Canon PowerShot SX500 IS Review

October 22, 2012 | Matt Grayson | Rating star Rating star Rating star Rating star


The Canon PowerShot SX500 IS is a super-zoom bridge type camera that sports a 30x, 24mm wide-angle zoom, lens, 16 megapixel resolution, 3 inch LCD screen, 720p movies, full manual controls and a Digic 4 processor. Other standout features include a Smart Auto mode that detects 32 scenes, ISO 100-1600, Zoom Framing Assist, and a range of Creative Filters. Priced at the £279 / $329.99 mark, the Canon SX500 is available in any colour as long as it's black.

Ease of Use

The design of the Canon PowerShot SX500 IS will instantly put some people off. Those looking for something pocketable or - at the opposite end of the spectrum - those wanting something big and chunky won't like it. The camera seems to be able to take the rough shape of a cube while not being very big. It's certainly not a camera for the pocket. The 30x optical zoom lens has seen to that. Jutting proudly out of the body like a Peacock displaying it's feathers, the lens comes with it's own lens cap. As you switch the Canon PowerShot SX500 IS on, the lens will poke out by around 1cm and get much longer as the camera zooms in.

The top end of the zoom doesn't actually end there either. There's a 60x smart zoom on top of the 30x optical zoom. Now the great thing about that is it uses the same resolution as the smaller zoom. However, the compression is much lower recording roughly half the information. There's also a digital zoom that crops into the sensor and enlarges it. Effectively pixels are then enlarged and the image quality suffers.

Canon PowerShot SX500 IS Canon PowerShot SX500 IS
Front Rear

A pop up flash sits on top of the lens barrel and the flash options on the back of the Canon PowerShot SX500 IS won't come on until the flash has been lifted. It's a mechanical action, not electronic. To the right is a deep grip for single hand shooting; which is entirely possible. The small power button is located next to the large command dial. The latter holds all shooting commands for  immediate changes to your photography.  There are manual programmable modes such as Manual, Aperture priority, Shutter priority and Program as well as preset modes such as Live, Auto, Scenes, Digital effects and Discreet. There's also a video mode but you can have direct access to video recording by pressing the red button on the back of the camera.

All these features are found on other digital bridge type cameras such as this Canon PowerShot SX500 IS. There is a mode of note that really helps with framing and composition. On the left of the lens barrel is a button with a square that has four arrows shooting out of each corner on it. If you want to zoom out a little just to miss out a bit of overhanging building or crop a person out, you can hold this button and zoom as normal. The Zoom Framing Assist will retain the wide-angle screen but show a virtual zoomed in square on the screen. You can then decide what to zoom in and crop out before releasing the button. Upon releasing, the camera will zoom to the point that you decided on.

Canon PowerShot SX500 IS Canon PowerShot SX500 IS
Front Side

By today's standards, the Canon PowerShot SX500 IS's 16 megapixel resolution is relatively modest. It's fair to say that there's nothing wrong with this and more people are starting to understand this. More importantly, manufacturers have realised that resolution doesn't sell anymore.

The Canon PowerShot SX500 IS is very well made. It's on the underside of high priced so has all the usual bits and bobs you'd expect to see on a camera at this price such as a metal tripod bush and a metal body. The battery is lithium-ion which is located under the camera. The door to the battery compartment has a lock but just has to be pulled harder with your thumb and it will open. It would be nice to see a more physical lock. Metal has been used under the battery door to keep it rigid which is great.

Speaking of rigid, the Canon PowerShot SX500 IS's lens is something else! It's rock solid in the body and even at full zoom we couldn't detect any play. The rest of the buttons are firm to press while the menu wheel on the back is pleasantly spirited as it zooms through modes. The command dial is a bit too tough for our tastes, but it could loosen up over time. The smallness of the body can make it a bit odd to hold if you have large hands. The general way of holding a camera with a large lens is to scoop the left hand under the lens barrel. This will ensure more steadiness when zooming. However, with a small camera such as the SX500, hands have to overlap hands and it all feels a bit awkward.

Canon PowerShot SX500 IS Canon PowerShot SX500 IS
Top Pop-up Flash

Then menu is extremely easy to use. As with all Canon digital compact cameras the user interface is intuitive and nicely coloured so it's easy to work out where you are and where you need to go next. The menu system will change depending on the level you set the camera at. For example, if you have the camera in Auto, the number of options available to you are vastly smaller than if the camera is in Program. These two modes do pretty much the same thing but in Program you get to choose advanced features such as ISO, white-balance and metering.

Start-up time is as fast as to be expected. We got times that we're used to seeing which is around 2.5 seconds.  The Canon PowerShot SX500 IS shares the same sensor and processor as the PowerShot SX160 IS which we recently reviewed. That has a slow continuous shooting speed of around 0.5fps (frames per second) and we thought maybe the SX500 may have some tweaking done to speed it up a bit. Unfortunately not as it gives the same performance.

Canon PowerShot SX500 IS Canon PowerShot SX500 IS
Memory Card Slot Battery Compartment

There are a number of ways to view the pictures you've already taken. You can look at the whole picture, view it with information, with detailed shooting information including a histogram, or a pixel peep option which we ended up using more than any other. It shows the picture in the top left corner with a zoomed in version in the bottom right. You can then crop into this and view the sharpness of the picture.

Delving into the menu, it's simple enough to follow. All features have been put on one screen with just only a print menu as an addition. You can do some basic editing here, erase pictures, protect and rotate them. Emphasis isn't so much on sharing pictures as it is on some other cameras. There's a slide-show option but that's pretty much it. In the print menu, you can preset pictures that you want printing if you use the Pictbridge facility. Pictbridge is a universal connection for printers and cameras. It means that if you have a Canon printer, you don't necessarily need a Canon camera to direct print.

In the box, there's the usual bag of mashings such as the camera, lithium ion battery and a charger with a figure eight lead. There's no memory card and it won't take pictures without one. There's a neck strap, USB cable and a lens cap. The manual has been put on a CD for convenience although there is a paper based start up guide. A Canon viewing program is on the CD too, called Solutions v.119.0.

Image Quality

All of the sample images in this review were taken using the 16 megapixel SuperFine JPEG setting, which gives an average image size of around 6Mb.


Disappointingly at low ISO, the Canon PowerShot SX500 IS is already suffering from noise issues which can be seen, albeit at full magnification. Slight colour distortion and salt and pepper noise is poking through the darker areas of the images. Edge definition is ok at ISO 100 but it threatens to reduce quickly. As we climb through the sensitivity settings, colour noise takes a bit of a back seat for artefacts and salt and pepper noise to become more aggressive around ISO 400.

Image quality starts to break down around ISO 800 with noticeable noise at normal viewing distance. Up close sees noise reduction software battling to maintain an air of quality. By the end setting of ISO 1600, edge definition has broken - although there's still a degree of image quality, noise affects all areas of the picture with streaks of green in the darker areas.

ISO 100 (100% Crop)

ISO 200 (100% Crop)


ISO 400 (100% Crop)

ISO 800 (100% Crop)


ISO 1600 (100% Crop)



Images are sharp enough on the Canon PowerShot SX500 IS without needing a boost in an editing suite. You can do it if that's what you prefer but if there's any noise in the image (which there generally is), it will boost it.

Original (100% Crop)

Sharpened (100% Crop)


Focal Range

There's an old trick you can do on Canon PowerShots to improve the zoom. If resolution isn't an issue, you can drop it down and the further you drop it, the more boost to the zoom you get. It's working in a similar fashion to how digital zoom works but without using a digital zoom. The optical focal length is 30x on the Canon PowerShot SX500 IS but on top of the 30x, you can boost the zoom to 60x using ZoomPlus. It uses the same resolution but reduces the compression quality to retain image quality. There's also a 4x digital zoom, but that will deplete image quality. In 35mm terms, the optical zoom is 24-720mm.



Chromatic Aberrations

We found chromatic aberrations in many of the pictures we took with the Canon PowerShot SX500 IS. Mostly in high contrast areas and at the edges of the frame where the lens quality isn't as good, but we did see it at the centre from time to time and in brickwork.

Chromatic Aberrations 1 (100% Crop)

Chromatic Aberrations 2 (100% Crop)

File Quality

At full 16 megapixel resolution, there are two JPEG quality settings available - SuperFine and Fine.

SuperFine (7.52Mb) (100% Crop)

Fine (6.10Mb) (100% Crop)


Taking a macro shot with the Canon PowerShot SX500 IS is a nightmare although in a really good way. The close focusing of the camera is 0cm. Point blank. From our point of view, we need to show that in a test shot but we couldn't get enough light onto the subject (a memory card) because the lens kept blocking our studio light. 0cm macro is great fun. If you're patient, you can shoot insects, you can shoot flowers, the details of feathers. You can see pretty much what you want in close up.


Macro (100% Crop)


With the flash off, the Canon PowerShot SX500 IS does suffer from some vignetting at wide-angle. This all but disappears as the camera is zoomed in. Using flash at wide-angle exacerbates the vignette but eradicates it at full zoom.

If you pop the flash up and press the flash button, you can then press menu to enter a flash menu section. Here you can adjust the power of the flash, switch the red-eye correction on, the red-eye lamp and Safety FE. Safety FE is an over-riding system that will limit flash brightness if the camera thinks it will bleach out a subject. It's like an auto flash compensation. If you want to handle it manually or purposefully bleach something, you need to switch it off.

Flash Off - Wide Angle (24mm)

Flash On - Wide Angle (24mm)

ISO 64 ISO 64

Flash Off - Telephoto (720mm)

Flash On - Telephoto (720mm)

ISO 64 ISO 64

And here are some portrait shots. As you can see, neither the Flash On or the Red-eye-Reduction settings caused any red-eye.

Flash On

Flash On (100% Crop)

Red-eye Reduction

Red-eye Reduction (100% Crop)


Pictures at night taken in auto or program are much better than the low light setting (there's no night scene mode we could find) which boosts ISO to a ridiculous setting. In our test shot we could barely tell the scene. The North Star is visible in our shots though.

Night Scene

Night Scene (100% Crop)


Night Program

Night Program (100% Crop)

Sample Images

This is a selection of sample images from the Canon PowerShot SX500 IS camera, which were all taken using the 16 megapixel Superfine JPEG setting. The thumbnails below link to the full-sized versions, which have not been altered in any way.

Sample Movie & Video

This is a sample movie at the highest quality setting of 1280x720 pixels at 30 frames per second. Please note that this 14 second movie is 37.2Mb in size.

Product Images

Canon PowerShot SX500 IS

Front of the Camera

Canon PowerShot SX500 IS

Isometric View

Canon PowerShot SX500 IS

Isometric View

Canon PowerShot SX500 IS

Isometric View

Canon PowerShot SX500 IS

Isometric View

Canon PowerShot SX500 IS

Isometric View / Flash Raised

Canon PowerShot SX500 IS

Rear of the Camera

Canon PowerShot SX500 IS

Rear of the Camera / Image Displayed

Canon PowerShot SX500 IS

Rear of the Camera / Image Displayed


Canon PowerShot SX500 IS

Rear of the Camera / Turned On

Canon PowerShot SX500 IS
Rear of the Camera / Function Menu
Canon PowerShot SX500 IS
Rear of the Camera / Main Menu
Canon PowerShot SX500 IS
Rear of the Camera / Settings Menu
Canon PowerShot SX500 IS
Rear of the Camera / Playback Menu
Canon PowerShot SX500 IS
Rear of the Camera / Print Menu
Canon PowerShot SX500 IS
Rear of the Camera / Creative Controls
Canon PowerShot SX500 IS
Rear of the Camera / Special Effects Menu
Canon PowerShot SX500 IS
Top of the Camera
Canon PowerShot SX500 IS
Side of the Camera
Canon PowerShot SX500 IS
Side of the Camera
Canon PowerShot SX500 IS
Front of the Camera
Canon PowerShot SX500 IS
Front of the Camera
Canon PowerShot SX500 IS
Memory Card Slot
Canon PowerShot SX500 IS
Battery Compartment


If you're after a little compact that gives you most of the features and control of a prosumer/DSLR then the Canon PowerShot SX500 IS is perfect. It has the large zoom to cover all eventualities as well as auto and manual controls to either let you express your inner artist or simply give control over to the camera so you don't have to worry. There are nifty little features such as the framing button on the side of the lens barrel and Zoom Plus (which could actually be useful) to help get the best pictures.

Using the Canon PowerShot SX500 IS is a lot easier than you might think just by looking at it. After all, it's designed to look like something of higher specification than what it actually is. However, Canon have ensured that the user interface is simple but not to a dumbed down degree. We liked using it out and about and found it easy to get shots that we would normally have to walk to; thereby preventing a task that, frankly, we'd rather not do anyway. The build is good, we liked the design because everything seemed to fall into place as we used it.

With general use, the Canon PowerShot SX500 IS' pictures are good. They're sharp and well exposed. Colours could be better but they're close enough to realistic so we don't really have anything to complain about. The lab test shots, however, left a lot to be desired. We found noise at low ISO settings where there really shouldn't be any and chromatic aberrations that we didn't expect from a Canon. Yes, our expectations are high but they are one of the biggest manufacturers in the world and have a reputation to uphold, not to mention stiff competition to beat.

At around £250/$300, the cost isn't too bad for all the features that you get. It seems though that Canon have fallen foul of the resolution race and simply added a few more pixels without trying to sort out the consequences of that action. It's difficult to believe that they really would do that but given the image quality and the older processor it certainly looks that way. All is not lost, however. The everyday images we took are very good; sharp, exposed well and with a nice colour to them.

If you're new to photography, you want something a bit better than the cheapest models and you want to learn the art, then the Canon PowerShot SX500 IS will give you the features, modes and zoom you need. Give this camera a go.

4 stars

Ratings (out of 5)
Design 4
Features 4
Ease-of-use 4.5
Image quality 3.5
Value for money 3.5

Review Roundup

Reviews of the Canon PowerShot SX500 IS from around the web. »

It wasn’t so long ago that a 30x optical zoom was unheard of in a compact. Now it’s quite the norm for superzooms to have such far-reaching lenses, but the Canon PowerShot SX500 IS manages to squeeze its 24-720mm (equivalent) lens into a small body and at a cut price too. Is the SX500 IS promising too much, or is it a shrewd camera purchase?
Read the full review » »

The Canon PowerShot SX500 IS represents something of an anomaly in that it straddles the gap somewhere between ultracompact and superzoom. The first thing that strikes you about it is the size; it’s a very small camera, and yet within its diminutive body Canon has somehow managed to engineer a 30x optical zoom. In terms of focal range this pushes the SX500 beyond the traditional 16-20x reach common to many travel compacts and well into superzoom territory.
Read the full review » »

The Canon PowerShot SX500 IS is one of the smallest cameras on the market to feature a massive 30x optical zoom. Despite possessing such diminutive dimensions, the compact still features full manual control and a host of other features that look to assert it as a serious shooter. The question is, has anything been compromised in cramming such a large feature-set in to a small body?
Read the full review » »

Canon Powershot SX500 IS 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.
Read the full review » »

The Canon PowerShot SX500 IS is a pocket-sized super-zoom camera with a 30x optical range. Announced in August 2012, Canon claims it's the World's smallest 30x optical zoom camera, with a range that extends from 24-720mm with Intelligent image stabilisation to iron-out the wobbles. The sensor is a 16 Megapixel CCD paired up with the Digic 4 processor to provide features like scene detection and Face detect AF.
Read the full review »



Type 1/2.3 type CCD
Effective Pixels Approx. 16.0M
Colour Filter Type Primary Colour


Type DIGIC 4 with iSAPS technology


Focal Length 4.3 – 129.0 mm (35 mm equivalent: 24 – 720 mm)
Zoom Optical 30x
ZoomPlus 60x
Digital Approx. 4x (with Digital Tele-Converter Approx. 1.6x or 2.0x and Safety Zoom¹). Combined Approx. 120x
Maximum f/number f/3.4 – f/5.8
Construction 13 elements in 10 groups (1 UD lens, 1 double-sided aspherical lens)
Image Stabilisation Yes (lens shift-type), 3.5-stop. Intelligent IS


Type TTL
AF System/ Points Face Detection, 1-point AF (fixed to centre)
AF Modes Continuous, Servo AF/AE¹, Tracking AF
AF Point Selection Size (Normal, Small)
AF Lock On/Off Selectable
AF Assist Beam Yes
Manual Focus Yes
Closest Focusing Distance 0 cm (W) from front of lens in macro


Metering modes Evaluative (linked to Face Detection AF frame), Centre-weighted average, Spot (Centre)
AE Lock On/Off Selectable
Exposure Compensation +/- 2 EV in 1/3 stop increments.
Enhanced i-Contrast for automatic dynamic range correction
ISO sensitivity* AUTO, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600


Speed 1 – 1/1600 sec. (factory default)
15 – 1/1600 sec. (total range – varies by shooting mode)


Type TTL
Settings Auto (including Face Detection WB), Daylight, Cloudy, Tungsten, Fluorescent, Fluorescent H, Custom


Monitor 7.5 cm (3.0”) TFT, Approx. 461,000 dots
Coverage Approx. 100%
Brightness Adjustable to one of five levels. Quick-bright LCD


Modes Auto, Manual Flash On / Off, Slow Synchro
Slow Sync Speed Fastest speed 1/1600 sec.
Red-Eye Reduction Yes
Flash Exposure Compensation +/- 2 EV in 1/3 stop increments. Face Detection FE. Safety FE
Flash Exposure Lock Yes
Manual Power Adjustment 3 levels with internal flash
Built-in Flash Range 50 cm – 5.0 m (W) / 1.4 m – 3.0 m (T)
External Flash Canon High Power Flash HF-DC2


Modes Smart Auto (32 scenes detected), Program AE, Shutter priority AE, Aperture priority AE, Manual, Live View Control, SCN (Portrait, FaceSelf-Timer, Low Light (4.0MP), Snow, Fireworks), Creative Filters (Fish-eye Effect, Miniature Effect, Toy Camera Effect, Monochrome, Super Vivid, Poster Effect), Discreet, Movie
Modes in Movie Smart Auto (21 scenes detected), Standard, iFrame Movie, Program AE, Portrait, Snow, Fireworks, Miniature Effect, Monochrome, Super Vivid, Poster Effect
Photo Effects My Colors (My Colors Off, Vivid, Neutral, Sepia, Black & White, Positive Film, Lighter Skin Tone, Darker Skin Tone, Vivid Blue, Vivid Green, Vivid Red, Custom Color)
Drive modes Single, Continuous, Continuous with AF, Self-Timer
Continuous Shooting Approx. 0.8 shots/sec. with AF: Approx. 0.5 shots/sec. LV: Approx. 0.6 shots/sec.(until memory card becomes full)¹²


Image Size 4:3 - (L) 4608 x 3456, (M1) 3264 x 2448, (M2) 1600 x 1200, (S) 640 x 480
16:9 - (L) 4608 x 2592, (M1) 3264 x 1832, (M2) 1920 x 1080, (S) 640 x 360
3:2 - (L) 4608 x 3072, (M1) 3264 x 2176, (M2) 1600 x 1064, (S) 640 x 424
1:1 - (L) 3456 x 3456, (M1) 2448 x 2448, (M2) 1200 x 1200, (S) 480 x 480
Resize in playback (M2, S, XS)¹
Compression Superfine, Fine
Movies (HD) 1280 x 720, 25 fps, (L) 640 x 480, 30 fps
Miniature Effect (HD, L) 5fps, 2.5fps, 1.25 fps
iFrame Movie (HD)
Movie Length (HD) Up to 4 GB or 29 min. 59 sec.¹
(L ) Up to 4 GB or 1 hour²


Still Image Type JPEG compression, (Exif 2.3 [Exif Print] compliant) / Design rule for Camera File system, Digital Print Order Format [DPOF] Version 1.1 compliant
Movies MOV [H.264 + Linear PCM (stereo)]


Canon Printers Canon SELPHY Compact Photo Printers and Canon Inkjet Printers supporting PictBridge (ID Photo Print, Fixed Size Print and Movie Print supported on SELPHY CP & ES printers only)
PictBridge Yes


Red-Eye Correction Yes, during shooting and playback
My Camera / My Menu Start-up image and camera sounds customisation
My Category Image tagging feature
Intelligent Orientation Sensor Yes
Histogram Yes
Playback zoom Approx. 2x – 10x
Self Timer Approx. 2 or 10 sec., Custom
Menu Languages English, German, French, Dutch, Danish, Finnish, Italian, Greek, Norwegian, Portuguese, Russian, Swedish, Spanish, Ukrainian, Polish, Czech, Hungarian, Turkish, Simplified Chinese, Chinese (traditional), Japanese, Korean, Thai, Arabic, Romanian, Farsi, Hindi, Malay, Indonesian, Vietnamese


Computer Hi-Speed USB (MTP, PTP) dedicated connector (Mini-B compatible)
Other HDMI Mini Connector (HDMI-CEC compatible) A/V output (PAL/NTSC)




PC & Macintosh Windows 7 SP1 / Vista SP2 / XP SP3
Mac OS X v10.6 – 10.7


Browsing & Printing ImageBrowser EX
Other PhotoStitch


Batteries Rechargeable Li-ion Battery NB-6L (battery and charger supplied)
Battery life Approx. 195 shots¹
Approx. 540 min. playback
Approx. 240 min. playback
A/C Power Supply Optional, AC Adapter Kit ACK-DC40


Cases / Straps Soft Case DCC-950
Flash Canon High Power Flash HF-DC2
Power Supply & Battery Chargers AC Adapter Kit ACK-DC40, Battery Charger CB-2LYE


Operating Environment 0 – 40 °C, 10 – 90% humidity
Dimensions (WxHxD) 104.0 x 69.5 x 80.2 mm
Weight Approx. 341 g (including battery/batteries and memory card)

Zoom ¹ Depending on the image size selected.
AF Modes ¹ Some settings limit availability.
Continuous Shooting ¹ Depending on memory card speed / capacity / compression setting.
² Using the batteries and memory card format supplied with the camera (where included), except where indicated.
Image Size ¹ XS is half the length and width of S
Movie Length ¹ The following Speed Class memory cards are required for maximum record time: (HD) 1280 x 720 Speed Class 4 or above. (Full HD) 1920 x 1080 Speed Class 6 or above. (iFrame) 1280 x 720 Speed Class 6 or above.
² Depending on memory card speed / capacity / compression setting.
Battery life ¹ Using the batteries and memory card format supplied with the camera (where included), except where indicated.
  • *Standard Output Sensitivity / Recommended Exposure Index.
  • According to ISO 12232:2006 (20th April 2006) which specifies the method for assigning and reporting ISO speed ratings for digital still cameras.
  • All data is based on Canon standard testing methods (according to CIPA Standards) except where indicated.
  • Subject to change without notice.

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