Canon PowerShot S500 Digital Elph
At a Glance
The latest addition to Canon's popular pocket-size Digital Elph line, the $499 Canon PowerShot S500 retains its predecessors' elegantly designed, pocket-size format but adds 5-megapixel resolution.
You don't get a lot of sophisticated scene modes or full manual settings options on the S500. Instead, it's designed to be carried everywhere and be ready to go the moment you spot something image-worthy. In the camera's automatic mode, you get the basic adjustments for image size, flash setting, continuous shooting, self-timer, macro focus, and infinity modes. The S500's Manual mode adds controls for exposure metering and compensation, white balance, and ISO sensitivity to help you get more out of more complicated shooting conditions.
Despite its simplicity, the S500 did well in our photo-quality lab tests. (To score image quality, the PC World Test Center sets all point-and-shoot digital cameras to their default, fully automatic mode.) We awarded the S500 high scores in both the flash and the outdoor tests, its main strengths being accurate exposure and color.
Like other recent Canon cameras, the S500 has a print/share button that glows blue when you connect to a PC or to a PictBridge-compatible printer and displays a menu of options. Pressing the button kicks off the printing or image transfer. This process feels less sophisticated than the method some other cameras use to share photos by e-mail or Web page, but it does simplify the most common tasks involved in getting your images out of the camera.
In our battery-life test, the S500's tiny rechargeable lithium-ion battery lasted a subpar 1 hour and 37 minutes, or 178 shots. But the battery charger is as compact as the camera--small enough to fit easily into an overstuffed travel bag--and it plugs straight into a power outlet, so there are no cables to deal with.
You may need a little time to get used to the S500's dual menu system (now standard on most Canon point-and-shoot digital cameras), but you should soon grow accustomed to their logical organization and find them easy to navigate. Our one quibble with the S500's controls involves the shooting mode dial, which is easy to bump to an unintended setting, especially when you're putting the camera into or pulling it out of the optional carrying case. The 1.5-inch LCD seems small by today's standards, where 1.8-inch and larger panels are common.
Tough, sophisticated looking, and frill-free, the Canon PowerShot S500 should be most attractive to intermediate and advanced photographers who want a camera that's easy to take anywhere.