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I spent over a year researching into digital cameras and yes you can buy cheaper ones than the Canon IXUS 500 but you won't fall in love with it.
Sorry for sounding so patronising but it really is the best camera on the market by far. It's amazingly simple to use with very simple buttons, and menus. The battery lasts ages and the picture quality it produces is better than some professional Photo shops I've been to!
It's a 5megapixel camera which means it can capture 5,000,000 pixels. So the resolution is going to be crisp and clean. It can zoom in and out with clarity and even auto focus if you want it to. Its zoom is upto 12times (3times optical).
The battery life lasts a good long time. I upgraded my memory card to a FLASH 512meg card (don't get confused by those pathetically poorly trained sales people at some shops... it uses a FLASH memory card and not an SD card.) Anyway I upgraded to a 512meg card and that can take on its best quality over 300 pictures and the battery will last all that time. It even turns its self off after about 5seconds to save the battery drain which is another great feature.
If all that wasn't enough you can take landscape slide pictures which basically is a little bit like wide screen (where you can have upto 2 photo's width wide) and you can even have video!
I've used video camera's plenty and this camera for its size knocks even them down a peg or two. The quality of the video second to none, giving you three resolution choices (640x480, 320x240, 160x120) and that can last upto 3mins (30seconds on the top quality!). It records them in AVI format and also records sound (wav format).... which is another great feature.
The effects it has are your normal standard ones such as sepia, black and white, vivid, low sharpening and neutral. Also the shutter speed can be adjusted from very quick to a fairly long pause (just over a second).
So what about transferring your photo's and video's to PC...? Just attach the lead and press the transfer button and it copies them in double quick time. (About 2 seconds per image to transfer). IT works on all standard operating systems. I'm currently using Win XP and it works perfectly on there.
So what about the weight issue I mentioned...? Well it not that heavy maybe a little heavier than your average mobile phone (185grams) and its size is 87x57x27.8mm.
The LCD monitor is a fraction smaller than on other cameras but not by very much and the quality of the picture it records is superb so even that small flaw is allowed.
When your taking pictures if you hold down the button half way it will auto focus for you which for me is very handy because I don't have that professional camera man steady hand.
The flash is very powerful as well giving the camera the right amount of light for that perfect moment.
Overall this camera succeeds in every department. It's the perfect camera for beginners and for the more advanced. It's stylish and modern and offers you so much more than other cameras can.