The Sony DSC S500 is a six megapixel digital camera with a three times optical zoom lens. This is an entry level model. It is easy to use and the DSC S500 has all the normal features you would expect to find in this type of camera. It is likely to appeal to someone who is looking for a digital camera from a brand name without paying over the odds.
61 x 94 x 33mm
Memory Stick Duo
Normally I am really impressed by the test shots I manage to take with a Sony digital camera. Over time it has become one of my favourite brands and their cameras have been consistently well. Therefore I must admit to a level of disappointment with the DSC S500 as I feel it does not quite come up to the normal high standard.
The outdoor scenic shots are about average for this level of camera. Focusing is one area that could be improved in all three shots. For focusing the best photo is the third picture where the zoom lens is fully extended. Otherwise the outdoor photos are not as sharp as I would like them to be.
One area where the camera struggles is with light coloured areas reflecting the sun. There is a loss of detail in a photo when this occurs. Colours in these shots are not as powerful as some digital cameras produce. Despite this I would say the DSC S500 manages to create photos that are a fair reflection of the scene at the time the picture was taken.
In terms of colour, lighting and skin tones the outdoor portrait is just about spot on. This helps the photo to retain a natural look. When it comes to focusing the picture is a touch soft for my own personal liking. This should not be a problem for relatively small prints, but any enlargement is likely to show the lack of sharp focus.
The dedicated test for colour highlights the fact that the DSC S500 does not produce really strong colours. For many people this is likely to be a positive for the camera as it can help to avoid the overdone look that some other digital cameras can produce.
A good result is produced by the indoor test in very lowlight of beer bottles. Considering the conditions the photo is as sharp as can be expected. I would like to see the photo lighter as the flash unit has been unable to fully illuminate the scene in the way that other digital cameras manage.
Looking at the indoor portrait shot I can see evidence that although the flash was used the DSC S500 also pushed the ISO setting up to ISO 400. While the picture is quite sharply focused the increase in the ISO setting has lead to a speckled affect in the hair as the DSC S500 is no longer able to show true colours owing to the noise levels in the photo.
Despite being a touch dark the macro shot works fairly well. The image is certainly bright and clear. Around the outside of the watch it does have a slight purple colouring to it that should not be there.
Although digital cameras tend to struggle at higher ISO settings the DSC S500 produced a poor quality photo at ISO 400. In fairness as much more expensive cameras than this struggle at higher ISO settings it would be unfair to expect a great result from this camera.
Shutter Lag and Recycling Times
I was able to take a single picture in 1.08 seconds and five photos in 14.58 seconds. These are slow times and very disappointing when compared to previous Sony digital cameras I have tested.
You can compare this camera to other models by taking a look at the Shutter Lag Comparison Table.
For composing images there is a 2.4" LCD screen. This is made up of around 110,000 pixels. This is a good size for this type of camera. There is no viewfinder.
The 3x optical zoom lens has a focal length equivalent to 32 - 96mm in 35mm format. 2x digital zoom is available too. A maximum of 13x smart zoom can also be used. Be aware that smart zoom is only available when shooting at lower resolutions (less megapixels). For close up shots there is a macro mode. This allows the DSC S500 to focus from 5cm away from the subject.
To help you produce better photos there are a small number of scene modes available. These are: Beach, Candle, Landscape, Soft Snap, Twilight and Twilight Portrait. When you use a scene mode the camera will use what it considers to be the best settings for the shot.
In addition you can also adjust the levels of sharpness and saturation. You can also choose to take pictures in black and white or sepia.
If you would like to appear in a photo yourself then you can use the self timer. This can be set to a delay time of either two or ten seconds.
The maximum flash range is 2.5m. The flash modes available are Auto, Forced, Off and Slow Synchro. Red eye reduction is also available.
Among the more sophisticated features are exposure compensation (±2.0 EV, 1/3 EV Steps), ISO (Auto, 80, 100, 200, 400) white balance (Automatic, Cloudy, Daylight, Fluorescent, Incandescent) and burst mode (3 Shot at 2.0 fps).
The lens aperture works in the range f2.8-5.6(W), f4.8-9.7 (T). Shutter speeds work between 1/8 seconds and 1/2000 seconds. Both aperture and shutter speeds are under full control of the camera and you cannot set them manually.
Movies with sound can be recorded at a maximum speed of 30 frames per second. The maximum resolution is 320 x 240 pixels. This is below TV standard. Zoom cannot be used while recording is in progress, but you can zoom in before you shoot the movie.
Sony supplies all the necessary cables and software to connect the DSC S500 to a television set, PictBridge compatible printer and a television set.
Ease of Use
As with most entry level digital cameras the DSC S500 is a fairly straightforward piece of kit. The control dial on the top of the camera allows you to select the shooting mode (movie, scene, photo and review). Key buttons for zoom, macro, flash etc. can all be found on the back of the camera. The menu system should not be a big issue whenever you need to use it.
You can pick up a Sony DSC S500 for around £115. This compares to around £105 for a Nikon Coolpix L2, £95 for a Fuji Finepix A600 and £80 for a Olympus FE-170.
Pound for pound there is not a great deal to choose between these six megapixel digital cameras. Personally I prefer the Sony DSC S600 available for around £110.
The DSC S500 is a typical shiny, silver box. There are no real surprises or standout points about the design. I do like the fact that Sony have managed to incorporate a large LCD screen in a camera in this price range.
The dimensions are 61 x 94 x 33mm and the camera weighs 175g.
Batteries and Memory Cards
Two AA batteries are used to supply power to the camera. Sony estimates the supplied batteries should be able take 60 shots before they need to be replaced. That is not very many and if you buy this camera I would suggest buying some high powered rechargeable batteries.
Sony have built 25mb of memory into the DSC S500. Therefore no memory card is supplied as standard. The camera is compatible with Memory Stick Duo cards. I was only able to take eight photos before the memory was full.
Click here to save money on Memory Stick Duo.
Points I like:
Ease of use
Where it is not so hot:
To be honest I was disappointed with the Sony DSC S500. I have become used to seeing very high quality from Sony digital cameras, but this camera is nothing out of the ordinary and I was surprised by the shutter lag times too.
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