Canon PowerShot S500 Review
Date: Apr 1, 2004
Handling & Feel
was a little crooked man who lived in a little
1/200 sec., F3.5 and ISO 50
The Canon PowerShot S500 Digital ELPH
is a beautifully designed ultra compact digital
camera that looks very elegant in its different
tones of brushed and shiny metallic silver. Though
it does not claim to be the smallest of the ultra
compacts, its dimensions is 87.0W x 57.0H x 27.8D
mm (3.43W x 2.24H x 1.09D in.) and it weighs 185g
(6.53 oz.) without the battery and recording media
card -- small enough to slip in a fashion purse
or carry in your jeans pocket, and still comfortable
I've had a couple of people tell me when they
first pick up the Canon S500 that it feels "heavy"
-- a nice kind of heavy feeling of quality. I
personally find that it's really just right and
balanced; so many of the ultra compact digital
cameras are so light that it is difficult not
to inadvertently move and tilt the camera when
you press the shutter release button. I've not
had this camera shake problem with the Canon S500.
The Canon S500 is all metallic, except for the
plastic battery and CF card compartment doors,
and the rubber terminal cover. A built-in lens
cover protects the 3x optical zoom lens when the
camera is turned off.
Turn the camera on, and the lens extends out
just under 25mm (under 1 in.). The power button
is recessed and only requires a light push to
turn the camera on or off. I find this much preferable
to other design where you have to hold the button
in for a couple of seconds too long. Power on
takes just about 2 secs for the camera to be ready
to take pictures, which is quite fast.
When holding the camera with your right hand,
there is ample space for your fingers to rest
naturally for a comfortable grip. The zoom lever
around the shutter release button works quite
well, requiring about 2 seconds to go from wide-angle
The autofocus takes about 1 sec to lock (2 sec.
in extreme low-light). Get into the habit of pre-focusing
by pressing the shutter release half-way to lock
focus. Then compose, wait for the right moment,
and press the shutter release all the way to take
the picture. Done this way, there is no appreciable
shutter lag and you won't miss capturing the right
moment. Thanks to the low-light AF-assist beam,
the autofocus works extremely well, even in complete
darkness, without hunting for a lock.
Shot to shot speed is quite good, taking about
one second to write the image to the memory card.
The feel and construction of the camera is excellent.
The shiny ring around the lens is a nice design
touch, is easily smudged with your fingerprints,
and equally easy to wipe clean. There is also
a "gold" circle around the lens (silver
for the S410) though the golden colour is not
that apparent; it's more like a copper tone, but
still quite attractive.
I recommed purchasing a soft case to protect
the camera (especially the LCD). If you carry
the S500 in your pants or coat pocket without
the protection of a soft case, ensure you do not
also put your car keys in the same pocket to avoid
scratching it or, worse, damaging the LCD.
The viewfinder is optical and does not cover
100% of the frame, so you'll end up capturing
more image than what you compose in the viewfinder.
The LCD covers 100% of the frame and its brightness
is adjustable via menu setting. It's quite clear
at 118K pixels resolution, though I'm a bit disappointed
it's still 1.5 in., which seems quite small nowadays
in comparison with the larger ones (1.8 in. and
even 2.5 in.) we are seeing in other ultra compacts.
The Canon PowerShot S500 takes CompactFlash (Type
I) memory cards, and comes with a 32MB CF card.
At the SuperFine Large image quality, you'll be
able to record eleven (11) 2592x1944 pixels images.
The CF card slot cover pops open by sliding the
lock up, and it is easy to insert and remove the
The Li-Ion rechargeable battery (included) slides
in from the bottom. To use the optional AC Adapter,
you need to remove the battery and slide the adapter
in its place. A piece of rubber ingenuously hides
the DC Coupler in the battery cover for using
the optional AC Adapter.
I'm usually always wondering which way to insert
the battery or memory card in a digital camera.
On the Canon S500, they will go in only the right
way so that there are no chances that you insert
either the wrong way and damage any contacts.
The controls on the Canon PowerShot S500 Digital
Elph are mostly well thought out and user-friendly.
There is a separate SET button, which is always
a welcomed feature. The label on top of each button
is large and easy to read.
Here are a couple of improvement suggestions
for the good folks at Canon on my personal wish
list. I find that the placement of the SET button
at the far bottom left (when viewing the camera
from the back) a bit far for comfortable operation
of the four way controller or the delete function,
plus pressing the SET button, with the thumb of
your right hand alone; you definitely need the
thumb of your left hand to press the SET button.
Instead of SET-MENU-DISP-FUNC order, maybe swap
the order of the buttons around to MENU-DISP-FUNC-SET.
The MENU, once set, is barely gone into again,
and probably the same for DISP. I would also have
preferred those buttons slightly larger -- not
sure why the designer decided to lop off a third
of the already tiny MENU, DISP and FUNC buttons.
Now to controls that are especially well implemented
on the S500: Exposure compensation is accessed
via the FUNC menu and is thankfully at the top
of the menu options so that it is selected by
default. Dialing in an exposure compensation is
therefore simply a matter of pressing the FUNC
button and either the right or left button on
the 4-way controller. I usually prefer a dedicated
button for exposure compensation but the way it's
implemented here also works very well. I also
like the large round shutter release button which
makes it easy to depress it without causing camera
The Canon PowerShot S500 Digital Elph earns our
Certified Seal of Approval. Not only
does it take quality images, it is in this reviewer's
opinion one of the best well designed ultra compact.