The fact that the Stylus 500 is "water-resistant" (not water-proof) should make lots of family photojournalists feel more secure about carrying the camera with them to Summertime events. When closed, the unit is slim enough at 1.2 inches, it's narrow enough to slip into most pockets. And to keep the kids' water hose antics from damaging it, the lens cover, speaker, microphone, and controls all have water barriers. That doesn't mean you can take the camera scuba diving without a specialized underwater housing, but it does mean you can snap pix of Uncle Joe's cannonball without worrying about the splash.
The Stylus 500's 2.5" LCD follows the trend toward larger displays, but goes one better than most with its HyperCrystal version. The view through the LCD is nothing short of gorgeous at 215,000 pixels. Even in bright outdoor sunlight I was able to see and compose my shots quickly and easily. I normally deduct points off any digital camera that lacks an optical viewfinder, but after using this bright LCD, I'd be hard pressed to find a reason to peer through a viewfinder, even for taking action shots.
Basic and extended functions
The Stylus 500 has all the standard functionality we've come to expect in digital cameras, including various scene selections, video clips with sound, and a zoom lens. One advantage of the 5-megapixel resolution is the ability to use the camera's digital zoom to extend the 3x optical zoom to a total of 12x and still get usable images. Even so, if you regularly shoot sporting events, birds, or other subjects that require long focal reach, consider cameras with both longer optical zooms and high resolution. Olympus' C-770 has a 10x optical zoom along with a 4x digital zoom along with 4 megapixel resolution.
The Stylus' controls are easy to get to and easy to understand. The main control is a 5-way jog pad that switches function based on what you're doing. For still shots, it's easy to change the flash mode, change from macro to normal focus, set the self-timer, or select any of the 21 preset scene modes (portrait, night, underwater, sport, etc.). In video mode you can select macro and exposure.
Your images are saved on xD-Picture Card (a 32MB card is included with the camera), where you can use the unit's built-in editing functions to crop, rotate, soft focus, and create a fisheye lens effect, and perform a variety of other functions. The Stylus' Album function lets you select images and move them to one of 12 different albums. I found this to be a great tool for showing pictures to friends without having to skip over or apologize for the images that didn't apply to them. Alternatively, I was able to connect the camera to the video input of a TV for slide show viewing of the albums.
The Stylus 500 is a convenient pocketable camera. Its combination of high resolution, large LCD, water-resistant housing, and flexible shooting options make it a great choice for Summer, or any season photo taking.
Olympus Stylus 500 digital camera