Most under-$150 digital cameras fare poorly in tests, but the Canon PowerShot A4000 IS surprises critics. It delivers a big 8x zoom and decent photos and video, all in an easy-to-use package that slips into a skinny-jeans pocket. Among the cheapest of the cheap, it's also the top pick in this category.
If you can afford to spend more, though, experts say you'll be happier with the top-rated Sony Cyber-shot DSC-WX150 (*Est. $220). Its slimmer, quicker, longer-zoom shoots better photos and video and has more features -- basically outclasses the cheaper Canon in every way.
Tiny and simple. The Canon A4000 IS is a little bulkier than pricier cameras, but it's still minuscule. "Just a tad longer than a deck of playing cards," say editors at Steves-Digicams.com. Less than an inch thick, it "slips easily into a pocket -- we're talking skinny jeans here," says Marcus Hawkins at TechRadar.com.
Little cameras have little buttons. The camera's four-way control pad is "tiny ... fingernail size," Hawkins says. Still, Steves-Digicams.com says the miniature buttons "worked great during our use, and never posed any issues due to their size." Hawkins agrees that the Canon is generally "very simple to operate."
It's largely point-and-shoot. The camera does almost all of the work, although the Program mode offers a little control over things like white balance.
The A4000's LCD screen is just as big as pricier pocket cameras' (3 inches), but it's not as sharp or bright, so it's not as easy to see in bright light or at odd angles in tests.
Good photos -- for the price. Considering that it's one of the cheapest digital cameras you can buy, critics say the Canon A4000 IS's photos don't look too shabby.
Even stretched full-size on a 24-inch computer monitor at Steves-Digicams.com, "all of our samples looked really good; to the point that I was surprised they were captured with this inexpensive point-n-shoot."
The 16-megapixel photos look fairly sharp in tests at PCMag.com, with terrific detail in good light (up to ISO 400). The Canon struggles in dim light, though -- a common problem for cheap cameras -- so the built-in flash comes in handy indoors. Those flash photos look great, Steves-Digicams.com says.
At first, the Canon A4000 IS seems to work pretty quickly. It can start up and shoot in 2.5 seconds or less in tests. Shutter lag is a mere 0.2-second.
But it plods between shots, like most ultra-cheapies. "The Canon A4000 IS might get off two shots in the time it took you to read this sentence … maybe," says T.J. Donegan at DigitalCameraInfo.com. Fisher records 1.4 seconds of dead time between shots. Hawkins at TechRadar.com puts it at two to three seconds: "It certainly feels slow, with the shutter ticking along sedately like a bedside clock."
Video shoots in HD, but only 720p (not full 1080). Footage looks "nice ... sharp focus and good detail," according to Steves-Digicams.com. Fisher finds it "grainy, even under studio lighting ... nothing to write home about," but fine for Facebook and YouTube. The microphone picks up every little bit of noise (typical for a cheap camera), and the optical zoom can't be used while filming.
Battery life is rated at 175 shots per charge. "Nothing to get excited about," say testers at Steves-Digicams.com, but "sufficient for most shooters to last them throughout the day."
Metal body is a nice surprise. Experts are impressed by the metal casing on such a low-priced camera.
The Canon A4000 IS "feels much more solid than competing cameras with plastic exteriors," says Fisher at PCMag.com. Steves-Digicams.com agrees that the metal body "gives the camera a well-built and durable feel."
"We love the build quality of the A4000 IS," says Matt Grayson at PhotographyBlog.com. Surprisingly, it even has a metal tripod mount. Only the battery door and rubber USB jack cover aren't metal, and Grayson finds them "flimsy."
Owners at Amazon.com don't mention the Canon's sturdiness one way or the other -- except for one owner who accidentally dropped hers on the sand floor of a horse-training pen. "The lens is hardly sealed at all so a lot of the sand went into it" and broke it, she says.
Long zoom, for a cheap camera. Zoom is impressive -- 8x. That's nearly as long as the 10x-zoom Sony WX150 (most cheap cameras top out at 5x zoom).
Another nice feature: The Canon A4000 IS accepts high-capacity SDXC memory cards. "This means you can keep shooting and not worry about filling the card up," says Grayson at PhotographyBlog.com.
Otherwise, the Canon has pretty standard features for its price, reviews say. Canon's Live View Control lets you adjust settings (like brightness and saturation) and see on the screen how it will affect your photo before you shoot. You can add effects to your photos, like fisheye, toy camera and monochrome.
A mini USB port hooks the Canon to your computer. There's no HDMI jack for hooking up to an HDTV, though.
"If you're looking for the latest whizz-bang features that compact cameras have to offer, the A4000 IS is probably not for you," says Donegan at DigitalCameraInfo.com. "If you want a camera that has a respectable lens (8x optical zoom) and sensor (16-megapixel CCD) with the basic features and little else, the A4000 IS is a good option."
Review Credibility: Excellent "Stunning color accuracy" helps the Canon PowerShot A4000 IS beat other ultra-cheap cameras in tests here. T.J. Donegan's exhaustive test does find flaws -- like the Canon's slothlike slowness -- but overall, it's "one of the best values you'll find" for the price.
Review: Canon PowerShot A4000 IS, T.J. Donegan, March 5, 2012
Review Credibility: Very Good After a thorough test, the Canon PowerShot A4000 IS earns a spot on this website's Recommended list. Users sacrifice a few features in the name of price -- but not many -- and it shoots better photos with a longer zoom than most cheap cameras.
Review: Canon PowerShot A4000 IS Review, Editors of Steves-Digicams.com, May 5, 2012
Review Credibility: Very Good Although it's a "good value for the money," Marcus Hawkins names several cameras he likes better than the Canon PowerShot A4000 IS -- including the Nikon Coolpix S6300. The Canon only shoots well in bright light, and it's slow.
Review: Canon PowerShot A4000 IS Review, Marcus Hawkins, Sept. 29, 2012
Review Credibility: Very Good Jim Fisher says the super-cheap Canon PowerShot A4000 IS has its limits -- it's sort of slow, and video and photos are just OK -- but it's pretty good for the price.
Review: Canon PowerShot A4000 IS, Jim Fisher, March 9, 2012
Review Credibility: Good Experts here publish excellent camera tests, but their list of top picks isn't as up-to-date as some other sites'. The Canon PowerShot A4000 IS makes the list, thanks to its nice photo quality and excellent build and features for the price. Matt Grayson says it's a great take-along camera for a family.
Review: Canon PowerShot A4000 IS Review, Matt Grayson, June 19, 2012
Review Credibility: Good About 20 owners give the Canon PowerShot A4000 IS mostly high marks here. Most owners love the quality for the price. In fact, some of the low ratings have nothing to do with the camera -- one 1-star review complains that the seller sent a used camera, and another complains that "the touch screen didn't work" (it doesn't have a touch screen).
Review: Canon PowerShot A4000 IS, Contributors to Amazon.com, As of December 2012