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Canon Powershot SX500 IS Ultra Zoom Review

Joshua Waller reviews Canon's latest ultra zoom bridge camera, this time the Canon Powershot SX500 is even more compact than the previous model, yet features a 30x optical zoom lens. Find out how it performs in our review.

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Canon Powershot SX500 IS Ultra Zoom Review: Canon Powershot SX500 IS

The Canon Powershot SX500 IS is Canon's latest ultra zoom bridge camera, yet it is a much smaller camera than other ultra zooms from Canon, and features a wide-angle 30x optical zoom lens equivalent to 24-720mm in 35mm terms. A 16 megapixel sensor, intelligent image stabilisation and creative effects as well as full manual controls should help get high quality shots. Find out how it performs in our review.

Canon Powershot SX500 IS Features

Canon Powershot SX500 IS Ultra Zoom Review: Canon Powershot Sx500 Is
A unique feature of the Canon Powershot SX500 IS can be found on the left hand side of the lens barrel, a small zoom button, this lets you quickly zoom out when zoomed in, so that you can locate your subject again, and then go back to the zoomed in position again, Canon call this "Zoom Framing Assist". This is useful with such a long zoom as this camera has, as often you may lose your subject.

The camera has a number of other features that should help get good results, such as intelligent image stabilisation, smart auto mode which can detect 32 scenes, as well as face detection and creative filters. Full manual controls are available as well as 720p video with stereo sound and optical zoom.

Canon Powershot SX500 IS Ultra Zoom Review: Canon Powershot SX500 IS

Key Features

  • 16.0 megapixel CCD sensor
  • 30x optical zoom lens, equivalent to 24-720mm
  • 60x ZoomPlus (Digital Zoom)
  • Optical image stabilisation
  • 3 inch screen, 460k dots
  • P / A / S / M modes
  • 720p video, with optical zoom
  • ISO100-1600
  • 0cm macro from the front of the lens
  • 195 shot battery life
Canon Powershot SX500 IS Ultra Zoom Review: Canon Powershot SX500 IS

Canon Powershot SX500 IS Handling

Canon Powershot SX500 IS Ultra Zoom Review: Canon Powershot SX500 IS

Handling - The Canon Powershot SX500 is surprisingly small in your hand, with the front grip providing space for just two of your fingers, and another finger above, on the shutter release button when holding it. On the back is a raised dot area to give your thumb a good grip, and the front grip features a textured area, although unfortunately it's not rubber. The camera's build quality is very good with a solid body and a metal tripod mount underneath the camera. Nearly all of the buttons can all be used with just the left hand, although for a better grip two hands are recommended, and you'll need two hands to use the left Frame assist button. The top mode dial and clear labelling makes it easy to switch modes as well as set options. A decent fabric neck-strap is included in the box.

Canon Powershot SX500 IS Ultra Zoom Review:

Menus – Built in hints and tips explains each option on the camera. Manual focus is available, as well as flash compensation, and the camera gives an overlay of the most common options making it easy to choose and change settings when you press the Func/Set button. The menu button lets you set additional photo and setup options. In playback there are also playback and print options. You can quickly set exposure compensation, ISO, focus, flash and self-timer using the buttons on the back of the camera making it even easier to set these options without having to go into any menus.

Canon Powershot SX500 IS Ultra Zoom Review: Canon Powershot SX500 IS

Battery life - Battery life is rated at 195 shots according to CIPA test results, we were able to take just over 400 shots before the battery went flat. This is better than expected, although it may depend on how often you use flash or switch the camera on and off, and if you're away from a charger travelling, then a second battery would be recommended.

Canon Powershot SX500 IS Ultra Zoom Review: Canon Powershot Sx500 IS In Hand

Speed - We took a number of shots to test the camera's responsiveness, from switch on to first photo, shot to shot, focusing speed etc. We take a number of shots and then use the average to ensure accurate and consistent tests, making it easy to compare with other cameras.

  Canon SX500 IS Sony Alpha A37
Shutter Response 0.05 <0.05
Wide - Focus / Shutter Response 0.275 0.15
Full zoom - Focus / Shutter Response 0.35 0.15
Switch on Time to Taking a Photo 1.9 0.9
Shot to Shot without Flash 2.0 0.5
Shot to Shot with Flash 4.0 0.8
Continuous Shooting
(shots before slow down)
1.4s 6fps (11 shots)
Continuous Shooting - Flash 2.2s 0.7s
Continuous Shooting - RAW N/A 6fps (7 shots)

Shutter response is good, as is focus speed at wide and telephoto ends of the zoom. Switch on time is good for an ultra zoom camera. Shot to shot and continuous shooting speeds are quite slow especially compared to cameras with high speed shooting modes.

Canon Powershot SX500 IS Performance

Additional sample photos and product shots are available in the Equipment Database, where you can add your own review, photos and product ratings.

Canon Powershot SX500 IS Sample Photos

Sample Photos - The camera has a particularly impressive macro mode, with the camera able to focus on subjects directly in front of the lens, although lighting the subject becomes more difficult at this distance. As you zoom in the distance the camera can focus on the subject increases, and at full optical zoom the subject has to be 1.4 metres away. Colours are good and the flash performs well with little to no red-eye in photos.

Canon Powershot SX500 IS Lens test images

Lens Performance - Image quality is good with the lens performing well in a variety of conditions. Barrel distortion is low when shooting wide-angle, and pincushion distortion is very low when shooting at the telephoto end. There is some purple fringing visible in the shot of the Trees above, as well as noticeable chromatic aberrations in the wide shot of Thoresby hall. ZoomPlus is just another new name for digital zoom, and is best avoided as it does little to bring out any extra detail.

Canon Powershot SX500 IS ISO test images

ISO Noise Performance - The camera features ISO100 to ISO1600. At ISO100 there is some noise visible, and this increases at ISO200. Noise gets worse at ISO400 with small white dots appearring in addition to the red, green and blue noise dots. At ISO800 additional black dots appear and detail is lost. ISO1600 shows the highest levels of noise, and the lowest levels of detail, so this setting is best avoided. Overall noise results are quite high, and it's best to use the lowest ISO settings.

Canon Powershot SX500 IS White-balance test images

White Balance Performance - Auto White Balance (AWB) gives a warm result under tungsten lighting, and the tungsten preset gives a much more neutral result. AWB performs well under fluorescent lighting, with the fluorescent preset also giving a good result.

Canon Powershot SX500 IS Digital filters

Digital Filters - There are number of effects, as well as colour options on the camera as shown above. Unfortunately, like most Canon cameras, there is no auto-panoramic mode built in. There are additional options in playback including: iContrast, Red-eye correction, Cropping and My Colours.

Video - The camera records 720p video with stereo sound, as well as optical zoom. Wind filter options are available to help improve sound quality. Video quality is generally good even though it doesn't shoot at full HD.

Value For Money

The Canon Powershot SX500 is priced at around £269 which makes it quite good value for money. Other ultra zoom cameras to look at include the 30x optical zoom Olympus SP-810UZ, Fujifilm FinePix SL300, Fujifilm FinePix HS30EXR, 42x optical zoom Nikon Coolpix P510, 30x optical zoom Sony Cybershot HX200v, and 24x optical zoom Panasonic Lumix FZ200, although the Canon Powershot SX500 is likely to be the smallest available with manual control.

You'll also need to buy a memory card and a case or bag to keep your camera safe and protected - have a look at our complete guide to camera bags.

Canon Powershot SX500 IS Verdict

The compact size and ease of use makes the Canon Powershot SX500 IS appealling although the slow shot to shot times and slow continuous shooting may put some people off, particularly if you want to capture high speed action such as sports. The extremely close focusing distance certainly impressed us, although with the subject so close to the lens, lighting does become an issue. The Canon Powershot SX500 is good value for money and while noise is a little high, if you mostly shoot outdoors at lower ISO settings then image quality is generally good. The camera would be suited to beginners as well as the more advanced, and with manual controls it should be possible to learn more photography skills as you go along.

  Canon Powershot SX500 IS Ultra Zoom Review:
  The Canon Powershot SX500 IS is a compact ultra zoom with good colour and detail in a compact package.

Canon Powershot SX500 IS Pros

Compact size
Good colour
Manual controls
Easy to use with built in help
Excellent macro performance
Side zoom button for recomposing shots when zoomed in

Canon Powershot SX500 IS Cons

High noise
Lacks panoramic mode
ZoomPlus 60x zoom is just another marketing name for digital zoom


Canon Powershot SX500 IS Specifications

Max Aperturef/3.4 - f/5.8
35mm equivalent24mm - 720mm
Optical Zoom30x
Image Sensor
Pixels16Mp (Megapixels)
Pixels (W)4608
Pixels (H)3456
Sensor TypeCCD
Sensor Size1/2.3 inch
Sensor Size (width)No Data
Sensor Size (height)No Data
Aspect Ratio
  • 4:3
  • 3:2
  • 16:9
  • 1:1
LCD Monitor
LCD Monitor3in
Screen resolution461,000 dots
Touch ScreenNo
Min Focus0cm
Focusing modes
  • Autofocus
  • Face Detection
  • Manual
  • Centre
Exposure Control
Shutter speeds shortest1/1600sec
Shutter speeds longest15sec
Bulb modeNo Data
Exp modes
  • Program
  • Manual
  • Scene modes
  • Aperture-Priority
  • Shutter-Priority
  • Centre-weighted - Average
  • Spot
ISO sensitivity100 - 1600
White balance
  • Auto
  • Manual
  • Outdoors/Daylight
  • Cloudy
  • Incandescent
  • Fluorescent
Exposure Comp+/-2
Shooting Options
Continuous shooting0.8fps
Movie modeYes
Video Resolution
  • 1280x720 HD 720p
  • 640x480 VGA
Video FPS30
Stereo SoundYes
Optical Zoom with VideoYes
Other Features
Image StabilisationYes
Card Type
  • SD
  • SDHC
  • SDXC
File Type
  • JPG
Power Source
Battery TypeRechargeable Li-ion Battery NB-6L
Battery Life (CIPA rating)195shots
Box Contents
Box ContentsNo Data

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Photographs taken using the Canon Powershot SX500 IS

HorizonCloudsSunset 4th JulyUpper lliw reservoirSolstice SunsetSunset reflection fourth pond gnoll park neathSunset At Neath AbbeyhSnow Moon over Neath Abbey RuinsCountryside Late Summer SunriseSeptember sunsetUntitledUntitledUntitledUntitledUntitled

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petebfrance Avatar
8 Sep 2012 5:57PM
'and is an update to the Canon Powershot SX40 IS'

Oh dear! If this is the replacement for the SX40 IS then its a bit of a let-down. No EVF or tilting screen, 16MP CCD rather than 12 MPCMOS and so on.

swa Avatar
swa 12 United States
13 Sep 2012 2:00AM
I've been waiting to see if Canon would get this product line right, improving image quality instead of boosting pixel count and shrinking its size. I waited in vain, obviously. The lack of an eye-level viewfinder is a deal breaker all by itself. The smaller size isn't welcome either.

Viewing the test images at full resolution on screen, I'm not bothered by this camera's grain characteristics. More notable and problematic are the pronounced chromatic aberration (purple fringing) and mushing of detail at the edges.

The impression I get is that Canon is way oversold on downsizing its cameras, probably in reaction to Sony, which is going to absurd extremes in shrinking its non-DSLR cameras, in my opinion.

In a choice between the Canon SX40 and my less-expensive SX130, I'll stick with the latter, if I'm going to have to do without a viewfinder anyway.

I anxiously await reviews of Pentax's new X-5 bridge camera, which does have an electronic viewfinder.
petebfrance Avatar
18 Oct 2012 11:33AM
No, it isn't really the replacement for the SX40 - which is what I took the statement 'and is an update to the Canon Powershot SX40 IS' to mean.

the update to the SX40 is here:
Canon SX50

joshwa Avatar
joshwa Plus
13 927 1 United Kingdom
18 Oct 2012 11:49AM
Hi Pete, I've updated the article, thanks, Josh
LindaT471 Avatar
5 Aug 2013 9:58PM
Bought this camera on Amazon and the reviews helped me make my choice. Here are several of the reviews that made me go wow: - Glad I did my research, I'm happy with this one.
Lady_shutterbug Avatar
31 Aug 2013 10:31PM
I'm a beginner...just starting out! I love taking pictures, but it had always been snapshots. This is the first 'real' camera I purchased. I think it's a great beginners camera! It is easy to use, small and compact and has a lot of cool features to play with for the newbie.
Having said that, I am learning more and more about what is possible at the more advanced levels, which is astounding and a bit overwhelming. I do not think this would be a good camera choice for people at that level. They would find it lacking, I think.
My advice; decide where you fit in. Are you new, a moderate or a pro?
nikit93 Avatar
2 Jan 2014 6:31AM
Thanks a lot guys.. that was really helpful!!

I am planning to buy canon sx500is, but i am really confused about "manual focus" feature of this camera. As it is point and shoot ans lense is not movable how does this manual focus things work?

Please help !!


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