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A Small Picture of a Small Camera

Canon Digital IXUS 700 / Powershot SD500 - Digital Camera Review
Review Date: 01/09/05
Rating: Recommended
Buy now: £275 | $396
Read reviews on: Canon Digital IXUS 700

Introduction: The Canon Digital IXUS 700 / SD500 features a Canon 3x optical zoom lens, a 7.2 megapixel sensor, and a large 2" screen (the newer IXUS 750 features a 2.5" screen). The IXUS 700 is available from around £275 | $396, making the IXUS 700 decent value for money. The camera's 3x optical zoom lens is equivalent to 37 – 111mm on a 35mm camera. The camera is enclosed in a silver aluminium body. It records unlimited 640 x 480 / 30fps videos with sound. The camera's very compact (it will easily fit into trouser pockets), takes a rechargable lithium-ion battery and measures: 89.5 x 57.0 x 26.5 mm (without protruding parts), and weighs 170g (without batteries and memory card)

Canon have this to say about the camera:

"With supreme quality and designer chic, the 7.1 Megapixel Digital IXUS 700 epitomises Canon's commitment to excellence; combining spearhead technologies to put more than just style within your reach."

You can find more information on their website.

The Camera: It's very compact and made out of silver metal.
(Photos of the camera taken with a Panasonic Lumix FZ3)

Front - Camera off.

Front - Camera on, lens extended, flash, focus-assist lamp, optical viewfinder, microphone.

Back - the 2" TFT screen, optical viewfinder, mode dial, display, menu, function/set button, 4-way controller, print button.

Top - zoom control, shutter release, speaker, power button and led.

Bottom, under the camera there is a metal tripod mount, and battery / memory compartment.

Left Side (from back) lens extended.

Wrist strap hole, AV/USB ports and cover.

Size Comparison: Compared to a Lomo LCA-1 35mm film camera - a medium/compact sized compact 35mm film camera.

Size comparison.

Size comparison.

Size comparison next to the 7 megapixel Sony Cybershot DSC-W7.

Specifications / Features:

  • 7.1 Megapixels
  • 3x optical zoom
  • 2.0" Quick-bright/Night Display LCD (118k pixels)
  • VGA 30 fps movies
  • DIGIC II/iSAPS/9-point AiAF/USB 2.0 Hi-Speed
  • 14 shooting modes
  • My Colors editing
  • PictBridge compatible, Print/Share button
  • 5cm Macro
  • ISO Speed Equivalent: AUTO, 50, 100, 200, 400
  • AF assist beam for low-light focusing

Box Contents:

  • Digital Camera
  • Battery charger
  • Lithium-Ion Battery
  • AV cable
  • USB connection cable
  • Strap
  • CD-ROM software
  • 32mb SD Card

Decent box contents, although with the camera's 32mb of memory, you will need to buy a larger memory card.

Battery usage: Up to 160 pictures with the supplied battery. Battery life seemed average, and the figure for the included battery is about average for a compact digital camera.

Menu Options / Modes: The camera mode is selected using the rotating dial.

Photo mode/menu: The menu button brings up the menu screen as shown on the right below:

Photo mode (Function menu) Photo Menu

Screen / LCD display in photo mode: (shown on the left) The screen resolution with 118,000 pixels is about average, although it updates smoothly and the colours appear accurate. There is a live histogram available, the screen is clear and the text and menus are easy to read. Optical Viewfinder: Quite typically the optical viewfinder is quite small.

Function Menu options are (in manual mode): Manual / Digital Macro / My Colours, Exposure, Auto White Balance (inc custom), ISO, Effect (Vivid, Neutral, Low sharpening, Sepia, Black and White), Compression, Image Size.

Photo menu options are: AiAF, Self-Timer, AF-Assist beam, Digital Zoom, Review, Date Stamp (postcard), Long shutter, Stitch Assist.

Scenes Colour Swap

Scene modes available (Above left): Portrait, Foliage, Snow, Beach, Fireworks, Underwater (with optional underwater kit), Indoor, Kids and Pets, Night snapshot

My Colours (Colour swap shown above): Positive Film, Lighter Skin Tone, Darker Skin Tone, Vivid Blue, Vivid Green, Vivid Red, Colour Accent (select a colour to keep, leaving the rest of the picture black and white), Colour swap (swap one dominant colour in the picture, such as the McDonald's red, and replace it with another colour or your choice, such as blue as shown in the picture above), Custom colour (+ or - Red/Green/Blue/Skin tone).

Colour swap example. Original colours on the left, pink swapped with bright blue on the right.

Setup menu options: Mute, Volume, LCD Brightness, Power saving, Date/Time, Clock display, Format, File no. reset, Auto rotate, Language, Video. Theme options (start up image, sound, operation sound, self timer sound, shutter sound etc).

Playback (Review) mode/menu: The menu button brings up the menu screen as shown on the right, below:

Playback mode Playback Menu

Playback mode: Scrolling through the photos is quick. The zoom is quick up to 10x. Playback mode displays photo settings, exposure compensation, date and time, as well as a histogram.

Playback menu options: Protect, Rotate, Sound memo, Erase all, Slide show, Print order.

Picture Size / Quality: The camera takes the following size pictures, and the following number of images will fit on the 32mb memory provided with the camera:

Size / Quality: Number of Photos Stored
  SuperFine Fine Normal
7mp (3072x2304) 9 15 31
5mp (2592x1944) 11 20 40
3mp (2048x1536) 17 32 63
2mp (1600x1200) 28 51 (Postcard) 97
VGA (640x480) 108 168 265
Video 640x480 30fps 15 seconds

You can fit a small number of images on the built in memory - a larger memory card is definitely recommended, unless you want to use the lower image sizes / higher compression options in order to fit more pictures in memory. There is a good choice of image sizes, and a good choice regarding image compression.

A larger memory card is relatively cheap, and highly recommended, I would recommend at a bare minimum a 256mb memory card, and preferably a 512mb memory card, or larger, especially considering the relatively low prices - the larger the memory card, the more photos you will be able to take. If you are likely to go on holiday then the largest memory card you can afford would definitely be worth investing in, as you don't always know when you will next be at a computer. Listed below are links to memory cards that will work with the Canon Digital IXUS 700:

Find the latest prices for SD memory cards at Amazon.co.uk: 128mb: £9.99, 256mb: £16.99, 512mb: £22.99, 1gb (1000mb): £38.99.
Need more help deciding what memory card to buy? Have a look at our guide to digital camera memory cards or our article what size memory card should I buy?

Speed: The camera is very quick to switch on and take photos - the focus assist lamp helps the camera focus in darker indoor conditions, low light focusing on the IXUS 700 seemed quicker than the Sony W7. The screen updates are quick and smooth (in good light). The playback mode is also quick. Playback mode allows you to zoom as close as 10x. The camera shutter response seemed very quick when pre-focused - and shot to shot time was also noticably quick. The flash recharge time also seemed quick.

Ease of use: The camera is very easy to use, although the camera does have a lot of options and features. The controls on the back of the camera are fairly easy to use - the menus are responsive and easy to read - the function / menu buttons may initially confuse although once you realise the menu button is more of a setup menu, it becomes easier to understand. The camera is compact and fits very easily into trouser pockets. The menus are also easy to use, and the options are big enough and easy enough to see clearly. The modes are easy to access, quick and simple - there's a basic mode for simple point and shoot operation, as well as scene modes to help beginners.

Ergonomics and Buttons: (Feel, placement, labels, etc) The buttons are fairly easy to use, and they are in a good position. There seems to be the right amount of buttons. The buttons feel okay, the shutter release is quite decent. The buttons are labelled fairly well. I thought the camera felt quite good ergonomically. There isn't much in the way of a hand grip, and the "Perpetual curve" may mean it's easier to drop the camera. The zoom control seemed decent. The USB/AV cover fits very flushly into the body, unfortunately this makes it quite difficult to open.

Image Quality: Here are some sample photos/video(s) taken in various settings, such as Inside, Noise, Outside, Zoom, Macro, Movie to demonstrate the quality of pictures taken and also show different features of the camera. Larger versions of these photos, plus more photos are available in the Canon Digital IXUS 700 Sample Photo Gallery!


Heather and Flower Group photo

Inside: The camera has good colour - It took a good "Heather and Flower" photo. It has a decent flash, and copes well with group photos. The camera did a good job at focusing the majority of the time. Red-eye didn't seem to be huge a problem, although it was noticable in these photos.

Noise: Noise is generally a bad thing - it removes detail, and gives a grainy effect over the image. With digital cameras noise can be a real problem as digital camera noise is often made out of blue, red or green dots. As the ISO setting increases, pictures tend to have more noise. Noise is most noticeable in dark areas of photos. The camera has an Automatic mode for ISO levels, and manual ISO settings (ISO50, 100, 200, 400) - below you'll find the noise test image, plus actual pixel crops from the image taken at different ISO settings.

Noise test photo - flash on

ISO50 - Actual Pixels ISO100 - Actual Pixels
ISO200 - Actual Pixels ISO400 - Actual Pixels

Noise levels appear low at ISO50 / 100, although some is still visible. At ISO200 noise becomes more noticable but is still acceptable, at ISO400 and above noise seems high and detail is being lost due to noise reduction. In the full size version of the ISO400 test version it's possible to see random black dots caused by noise.


Shops People at Merseyfest

Outside, again the camera had very good colour, with good contrast and saturation. There was good detail, although some images were slightly soft. Noise seemed fairly well controlled. I didn't notice jpeg artefacts in the images. The Canon Digital IXUS 700 did a better job of the shops photo compared to the Sony Cybershot W7 (both photos were taken at the same time). Purple fringing is quite noticable.

Zoom: This camera has a 3x optical zoom lens and a built in 4x digital zoom - in the case of this camera the digital zoom basically takes a smaller area of the photo and enlarges it using software blurring the image so that it is not pixellated. Generally it's best to avoid using digital zoom as it degrades the quality of the image and, often, better results can be obtained by using a photo package such as Adobe Photoshop. I've included examples below to show what the 3x optical zoom and 4x digital zoom is capable of.

Wide-angle 3x Optical zoom 3x Optical zoom + 4x digital zoom

Exposure / Metering on the photos of the clock towers seems good, leaving the main subject (the clock tower) correctly exposed, however it has resulted in some burnt out highlights / burnt out sky.

Lens noise and zoom: The lens is fairly quiet. The lens is quick at going from wide to telephoto - there are about 6 steps between wide and telephoto! This gives you good control on how you frame your subject.

Other Image Quality issues: I did notice purple fringing in some photos, i.e. the clock tower photos. Purple fringing is fairly low, however it would be nice if there was less.

Macro: To use this camera in macro mode, you switch to macro mode - you can use the macro mode at wide angle, all the way to telephoto. You can use the flash in macro mode. The camera can be roughly as close as 5cm away from the subject from the front of the lens.

Macro Watch Actual Pixels (Custom White Balance)

The macro mode is good - colour and detail is good, and the camera allows you to get close to the subject. Images did seem a bit soft - and benefitted from sharpening. The custom white balance meant this picture turned out better than the same photo taken with the Sony W7.

Movie: 640 x 480, 30/15fps 320 x 240, 60*/30/15fps (* upto 1 minute) unlimited length videos with sound can be recorded. The movie is recorded as an .AVI file. Unfortunately you can't use the optical zoom whilst recording videos. The quality of the movie(s) is quite good, colour is good, the camera also does a good job in low-light. The frame rate is good.


Image Quality: Image quality is very good, the images have very good colour, saturation, contrast and good detail - however there is some purple fringing, and some images were quite soft. Images tend to come out of the camera looking very good, however blown highlights occured in the clock tower photos. The camera did a good job focusing the majority of the time, only slightly struggling in low light. Noise was well controlled but resulted in slight loss of detail. I did not notice vignetting in photos. There is a good range of image sizes and a good choice of compression options. The macro mode is good, allowing you to be as close as 5cm away from the subject, this provides good detail. Auto white balance and metering seemed to be very good, the custom white balance helping in trickier situations. Red-eye was noticable. The movie mode is good, at 640x480 / 30fps with sound, and the option to record 60fps videos at the lower 320 x 240 resolution.

Everything else (the camera as a whole): The camera is very compact and is designed well - the camera feels comfortable in my hands. The camera is easy to use, the menu system is easy to use and there is a good layout of buttons and controls. There is a good choice of features and options, for example 'my colours' / scene modes, custom white balance, although no shutter / aperture controls and no on screen display of what camera settings being used, The camera speed is good, with an very good switch on time, good focusing time, good shutter response, and quick flash recharge time. The camera seems like a very good compact all round camera aimed mainly at point and shoot users or beginners - the camera gives additional creative control without having to be an expert. (Although manual reading may be needed for some)

Alternative digital cameras: See more digital camera reviews sorted by megapixels here.

Summary: The 7 megapixel Canon Digital IXUS 700 is a very good digital camera. The easy to use camera is capable of very good results, although there is some purple fringing and images are slightly soft. The camera gives you a lot of options, such as 'my colours', scene modes, custom white balance etc, and would be best suited to beginners - as the more advanced may find themselves frustrated by the lack of manual controls. The macro mode is good. The camera is good value for money at around £275. I would recommend this camera to someone looking for a quick, high resolution, highly pocketable digital camera, as I was very happy with the camera, however I would recommend you have a look at the cheaper Fuji FinePix F10 as well.

Canon Digital IXUS 700 Rating: Recommended
Buy Now: £275 | $396

What I like:

  • Very good colour
  • Very good image quality (exposure / auto white balance good)
  • Custom white balance
  • Good movie modes
  • Quick switch on time, shutter response and shot to shot time
  • 'My Colours' adds some fun and potentially useful creative features
  • Very compact / pocketable

What I don't like:

  • Doesn't display shutter / aperture speed (in playback or photo mode)
  • USB/AV Cover difficult to open
  • Purple fringing noticable
  • Slightly soft images

Remember to have a look at the test photos in the new gallery.