GE Power Pro review: GE Power Pro

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GE Power Pro X500 (Black)

(Part #: DSC-X500-BK-US-1) Released: Feb 15, 2011
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3.5 stars

CNET Editors' Rating

4 stars 3 user reviews

The Good The GE Power Pro X500
offers a lot for its low price including a 15x wide-angle zoom lens and semimanual and manual controls.

The Bad The X500's shooting performance is really slow and it's not good indoors without a flash and in low-light conditions.

The Bottom Line The GE X500 megazoom is a very good value as long as you understand its photo and performance limitations.

7.0 Overall
  • Design 8.0
  • Features 7.0
  • Image quality 6.0
  • Performance 6.0

Editors' note: Several of the design, features, and shooting options are identical between the GE Power Pro X500 and the

GE took an if-ain't-broke approach with the Power Pro X500. Almost nothing changes from its predecessor, the X5. There's just a bump in resolution from 14 to 16 megapixels and some new scene modes. Otherwise, it retains all the same things that made the X5 a popular camera: a wide-angle lens with a 15x zoom; an electronic viewfinder (EVF); semimanual and manual shooting modes; and power from AA-size batteries--all for a very reasonable sub-$150 price.

It's that price and its feature set that helped earn the camera its above average rating. The X500 is capable of taking some nice photos, too, under the right circumstances. The increased resolution isn't all that useful, though, and it actually seems to slow down the camera's performance some. On the other hand, if you don't need fast performance and you rarely enlarge or heavily crop your photos, you might find the X500 to be a very satisfying camera.

Key specs GE X500
Price (MSRP) $149.99
Dimensions (WHD) 4 x 2.9 x 2.7 inches
Weight (with battery and media) 15.8 ounces
Megapixels, image sensor size, type 16 megapixels, 1/2.3-inch CCD
LCD size, resolution/viewfinder 2.7-inch LCD, 230K dots/Electronic
Lens (zoom, aperture, focal length) 15x, f3-5.2, 27-405mm (35mm equivalent)
File format (still/video) JPEG/Motion JPEG (.MOV)
Highest resolution size (still/video) 4,608x4,56 pixels/ 640x480 at 30fps
Image stabilization type Mechanical and digital
Battery type, CIPA rated life AA (4, alkaline or NiMH rechargeables), 300 shots (alkaline)
Battery charged in camera No
Storage media SD/SDHC
Bundled software Arcsoft Photo Impression 6 (Windows)

The photo quality from the GE X500 is good as long you have plenty of light; and it's actually a bit better than expected given its price. However, its 16-megapixel resolution does nothing to improve this camera's photos, and any pixel peepers out there will not like what they see when photos are viewed onscreen at full size. Just because the camera looks similar to a digital SLR and has manual controls does not mean its photos are of that quality. The results are best suited for 8x10 prints or smaller and Web use, which for a lot of people is all that's needed.

At lower ISO sensitivities--ISO 200 and below--you'll get nice photos with good exposure and bright, vivid, and fairly accurate color. Viewed at full size you'll see noise, but its pretty unnoticeable at small sizes. Above ISO 200, though, you get more noise, softness, and off colors, making photos only suitable for small prints and Web use. Even still, you probably won't want to go above ISO 800. There are ISO 1600 and ISO 3200 settings at a reduced resolution of 4 megapixels, but I wouldn't use them, as their color is bad and details are completely smeared. Basically, this camera is fine for outdoor use in full sun to cloudy conditions. If you do a lot of indoor shooting in dim lighting and don't want to use the flash, I would not buy the X500.

There is some visible barrel distortion at the wide end of the lens and some very slight pincushioning when then lens is extended. Center sharpness is fairly good and the lens is consistent for the most part, softening slightly out at the edges and in the corners. I've seen far worse on more expensive cameras, though. Fringing around high-contrast subjects can be bad at times. However, in most of my photos it was faint enough where it didn't pose a problem and was only visible when photos were viewed at 100 percent on a computer screen.

Color was very good from the X500 at or below ISO 200. Above that, colors get washed out and dull looking. Again, though, when viewed at full size you will see some color noise even at ISO 80 (and a general lack of fine detail, too). White balance outside is solid, but indoors both the auto and presets were off. There is a manual option that's easy to set, and I recommend using that whenever possible under unnatural light.

Video quality is OK; good enough for nondiscriminating Web use, but really nothing else. Panning the camera will create judder and you'll see motion blur with fast-moving subjects; that's typical of the video from most compact cameras, though. The zoom lens does function while recording and it has continuous autofocus. The AF is a little slow to respond, but at least it and the lens movement are quiet, barely picked up by the mono microphone.

General shooting options GE X500
ISO sensitivity (full resolution) Auto, 80, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600, 3200
White balance Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Fluorescent, Fluorescent CWF, Incandescent, Manual
Recording modes Auto, ASCN, Manual, Shutter priority, Aperture priority, Movie, Scene, Portrait, Panorama
Focus modes Center AF, 13-point multi AF, Face Detection AF
Macro 2 inches (Wide); 6.6 feet (Tele)
Metering modes Multi, Center-weighted average, Spot
Color effects Black & White, Sepia, Vivid
Burst mode shot limit (full resolution) 3 photos

It's rare that you find a sub-$200 camera these days with aperture priority, shutter priority, and manual shooting modes, but the X500 has them. At the wide end, the apertures are: f3, f3.3, f3.8, f4.6, f5.8, and f7.3; in telephoto you have a choice of f5.2 or f6.6. Shutter speeds go from 1/2,000 second to 30 seconds. What's nice is that the X500 has graphics on the aperture and shutter speed onscreen controls, giving you an idea of what setting to use for a subject (e.g., fireworks at the 30-second shutter speed position). If you need manual focus, though, you're out of luck; the X500 has autofocus only. There is a Program Auto, too, if you want to set things like ISO, white balance, and exposure compensation, but leave shutter speed and aperture to the camera.

Of course, it does have a fully automatic mode as well as an automatic scene recognition mode that determines the appropriate settings based on the conditions of what you're shooting. The latter works OK, but the plain Auto mode turned out good results in most circumstances. Along with the increased resolution over the X5, the X500 has more scene modes to pick from, too. The new additions are: Beach, Panning shot, Photo frame, Party, ID, Fisheye, and Sketch.

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