Can Canon’s PowerShot Elph 500 hold its own in the garden with flower photography

Garden Elph is great for flower photography a decade after introduction

It was 2011 and Canon released its PowerShot Elph 500 HS complete with a modern touch screen to help combat the popularity of the emerging smartphones equipped with some pretty decent built-in cameras. About two years earlier, Apple had unleashed its iphone and it was gaining popularity in the world of point-and-shoot cameras. Something had to be done.

It was also the year of uprisings in Egypt, Libya, Syria, a devastating tsunami in Japan and the death of Osama bin Laden. On a lighter note, The King’s Speech and Toy Story Three were big hits, the St. Louis Cardinals won the World Series and the Bruins won the Stanley Cup.

It was also the year we bought our daughter a Canon PowerShot Elph 500 HS. For the next couple of years, that camera would travel the world with her throughout Europe, the United States and Canada taking thousands and thousands of pictures of her synchronized skating adventures, concerts, vacations and who knows what else.

Be sure to go to the end of this article for links on Canon’s refurbished items as well as cameras that competed with the PowerShot 500 back in its day. Also, at the end of the article are new cameras you might want to consider purchasing if a used camera is not what you want or you cannot locate a good used camera.

KelbyOne: Family Photography: Pro Tips for Getting Great Sibling Shots by Tracy Sweeney

It served her well during those first few years but eventually the iphone more or less made it obsolete. The camera wasn’t actually obsolete at all, but it was no longer cool for young people to carry a point-and-shoot camera around when a phone made sharing on social media so much easier.

Be sure to check out my comprehensive post on Getting the Most out of Your Compact Camera.

If you want to see more garden images taken with the Canon Powershot, please check out my Canon Elph 500 Gallery of images.

For more on photographing flowers, check out my post on Flower Photography in your Garden.

The impressive back screen of the Canon PowerShot Elph 500 HS showing its menu.

The Canon Elph with its simple yet elegant front face.

Looking down from above on the Canon Elph’s top plate.

So it was tucked away in a drawer and almost forgotten.

Camera is ideal for flower photography

Fast forward 11 years and this little point-and-shoot that cost my wife and I more than $400 from Costco way back then, is a high performing part of my garden camera arsenal and a stellar performer when it comes to flower photography.

The tiny Canon Powershot Elph 500 HS is more than capable of capturing exquisite images in the garden. It’s extremely wide 24mm equivalent lens is fast and sharp. Eperimenting with the filters including the vivid colours used here can make the images really pop, especially considering the camera is approaching 12 years of age.

Online photoshop, Lightroom and Photography Training KelbyOne

Who said an 11-year-old, high quality point and shoot digital camera is no longer usable?

In fact, this little blue-grey and silver beauty with its 12.1 megapixel CMOS sensor and 4.4x optical zoom lens (equivalent of 24-105mm lens) is becoming the perfect companion for me on my morning strolls around the garden. The fact it takes a regular SD card and shoots HD movies means it continues to challenge even the most modern point and shoot cameras.

The Canon Elph’s 24-105mm lens has the pulling power to capture detailed garden vignettes in vivid colour.

Some Key Features in the Canon PowerShot Elph 500 HS

  • 12.1MP CMOS Sensor

  • 4.4x Optical Zoom 24-105mm Lens (35mm Equiv)

  • Optical Image Stabilizer

  • Good Low Light/High ISO capability for its age

  • Full 1080p HD Video complete with stereo sound

  • Hi-speed burst shooting that can take up to 8.2fps

  • Slow Motion Movie Mode – at 240fps

  • Effects Include Toy Camera, Monochrome, vivid, portrait and foliage settings

  • Smart AUTO Has 32 Scene Modes

  • Movie Digest Mode that automatically records a short video clip every time you shoot a still image. The camera will then combine the clips into a single video. Perfect for a day of shooting in the garden with your children or grand children.

The lens allows a close approach to fine garden details like this moss growing between stepping stones in the Japanese inspired garden.

Is this little Elph worth buying today?

A quick search on Ebay and used camera outlets puts this little gem of a camera at between $50.00 for a well used model to almost $300 for a new-in-the-box-model. Expect to pay about $100 for a good used one. You may be able to get one much cheaper if you keep your eye on Kijiji and other more local on-line marketplaces.

Capturing more intimate scenes in the garden is easy in the auto mode where you let the camera recognize the scene and provide the best settings to capture it.

That’s a lot of camera for under $100. Its performance in low light makes it great for everything from travel photography to, of course garden photography. Its multiple frame bursts and best-image-capture settings make the camera ideal for parents and grandparents to grab shots of children, pets and vacation images. Set it on auto and it’s good to go but if you want more control it’s there for the taking.

What features does the Canon Elph 500 boast?

The fast f2.0, 24mm lens is more than enough to take in long garden vistas, in early morning light, while the 105mm has enough pull to capture more intimate garden vignettes, and with a little effort some garden wildlife.

It all comes in a package so compact that it slips into my pocket so easily that I forget I have it with me at times.

But what about the pictures?

The Canon PowerShot Elph has the ability to capture garden images in fine detail.

These images should speak for themselves.

The Canon spits out sharp images, with punchy colours and features enough built-in filters to keep the creative juices going year round.

I particularly like the “vivid” setting which gives the images the look of Fuji’s Velvia film on steroids. Add to that, an impressive “foliage” setting that enhances greens and fall foliage colours, a B&W setting, Cyanotype setting (blue cast), sepia setting, colour accent and poster settings just to name a few.

It would be easy to think this camera is nothing more than a simple point and shoot with very little extras to offer.

Afterall, there are no knobs and wheels on the camera’s exterior, and very few buttons outside of the on switch and image review button. The smartphone may have made the camera obsolete in some ways, but it wasn’t because it lacked the latest touch screen technology. Hidden inside the large LCD screen on the back of the camera is a wealth of settings buried in the settings menu.

A foliage setting on the camera is perfect for capturing the subtle colours of green in the garden as well as the pop of fall colours in the woodland.

Once you get into the menus, this camera is loaded with all the settings; Program, AV aperture value, TV time value, a portrait setting, pets and children setting, a total of 32 scene settings… . It even has a smart setting where the camera automatically selects the best shooting settings for optimal quality based on subjects and environmental factors to provide point-and-shoot simplicity.

It also features optical image stabilization, hi-speed burst shooting at up to 8 frames per second and full 1080p HD video with stereo sound.


What’s not to like about the camera?

I like lots of exterior buttons and dials to control the primary functions of a camera. This camera has none of these.

In fact, there are only a total of three buttons on the exterior of the camera: one to turn the carmera on and off; the shutter button to take the picture and an auto switch that allows the user to put the camera in complete automatic mode. If you are happy letting the camera make most of the decisions, put the camera on auto and snap away.

The camera’s functions – and there are a lot of them packed into the camera – are all accessed through menus from the large screen on the back of the camera. If you are comfortable sorting through digital menus to find the settings you need, than this camera is for you. It only took me about a half hour of playing with the camera to get a good feel for where the various modes and features were hiding, but when I needed to find burst mode quickly, I struggled to find it buried in the menus.

Who should own the Canon Powershot 500 Elph?

Anyone looking for a high quality, pocketable point-and-shoot camera and are not put off by sorting through digital menus rather than using old-school dials, will enjoy this camera. If you are looking for a camera that pushes you to be more creative then you will love the camera’s extensive filter capabilities from Black & White images to vivid, toy camera effects, portrait and even a foliage feature that brings out the best in greens and fall colours.

What more could you ask for?

The vivid feature in the camera results in nice punchy colours reminiscent Fuji’s Velvia slide film.

Can’t find a good used Elph, here are some new and used alternatives

If you like what is possible with a good point-and-shoot camera, but can’t find a good used version of the Canon PowerShot Elph 500 HS, here are a few recommendations you might want to consider.

Around the same time as the Elph 500 was released, Canon released the Powershot S100. Almost instantly, the camera took on a cult following and was considered by many to be the pro photographer’s backup Point-and-shoot camera.

This was also released in 2011 and sported a 12.1 megapixel sensor, a slightly longer 5x telephoto lens ranging from 24mm up to 120mm, a better performing sensor similar to the one used in its EOS SLRs including an on-chip noise cancellation system, and microlenses that improve its light-gathering characteristics. At the time, Canon said the improved sensor results in reduced noise and increased dynamic range; improving the the maximum available ISO to 6400.

The camera is elegant wrapped in its black case and it relies much more on a host of buttons and wheels for photographers who like the old-school approach to photography. A lot of these cameras were sold so finding one used should not be that difficult. Expect to pay a premium for this fine photographic tool.

If you are looking for a good deal on a Canon camera, consider checking out the company’s refurbished models on their website.

Here is a complete review of the Canon S100, from dpreview.

Other cameras on the high end include the Fujifilm X10, (link to my earlier review) released around the same time and also sporting a 12 megapixel sensor.

In addition, here are links to earlier Photography articles you may be interested in reading

Macro Photography in the garden

Ten tips for great garden photography

Best camera and lens for Garden Photography

Tips to photograph wildlife in your garden

New compact point-and-shoot cameras to consider

Fujifilm X100V (Amazon link) (Henry’s link) that looks much like the X10 and handles like a Leica rangefinder.

Olympus Tough TG-6 (Adorama Link)for those who want to take their camera underwater for some real cool shots. Known for its excellent macro capabilities. Amazon Link.

Sony Cyber-shot (Adorama link) DSC-RX100 Vll for those who like the Sony brand Amazon link.

Ricoh GR lllx (Adorama link)for those who like to shoot with a prime lens. Amazon link

Canon Powershot G7 X Mark lll (Adorama link) (Henry’s link)for those looking for a high-end point and shoot that both fits in your pocket but carries a large 1-inch sensor, a fast zoom lens and 4K video at a price under $1000. Amazon link


Why is the tree in my front yard stressed and losing its leaves?


Saving our native Humble Bumble Bee