Canon Ixus 500 HS review
1/2.3in (16MP cropped to 10MP) 10.0-megapixel sensor, 12.0x zoom (28-336mm equivalent), 155g
We were bowled over by Canon's compact cameras last year. Judging by the Ixus 500 HS, the company isn't resting on its laurels. We first saw this model in January under its american designation of Canon PowerShot ELPH 520 HS at CES in Las Vegas, but its been baffingly rebranded for its European release.
Whatever it's called, cosmetically it's a triumph, with a squared-off metal body that's almost entirely smooth when the camera's switched off, and a subtle textured finish that gives it a mysterious translucent glow. The 3in screen is bursting with colour, but it barely leaves enough room for the controls. They're the usual set we've seen on other Ixus cameras, but they've been rearranged with the Func/Set button repositioned below the navigation buttons rather than in the centre. We'd probably get used to it – eventually.
Incredibly, Canon has managed to pack a 12x zoom lens into this ultra-slim camera, which measures just 19mm deep when switched off. Canon's fanfare is slightly diminished by the simultaneous arrival of the Panasonic SZ7 and Sony WX100, both of which are 21mm deep, a few grams lighter and have 10x zooms, but the Ixus 500 HS is the clear victor in this battle of Tardis-like cameras.
There are a few compromises to deliver such extraordinary miniaturisation. One is that the battery is relatively small, and only lasts for 190 shots. That might be less than a day's use for trigger-happy photographers. Another is the use of a microSDXC slot. There's nothing wrong with this format - and some smartphone and tablet users may find the cross compatibility useful - but having spent the last 10 years building up a collection of full-sized SD cards, we'd prefer not to have to start all over again.
Yet another is that, while the sensor is a standard 1/2.3in size, only the central 10-megapixel area of this 16-megapixel chip is used to capture the image. This means that the lens doesn't have to work so hard to achieve sharp focus across the frame, which makes it easier to deliver such a slim 12x zoom lens. It's not great news for image quality, though, as it brings the higher noise of a 16-megapixel sensor without the benefit of extra detail.