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You are hereHome > Digital Camera Reviews > Canon PowerShot S500

Canon Digital Cameras


Canon PowerShot S500 Review

Review Date: Apr 1, 2004

Category: Point-and-Shoot

Canon PowerShot S500 Digital ELPH

Handling & Feel

Little crooked house: 1/200 sec., F3.5 and ISO 50
There was a little crooked man who lived in a little crooked house...
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 to hold.

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 to telephoto.

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 CF card.

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 shake.

The Canon PowerShot S500 Digital Elph earns our JeansPocket™ 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.

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