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Canon PowerShot SD500

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The 7.1-megapixel Canon PowerShot SD500 is a smooth operator, housed in a sleek metallic body and capable of taking outstanding images, but its dearth of manual features and high price make it an expensive choice.

At six ounces (without batteries), and about the size of a deck of cards, the SD500 is a true pocket camera. The 2-inch LCD is bright and easy to see, even in afternoon sunlight, and it brightens automatically when shooting in low-light conditions. Its buttons and controls are well-placed and menus are easy to read and navigate. Unfortunately, there’s no live histogram to help you gauge exposure.

The SD500 is a point-and-shoot camera, so it doesn't have a lot of manual controls. The mode dial offers Auto, Manual, Special Scene, Movie, and Playback modes, but Manual mode adjustments are limited to exposure compensation, white balance (including custom white balance), ISO (from 50 to 400), and photo effect settings. You can’t set aperture or shutter speed directly (but you can set a long shutter of up to 15 seconds). There are nine scene modes for shooting everything from Foliage to Fireworks. Stitch Assist helps you shoot overlapping images for creating panoramas (you’ll need the bundled PhotoStitch software to assemble the images on your computer).

A My Colors mode offers some creative possibilities for in-camera experimentation, including the ability to lighten or darken skin tones, selectively make blue, greens, or reds more vivid, or swap a specific color for another color. I found the results spotty. You’re better off making these kinds of adjustments in an image-editing program like Photoshop Elements (   , February 2005 ), but you have nothing to lose (except memory space) by experimenting with the in-camera adjustments, because you can save an unaltered copy of the image in addition to your adjusted image.

The PowerShot SD500’s startup is almost instantaneous, and shutter lag virtually nonexistent. And its continuous shooting mode is impressive: I snapped 60 pictures in less than 30 seconds before my shutter-pressing finger gave out (performance will depend on your memory card’s storage capacity).

The 3x optical zoom lens ranges from a fast f2.8 at the wide end to f4.9 at the long end. In macro mode, the SD500 can focus to 2 inches. A responsive 9-point AiAF (artificial intelligence autofocus) detects the subject automatically, regardless of where it is in the frame (this can be disabled for center autofocus). An AF-Assist beam helps you focus in low light.

The images from the PowerShot SD500 were excellent, with accurate, saturated colors and sharp detail. Noise becomes noticeable above 200 ISO. At this price, I’d expect to be able to shoot TIFFs or Raw-format images.

The SD500 captures movies at VGA quality (640-by-480 pixels) and 30 frames per second (fps), and you can record continuously until your memory card is full. The video quality is excellent. A Fast Frame Rate mode lets you record video at 60 fps, a perfect speed for analyzing your golf swing, but the resolution is limited to 320-by-240 and clips are limited to a minute long.

Macworld’s Buying Advice

The Canon PowerShot SD500 takes excellent pictures, but the lack of manual features makes it a pricey point-and-shoot camera.

Jury Tests

Color Quality—Accuracy Excellent
Clarity—Detail Excellent
Clarity—Artifacts, Noise Very Good

Scale = Excellent, Very Good, Good, Flawed, Unacceptable


Resolution 7.1 megapixels
Zoom/Focal Length 3.0x Optical (37mm to 111mm)
Maximum Aperture f2.8-f4.9
Size (wxhxd) 3.37 inches x 2.24 inches x 1.04 inches
Weight 6.0 ounces

[ Robert Ellis is a photography enthusiast with a growing collection of digital cameras. He is a frequent contributor to Macworld and maintains the blog Futurosity.]

Canon PowerShot SD500
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