Canon Powershot SX500IS review

Canon Powershot SX500IS is a small ultra zoom camera. Its 30x zoom lens covers the range of 24-720mm in 35mm equivalent and is paired to 16MP CCD sensor. SX500IS has a range of shooting modes including full manual controls over exposure and focus. Usually I don’t publish reviews of digital cameras of this price range, but this one attracted my attention, so here it is.

GENERAL SPECIFICATIONS

  • Announced: 2012.
  • Type: Ultrazoom
  • Dimensions: 104 x 70 x 80 mm
  • Weight: 341 g
  • Sensor: CCD 16MP (4608 x 3456 pixels)
  • Lens: 4.3 – 129mm (24-720 in 35mm), F/3.4-5.8, optical image stabilization
  • ISO range: 100 – 1,600
  • Dust and moisture protection: No
  • Flash: Pop-up flash
  • Continuous shooting: 0.8 fps
  • LCD screen: 3″, 461,000 dots, fixed, 4:3 ratio
  • Memory card: SDHC
  • Battery: Li-Ion NB-6L
  • Video: 1280 x 720 (25fps), 640 x 480
  • Connectors: USB 2.0, mini HDMI

CONSTRUCTION AND HANDLING

Canon SX500IS looks like a really small DSLR. It has a big lens up front and a pronounced and well shaped grip. It is easy to hold and operate due to large buttons on the back of the camera.

Build quality is also quite good. Plastic quality is good, and the metal lens barrel contibutes to the overall impressions. Battery and memory card compartment door is not flimsy. Tripod mount is made of metal.

LCD

LCD unit has a large 3 inch diagonal and 461,000 dots. Sharpness is decent but still far from best possible. Viewing angles could be much better. There is no viewfinder on this camera, nor an option to attach one.

MENU AND DISPLAYS

Menu system is similar to other Powershot cameras; relatively easy to navigate, but not as nice or logical like the one on EOS models. Major settings are adjusted via quick menu followed by “Func.Set.” button press.

LIGHT METERING

Canon SX500IS generally has a good light metering. I found it is needed to use EV compensation of -1/3 or -2/3 to reduce the chance of blown highlights when shooting high contrast scenes but besides that everything worked fine. In PASM modes, you can select between three usual light metering modes – evaluative, center and spot.

FLASH

A small pop-up flash with range of 5m is present – good enough for family use. SX500 allows the user to set the flash output up to +-2EV.

SENSOR

The sensor has 16 megapixels and native 4:3 shooting ratio (4608 x 3456 pixels). Other shooting ratios are also available in quick menu – 16:9: 3:2 and 1:1. Interestingly, it is not a CMOS sensor, but older CCD model. CMOS HS units are obviously reserved for more expensive models. I understand there have to be compromises in order to get the price lower, but why isn’t there a camera with this zoom range and body size paired to sensor like the one from G15? Such model might be quite interesting to many users.

Anyway, the sensor performance is as expected – plagued with noise reduction. Images are acceptable for casual tourist use, but this is far from quality delivered by more expensive Powershot models. ISO range goes from ISO 100 to 1600. I’d like to say base values are significantly better than the high ones, but it’s not the case. Even at ISO 100, details which most likely existed in images are smudged by noise reduction. Pitty.

Color reproduction is also not like I would have wanted it to be. There are several “My colors” presets for tweaking color response, but none of them actually gets really pleasant and strong saturation.

CANON SX500IS LENS

The lens has a huge 30x optical zoom, ranging from 24 to 720mm in 35mm equivalent. If such zoom range is a “must have” in your list and your wallet is thin, this is the camera to have. Aperture is F/3.4 on wide angle and falls down to F/5.8 at maximum zoom. This is to be expected from such long zoom but limits the use in low light.

The lens has optical image stabilization which works superbly. It is possible to get sharp images at maximum zoom even at 1/20 exposure (look at the pigeon sample below the review).

Overall lens quality is rather good. Sharpness looks fine in my opinion even at maximum zoom, but it’s the sensor and not the lens that sets ultimate limit of fine detail resolution; like I wrote in previous chapter, noise reduction is responsible for the lack of details in images. Light fall-off in corners is also well controlled and the only real downsides are noticeable chromatic aberrations. Since they can be very easily removed in post-process, the lens deserves my recommendations.

CANON SX500IS BATTERY

Canon SX500IS is delivered with a Li-Ion battery and external charger. It is strong enough for around 200 shots. If you don’t use flash and zoom much of the time, this can be extended to maybe 250 shots.

CANON SX500IS AUTOFOCUS AND CONTINUOUS SHOOTING

At 0.8 fps this camera is definitely not for sport or action shots. On the other side, buffer never fills up – I kept the shutter pressed for 60 consecutive shots and then got bored…

Auto focus speed is reasonable at wide angle (below a second in good light) but still takes up to 2 or 3 seconds fully zoomed. Also, it works faster when you select “Face detection” which focuses using all AF points rather than single AF point.

Macro goes down to 1cm, but at this distance you’ll have trouble lighting you subject.

AF assist lamp is also present. There is an option to automatically enlarge focused part of the image to check focus accuracy. If needed, full manual focus with distance scale is also available.

CONCLUSION 

Canon SX500IS is definitely an interesting camera. It has excellent handling and a nice set of manual features for those who like to take control over image creation process. The 24-720mm optical zoom is the main reason you might want one; this is one of the most affordable ultra zoom cameras on the market. But keep in mind: image quality is good enough only for amateur use; aggressive noise reduction limits image quality to a large extent, and that’s a shame. I have provided a lot of image samples below so you can decide if it’s good enough for you.

PRO

  • Handling and design
  • Huge 24-720mm optical zoom
  • Image stabilization effectiveness in video and stills
  • Easy to operate

CONS

  • Overly aggressive noise reduction at all ISO settings
  • Not working with broken battery compartment
  • Average video quality

PHOTO EXAMPLES

ISO 100, F/8, 1/1600

ISO 200, F/4, 1/400

ISO 100, F/5.8, 1/125

ISO 125, F/5.6, 1/100

ISO 800, F/5.8, 1/400

ISO 800, F/4.5, 1/500

ISO 200, F/5.6, 1/200

ISO 640, F/5.8, 1/2500

ISO 100, F/4, 1/320

ISO 100, F/5.6, 1/125

ISO 1600, F/3.4, 1/40

ISO 400, F/5.8, 1/20

ISO 100, F/5.8, 1/200

ISO 160, F/5, 1/160

ISO 320, F/3.4, 1/30

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One thought on “Canon Powershot SX500IS review

  1. Pingback: Canon Powershot SX510HS review | Camerahoarders.com

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