Conclusion - Pros

  • Excellent resolution
  • Very compact and pocketable
  • Beautifully built and all-metal construction
  • Excellent color and exposure
  • Manual (custom) white balance
  • Fast focus and very responsive performance overall
  • Good flash performance at short distances
  • High performance movie mode
  • Nice handling and easy-to-use interface
  • AF illuminator
  • Low noise at ISO 50-200
  • Novel in-camera image effects

Conclusion - Cons

  • Low contrast fine detail (such as foliage or hair) looks soft
  • AiAF focus unreliable - turn it off
  • Screen resolution not high enough for a 2.0-inch LCD
  • Some purple fringing
  • Slight corner softness at wide angle
  • Battery life when using LCD not fantastic
  • No exposure information in record or playback mode
  • Very little manual control
  • Finish very susceptible to marks and scratches, can be slippery in the hand

Overall conclusion

It's not without reason that the IXUS/Elph range has proved so popular; the combination of size, design and materials, performance and decent image quality is a compelling one. The SD500 is no exception; it's fast, easy to use and capable of producing first-class results in the right situations - and it has all the hallmarks of a design classic. But it's not a camera without problems. Some, such as the rather erratic behavior of the AiAF 'intelligent' focus system, can be easily overcome (switch to center focus), others, such as the SD500's tendency to miss fine low-contrast detail, will only really cause you a problem if you're printing at sizes over about 8x10 inches.

Ultimately, however, buying any camera designed to be as physically small as possible is always going to represent something of a compromise, and I think that on balance the SD500 represents an acceptable trade off - it's certainly capable of producing sharper, more detailed results than most of its competitors, and its street price is, at under $500, pretty competitive. You may question whether you really need 7 million pixels in a pocket camera, but a quick glance at the test results shows that the SD500 is capable of capturing considerably more detail in everyday scenes than any of its 4 or 5 megapixel predecessors or competitors. So if you like to print a little larger, the SD500 will give you the edge, even if its not a quantum leap forward.

So the SD500 is a great little camera that, maybe unfairly, I felt didn't quite deliver on its promise. That said, we experienced none of the movie audio problems (a faint whine or hiss) mentioned by some owners (and in fact were very impressed by the movie mode), and in good light with plenty of contrast the results are often stunning.

Highly Recommended

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