The Canon PowerShot A480 is designed for people who want to shoot pictures without fussing over camera settings. It's a dead-simple, reasonably stylish point-and-shoot camera to have on hand when you're hanging out with friends and family.
Available in black, blue, red, and silver, the boxy Canon PowerShot A480 measures 92.1x31.1x62mm and weighs 140g. Its lens, whose focal length ranges from 37mm to 122mm (35mm equivalent), retracts into the body when you turn off the camera. The Canon PowerShot A480 slips easily in and out of a pocket. Its plastic body feels solid, and the raised metal plate emblazoned with "10.0 MEGA PIXELS" acts as a grip for securing your hold on the camera.
The Canon PowerShot A480's controls are basic and uncomplicated. The shutter and on/off buttons are located on top of the camera. The back has zoom controls; a playback button; a four-way button that acts as a navigation control when you are in the software controls or want instant access to set ISO, flash, or timer, or to toggle between macro, normal, and landscape modes; a Function/Set button; a mode button for switching shooting modes; and a menu button. The button layout is clear and you'll learn it quickly as you tap the buttons with your right thumb.
Most users of the Canon PowerShot A480 will rely on the camera's Auto mode to determine the proper camera settings for a shot. Alternatively, you can choose from 12 scene modes: Aquarium, Beach, Fireworks, Foliage, Indoor, Kids&Pets, Long Shutter, Portrait, Night Snapshot, Snow, Sunset, and Super Macro. Though these modes sound friendly, you shouldn't take the names absolutely literally. For example, the Aquarium shooting mode is useful for more than just taking pictures of fish in a tank; it sets the camera so that it can better shoot anything behind glass.
Aside from the Auto and Scene modes, a Program mode lets you tweak settings such as sensitivity (ISO 80 to 1600), white balance, exposure, light metering, and colour effects. While testing the Canon PowerShot A480, we used the Program mode more frequently than we expected. The Scene modes do a good job overall, but we got better results using the Program mode and adjusting the white balance, ISO, and light metering as appropriate.
The Canon PowerShot A480's design encourages users to set the shooting mode and forget about it. The camera doesn't have a wheel for quickly switching modes - a drawback when you step out of a museum, say, and into the bright daylight of a park.
To switch modes, you have to press the Mode button, and then choose from among four on-screen selections: Auto, Program, Scene, and Movie. If you want to switch to one of Scene modes, you then have to navigate the Scene menu to find the scene you want. This process can take 7 to 10 seconds, whereas with a mode wheel you can make the switch in a second.