Epson L-500V Review
The L-500V is the first digital camera that we've seen from Epson since
the PhotoPC 3100Z way back in 2001.
The L-500V is a compact
and durable point-n-shoot that includes features like a 5-megapixel imager
combined with a 3x optical zoom lens. It offers an exposure mode for every
user in your household. Its Auto and pre-programmed scene modes are great
for beginners, and the Manual mode is perfect for those who like a little
more control over the exposure process.
The L-500V has a good secure feeling in your hands, and the durable metal body ensures it will survive the active user's lifestyle. The controls are well placed and easy to access and its menu system is logically organized. The L-500V features a high-resolution "Photo Fine" 2.5-inch color LCD. The image color and contrast on this LCD is most impressive, although when reviewing pictures they tend to look much better on the LCD than when viewing on your PC. Overall it works well outdoors in bright sunlight, but the reflective coating still has several angles that reflect the sun and make it difficult to use; this is when an optical viewfinder would come in handy. When shooting in low-ambient lighting, the LCD will "gain up" to help brighten your subject for framing. As with most small cameras, the L-500V requires a small battery - it's powered by a 3.7V 1230mAh proprietary Lithium-ion battery pack that's good for about 200 shots according to Epson.
Shooting performance was very robust. The L-500V is ready to capture the first image in about 2.5 seconds from pressing the Power button. Shutter lag (the delay between depressing the shutter button and capturing the image) averaged about 1/10 of a second when pre-focused and 3/10 of a second including autofocus. Using its Large/Fine mode the performance is impressive with a shot-to-shot time of just 1.6 seconds in single frame mode. The timing is a bit longer at approx 2.5 seconds when using the flash. In the Continuous Shooting mode, I was able to capture 18 frames in approx. 4.8 seconds, which means Epson's claims of 3 fps are true. This of course all depends on the shooting conditions and settings. Switching from record to playback brings up the image in about 1 second and going from image to image is almost instantaneous. All tests were done using a Lexar High-Speed 512MB SD card, Manual mode, Large/Fine quality, preview off, flash off, and all other settings at default (unless otherwise noted.) Times may vary depending on lighting conditions, camera settings, media, etc.
Images and movies are stored on Secure Digital (SD) type memory cards and Epson includes a 16MB card which is okay for a starter card but you'll want to get a larger one right away. I'd suggest at least a 256MB size card which isn't too expensive nowadays or a 512MB size card if you're going on an extended vacation.
Overall the image quality when using 2560x1920 Fine mode is good. Our outdoor samples were sharp with good color balance. I did notice that many of our outdoor shots were a bit over exposed, but nothing that a little exposure compensation can't fix. There was very little noise in high/low contrast areas when using its ISO 100 equivalent as well as slight traces of chromatic aberration (purple fringing) around extreme highlights.
Indoors its flash range (about 12ft.) and 34mm equivalent wide angle zoom are sufficient for most interior situations. I found that its flash was a little underrated and that it had plenty of power, especially when using its Fill-in mode outdoors. However, I was disappointed that there was a large occurrence of red eye in our portraits, even when using its Auto Red Eye Reduction flash mode. This is caused by the position of the flash relative to the position of the lens. We see this on many of these compact digicams and it's nothing a few seconds in any image editor can't take care of.
Like most digicams these days, the L-500V offers a VGA (640x480) sized movie mode. You can also choose smaller resolutions for sending via email or for inclusion on a web site. I found that its movie mode results were a little disappointing. Our samples were not very sharp and there was a considerable amount of visible compression noise.
The 3x optical zoom lens exhibits moderate barrel distortion at full wide angle and slight pin cushioning at full telephoto; but no more than most zoom lenses in this class. The zoom mechanism is smooth and fairly quiet throughout its range and the controls are conveniently located on the back, right where your thumb rests.
Bottom line - The Epson L-500V will make a good choice for anyone who needs or wants a very compact and highly durable camera. It will make an excellent camera for family, tourist, and business users. With a street price of around $399, it offers a good value and because it fits in most any size pocket, it's always ready to capture that special moment.
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