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Canon PowerShot S500 Review

The IXY DIGITAL 500 builds on the great design and performance characteristics of its predecessors – the long-selling IXY DIGITAL 400 and IXY DIGITAL 500, which were introduced in March and May 2003, respectively – and introduces new features.

With the addition of a Print/Share button, the models improve the ease and enjoyment of Canon’s Direct Print functionality. Users may make photo prints straight from a compatible printer with a single click of the new Print/Share button, eliminating the need for a computer altogether.

More: Best Memory Cards for Canon PowerShot S500 | Best Point and Shoot Camera | Best Point and Shoot Camera for Travel | Best Point and Shoot Camera Under 300

Essential Attributes

  • 5.0-megapixel CCD.
  • Optical viewfinder that displays the real image.
  • a color TFT LCD monitor with a 1.5-inch display.
  • Glass, 3x, 7.4-22.2mm lens, equal to a 35-105mm lens on a 35mm camera.
  • Maximum 4.1x digital zoom.
  • Automatic control of the exposure, with a Long Shutter option available for shooting at greater shutter speeds.
  • speeds ranging from 1/2000 to 15 seconds for the shutter.
  • The maximum aperture ranges from f/2.8 to f/4.9, depending on the location of the lens zoom.
  • Integrated flash with a total of five different modes.
  • Memory card storage of the CompactFlash Type I kind, with a 32 MB card provided.
  • Power is provided either by a rechargeable lithium-ion battery pack (the charger is included) or by an AC adapter, which may be purchased separately.

ArcSoft Camera Suite 1.3, software for Canon digital cameras, and USB drivers are all included, and they are compatible with both Windows and Mac operating systems.

Users will also be able to swiftly and conveniently transfer photographs to a Windows-based computer using this functionality. Additionally, new print-related features include ID Photo Print, which makes it simple to print photo prints that are compatible with all of the major identification-photo sizes in use around the world; and Movie Print, which allows users to print sequences of video files captured on the memory card.

Special Features

  • Film mode with the sound on.
  • Two modes of continuous shooting are available: standard and high speed.
  • Panorama mode with stitching assistance.
  • Focusing modes include infinity and macro.
  • Settings for “My Camera” that may be customized.
  • Self-Timer options of two or ten seconds for delaying the release of the shutter.
  • There is a choice to record captions using Sound Memo.
  • There are three types of exposure metering: spot, center-weighted, and evaluative.
  • Adjustment of the white balance (color), with seven different settings and a Custom option available.
  • Adjusting the colors may be done using the Photo Effects menu.
  • Adjustable ISO setting.
  • compatible with the DPOF format (Digital Print Order Format).
  • A USB cable that may be used to connect to a computer (driver software included).
  • A video and audio cable that may be connected to a television set.

As the first camera in Canon’s ultra-compact IXY DIGITAL series to integrate a five-megapixel picture sensor, the Canon ixy digital 500 offers more image capture precision than any other camera in the IXY DIGITAL series.

It was introduced in June 2004 as a limited-edition white-bodied version of the Canon IXY DIGITAL 500, which had originally been released in March of that year. The front panel of the new model is coated with a newly designed high-gloss surface finish, which achieves a transparent whiteness and a smooth feel similar to that of porcelain. The IXY DIGITAL 500 White Limited will only be sold in Japan and will be offered in a limited quantity of 10,000 units.


The PowerShot S500 is virtually indistinguishable from its predecessors, the PowerShot S400 and S330, and it maintains the compact form factor that contributed to the success of the ELPH range. The camera’s small size makes it ideal for discretely stowing away in a pocket or handbag without the risk of causing any harm to the device. However, I strongly advise using a cover to protect the camera from scratches and accidental activation.

A retractable lens is a clever feature that keeps the camera front entirely flat when the camera is turned off, highlighting the pocket-friendly form of the camera. Additionally, an automated lens cover ensures that you do not need to worry about smearing the lens or losing the lens cap.

The S500 has the same dimensions as the S400, which are 3.4 inches by 2.2 inches by 1.1 inches (87 millimeters by 57 millimeters by 28 millimeters), and the same weight, which is a modest 6.5 ounces (185 grams) without the battery or media.

The front of the S500 has a distinctive ELPH design, with the viewfinder and flash located directly above the lens, which is somewhat off-center and angled toward the right. Next to the optical viewfinder is a light emitter that serves various purposes. These include helping with focusing, reducing the appearance of red eyes, and providing a countdown for the self-timer.

When the camera is turned on, the telescopic lens swiftly slides into position and then retracts completely within the camera so that it may keep its flat profile. The only finger grip that is offered is a little notch that extends from the eyelet of the wrist strap; however, the wrist strap that is included should provide a more secure feeling overall.

On the top of the camera is where you’ll find the Shutter button, the Zoom lever, and the Power button. All three of them protrude somewhat from the surface. There is also a speaker for playback and a microscopic microphone for capturing sound to go along with the movies.

The connector for the wrist strap can be found on the right side of the camera (when viewed from the back), and the CompactFlash slot can be found on the same side. The slot is protected by a plastic lid that locks into place. The true location of the card slot’s release lever is on the rear panel of the camera itself.

The plugs for the USB and A/V outputs, which are shielded by a rubber cover, are located on the side of the camera that faces away from the viewfinder.

On the back panel of the camera are located all of the remaining controls, as well as both the optical and LCD viewfinders.

When shooting with one hand, a slight thumb grip is provided by a little ridge that runs down the right side of the camera, and the finger grip on the front of the camera is strengthened (for small to medium hands, those with larger hands may have a little difficulty negotiating the controls, which are a little close together).

The buttons for the LCD monitor’s Set, Menu, Display, and Function menus are arranged along the bottom edge of the screen, and just to the right of these buttons is a pad with four directional arrows. The door to the CompactFlash slot may be opened using the sliding switch on the right side, and the Mode switch allows access to the Record and Playback modes.

The dial for the Exposure Mode may be found just above the LCD panel. The camera’s status is displayed by two LED lamps located next to the viewfinder. These lamps light up to show when the focus has been adjusted or when the flash has been completely charged.

The battery compartment and the metal tripod mount are both housed in the S500’s lovely, flat bottom panel, which is one of the S500’s defining characteristics. Because the weight of the camera, which is placed off-center on the tripod head, might cause the mount threads to become too stressed, I like it when the tripod mount is not positioned so far off to the side of the camera.

It’s possible that this won’t be an issue, given how compact the S500 is and how well the tripod socket is designed (kudos for that!). However, due to the fact that the tripod socket is located so near to the edge of the camera, there is a possibility that the camera will not rest level on some tripod heads.

(Once again, this is a rather unimportant issue given that you can typically just tilt the tripod in order to position the camera in any way that you see fit.) A little rubber flap is located in the middle of the entrance to the battery compartment, and the cover for the battery compartment locks by sliding open and then outward.

This flap conceals a hole in the battery compartment lid that was made to provide access to the connection jack that is included within the “dummy battery” that is utilized in the AC adapter kit.

(The AC adapter method for the Canon PowerShot S500 digital camera, like that of many other Canon digital cameras, utilizes a fake battery that fits into the battery compartment and offers a connector for the cable of the AC power converter.)

Image Quality

The remarks that are offered here are a summary of only my most important results as required by my usual testing policy. Check out the “pictures” page of the S500 Digital ELPH for a comprehensive analysis of each of the sample photographs.

Are you having trouble deciding which camera to buy? Your perception should serve as the final arbiter! Images from the S500 may be compared with those from other cameras that you might be thinking about purchasing by using our Comparometer(TM). The evidence can be seen in the photographs, so let your own eyes judge which option is most appealing to you.

I would recommend that you allow your own eyes to be the judge of how well the camera worked, as is the case with all of the product testing that is done by Imaging Resource. Examine the photographs on the pictures page to get an idea of how the images captured by the S500 compared to those captured by other cameras you might be thinking about purchasing.


Under a wide range of lighting conditions, the color is very good to exceptional. The color reproduction of Canon’s Digital ELPH cameras has never failed to impress me, and the S500 is not an exception to that rule.

Throughout the entirety of my testing, the camera did an excellent job with color, delivering colors that were rich and realistic regardless of the source of light. Both the Auto and Manual white balance settings gave nice color, but the Manual setting was the one I used the majority of the time since I found it to be the most accurate.

The color of the subject’s skin was captured accurately, and the camera did a nice job with the challenging blue of the flower arrangement in both the outdoor and interior shots. Even though the photo of the musicians threw the camera’s white balance system off somewhat, the Manual mode still delivered the best and most convincing images.

On the Davebox target, colors were vivid and precise; nevertheless, the additive primaries appeared to be somewhat oversaturated. Nevertheless, you did an outstanding job, all things considered.


Accurate exposure, however, the contrast is a little too high when exposed to strong illumination. The S500 did a good job of dealing with the majority of the test conditions I put it under, requiring about the same amount of exposure adjustment as usual for the high-key, brutally lit outdoor portrait.

The intense lighting in that photo resulted in very high contrast, although the highlights lost some of their detail: This is not an unusual occurrence, but there is more lost information than I would want to see. The camera did a very excellent job of separating the various tone differences of the Q60 target on the Davebox, and it also did a nice job of capturing the information in the shadows.

To get an exposure that was sufficiently light indoors, the camera required an average amount of positive exposure compensation, which was +1.0 EV for the indoor portrait mode without the flash.


High Resolution, with 1,200–1,250 lines of what the developers call “great detail.” The S500 did quite well on the resolution test chart designed for its five-megapixel class when it was put through its paces in the “laboratory.”

In both the horizontal and vertical directions, it started displaying artifacts in the test patterns at resolutions as low as 800 lines per image height. This was true for both directions. I found “strong detail” out to a line count of 1,200 to 1,250.

(In all honesty, it’s a bit difficult to say how high the resolution is on the S500 since, although there is what seems to be substantial information visible well beyond the 1,250 line point, there is also extremely heavy aliasing.)

My cautious tendency tells me to call it quits when the aliasing is as strong as the primary detail, but some reviewers would be inclined to state that there are 1,400 lines of resolution here. However, some reviewers might be inclined to argue that there is 1,400 lines of resolution here. The “extinction” of the target patterns did not take place until around 1,650 lines had passed.

Image Noise

Even at ISO 50, it is noticeable, although the majority of consumers will likely not find it disagreeable until ISO 400. Image noise is becoming more noticeable than it was in prior generations of cameras as a result of increasing CCD resolutions leading to smaller pixel sizes.

Even at ISO 50, the photographs taken with the S500 have a little amount of image noise, yet it is noticeable enough to be considered an issue. However, the images at ISO 50 and 100 will probably be satisfactory for the majority of users, while ISO 200 and 400 will provide results that are just somewhat unacceptable.


Excellent macro performance. The S500 performed exceptionally well in the macro category, capturing a minimum area that measured only 2.18 x 1.63 inches (55 x 41 millimeters).

The resolution is really excellent, and there is a lot of detail in the coins, the brooch, and the dollar bill. As a result of the near shooting range, the details on the coins and brooch were less distinct. There is also some softness in each of the four corners of the frame, but this is something that is very usual for macro images taken with a digital camera.

The flash on the S500 was able to be controlled rather effectively for the macro-region; but, because of its location on the camera, a black shadow was cast in the lower right corner of the frame. (If you want to get the best close-up macro images with the S500, you should plan on utilizing external illumination.)

Night Photographs

Outstanding performance even in very low light, with excellent color balance and very little noise. At each of the four ISO levels, the S500 performed an outstanding job, producing images that were crisp, bright, and useable down to the limit of my test, which was 1/16 foot-candle (0.67 lux) in brightness.

The quality of the color remained consistent for the entirety of the show, even at the lowest possible light levels. In spite of the fact that the S500 produces noise that is slightly higher than usual when shot in daylight, I found the noise levels here to be unexpectedly low in most instances. Even at ISO 400, the noise levels were lower than I had anticipated.

The Canon PowerShot S500 comes equipped with a powerful autofocus assist illuminator that enables the camera to maintain focus even when there is no available light to do so. (At least on issues that are somewhat close by.)

Accuracy of the Viewfinder

The LCD display provides excellent accuracy, although the optical viewfinder has a rather restricted field of vision. The optical viewfinder of the S500 was relatively small, exhibiting just around 77 percent of the final frame area while shooting at wide angles and approximately 78 percent when shooting at telephoto.

The LCD monitor was far more precise, with an accuracy of almost 99 percent at both wide-angle and telephoto settings. In light of the fact that I prefer LCD monitors to have an accuracy that is as near to one hundred percent as is humanly feasible, the LCD monitor on the S500 is virtually flawless in this respect; on the other hand, its optical viewfinder could most definitely use some assistance.

Distortion of the Optical Field

The geometric distortion was around average, and there were some issues with coma and/or flare. At the wide-angle end of the lens, where I measured roughly 0.8 percent barrel distortion, the geometric distortion produced by the S500 was about average.

I noticed barely a half pixel of pincushion distortion at the telephoto end of the lens, which is a significant improvement over the wide-angle end. However, there are some issues with coma and/or flare in the corners of the frame caused by the lens of the S500. Additionally, there is a significant amount of softness visible, particularly along the left side.

However, chromatic aberration does not appear to be very severe because there is only a moderate amount of color visible on the margins of the target parts. This indicates that the color is not very intense. (On the resolution target, you can see this distortion as a very faint colored fringe surrounding the items that are located on the outside limits of the field of vision.)

This assertion, however, is somewhat called into question by the results of the outdoor, far-field test that I conducted, during which I observed a significant amount of chromatic aberration as well as softness in the four corners of the frame.

Battery Capacity

Even though it has an excellent battery life for such a little device, it is nevertheless recommended that you get an additional battery. The battery life of the S500 is above average for a tiny model, with a worst-case run duration of around 92 minutes on a fully charged battery. This puts the S500 in the “good” category.

Additionally, although I did not test the amount of time it took for the battery to go down with the LCD turned off, it appears to be at least several hours. My regular recommendation, which is to acquire a second battery in addition to the camera, is one that you should continue to follow.

Canon PowerShot S500 (Digital IXUS 500 / IXY Digital 500) Specs

Body typeUltracompact
Max resolution2592 x 1944
Other resolutions2048 x 1536, 1600 x 1200, 1240 x 768, 640 x 480
Image ratio w:h4:3
Effective pixels5 megapixels
Sensor photo detectors5 megapixels
Sensor size1/1.8″ (7.144 x 5.358 mm)
Sensor typeCCD
ISOAuto, 50, 100, 200, 400
White balance presets5
Custom white balanceYes
Image stabilizationNo
Uncompressed formatNo
JPEG quality levelsSuper-Fine, Fine, Normal
Focal length (Equiv.)36–108 mm
Optical zoom
Maximum apertureF2.8–4.9
AutofocusContrast Detect (sensor)Multi-area single Live View
Digital zoomYes (4.1 x)
Manual focusNo
Macro focus range5 cm (1.97″)
Number of focus points9
Screen size1.5″
Screen dots118,000
Touch screenNo
Live viewNo
Viewfinder typeOptical (tunnel)
Minimum shutter speed15 sec
Maximum shutter speed1/2000 sec
Aperture priorityNo
Shutter priorityNo
Built-in flashYes
Flash range3.50 m
External flashNo
Flash modesAuto, On, Off, Manual (Red Eye On/Off)
Continuous drive2.2 fps
Self-timerYes (2 or 10 sec)
Exposure compensation±2 (at 1/3 EV steps)
Resolutions640 x 480, 30 sec, 320 x 240, max 3 mins with audio
Storage typesCompact Flash (Type I)
Storage included32 MB CompactFlash
USBUSB 1.0 (1.5 Mbit/sec)
Remote controlNo
Environmentally sealedNo
BatteryBattery Pack
Battery descriptionLithium-Ion NB-1LH Battery & charger
Weight (inc. batteries)215 g (0.47 lb / 7.58 oz)
Dimensions87 x 57 x 28 mm (3.43 x 2.24 x 1.1″)
Orientation sensorYes
Timelapse recordingNo


The ELPH series has never failed to surprise me with both the quality and adaptability of its cameras and the 5.0-megapixel S500 is no exception to this trend. The compact size of the camera makes it an ideal travel companion, and the variety of capabilities gives it an advantage over the many point-and-shoot-style digital cameras that are now available on the market.

Even while the actual exposure management is still automated, the shooting range of the camera may be expanded thanks to the ability to alter the ISO and the white balance, as well as access longer shutter times. The high-resolution CCD creates images with excellent clarity and colors that are true to life.

There are two minor ergonomic issues with the S500, as well as with its predecessor, the S400, and with the S410, which is the S500’s, lower-resolution sister. These issues are as follows: To begin, the mode dial moves between its positions a little bit too readily, which means that it can change positions even when the user did not intend for it to do so.

The second issue is that removing the CF card is a bit of a hassle. Although none of these features is likely to prevent the majority of customers from giving serious consideration to purchasing this high-quality camera, I would be negligent if I failed to bring them to your attention. During my testing, I found that the lens of the S500 had a tendency to be relatively soft in the corners and that the camera’s photographs had a little level of noticeable image noise, even at its lowest ISO settings. Other aspects that contributed to more significant problems included the following:

I doubt that most consumers will find the S500’s image noise to be an issue at ISO settings of 200 and below, as I explained in my detailed image analysis; however, I feel compelled to mention it so that readers who are particularly sensitive to image noise can examine the sample pictures more closely, and form their own opinions.

When seen as a whole, however, the Canon PowerShot S500 Digital Camera pushes the resolution capabilities of the ELPH series to new heights and upholds Canon’s reputation for producing high-quality digital cameras that are extremely portable. Check out the S500’s near-twin, the four-thirds sensor version, if you want a camera with the same fantastic features as the S500 (including imaging performance that is significantly enhanced in several ways, in my opinion), but with slightly less resolution.

Canon PowerShot S500 Price

Pros & Cons

Good For
  • Very little size and very little weight
  • Controls for full manual and partial manual focus as well as a 30x zoom are included in this ultra-wide angle lens.
  • Provides a greater variety of shooting possibilities.
Need Improvement
  • When shooting handheld in low light, this is not the best option.
  • Only records in 720p high-definition video quality.
  • It is possible that the shooting performance is still too sluggish for action shots, especially when shooting inside.


Image Quality

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The IXY DIGITAL 500 builds on the great design and performance characteristics of its predecessors – the long-selling IXY DIGITAL 400 and IXY DIGITAL 500, which were introduced in March and May 2003, respectively – and introduces new features. With the addition of a Print/Share...Canon PowerShot S500 Review