Canon ELPH 520 HS / IXUS 500 HS review



The Canon ELPH 520 HS/ IXUS 500 HS sits near the top of the ELPH / IXUS range alongside the ELPH 530 HS / IXUS 510 HS which adds a 16:9 touch-screen and WiFi. Its headline feature is a 12x optical zoom which it manages to squeeze into a tiny metal box of a body.

Other features include a 3 inch 4:3 ratio LCD screen, 1080p24 HD video and a range of novice-friendly features such as Scene detection, Face detect AF, Face ID, Movie Digest mode and a wide range of scene and effects modes.

The ELPH 520 HS / IXUS 500 HS is one of the most compact pocket-zooms on the market. While it lacks the reach of models like the Sony HX20V and Panasonic ZS15 / TZ25, it’s much smaller and lighter. The ELPH 520 HS / IXUS 500 HS is fitted with a 16.8 Megapixel sensor, but only uses the centre 10.1 Megapixel portion of it. This has some implications for image quality and noise performance that might rule it out if you want to make big prints.


Compared to Canon ELPH 110 HS / IXUS 125 HS


Compared with the ELPH 110 HS / IXUS 125 HS, the metal-bodied ELPH 520 HS / IXUS 500 HS looks an altogether different camera. It’s a little heavier and looks more boxy, lacking the rounded edges of the ELPH 110 HS / IXUS 125 HS, but is in fact smaller in all three dimensions, quite a feat given that it packs in a 12x optical zoom compared with the 5x zoom on the ELPH 110 HS / IXUS 125 HS. Both cameras feature Canon’s Intelligent IS optical stabilsation.

Then there’s the ELPH 520 HS / IXUS 500 HS’s 10.1 (effective) Megapixel sensor, which is in fact a 16.8 Megapixel 1/2.3 inch CMOS sensor – the camera uses only the central portion of the sensor, which effectively means it has a smaller sensor than most other compact cameras. The picture quality of the ELPH 520 HS / IXUS 500 HS is on a par with the ELPH 110 HS / IXUS 125 HS, though the images are of course smaller and that smaller detail is more susceptible to noise.

Looking across the IXUS range it’s clear that Canon’s strategy is to differentiate models purely on the basis of hardware. All the ELPH / IXUS models with the Digic 5 processor (only the older ELPH 100 / IXUS 115 and ELPH 310 HS / IXUS 230 HS use the DIGIC 4) share the same set of features including Intelligent IS, Smart Auto scene detection, 1080p24 video, movie zoom, Handheld NightScene, High-speed Burst and the same range of scene and effect modes. There are some minor differences -for example the ELPH 110 HS / IXUS 125 HS has a slower High Speed Burst rate at higher (4 Megapixels vs 2.5 Megapixels) image resolution than the ELPH 520 HS / IXUS 500 HS

On Balance, The ELPH 110 HS / IXUS 125 HS is a better all-round camera than the ELPH 520 HS / IXUS 500 HS. It lacks the telephoto reach, but has better image quality and with a 16.1 Megapixel sensor big prints are no problem. It’s also worth bearing in mind that if you crop an image from the ELPH 110 HS / IXUS 125 HS down to the 10.1 Megapixel resolution of the ELPH 520 HS / IXUS 500 HS you effectively extend it’s zoom range to 150mm, still nowhere close to the 336mm telephoto of the ELPH 520 HS / IXUS 500 HS, but it puts the difference in context. When all’s said and done, if you can live without a 12x zoom, the ELPH 110 HS / IXUS 125 HS is the better choice.

See my Canon ELPH 110 HS / IXUS 125 HS review for more details.


Canon ELPH 520 HS / IXUS 500 HS verdict

The ELPH 520 HS / IXUS 500 HS is truly a marvel of miniaturisation. If you’re looking for a pocket zoom that really is pocketable you be hard pressed to find a model that matches it for size, weight and classy good looks. The quality is more than skin deep, it’s beautifully engineered and feels like a quality product.

In terms of features, it has everything you’d expect from a modern point-and shoot including novice-friendly features like Scene Detection, Face ID, Face self-timer and a composite Handheld NightScene mode for good quality results in low light. It’s also a versatile video camera with Super Slow Motion and scene modes like miniature and a top quality 1080p24 HD recording mode.

Now that the 2012 ELPH / IXUS line-up uses the Digic 5 processor, the majority of these features are common to other ELPH / IXUS models, so the ELPH 520 HS / IXUS 500 HS really only makes sense if you want that killer combination of 12x zoom in a compact and stylish body. There’s a price to pay for that in terms of image quality because the ELPH 520 HS / IXUS 500 HS only uses a portion of its 16.8 Megapixel sensor to produce 10.1 Megapixel photos, but unless you want to make big prints that needn’t be a concern.

Good points
12x stabilised optical zoom.
Very compact sylish metal body.
Optical zoom while movie recording.

Bad points
Poor battery life.
Takes MicroSD format cards.
Small buttons can be difficult to press.
Reduced 2.5M resolution Burst mode.


(relative to 2012 compacts)

Build quality:
Image quality:


17 / 20
16 / 20
16 / 20
17 / 20
16 / 20




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