By Josh Fate
Carrying and shooting with the 500HS is simple and comfortable. Its compact size allows you to easily carry it in a pocket or small bag. With the camera set to an automatic shooting mode, its operation is incredibly simple. The only fall-back to the operation of this camera is its lack of controls or buttons. The 3.2-inch, 461,000 dot Touch LCD screen is used to make all of the changes and adjustments to the camera. While testing the camera, we noticed that the touch screen menus can be difficult to operate, especially when trying to scroll through the menus. As you use it, it does get easier, but trying to quickly make a change is out of the question. As far as viewing the screen, it is easy to see in all lighting conditions thanks to the adjustable brightness settings.
The overall image quality of our outdoor images is incredible. Outstanding exposure, sharpness and vivid colors produce images that very accurately depict what the photographer sees at the time of capture. All of our outdoor image samples were taken shooting in Smart Auto mode, with the camera doing everything except for composing the image. When looking at 100%, we did see some chromatic aberrations, and some barrel distortion on the wide end of the 24-105mm zoom range. This is an incredibly wide zoom, which is great for landscapes and large group photography, but it does limit the zoom capabilities. To help assure that you capture a crisp image when shooting at any length of the zoom, Canon's Optical Image Stabilization adds some stability to a shaky hand and slow exposures.
Looking at our indoor image samples, we can see an incredible amount of detail throughout the image. With Canon's new HS system, noise within the image is contained so well, that the ISO settings 100 up through 1600 are excellent, allowing for the user to make large prints with any image throughout this range. It is not until ISO 3200 that the noise really takes over and becomes noticeable. Assisting with your low-light and indoor photography is a small built-in flash unit. It has a range of up to 16ft. at the wide end and 6.6ft. at the telephoto end, allowing you to light up a mid-sized room without too much difficulty. Combining this flash with the excellent low light image quality and low noise allows you to shoot anywhere without any trouble.
Our sample portrait shot taken in Smart Auto also shows an excellent exposure and crisp focus on the face. We can also see good, smooth skin tones, with just a little redness in the eyes despite the automatic red-eye reduction flash. While capturing our sample images, the camera did not have any difficulty detecting and following all of the faces within the frame.
With just one touch of the screen, you can record videos instantly, no matter what shooting mode the camera is currently in. This allows you to capture candid 1080p HD (or lower res.) videos with sound without you having to be ready. These movies can then be watched on a computer or HDTV via the built-in USB and HDMI ports. The videos are clear and play back smoothly, with the only complaint being the audio, with is recorded on a very small mic inside the camera. It picks up any and all sounds around the camera, including background noises that you might not notice otherwise. Our sample was taken on a fairly calm day and not in the open, but you can still here only the wind. Canon has introduced a new shooting mode called Movie Digest Mode, which captures a short video before each image is captured. The camera then combines all of these movies together for you into a single video highlight of your day, with no work for you to do.
Powering the 500HS is a 3.7V, 1000mAh Li-Ion rechargeable battery. While this is a good sized battery for a compact camera, the large, high quality screen uses the battery quickly, limiting the number of shots to approx. 180 under CIPA standards. During our tests, we were able to capture approx. 125 images and several short videos on a single charge without the battery dying. A portable quick charger is also included with the camera, allowing you keep your battery and a spare charged and ready at all times, no matter where you are.
Bottom Line - Canon's PowerShot ELPH 500HS is a fast, powerful compact digicam featuring their new HS system, a fast 12.1-Megapixel CMOS imaging sensor, 4.4x optical zoom lens with optical image stabilization and full 1080p HD video recording capabilities. While anyone can shoot with this camera thanks to the Smart Auto mode, there are also Aperture Priority and Shutter Priority modes for more advanced users. It excels in both performance and image quality, with its only drawback being a hard to use touch screen. With a MSRP of US $299.99, this is an excellent option in this price range.
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