Unlike Canon's higher-end cameras, the PowerShot A490 uses slightly older technology to process its images.
But while DIGIC IV might be Canon's most current processing technology, DIGIC III was good enough for cameras such as the 40D and 1D MKIII, and the A490's images, while not likely to strike fear into the hearts of professional photographers, are still rather good.
Macro mode (see full-res image)
The lens suffers principally from a rather whiny-sounding motor, but it's reasonably specified.
It's a 3.3x zoom, which equates to 37-122mm in 35mm terms. It's neither particularly wide nor long, but users won't have reason to complain in most situations.
Testing revealed a few minor shortcomings - high-contrast edges were a little prone to purple fringing, but our test images are otherwise sharp and well exposed.
Wide angle (see full-res image)
Even at higher ISO settings - the A490 goes as high as ISO 1600 - both noise and noise reduction are applied even-handedly, with the result that the A490 consistently produced good, sharp, clean images.
There's a fair degree of manual control. Shutter speed and aperture are naturally left to the camera's processor to figure out, but you can still control the A490's ISO setting, and there's +/- two stops of exposure compensation as well.
You can choose from centre-weighted, spot and evaluative metering. There's even the option for custom white balance and a customisable self-timer.
The video mode is good though. The lack of an HD mode isn't a shock, but the 640 x 480 VGA video is fine for short clips, although the fact you can't use the optical zoom while recording is annoying.