At six ounces, sans battery, it would be easy to label the SD500 as an SUV in world awash with sports cars. But that’s not exactly a fair description as it also boasts the highest resolution (7.1 megapixels), which renders it one of the few with a more than 1MP/oz performance ratio.
This is little more than jargon if the camera’s pics are so chock-full of noise that you wouldn’t want to even throw them on the web, let alone make a 13x19 print. Amazingly, the camera turned out some of the nicest pics in the group, particularly at ISO speeds of 200 or below. At ISO 400, noise was more noticeable than with all the other cameras here, but still quite acceptable.
This is the only one of the four cameras here to sport a viewfinder, but its 2-inch LCD is a fine substitute. (A new version is due out soon with an even larger LCD.) It’s the external 3x optical zoom lens that really sets this camera apart. Equivalent to a 37-111mm 35mm lens, this setup produces some of the most vibrant, well-saturated, and well-exposed shots of the bunch. This is due to the camera’s bigger body, which holds a larger CCD, which helps keep the noise level down while delivering higher pixel-count pics. Like the S1, the SD500 has an excellent continuous shooting mode, able to take sequential shots at the camera’s highest resolution setting at roughly half-second intervals.
Being slightly larger than other cameras in this roundup, the SD500 was the most pleasing to use. The dial control for the zoom allows greater precision with compositions, and there is more space in general between controls, which helps prevent accidental changes during camera operation. It also has the best movie mode of the bunch, producing serviceable 640x480 clips at 30fps.
Try as we might, we couldn’t find anything to dislike about this camera, other than the price.
-- Steve Klett
Month Reviewed: Holiday 2005
+ Corvette: Durable; intuitive controls; quality lens and pics.
- Pinto: On the expensive side, and could use a larger LCD.