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.
For those that like to shoot close-ups, the X500, like a lot of megazooms, is very good for macro shots. It can focus as close as 2 inches from a subject and produces nice fine detail, assuming, again, you have a lot of light.
Lastly, the camera has a more advanced panorama shooting mode than I usually find at this price. You press the shutter release with the camera aimed where you'd like to start your panorama shot and it puts a circle and a target on the screen. Put the circle in the center of the target by moving the camera to the right and it'll take the next shot when it's centered. Do that once more and it'll take your three shots and stitch them together in-camera into a single photo. It takes some practice (I kept moving the camera too fast, for example), but once you get the hang of it, it works nicely.
Shooting performance is slow, which is typical for its class. From off to first-shot takes 3.6 seconds. Shot-to-shot times without a flash averaged 4.1 seconds, which is painful; turning on the flash extends that to 4.4 seconds. Shutter lag--how quickly a camera captures an image after the shutter-release button is pressed--is long, too, at 0.7 seconds in bright lighting and 1.2 seconds in dim conditions. Those times might be fine if your subject is inanimate, but for portraits or moving subjects like kids and pets, the X500 is just too slow. That's not to say you won't get action shots, but it'll be a matter of luck and practice and you still might not get the shot you wanted. The camera does have a continuous shooting setting for capturing photos at up to 1.4 frames per second for three shots.
On the other hand, if you don't mind the slow response, actually using the camera is a nice experience. You might expect a camera this inexpensive to feel cheap, but it doesn't. Part of that is the weight from the AA batteries, but the rest of the camera feels good, too. The battery/memory card compartment door can be tricky to close, but that's the case with most AA-battery cameras. It looks decent as well (it comes in black and white versions) with the exception of the big GE etched above the lens.
Its controls are fairly easy to master and they're well spaced and clearly labeled. There are two menu systems: one that's shooting-mode specific accessed by the Func/OK button and the main system menus reached by the Menu button. They aren't very attractive and might be difficult to read at times, but the menus themselves are easy to understand. The camera comes with a small printed manual with a full digital manual on the included CD.
As mentioned several times before, the X500 takes AA-size batteries--four of them--and can use alkaline, lithium, or NiMH rechargables. It's CIPA-rated for 300 shots on alkalines, but that really depends on usage. You're better off buying some NiMH batteries, which are rated for 500 shots and rechargeable.
If you want to connect the X500 to a computer there is a Micro-USB port on the right side of the camera. It can also be used as an AV out should you want to playback on a monitor or TV, but you'll need to buy a Micro-USB-to-AV cable; all that's included is a USB cable for transferring files to a computer. Speaking of file transfers, along with the JPEGs the camera captures you'll see a THM file for every photo. This is a thumbnail image presumably generated to make previewing photos on the X500 easier. The 16-megapixel photos are large and likely too much for the camera to handle efficiently.
The GE X500 is a competent budget megazoom camera. If you want a wide-angle lens with a 15x zoom, an electronic viewfinder, semimanual and manual shooting modes, and AA batteries for power for less than $150, this is your camera. Its performance is slow, so I wouldn't recommend it for regularly shooting active kids and pets. Nor would I recommend it for a lot of indoor/low-light photography without a flash. But, as long as you understand its limitations, the X500, like the X5, delivers a lot of value at an ultra-affordable price.
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
|Time to first shot||Typical shot-to-shot time||Shutter lag (dim)||Shutter lag (typical)|
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
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