These are 100 percent crops from our test scene at each of the camera's available ISO settings. Noise and artifacts are visible even at ISO 100 when pixel peeping, so if the quality at full size is something that matters to you, this camera will probably disappoint. On the other hand, up to ISO 200 you get good enough detail that you can still do some enlarging and cropping.
Up at ISO 400 is where the noise starts to be more visible and can result in some noticeable yellow blotching. Going above that you'll start to see more color noise, artifacts, and loss of detail. The camera definitely favors dropping shutter speed over raising ISO when left in auto. That's good in general, but if you're not paying attention it could result in blurry photos.
Color performance is generally very good up to ISO 400. Above that you start to end up with noise that makes colors look off. If the bulk of your shots will be taken outdoors in good lighting, you should be pretty pleased with the results. Exposure is generally very good, too, as is white balance.
For those who like to shoot close-ups, the SX500's macro option can focus right up against a subject. However, depending on your lighting, you may end up with a shadow from the lens. This is a 100 percent crop from the inset photo taken at ISO 100.
One of the big advantages for the SX500 IS over some competing models is that it has aperture-priority, shutter-speed-priority, and full manual shooting modes. This makes it a good choice for those who are just getting into photography, but perhaps aren't ready for a more advanced (or more expensive) camera or those who just like to do more than just shoot in auto and scene modes. Available apertures at the wide end are f3.4, f4.0, f4.5, f5.0, f5.6, f6.3, f7.1, and f8.0; at telephoto you get f5.8, f7.1, and f8.0. Shutter speeds go from 15 seconds down to 1/1,600 second.
Of course the camera's biggest selling point is the 30x zoom lens that goes from 24mm at the wide end (top) to a 720mm telephoto (bottom). There is no electronic viewfinder on this model, so it's a little more difficult to keep the camera steady held out in front of you with the lens zoomed in. Fortunately, the optical image stabilization is excellent.
Fringing in high-contrast areas (purple and green) is somewhat of an issue at both the wide and telephoto ends. It's only really noticeable if you're viewing photos at larger sizes on screen. You can see it here on both sides of the statue.
Canon used a new high-speed AF system in the SX500 IS to reduce autofocus lag times, and the AF is faster than older Canon megazooms. It's still not a terribly fast-shooting camera, but with some practice, the camera's tracking AF, and plenty of light, you can get some action shots.
Since the zoom is so important on this model, this photo and the remaining four slides are all shots taken at 720mm. A link is provided to download and view the full-size image for each slide. They are large files, though, so it may take a few seconds for them to fully load.