Canon's PowerShot A590 IS is not just a budget camera. Hell, it's not even a "no-compromise" low-end camera. On paper, it looks a hell of a lot like something that would've cost $800 not long ago, but now it's a ridiculously low $279 (AU: That's a local price, right there). If that's not enough of a slap in the face of its competitors, Canon is also offering two more A Series siblings, the A580 at $229 and the multicoloured A470 at—seriously—$179.
First, the lowdown on the A590 IS. It's got an optical image stabiliser, 8-megapixel sensor, 4X optical zoom lens, a 2.5" 230,000-pixel LCD screen and the full manual control people love in the A Series.
Under the hood, there's the lauded DIGIC III processor which now includes not only basic facial recognition and on-the-fly redeye correction, but these potentially useful new tricks:
• Automatic spot white-balance reading, which does a white bal directly on faces of actual humans, getting the lighting right where it counts
• AF Point Zoom, digitally zooming in on the faces of your subjects so you can see 'em up close before you take the shot
• Motion detection for jacking up the ISO and shutter speed when your subject is moving, and pulling them down when it's not
If $279 is too rich for your blood, the A580 is essentially the same as the A590 IS minus the optical image stabilization and the manual control. Stepping down further to the A470, you're basically getting a major improvement on the A460 at a $30 premium: 7.1 megapixels up from 5, 2.5" LCD instead of 2", and a choice of grey, blue, red or orange finish.
Mind you, the two cheaper A's have the same Digic III processor, meaning the same tricks highlighted above. Of course, if you know the A Series you know that they're not the slenderest of cameras, and one reason is that they take AA batteries instead of hiding lithium-ion ones under their girdles. (Many people think this is actually a good thing, especially when travelling or doing a lot outdoors.)
Any way you look at it, this is an explosive volley in the middle of a fairly exciting price war. Go Canon! No, scratch that. Go cheapskate photographers—your day is finally here! [Canon]