. I use NiMH batteries and they last long enough to take a day's worth of shots or more. They will self-discharge though, so I always have a second set in the charger waiting. An alkaline battery does seem to run down faster but I always attributed that to lower power densities in alkaline batteries. The A85 is a much older camera so newer camera may simply pull more power.

As for noisiness, I haven't noticed it a lot. I find it to be an average P&S, not really exceptional, in that it needs a fair amount of ambient light to produce really great photos.
posted by GuyZero at 7:45 AM on June 17, 2008

If you are using the flash a lot, you will go through batteries much faster; the flash is a real battery hog on all cameras. I would suggest investing in a couple of sets of rechargeables; I use these in my flash units and the recycle times and battery life are much improved. There are other options but the Energizers are not too expensive, widely available, and come with a variety of chargers, both fast and slow and for cars and home. I avoided the 15 min. charger because they get pretty hot and a lot of people think they shorten the battery life. Also be sure to look for the mAh rating; the higher it is the longer they will last on a charge; it looks like they currently make AAs from 2000 to 2500 mAh; pay a little extra for the bigger capacity.
posted by TedW at 7:47 AM on June 17, 2008

As for the noise, if the batteries are too weak for the flash to operate at full power, the camera may compensate by increasing the ISO setting, which will increase the noise. Your exif data can help tell if that is happening.
posted by TedW at 7:50 AM on June 17, 2008

Yeah, eneloops and other so-called "hybrid" rechargeables are great. Alkalines just can't take the current draw of digital cameras. That being said, there are two things your new camera has over your old one will eat up your batteries: face detection and image stabilization. Face detection is a cute gimmick that I usually turn off, and image stabilization can be turned from Continuous to Shooting mode, which only starts running when you half-press the shutter button. Also, get used to turning the camera off more. New cameras start up a lot faster than the old ones.

With regards to the noise, new cameras which pack in a lot of megapixels just tend to be noisier, especially at high ISOs like 1600. If you can prevent your camera's auto-ISO feature from going up to 1600, you'll avoid most of the noise. Since your camera has IS, you shouldn't need 1600 unless you're in very, very dark settings and not using flash.
posted by zsazsa at 7:53 AM on June 17, 2008

I'm actually in the market to buy this exact camera this week. I've used it and love it. This is why:
-Mainly, the consensus out there is that it's one of the better cameras to use in conjunction with the CHDK firmware. Use the links to find out more. It basically transforms your $150 Canon into a $600 SLR. Phenomenal.
-There are some truly great accessories out there made for this camera. Water casing, lenses, flashes, triggers - it's like the iPod in its ability to become better with the addition of a great accessory.
-It's inexpensive, but still has image stabilization, great ISO range, more than enough megapixels, and good manual controls.

The thing that helped me the most in using this camera is just reading the manual, learning the terms, and then playing around. The manual will teach you most everything you need to know to get the most out of the camera.

Nthing rechargable batteries. As long as you've got a couple waiting in the wings, you'll be fine.
posted by Detuned Radio at 8:03 AM on June 17, 2008 [1 favorite]

I just picked up the A590IS and have seen the low battery issue (but so far, I've taken about 300 shots since the low battery flash came up without a problem.)

I'm with Detuned Radio about CHDK, except I took a risk and went with the 590, which doesn't work with CHDK...yet?
posted by Cat Pie Hurts at 8:24 AM on June 17, 2008

I got an A710IS about a year ago, to replace my old Olympus C7000Z -- and returned it a couple days later. Way, way too noisy. My conclusion was that the last 3 years of digital camera development had been devoted entirely to producing easier pictures, and had essentially zero effect on producing better pictures.

I really think that the megapixel race is destroying the midsize P&S camera segment. Not only are they packing more megapixels, but it seems like the sensor size is actually shrinking -- I think the "typical" sensor has gone from 1/1.8 to 1/2.5 in the past several years. The additional trickery they're employing has not, IMO, been enough to compensate for this. DPReview's take on the Canon G9 sums it up well.

So I went out and bought a Pentax K100D. $450 after rebate with 2 lenses, and even though it's probably the least capable dSLR on the market it's like a different world. When I replace my Olympus it will be with a Canon SD or other pocketable camera -- go for convenience, because the image quality doesn't justify any other feature.
posted by bjrubble at 8:59 AM on June 17, 2008

I'm not sure if this relates but I got the A590IS and didn't keep it long enough to find out about the battery life. It wouldn't take a single truly sharp picture (wide, telephoto or macro). I took it back to Staples (Canada) and they replaced it but the second unit was the same. I've been very happy with my Powershot 450 so I was surprised to see such grainy, soft pictures.

I upgraded to the SX100 IS and it's good.
posted by bonobothegreat at 10:13 AM on June 17, 2008

I had the same problems, with early and sudden battery decay, until I started wiping off the batteries' contacts. Panasonic batteries in particular seem to have hard material on their terminals that the camera's contacts have trouble piercing. Using Eveready batteries helped, perhaps because the contact material is softer.

As Detuned Radio says, CHDK works like a dream on this camera. It has a nice little battery display that shows percentage of life left. When I had one of those sudden battery deaths reported by the CHDK battery display I took them out and re-inserted after cleaning their ends. Presto - back to 95%. I'm getting weeks' worth of occasional use on a pair of AAs now - this amounts to maybe 100 shots, some with flash, some not.
posted by jet_silver at 11:35 AM on June 17, 2008

Seconding checking the ISO settings of your noisy pictures. When I first got my Canon S3 IS I was bumping the button and changing my ISO settings without realizing it. Maybe you're doing this, or maybe it's a low-power issue like TedW suggests.
posted by found dog one eye at 12:36 PM on June 17, 2008

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