Digital camera comparison and Nikon S500 review

Here are a few photos and review that compare a Nikon D50 dslr with a Nikon Coolpix S500 compact digital with a Canon SD100 compact digital. Hover your mouse over each thumbnail to see which photo it is. Click on the thumbnails to see full sized pictures, you may need to be a bit patient the first time you try to view the photo.

Nikon D50Nikon S500Canon SD100

Nikon D50 enlargedNikon S500 enlargedCanon SD100 enlarged

My overall impression of the Nikon S500 is fairly positive. In the camera shops I was comparing it to the likes of the Casio EX-V7, the Canon SD800is, Canon SD1000, Pentax A30, Sony W55, etc. The selling points for me was the size of the S500, the cost, and the fact that it has mechanical image stabilization.

A lot of cameras are claiming image stabilization these days, but in fact all they are doing is pumping up the ISO setting of the camera. This results in horrible photos in my opinion. A photo taken with an ISO of 800 or higher is going to be graining as hell, and no one will care if it is blurred or not. The Casio, Canon SD800is, Pentax and Canon SD800is all have true image stabilization. However, the Canon was significantly more expensive. The Pentax was priced similarly but I am under the impression that the optics in the Nikon may be better. The Pentax feels a bit more comfortable in the hand though. I also really liked the Canon SD1000, even though it didn’t have image stabilization. The SD1000 was about the same size as the S500. Size was definitely a high priority for me. This is where the Casio fell down as well, I just wasn’t happy with its size despite that it is a small camera. The Casio comes with a 7X zoom though, so if you like shooting at higher telephoto ranges then definitely take a look at the Casio.

The D50 produced the most accurate colors than the S500, but in this photo the S500 is sharper! I’m not sure why, I think I was fooled by the red-eye reduction on the D50 (I usually don’t use red-eye flash) and I probably moved the camera while the shutter went. Below is another picture of Emma with the D50, and this one looks a lot sharper.
D50 enlarged

Here a few more photos using the S500. The one with dials was shot at 1/7s using the image stabilization! Very sharp for such a low shutter speed… This is a large file (so you can see how sharp it is), so please be patient with it loading.
S500 shutter speed 1/7sS500 red flowerS500 white flower

I’m not sure if we’ll keep the camera. Although the sharpness and increased resolution from the SD100 to the S500 is appreciated (7MP vs. 2.1MP), I’m not sure if it’s worth the $390 price tag. The S500 isn’t that much smaller than the SD100, so that isn’t much of an incentive. However, I recall that when we made a bunch of prints of the kids recently, I was quite disappointed with the photo quality of the SD100. I’ve always been critical of the quality because of the low resolution. It’s this improvement that may make the S500 worth every penny.