The 530 HS is boxy and more angular than the rounded 500 HS, with sharp edges and flat sides. The clean aesthetic carries over to the rear panel, which is dominated entirely by a large touchscreen LCD. Also gone are the pastel color options available with the 500 HS, replaced by hard white or black.
As is too often the case, we had difficulty with this camera's touch panel. The screen was incredibly unresponsive, inconsistent, and difficult to use overall. Hopefully this was a pre-production model, and the problem will be fixed by the time the 530 HS comes to market. If not, this will be a painfully difficult camera to use.
At only 163 grams, the 530 HS is considerably smaller and lighter than the 500 HS. It's tiny in the hand, but that doesn't leave much room for grip. The camera is actually small enough to pinch between the thumb and forefinger, and the surface itself is fairly slip-resistant, since Canon went with a matte finish instead of gloss.
Most likely this will be a camera for handling with two hands, unless of course you're using touch shutter. In that case, simply hold the camera any way you want, and tap the screen to capture a photo. We just wish that screen was more responsive.
Each available shooting mode has some sort of automation. There's full Auto, Program Auto, as well as a variety of Scene modes including Fisheye Effect, Miniature Effect, Fireworks, etc. Long Shutter and Super Slow Motion Movie are new additions this year, but unfortunately aperture priority, shutter priority, and full manual are not available.
The 530 HS is capable of capturing 1080p video at a cinematic 24 frames per second, or both 720p and 480p at 30 frames per second. Super Slow Motion Movie Mode can record in either 120 or 240 frames per second, though this limits resolution to 480p and 240p respectively. Built-in microphones capture stereo sound, and there's even an iFrame Movie setting for simple playback on iOS devices.
Continuous shooting is limited to 2.6 shots per second in Program and 6.1 shots per second in High-Speed Burst Mode. We call this limited because 500 HS was capable of 3.4 and 8.3 shots per second respectively, and we usually see the opposite effect in more expensive or lower resolution cameras, of which the 530 HS is both.
The self-timer is fully customizable and Canon has included a couple variations on Smart Shutter: Smile, Wink Self-timer, and Face Self-timer.
The playback menu is typical Canon. For photos this includes single and index display modes, 10x magnification, information, red-eye correction, contrast correction, trimming, resize, focus check, and more. There are options for transitions, automatic rotation, favorites, image search, and smart shuffle. Slow Motion video playback is also supported.
Maximum resolution is 4000 x 3000 pixels and JPEG compression quality can be set to either Fine or Superfine. Four aspect ratios are available: 16:9, 3:2, 4:3, and 1:1, but RAW encoding is not possible.
The 530 HS uses contrast-based TTL autofocus with a minimum range of 2.0-inches, though that figure can be extended to 0.4-inches using the Macro focus mode. Face recognition autofocus is available.
This camera's unremarkable aperture range is f/3.4 - 5.6, and its shutter speed range is 1 - 1/4000th of a second (though this can be extended to 15 seconds in Long Shutter mode, a new addition this year). AE lock and face recognition AE are supported, and exposure compensation when be adjusted +/- 2 stops in 1/3-stop increments, though this is not available while shooting video.
Just like the 500 HS, the 530 HS has an ISO range of 100 to 3200, with no extended options available.
Aside from automatic white balance, five presets are included in the 530 HS: Daylight, Cloudy, Tungsten, Fluorescent, and Fluorescent H. There's also a very intuitive custom white balance method, as well as face recognition white balance.
The 530 HS is equipped with an optical image stabilizer, but we'll need to get it into our labs to judge the effectiveness.
Adjustment of contrast, sharpness, saturation, red, green, blue, and skin tone are available.
The 530 HS features a new lens and a new sensor. Optical zoom has been pushed way out to 12x, from the 500 HS' 5x, and resolution has actually been dropped to 10.1 megapixels. While this latter statistic sounds like a downgrade, we've observed less resolution often suggests better image quality. Canon is using a narrow crop here too, the 1/3-inch CMOS sensor's gross resolution is 16.8 megapixels.
The same LCD used for the 500 HS makes a return here. It's a 3.2-inch LCD touch panel with a wide viewing angle. Resolution is roughly 461,000-dots. Again, this panel was shockingly slow and unresponsive. We're not sure why, maybe a bug with the pre-production model. Hopefully this will be fixed before retail.
Flash will be less powerful than the 500 HS, with a listed range of only half of last year's model. Available modes are Auto, On, Slow Synchro, and Off. Recycle time is listed as 10 seconds or less.
A tiny port cover on the right panel conceals a standard USB port, as well as a miniHDMI port for easy streaming to an HDTV.
Canon will use their NB-9L rechargeable battery with the 530 HS. It's rated to approximately 190 shots on one charge with this camera.
The 530 HS will use smaller, rarer, and more expensive microSD, microSDHC, and microSDXC memory cards. The 500 HS used regular SD cards, and so do most other cameras.
Canon has rather deftly taken the shell of a 2011 camera, replaced some key features, and sprouted a new travel zoom branch right out of their existing lineup. All in a way that–we're guessing–didn't cost the company very much investment. Best of all, the PowerShot 530 HS looks like a decent camera all its own. We're encouraged by the drop in resolution, the 12x lens is impressive in a body of this size, and the aesthetic is modern and appealing.
Our biggest concern is the touchscreen. We're bothered by almost all camera touchscreens, and find they usually over-complicate simple tasks that plain old buttons could've handled better. But this touch panel is in a class all its own. Responsiveness was abysmal, and unless the problem is fixed by the time this model hits retail, there's just no way we could recommend the camera. We'll see.
Meet the tester
Chris was born and raised less than ten miles from our editorial office, and even graduated from nearby Merrimack College. He came to Reviewed after covering the telecom industry, and has been moonlighting as a Boston area dining critic since 2008.
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