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So how is one to choose between such similar cameras? Well for starters the S500 has one very useful feature that the Ixus 70 lacks: optical image stabilisation. It is equipped with Nikon’s own moving-lens anti-shake system that provides a two-stop advantage when shooting hand-held in low light situations. It is the smallest camera I’ve seen with such technology. It also has a maximum ISO setting of 2000, trumping the Canon’s ISO 1600, but as we’ll see this isn’t that much of an advantage. As with most modern compacts the S500 also features a face-detection portrait mode, which is less useful but can still provide an advantage under some circumstances.
As a pocket snapshot camera the S500 isn’t overburdened with other features, but it does sport the usual selection of scene modes, including portrait, landscape, sports, night portrait etc. It has 15 in all, but there are no real surprises. As well as these, it has a program auto mode in which menu options such as Nikon’s useful Best Shot Selector are available. This is a good mode for beginners, since it warns you if a shot is blurred and asks if you want to keep it. There aren’t many more options on the menu, apart from a limited range of pre-set colour modes, AF area selection, white balance image quality and drive mode.
There is one “feature” of the S500 that I absolutely hate. On the top panel is a button labelled with the ‘Shaky hand’ icon that seems to have become the standard for Anti-shake systems, although in this case the Skull-&-crossbones symbol for poison might have been more appropriate. Pressing it, unsurprisingly, enters the Anti-shake mode, but this should be avoided at all costs. It activates the optical image stabilisation system, which is fine, and switches on the BSS mode, which is also good, but it also over-rides any manual ISO setting, instead setting it to the maximum of 2000, which is an utterly terrible idea. The S500 suffers from very bad image noise at 2000 ISO, so it’s like having a button on the camera to automatically ruin all your pictures. Since the image stabilisation system can be switched on permanently in the set-up menu and used at any ISO setting, I really don’t see the point of this button at all.