Canon PowerShot A520

Canon PowerShot A520

The A series of PowerShot cameras when first brought out in 1998 was intended to be an entry level pocket camera for the average user who wanted decent pictures with no fuss or bother. By the time the ninteenth camera in the series, this A520, was introduced in March of 2005 these had become very powerful little devices.

The A520 camera has a 4.0 megapixel sensor and a retractable 4x zoom lens with a full frame equivalent zoom range of 35 to 140mm. The image processor was Canon’s very capable, for the time, Digic processor.

Canon says that the camera has 20 different shooting modes. There is a dial on the top of the camera that allows setting it to Manual mode, Aperture or Shutter priority, Program mode or full Auto mode. In addition there are generic settings for automatic functioning in certain conditions such as portraits, landscapes, action shots and the like. There is even a Movie mode that allows video in various resolutions up to 640 x 480 pixels. Pretty tame stuff but, for its day, very respectable.

Canon PowerShot A520

When the A520 is off the lens is retracted making it a good fit for purse or pocket.

Canon PowerShot A520

When turned on the lens extends into shooting position. It then moves in and out for various focal lengths.

Canon PowerShot A520

On the front of the camera the built in flash is along the top beside the viewfinder window.

Canon PowerShot A520

On the back is the LCD screen and most of the custom feature controls. The User Guide below explains all.

Canon PowerShot A520

The SD chip slot is located in its own compartment accessible from the back bottom of the camera.

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Canon PowerShot A520

On the top deck is the on/off button, the shutter button and zoom control lever and, of course, the function selector wheel.

Canon PowerShot A520

On the bottom is the battery compartment and the separate SD chip slot. There is a tripod screw mount as well.

Canon PowerShot A520

One feature of this camera that is really convenient is that it is powered by two AA batteries which are available everywhere.

I do not pretend this to be a full review of this camera. Those can be found elsewhere I am sure. The full specifications can be found in the Canon Museum here. You can also find the specifications at dpReview here.

In the Collection I have the following: 

Collection No.: C-354
Serial Number: 0852103701
Date of Introduction: March 2005
Sensor: 4.0 mpx
Lens (35mm equiv.): 35-140mm f/2.6 – 5.5
Date of Acquisition: 29 April 2020
Condition: Excellent – fully functioning
Notes: Found on Craig’s List. Camera came boxed with manuals, lanyard, CD and other original printed material.
Canon PowerShot A520 User Manual

If you have questions about the operation of the A520 you can always read the Camera User Guide.

So, how does it Shoot?

Not all of my old cameras are in working condition. However, this A520 is fully operational so I have had it out in the back yard for a test run. The truth is, I have been shooting DSLR’s, and before that SLR’s, for so long that I have come to like the heft and solid construction of the bigger professional cameras. The little cameras seem so delicate and frail that I am afraid to rely on them.

The A520 is very silent. I know this because when I got it the sound was turned off. In that state the shutter is totally silent. I don’t like that because I rely on sound to tell me what the camera is doing and when I have something to do. Once I turned the sound on that was solved, however, the sound was rather anemic for my taste. But that is nit picking.

Actually, considering that this is only a 4.0 megapixel camera, I found it able to take really decent pictures. There is nothing here you can blow up to wall size but that is not what this camera is for. For slides and snapshots it would be perfectly adequate.


To test the camera I went out in the back yard for a few minutes. This is a full frame image of the wall on the back patio. It was an image with fairly high contrast. I set the camera on automatic and let it take the picture. The image here  is unprocessed and is just as it came out of the camera. The A520 had no trouble with the contrast or focusing. It selected1/640th at f4 and an ISO of 50. I set the zoom to 13.81mm to provide a pleasing composition.

At 100% the image holds up really well. Sharpness is nice and crisp and tonal range is good. Considering the size of the package, it is pretty amazing.

At 200% this lens still remains sharp but, of course, the 4 mpx image begins to pixelate. You expect that but I did not expect the quality of lens performance.

So, I then walked over to the apple tree and took a picture of white blossoms in full sun. I then did a small amount of post processing which included contrast, brightness and sharpening and applied a little vignette. Again, the camera was on automatic and it chose 1/500th at f/6.3 and an ISO of 50. I think that you will see that this little camera can take a fine picture. A sharp 8 x 10 print would be no problem at all!

You can see from this very simple test that this camera is totally adequate for the amateur user who simply wants good travel photos in a Point and Shoot camera. How would it compare to my cell phone? I don’t know but that is a test I should do.

There were little things I did not like. For an instance, there is a delay between the shutter button press and the actual opening of the shutter. I have had experience with other similar cameras of this type from this period and low light performance is not good. This is a problem principally with having a very small sensor. Neither is high ISO operation.  That said, for its intended audience, at the time, this was a great little camera.

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