Customer Review

148 of 156 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good for the casual snapper, disappointing for the enthusiast, 14 Nov. 2012
This review is from: Canon PowerShot SX500 IS Digital Camera - Black (16.0 MP, 30x Optical Zoom) 3.0 inch LCD (Camera)
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First impressions

I thought this was a surprisingly small and light camera for having a 30x zoom. It won't fit in a pocket - unless it's a big, baggy one - but should slip easily into a bag, or not wreck your neck muscles if carried on a strap. It has a nice comfortable grip, a good clear layout on the back with a nice clear screen (although I could only test it in autumn sunlight), a convenient one-touch recording button for movies and, wonder of wonders, a lens cap with a thin strap you can attach to the camera body so you can be sure of not losing it. It also feels reassuringly solid and well made. All in all, it gave a good first impression. The only no-no was the discovery that the Digital Zoom was switched on by default. The camera gives you a 30x Optical zoom anyway. A Digital zoom appears to add to that but doesn't actually give you any extra pixels - the ones you have are magnified and image quality suffers as a result. Most photographers would advise you to turn the digital zoom off and forget about it. And this camera cannot afford to give away image quality as it is its weakest point already. The other annoying negative is a manual that comes on disc rather than as a book.

Startup time is fast, as you'd expect with a modern camera. The menus are nice and clear with a brief description underneath of what each option is for. This is not always too helpful - if you don't know what a "Servo AF" is, or whether you want it on or off, just telling you that the option turns it on or off is not all the useful! So you need the manual - bad luck if you're out in the field and away from your PC for viewing it. However, Canon menus on the whole are usually nice and clear and easy to navigate, and this one is no exception. The settings you can change vary depending if you're in Automatic or one of the more manual modes. There are also some very basic editing options available when reviewing your photos.

Using the camera

The zoom is great fun! It is amazing what you can see, when you zoom right in on a screne. A truly excellent feature of the camera is the zoom assist button on the side, Press and hold this button, use the zoom controls to frame the part of the scene you want to zoom into and then when you release the button, the camera zooms in automatically to your frame. This process allows you to see a nice, clear box superimposed on the whole scene, allowing you avoid accidentally cropping out part of a person, or allowing annoying objects into your picture and I found myself using it all the time when zooming. A very nice touch.

Now for quality and use. If you're a happy point-and-click photographer who wants a decent camera to use on holidays and the like, you can almost stop reading here. Although not a fast ("bright") lens, pictures printed at 6in x 4in, or A4, or viewed on screen are fine with good colour balance. In all but the brightest light, however, you will need some form of tripod or other means of stabilising the lens at extreme zoom in order to get a sharp picture. But for almost everything, Automatic mode will serve you well and produce nice photos. Annoyingly, if you want to use Macro mode (and most people enjoy taking some macro photos) you can't do it in Automatic and will need to switch to a different mode. However, ordinary folk who don't want to be camera geeks will be well pleased with this camera.

If you're an enthusiast

If however you are a bit of a camera geek, the good news ends here, even though the camera provides some settings for the enthusiast (Av, TV, Manual, Program). The SX500 does have a very small sensor, as do most cameras of its class. Even allowing for that though, it has a noise problem. Even at the lowest ISOs, noise is clearly visible and zooming in to 100% will leave you disappointed, as will the relatively 'soft' images. Forget low-light photography - the noise is pretty terrible by ISO 800 and you'll need to use a flash. Flash balance is fairly good but still quite noisy - snaps only, really. There's some vignetting at the wide end of the zoom range but it's not terrible. What is more of a struggle is that the lens is pretty slow even at wide angle (max aperture at wide angle is f/3.4), let alone at extreme zoom. A tripod is a must - but the quality of the pictures will still disappoint. That's not only for noise but for chromatic aberration (ie purple fringing). I haven't seen this much purple fringing on any camera for years and it's really disappointing. Macro results, however, seemed pretty good and produced the sharpest & best images of any I took. The centre of the lens, it seems, is extremely sharp. Astonishingly the zoom goes to 0cm! Good luck getting light on the subject though - I couldn't find a way to test that! Colour reproduction seemed very good and true to life on all photos I took - this has always been a strong point of Canon cameras.


Overall then, if you want a long zoom in a really very compact camera you probably won't find a longer zoom or a smaller body than this. If you're a casual user and don't want to enlarge your images, or crop in on them tightly, you're likely to be very happy with this camera. As a holiday and snaps camera for this kind of user, it's pretty excellent and even though the image quality could be better it's not likely to be much of a problem. For this kind of user, I'd give the camera 4 stars - maybe 4 and a half.

If you're an enthusiast, I think you're going to be disappointed with the image quality and the noise issues. For this group of users, who don't want to carry a heavy DSLR (or want to leave it behind sometimes) I think the compromises go too far, despite the wonderful long lens. The image quality just isn't up to scratch. For this group, then, 2 stars - and maybe, just maybe, 3 if the long zoom is an absolute 'must have' (but you'd be better with a larger-sensor compact and a crop, I think). And not having a manual to hand is infuriating for those who want to fully explore a camera's capabilities.

This makes a single overall rating for this camera a very difficult choice! But in all honesty, I think I can't give it more than 3 stars with the proviso (if you've read this far!) that it might suit YOU personally down to the ground if you're a casual snapper.
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Tracked by 4 customers

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Showing 1-9 of 9 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 22 Nov 2012 12:25:13 GMT
impressive review, very objective. helped a lot! thanks :)

Posted on 31 Dec 2012 06:46:15 GMT
S. Quon says:
[Customers don't think this post adds to the discussion. Show post anyway. Show all unhelpful posts.]

In reply to an earlier post on 31 Dec 2012 12:29:51 GMT
Caroline P. says:
Truly, I beg to differ! (And at time of writing, it was over £250 and is still well over $250). But if you read around reviews of cameras in this kind of class, you'll see quite often that people have bought them for situations where they don't want to lug around a DSLR. And for these people, there are better portable solutions than this camera. :)

In reply to an earlier post on 5 May 2013 18:40:05 BDT
Hi Caroline, which better portable cameras would you recommend then?

In reply to an earlier post on 14 Sep 2013 20:18:47 BDT
Last edited by the author on 2 Nov 2013 19:27:14 GMT
KazzieM says:
Reply to S. Quon: Why the "sweetie" - sounds a little patronising? Maybe someone IS an enthusiast (euthisust?) and is only just starting out (a kid or teenager for example in a position to buy their first camera perhaps?) Or someone who has had a day job and loves photography but never been able to afford ££ or the time and this is their starter before building up. I would say "enthusiasm" can be just as much a feeling in side of someone, as actually doing something.
Just my view, I respect yours, but felt you were a little dismissive of such a really helpful review.

Posted on 1 Nov 2013 09:22:52 GMT
Last edited by the author on 1 Nov 2013 09:25:09 GMT
Hi, this is a very good review. you seem to know more about this camera, can you please help me? I am trying to shoot panoramic picture with this camera but I am having problems and I am about to return it. for example; if I want to shoot Panoramic picture with my fuji camera, I'll press and release the Shutter Button and then move the camera left or right to cover the areas I want to include in the photos and each time the photos comes out excellent. With this Canon however, I cannot just do it. I am talking about still pictures not videos. Am I doing something wrong here? please help

In reply to an earlier post on 1 Nov 2013 13:35:02 GMT
KazzieM says:
Idris - I think it is page 26 of the instruction manual - how to use the panoramic setting. On the software CD - hope I've got the right camera and hope it helps! :)

Posted on 2 Nov 2013 18:25:37 GMT
Last edited by the author on 2 Nov 2013 18:31:09 GMT
Hi Kazziem, thank you for your response. however I was actually referring to panoramic photographing of which I understand it is quite similar to Zooming in or out by using the zoom button to cover wider angle. for example I went to Rome recently with my Fuji Camera, I snapped the adjoining buildings in the Vatican square with just one click of the Shutter (using the Panoramic Function) and gently move the camera from one conner to the other and the whole adjoining buildings were nicely captured. I have now been advised that Canon does not have this function/feature, which is indeed very sad because the fuji camera I am talking about is less expensive than the Canon. All the same, thanks again for responding promptly.

In reply to an earlier post on 2 Nov 2013 19:23:07 GMT
Last edited by the author on 2 Nov 2013 19:24:47 GMT
KazzieM says:
Hi Idris - you're most welcome, though I must confess, your reply sparked me to check - the manual page is correct in that it explains panoramic, but I got the wrong camera....I have the Olympus SP720UZ and had used the comparison to this particular Canon model, so I'm sorry to have caused you confusion, and hope that someone somewhere can get you the advice you need :))
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