Canon SD500 first impressions

I’ve always owned Canon cameras and was looking around for a new small digital camera and decided on the Canon SD500.  I haven’t had a small camera for a few years – the last being a Canon S100 (the original digital Elph/Ixus) which I enjoyed using.  My goal with this camera is to be a companion to my digital SLR mainly for use when carrying the SLR isn’t practical, so this is more of a backup camera.

First, the basics.  The SD500 is small.  It’s about the size of a deck of cards.  Small doesn’t mean featureless though, it has a resolution of 7.1 megapixels and a 3x optical zoom.  Storage is via an SD card.

What’s in the box?  Just the basics that you would expect, a USB cable, battery and an A/V cable.  There isn’t an included cases which is a shame as the camera looks like it could get scratched easily and it would be nice to have something to protect the large LCD on the back of the camera.  Canon do sell an accessory kit though which is highly recommended as it includes a case and a battery which can often be purchased for less than the cost of the battery.

Canon include a 32 megabyte SD card with the camera which will store just 9 photos at the highest resolution and quality. A 1 gigabyte card will hold about 360 images.

The camera is pretty easy to use with an intuitive menu system operated with the buttons on the back of the camera.  When turning the camera on you’ll be greeted with an irritating noise from the internal speaker, thankfully this can easily be disabled in the customization menus, which also allow you to change the noise made when a photo is taken (a shutter sound is just fine thank you) and the background picture displayed when turning the camera on – not a feature I’d ever care about.  Startup time is good, the camera is ready to be used almost straight away, which wasn’t the case for earlier models.  The LCD displays is large and bright and gives a good impression of the final output of a photo.

The camera has a 3x optical zoom and a digital zoom which much to my surprise was disabled by default on the camera.  I’ve never been a fan of digital zoom and it’s nice to see Canon encouraging people not to use it by disabling it by default.  It’s far better to zoom and crop on a computer than it is on the camera.

Picture quality is impressive so far.  I haven’t taken many pictures yet, but I have no complaints with the output.  The camera supports USB2.0 so transfers to a computer are nice and fast – just as well with the size of the files produced.

There are a few features I want to also mention:

Stitch assist mode.  This is a great feature.  When activated the camera gives you the option of taking photos from left to right or right to left; after the first photo is taken the result is shown on the LCD display, but shrunk so you can frame your next shot against the previous shot. The camera does not attempt to stitch the photos together for you, but guides you so that you can see what you’ve taken so far and don’t miss part of the panorama you are shooting. 

Scene assist mode.  There are a number of presets pre-programmed with general styles of photo such as “night” “portrait” etc.  The camera adjusts the settings automatically to be the best for that style of shot.  Useful for quick photos that you don’t have time to manual configure settings.

That’s it for my first thoughts; I’ll post some more once I’ve used it a bit more. 

Comments (11)

  1. theCoach says:

    I have recommended this camera to others, but this is a good chance to point out that megapixels is not the whole story. I am not sure what dSLR you have, but I would imagine that you would agree that it has nicer images than the sd500, and not just because it may have some extra megapixels.

  2. Indeed, the lens makes a huge difference and you can’t compare the lens on camera like the SD500 to a good SLR lens.

  3. I haven’t held the SD300 so I’m not sure of the weight difference, some people feel the SD500 is a heavy camera, but my own reference is my 20D which is much heavier. I’ve taken a couple of indoor shots without a flash without any problems.

  4. James says:

    How are indoor shots without flash? I have the SD300, and occasionally get blurring photos with no flash. Part of the challenge is that the camera is so light, and so hard to hold steady I think.

  5. bob says:

    I have the SD300 and hate that they moved the stitch menu so deep, it used to be at the top level menu so you could get to it easily and now you have to go into manual then the into the 2nd menu and scroll upwards (it’s hidden on the screen). very painful.

    the good news is that the camera is very very fast and takes great pics.

    James: Have you tried going into Indoor more on the first menu?

  6. Please post some time later, when you have SD500 used for a while, will you be still satisfied or you’ll take the DSLR back. I tried a few time to use consumer cameras and always ended up getting rid of them and returning to DSLR. I tried Canon SD110, Nikon Coolpix SQ, Canon G3. All of them were too slow to start, too slow to shoot, too slow to focus, images were too noisy. So each time I ended up picking back D30 and then D60 with 24mm lens. I have been looking at SD500 which is reportedly fast to start and can take few images with reasonable fps and that DIGIC II make pictures really good. What sucks though that it does not output RAW.

  7. I won’t be taking the dSLR back. It’s an entirely different kind of camera. The SD500 is for times when carrying the SLR isn’t possible or practical.

  8. True, but each time I tried compact cameras I ended up either not taking any pictures or taking tons of bad ones. D20 with prime lens is not very large anyway. Far cry from SD, but much smaller than EOS-1 with L zoom 🙂

  9. David Burnett talks to the New York times on what cameras he uses and why he mainly shoots digital…