There have been so many different Digital IXUS 'strands' in the past that it can be difficult to work out where each model fits in. The Canon Digital IXUS 100 IS, available for around £260, doesn't make it any clearer.
While the 100 IS doesn't appear to push any technological boundaries either, it's oozing with that characteristic IXUS chic.
Canon says the 100 IS replaces the Digital IXUS 85 IS. Don't get confused by the new Digital IXUS 95 IS, because that runs alongside the 100 IS and replaces the Digital IXUS 80 IS. And neither's anything to do with the Digital IXUS 990 IS, which is a different camera again.
Never mind any confusion, though -- the 100 IS is a gem. Canon says it's the slimmest IXUS ever, at just 18mm thick, and the rounded corners and fuss-free exterior make it supremely pocketable. The first thing you're likely to do when you pick it up is marvel at the sleek, stainless steel body. Unless you drop it first, that is -- the 100 IS is so sleek that you might want to hook up the wrist strap before you use it.
The 100 IS is extremely easy to use, too. It helps if you've used a Canon compact before, because everything will be exactly where you expect. But, if you haven't, you'll work it out very quickly without needing to plod through the manual.
The best thing about this camera -- apart from the super-sexy styling -- is that everything just works. The autofocus is fast, the exposure system makes few mistakes, the iContrast feature keeps shadows and highlights under control, and the colours are great.
If you like face-detection functionality, the 100 IS shows how it should be done. If it sees a face, the camera locks on -- no fuss, no waiting and no cursing at the manual because you can't find out how to switch the camera on or why it's not doing what it ought to.
It's unwise to expect great picture quality from a 12-megapixel sensor measuring just 1/2.3 inches, but the 100 IS surprised us. The definition at minimum ISO is fairly good, and, while there's the inevitable fall-off in quality at higher ISOs, the 100 IS does a good job of suppressing noise without turning your pictures to mush.
You could complain about the lens, which has only a 3x zoom range and extends from the camera when you switch it on. This means you can't just slide the 100 IS back into your pocket between shots -- you have to power it down to make the lens retract first. It's not a wideangle zoom, either. If you want that, you'll have to go for the bigger and more expensive Digital IXUS 110 IS instead. And, while there is a high-definition movie mode, it doesn't allow optical zooming, so, if you do try to zoom in, you'll find definition quickly stretches past breaking point.
But you've got to remember that this is designed simply as a super-stylish snapshot camera, and it succeeds brilliantly. Yes, it's expensive, but you only have to handle and use it to work out why.
Canon sometimes seems to lose the plot slightly with its IXUS cameras, some of which lack the polish and style that made the brand famous. The Digital IXUS 100 IS, however, is a real return to form. It's pricey but near perfect, and produces much better quality pictures and movies than its dinky dimensions would lead you to expect.
Edited by Charles Kloet