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The Canon PowerShot SD500 has a flat front face with rounded edges; an alteration in design from previous sharp-edged Digital ELPHs. When viewed from the front, the SD500 has a rounded left edge, which serves as the right-hand grip. There is a polished silver oval on the front that extends into a loop on the side. To the right of the oval is some branding text, sideways aligned, reading: "Canon PowerShot SD500 Digital ELPH." The lens is placed slightly off-center to the right side. The 3x optical zoom lens is surrounded by a silver finish. Around the outer rim of the lens, the camera boasts "7.1 Megapixels" in gray letters. The lens extends out from the camera body. On the inner rim are the words, "Canon Zoom Lens 3x, 7.7-23.1mm 1:2.8-4.9." Interrupting the top rim of the lens is the optical viewfinder, which looks like another small circle. To its left is an LED light, used for indicating the flash and self-timer. Also on the left of the lens is a small dot that serves as the built-in microphone. Overall, the silver finish of the front and the minimal protrusions make the SD500 look sleek and stylish.


The back of this Canon PowerShot has a slightly raised LCD screen on the left with the "Canon" logo below it and the circular optical viewfinder above it. To the left of the viewfinder are two LED lights. Along the right of the screen is where all of the camera’s controls are located. In the top right corner is a circular mode dial with a divot for the thumb and a small raised bar for turning ease. On the dial, the following shooting modes are available: Playback, Auto, Manual, Scene, and Movie. A small mark next to the dial lets the user know which function is activated. Below this dial and directly beside the LCD screen is the Print button. This circular button lights up in the middle to indicate when the SD500 is communicating with a printer or computer. Below this button and slightly to its right is the four-way navigational dial with a "Func. Set" button in the center. Each direction on the dial not only scrolls through menu options, but doubles as another feature when pressed outside of the menus. Each direction is clearly labeled. The top portion of the dial chooses the area of focus. The right side dictates flash settings; the bottom activates the self-timer or burst mode. The left side determines the focus mode. The outer circle of the dial is constructed of a single plastic piece, but the raised bars at each side of the compass help users press the correct areas. The two buttons on the bottom are on opposite sides of the navigational dial. The button on the left is the Display control and determines when the LCD screen is used. The button on the right activates the Menu.

Left Side

The left side of the Canon SD500 is left blank.


Right Side

The right side of this digital camera has a very small loop located in the center to attach a wrist strap. Stringing the wrist strap through the loop can be tedious; a needle may be required. Above the loop is a rubber port door accessing the USB and AV-out jacks. The port cover is colored gray and blends in well with the plastic body, however, it doesn’t fasten into the housing securely. Although it is connected, the door seems a little loose.



The top of the camera has only two features: the power button and the zoom toggle/shutter release button combo. The shutter release button is located on the right side, where the index finger would naturally rest. Around the polished button is the zoom toggle, which slides to the right and left to zoom in and out. The power button is to the left of this feature, and is distinctive with its green LED that lights up when powered on.



An included circular optical viewfinder sits just above the LCD screen.


LCD Screen

A 2-inch low-temperature polycrystalline silicon LCD screen graces the left side of the back. There is a Hold button that extends the length of time that images pop up on the screen after it is taken. With 118,000 pixels, there is adequate resolution for the size of screen.


The SD500 includes a new and more powerful built-in flash with six modes: Auto, Auto with Red-Eye Reduction, Flash On with Red-Eye Reduction, Flash On, Flash Off, and Slow Sync. The flash will effectively light subjects from 1.6-15.8 feet away, which extends a bit further then many compact digital cameras.


Zoom Lens

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The Canon SD500 has a glass 7.7-23.1mm optical zoom lens, which is equivalent to a 37-111mm lens in 35mm format. This 3x optical zoom also comes with a 4x digital zoom. In the normal shooting mode, the lens can focus from 1.6 feet to infinity. In the macro mode, the lens can focus as close as 2 inches.

**Model Design/ Appearance

**Canon’s Digital ELPH series aims for style and appeal, so the SD500’s slim profile and attractive silver finish follow suit. This model does depart from the series’ sharp, flat lines with its "Perpetual Curve Design." The new design adds a curve to where the right hand grips the camera, making it more comfortable to hold while still remaining compact.

**Size / Portability

**With compact dimensions of 3.37 x 2.24 x 1.04 inches, the SD500 follows in the small sizing of the Canon Digital ELPH line. This model appears similar in size to the SD400, but has rounded edges instead of the sharper lines. Weighing 6 ounces without a battery or memory card, the Canon SD500 fits comfortably in a pocket or purse. The front and back surfaces are flat, which makes carrying the trim camera effortless.

Handling Ability

The strength of the PowerShot SD500’s design is its compact, transportable form, small enough to seamlessly slip in a pocket, while offering rounded accents for comfortable shooting. There is a rudimentary finger grip on the front of the right-hand grip, but it’s made of a polished material, which isn’t

the best for stability. The thumb rests on the main mode dial in the back of the camera, which acts as a grip of sorts. While the SD500 doesn’t have the greatest gripping system, users can hang onto it just fine if they don’t slather up with sunscreen just prior to use.

Control Button / Dial Positioning / Size

The buttons are all adequately sized and spaced. They are intuitively placed; i.e. the Display button is located next to the LCD screen. The general layout of controls on the SD500 should be instantly accessible to all level users.


**Menu **

When the function button is pressed, the following menu appears: My Colors, Exposure Compensation, White Balance, ISO, Compression, and Picture Size. The menus are composed of text, so they are easy to follow and navigate. The menu appears as an overlay to the live feed, so when users scroll through options, they get a real-time view of the setting’s consequences. For example, the color tint of the lighting changes as white balance options are scrolled through.

Ease of Use

The comfortable handling of the SD500, coupled with the easy navigation of control buttons and menus, make this Digital ELPH easy to use. Users can choose whether to control the camera automatically or manually with a flip of the mode dial.

Auto Mode

The auto mode is easily accessible on the main mode dial and works just like it should – automatically. Once it is activated, users can choose to change some settings such as exposure compensation, but all essential shooting settings work amply in auto mode, making the SD500 an easy to use point-and-shoot digital camera.

**Movie Mode

**The Canon PowerShot SD500 has an impressive movie mode that offers three resolution sizes – 640 x 480, 320 x 240, and 160 x 120 at 30 frames per second. Like the previous PowerShot SD200 and SD300, the SD500 offers a Fast Frame Rate movie feature that records motion video at 60 frames per second at 320 x 240 resolution. The Fast Frame video recording function will capture up to 1 minute of video. Like most digital cameras, there is no optical zoom available while recording in movie mode. While digital zoom is offered, and somewhat of a progression from previous movie modes, who's really willing to sacrifice video quality for a magnified perspective? Movies can be played back with audio in the camera in several ways. They can be viewed frame by frame, in slow motion, or normally.

Drive / Burst Mode

Reaching 2 frames per second, the Canon PowerShot SD500 has an average burst rate. While it doesn’t reach the 3-frame-per-second pace that some compact cameras pack, it’s still faster than many lower-end compact models.

Playback Mode

The Playback mode is easy to find on the SD500, as it is situated on the main mode dial. Once it is selected, users can view single images, automatically rotated to the correct direction via Canon’s Intelligent Orientation technology. The individual frames can then be viewed closely with the playback zoom. Histograms are also available to check lighting and exposure. The camera can locate image files according to date or file type (JPEG or MPEG-4). The pictures can be viewed in 9-thumbnail index slides, played back normally, frame by frame, or in slow motion with sound. The clips, which are only limited to the capacity of the memory card, can even be edited in-camera. In the Playback mode, the following menu options are available: Protect, Rotate, Sound Memo, Erase All, Slide Show, Print Order, and Transfer Order.

**Custom Image Presets

**There are six selectable scene modes included on the Canon SD500. Most point-and-shoot digital cameras in the same price range generally offer about 10 scenes and some even reach 20. This likely reflects the SD500’s appeal to more engaged consumers who prefer more control and rely less on presets. The SD500 does include night and portrait scene modes, but lacks the fundamental landscape mode. The following scene modes are available: Digital Macro, Portrait, Night Snapshot, Kids & Pets, Indoor and Underwater.

Manual Control Options

This Canon Digital ELPH offers several manual control options, including aperture, shutter speed, exposure compensation, ISO, white balance, and color mode. The variety of options is sufficient and having a true custom white balance mode is indispensable. Great manual options such as these, paired with automatic settings, make a powerful package for the mobile digital camera consumer.



This digital camera employs a 9-point AiAF Smart auto focus system that can focus fairly quickly. In less than perfect light, the SD500 has an AF assist beam to aid the lens’ focusing. For added simplicity, when the LCD screen is used as a viewfinder, a green box is placed around the portion of the picture that is in focus.


The SD500 does not offer manual focus, which is a common sacrifice for compact point-and-shoot digital cameras.


**Exposure compensation is offered in the standard +/- 2 range, moving in 1/3 stop increments.

**White Balance

**The Canon SD500 has a wide range of white balance settings, from fully automatic to fully manual and a few presets in between. The following presets are available: Daylight, Cloudy, Tungsten, Fluorescent, and Fluorescent H.

**ISO **

As with most digital cameras, there is an automatic ISO setting, although users have the option of selecting the ISO speed manually. The following standard range is offered: 50, 100, 200, and 400.

Shutter Speed

With a shutter speed range of 15-1/2000th of a second, this Digital ELPH is prepared to shoot subjects in all lighting situations, in motion or at a variety of speeds. The shutter speed is automatically determined by the camera.

**Aperture **

The Canon SD500 has an aperture range from f/2.8-f/7.1 in the widest setting and a range of f/4.9-f/13 in full telephoto.

Picture Quality / Size Options

There are five image sizes, each available in three compression settings of Superfine, Fine, and Normal. The following 4:3 formatted resolutions are available: 3072 x 2304, 2592 x 1944, 2048 x 1536, 1600 x 1200, and 640 x 480.

Picture Effects Mode

The Canon PowerShot SD500 has a vast array of color modes. For those who like playing with color, but not with computers, this is a great camera. In its color mode, the SD500 offers the following options: Vivid Blue, Vivid Red, Positive Film, Lighter Skin Tone, Darker Skin Tone, Vivid Green and Custom Color. There is also a Color Accent mode that allows the user to pick an object and color and make the rest of the photo black and white, creating the same look that antique photographs achieve. Finally, there is a Color Swap setting that lets users swap the color of their shirts for the color of the sky – or whatever objects they choose. This camera also includes basic color modes: Vivid, Neutral, Low Sharpening, Sepia, and Black & White.


***Software – *The SD500 comes with the Canon Digital Solution CD-ROM software.

*Jacks, Ports, Plugs – *With USB and AV-out jacks, users can perform all the basic functions of a digital camera: download images and movies to a computer, and play slideshows and movies on a television.

*Direct Print Options – *The Canon SD500 is PictBridge compatible and can print single images, selected images, crop, date imprinting, and file name imprinting. There is a Print button which enables "one-touch printing."

Memory--The SD500 records to Secure Digital memory card and comes packaged with a 32MB media card.

Other Features

*Self-Timer – *Going beyond the traditional 10-second self-timer, the PowerShot SD500 has a custom self-timer that allows users to choose a time delay of 1-30 seconds, as well as how many pictures to take at the end of the delay, from 1-10. The Digital ELPH also has the standard 2 and 10-second delays.

*Special Edition Gift Set – *The Canon PowerShot SD500 is available in a Coach gift set. The set includes the SD500, a leather Coach pouch for the camera, and a metallic wrist strap.

*Optional Underwater Housing – *An underwater housing can fit both the SD400 and SD500 digital ELPHs. An underwater scene mode assists users in taking pictures.

*Sleep Mode – *The SD500 also has a sleep mode, which saves battery power. Canon’s Intelligent Orientation sensor can detect when the camera is picked up and will wake it from its sleep mode.


**The 7.1-megapixel Canon PowerShot SD500 follows in the tradition of the Digital ELPH line with its compact size and stylish look. However, this model gets a slight makeover with its rounded edges. The added comfort is a welcome feature to the ELPH series, which is known for its flat, sharp surfaces. The SD500 also adds other features that are debuting in the compact line. A custom self-timer lets users choose a time delay between 1-30 seconds. A series of digital color filters, as well as color accents and even a color swap are available. Six scene modes highlight the automatic settings. Full resolution video can be captured at 30 frames per second as well as the inclusion of a 60 fps Fast Frame Rate movie feature. There is an Underwater scene mode available, matching the optional underwater housing, so the tiny camera can venture into the ocean. Canon will sell its PowerShot SD500 for a retail price of $499.99 when it ships in March.


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Emily Raymond

Emily Raymond


Emily Raymond is a valued contributor to the Reviewed.com family of sites.

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