Think thoroughbred horses: the trick is to maintain and improve the bloodline. It’s proving to be a similar story in digicams. Take Canon’s IXUS series.
IXUS was one of the earliest lines of camera to offer a small, stylish body shape, along with easy to access controls and above average specs. Looks good: works great.
The IXUS 80 IS sits right up there: the Canon zoom has 3x optical power; the CCD has 8.0 megapixels so the maximum 3264×2448 pixel image will make a final print size of 37×28 cm at 225 dpi. The IXUS will also take movies at an SD aspect ratio of 4:3 and 640×480 pixels at 30 fps — but no wide screen! However, it can shoot a series of images in time lapse mode so you can capture a run of 640×480 pixel shots at intervals of one or two seconds over two hours.
Unusually for a 3x zoom, the camera uses an excellent four-mode optical stabiliser to steady your shooting. This make serious sense if you’re shooting at the full zoom setting, with its 114 mm tele focal length (35 SLR equivalent) or when taking shots in low light with a slowish shutter speed.
There will be some joy out there when you discover the IXUS has an optical viewfinder, making bright sunny days less of a pain in the bum when trying to squint at the LCD screen. By the way the screen is 6.4 cm. There are eight external controls: power, zoom, shutter button, mode slider (stills, movies, replay), menu etc. Co-ordinated with these are the menu options, divided into unintimidating options, clearly displayed on the LCD screen: ISO setting, LCD brightness, memory formatting and the rest. There are only two exposure settings: Program AE and manual plus eleven scene modes, to better capture fireworks, greenery, underwater pictures etc.
In the manual setting you can use exposure compensation, adjust white balance and even have a play with Canon’s My Colours mode which, after you’ve captured a shot, tips you into a fantasy world where you can colourise, sepia-ise, B&W-ise your images — and more, then save the result as a separate picture. Look Mum, no Photoshop!
Wise photographers, when faced with shooting sports, kids and animals often use continuous shooting to grab a run of shots, hoping to find at least one useable shot in the bunch. The IXUS doesn’t quite get there, when compared to other cameras: but at only 1.3 fps I guess it’s better than nothing.
Other pluses: Canon’s excellent panoramic shooting mode, backed up by some excellent bundled stitching software; face detection is built in, optimising focus, exposure and white balance.
Australian Macworld’s buying advice. The IXUS 80 IS would make an excellent backup camera for a dSLR. It would bore the pants of the expert, delight the novice — and it comes in five colours. Online sellers are hawking it at a 30 per cent discount off list. Top buy!