DPInterface Sony Cyber-shot S50 Review
Brad Soo - October 7th, 2006

Somewhere in the middle of this year, Sony quietly brought out their Cyber-shot S500 entry-level camera. This one has 6 effective megapixels, a 3X zoom lens and a 2.4 inch LCD. Despite that, it has more simplistic operation and lacks the high sensitivity mode which has been found on almost all 2006 Sony cameras. Let's see how it performs now.

Open up the Box

Open up that box and along with the S500 comes:

  • 2 AA alkaline batteries
  • Wrist strap
  • USB cable
  • CD-ROM
  • User's manual

Storage and Power

The Sony Cyber-shot S500 has a petty 25 MB of internal memory so you'll have to allocate some budget for a memory card. I'd recommend a 1 GB Memory Stick PRO Duo which retails for only around $40 nowadays.

The Sony Cyber-shot S500 has an excellent battery life of 350 shots (CIPA Standard) on a single charge. That's about average. You'd wanna get a set of 4 AA rechargeable batteries with a quick charger since Sony includes throw-away batteries.

 

Extras

Nope, no accessories for the S500.

Camera Tour

The Sony Cyber-shot S500 is your regular looking digital camera, looking somewhat like an OEM one. The camera is well built and doesn't feel too cheap though the buttons were hard to press and on the unresponsive side.

Sony Cyber-shot S500 has a new 32 - 96 mm lens (3x optical zoom) with an aperture range of F2.8 - F4.8. Behind that lens, you'll find a 1/2.5 inch 6 megapixel CCD. A microphone is located along the lens rim.

The circle above the lens is the AF-assist beam, which emits a red beam of light to help the camera focus in dark conditions as well as become a countdown lamp in self-timer mode. The flash beside that has a maximum range of 2.5 m at ISO Auto which is quite weak.

The Sony Cyber-shot S500 features a 2.4 inch LCD which has only 110,000 pixels. And no, there's no optical viewfinder here. Visibility is okay outdoors and good in low-light but the screen was not terribly sharp.

To the top right, there's the zoom controller followed by a few bumps to act as a grip. The three buttons beside the LCD toggle the display, bring up the menu and change image resolution/delete photo respectively.

The 5-way controller has these functions:

  • Up - Flash setting (Auto, on, off, slow-sync - redeye reduction is turned on/off in the menu)
  • Down - Self-timer (10 or 2 seconds, off)
  • Left - Review
  • Right - Macro (On/off)

As I said earlier on, the buttons aren't very easy to press and the camera was quite unresponsive towards them so this isn't a good camera to catch action shots. A tiny status LED is located at the very bottom.

Up here, there's a power button and shutter button. A mode dial is wrapped around the shutter button:

  • Auto
  • Program
  • Scene modes: Twilight, twilight portrait, candlelight, beach, landscape and soft snap
  • Movie mode
  • Playback

sony-s500-bottom

There's a speaker along the side of the S500 and down here, there's a battery + memory card compartment with a plastic tripod mount.

Shooting

The S500's display is kinda watered down versus Sony's other cameras; for starters, there's no live histogram and there are less menu options available. The camera let's you select between 6 megapixels till VGA for resolutions plus two compression options - Fine and Standard.

Being an entry-level camera, there's a large lack of manual controls here:

  • Auto + 4 white balance presets (no custom option)
  • ISO (80, 100, 200, 400)

The Sony Cyber-shot S500 has a 5 cm macro mode which is nothing spectacular.

Recording

The Sony Cyber-shot S500 has a rather disappointing movie mode: It does 320 x 240 (QVGA) movies with sound at 30 FPS till the memory card fills up. Exposure is automatically adjusted while recording, but you cannot constantly focus or zoom (optical or digital) while recording a movie.

Overall movie quality is small and not very sharp. You sure won't be examining small details at this rate!

Performance

The Sony Cyber-shot S500 starts up quickly in 2 seconds. Focusing takes around 1/2 to a full second while shot-to-shot speed was 1 shot every 2.6 seconds. Flash recharge time using fully charged batteries was 7 seconds.

In continuous shooting, the S500 took only 3 photos at 1.8 FPS. The lens takes 2 seconds to reach telephoto and powers down in 3 seconds.

Image Quality

And here are the test shots:


ISO 80 (f9.7, 1/100 sec)


ISO 100 (f9.7, 1/125 sec)


ISO 200 (f9.7, 1/200 sec)


ISO 400 (f9.7, 1/500 sec)

As you can see, ISO 80 thru 200 are all perfectly useable. At ISO 400, it isn't that bad either, you could make quite a big print or display out of that. Chromatic aberration (color fringing) was visible but low throughout the ISO range.

Barrel distortion and redeye were both not serious in photos. I'm very pleased with the image quality of the Sony S500, especially when it comes to noise.

Photo gallery

Why not see the full-sized photos for yourself? Check out the S500 photo gallery.

Playback

In playback, the Sony Cyber-shot S600 can playback stills and movies (With sound) as well as perform these functions: Protect image, direct printing, slideshow and rotate. You can also zoom up to 5x into still photos taken and take a look around using the 4 arrow buttons.

 

Conclusion

The Sony Cyber-shot S500 features a large LCD (though with low resolution) and a fairly wide 3X zoom lens. Those are contradicted off by clunky performance in many areas. The camera has very few features and functions for its price as well which make other entry-level cameras a better choice.

You'll be buying the S500 for taking good photos easily but for it's value, I'd rather be paying a little extra for Sony's own W50 which is light years better than this camera.

Camera rating upon 10 (more about this): [Category: Entry-level]

  • 6.5 - Body/Exterior
  • 6.0 - Bundle, batteries and memory
  • 7.0 - Lens
  • 4.5 - Feature set
  • 5.5 - Controls and operation
  • 6.0 - Performance
  • 8.0 - Image quality
  • 6.2 - Overall rating

What's hot:

  • Large LCD with good visibility
  • Fairly wide zoom lens
  • Easy to use
  • Very good image quality; especially noise control

What's not:

  • Low LCD resolution
  • Unresponsive buttons; plastic tripod mount
  • Very limited continuous shooting, below average shot-to-shot
  • Few features and functions for the price

Recommended Accessories

  • 1 GB Memory Stick PRO Duo card
  • A set of 4 rechargeable AA NiMH batteries with a fast 15 minute charger

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