James's Camera Collection: Canon Powershot S500 Digital Elph

Canon Powershot S500 Digital Elph Japan Other Canon Cameras Company History Owner's Manual 35mm cameras Canon Camera Museum
Canon Powershot S500 Digital Elph
Camera type: Point-n-shoot
Approx. dates of manufacture: 2004
Sensor Size: CCD 1/1.8"
Max Resolution: 2592x1994
Memory card: Compact Flash (CF)
Approx. original price: $499
Approx. street value: $50

This is almost identical to the S100, except that it's about 3 generations and 4 years advanced in technology. Wikipedia has a nice chart outlining the differences, but here it is a nutshell: for pretty much the same size and weight:

S100
S500
Max Resolution
1600 x 1200
2592 x 1944
Lens (35mm equiv)
35-70mm f/2.8-4
36-108mm f2.8-4.0
Auto Focus
3 point
9 point
ISO
100 fixed
50 to 400 selectable
Shutter
1 to 1/500th
15 to 1/2000th

A lot of other things, but those are the key features that got my attention.

I bought this camera because I wanted a grab-shot camera. Grab shots are fast, unplanned, target-of-opportunity photos that you get when you're just out and about and suddenly see something worth getting. I wanted a camera I could easily carry in my pocket wherever I went, but without the execrable quality of cellphone cams. I love my Canon 40D, but it's way too big to lug around all the time.

I ended up with the Canon S100, but the noise was awful. The images look fine if you leave them alone, but once you start playing the curves in Photoshop, or God-forbid convert them to monochrome, and suddenly they looked like they had a bad case of chicken pox.

This one is better, but I got it from a thrift store and there's a reason it was there—there's some intermittant problem with the sensor, so sometime it works and sometimes it's dead. Usually whenever I want to use it is when it's nutty.

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