The new, 12.1-megapixel Digital IXUS 200 IS resides near the top of Canon's Digital IXUS range. Only the Digital IXUS 980 IS and Digital IXUS 990 IS seem to sit above it, although it's hard to see what they've got that the newcomer hasn't. Available for around £255, the 200 gives you a 5x extra-wideangle zoom, a high-definition movie mode and a touchscreen interface. What more could you ask for?
Practically all compact-camera makers seem to have adopted similar 12-megapixel, 1/2.3-inch sensors now. The 200's delivers good, strong colours and details at low ISOs, but the definition drops off quickly as you increase the sensitivity. Even as early as ISO 200, fine detail begins to turn hazy.
The 24-120mm zoom is handy. The difference between a 24mm wideangle zoom and the more common 28mm sort may not sound much, but it's worth having. The 200's lens performs pretty well, too, producing good edge sharpness and quite crisp images at full zoom.
The 200 is by no means the smallest compact on the market, and its curved edges and design details aren't particularly pretty. But it feels like a solid and well-made little camera, and the touchscreen interface gives the back a clean, fuss-free look.
The touchscreen interface is pretty good. Three big icons down the right-hand side control the shooting mode, flash mode and EV compensation. You adjust the EV by dragging left or right across an exposure bar that appears when you tap the relevant icon.
You tap on the main part of the screen to start the touch-autofocus mode. The camera locks onto the subject you've selected and tracks it around if either it or the camera moves. It's quite quick in use and it tracks subjects well, so it's not just a novelty.
In playback mode, you can touch the screen to move in, and then drag the image with a fingertip to pan around and check the details. The panning movements work well, but zooming in and out seems rather haphazard.
The trouble with using a widescreen display is that, when you're shooting stills, which are in the 4:3 aspect ratio, you get black bars on either side. The touchscreen icons have to go somewhere, of course, but, even so, you only really get full value out of the 76mm (3-inch) display in the HD movie mode.
Like the recently reviewed Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX550, the 200 goes only halfway towards offering a full touchscreen interface. Some set-up functions have to be handled using the main menu system and Canon's usual 'func/set' button. The spinning control dial can also be frustrating to use.
The Canon Digital IXUS 200 IS is attractive, its 5x zoom has a very useful range, and its picture quality is good too, within the usual limits of these tiny 1/2.3-inch sensors. But there are just too many Digital IXUS models to choose from, and it's too difficult to work out why this one might be any better than one of the others. Worse is that there's nothing new and exciting here, just cautious evolution.
Edited by Charles Kloet