Canon's Digital IXUS range features so many models now, deciphering what makes one better or different than another gets tricky. For what it's worth, the 10-megapixel IXUS 870 IS is the follow-up to the popular , and what a worthy successor it is.
It's capable of producing truly excellent pictures for a camera of its size and it has excellent components for a £200 model, including a wide-angle lens and optical image stabilisation. There are a couple of weaknesses, but nothing that keeps it from being an excellent point-and-shoot camera.
At 156g and measuring 94mm wide by 56mm high by 23mm deep, it'll fit more comfortably in a trouser or coat pocket than a shirt pocket, but it's by no means big. Compared with the 860 IS, the 870 has the latest version of Canon's image-processing engine, Digic 4, jumps from 8 megapixels to 10, and offers a few more scene modes. The 4x f2.8-5.8 28-112mm lens is a highlight of the camera; the wide angle is so useful to have on a camera this small, and it's a tad longer zoom than on the 860. It also records video using the H.264 codec instead of Motion JPEG.
Scene modes are plentiful -- 16 in all -- and include Stitch Assist for panoramas and Underwater for use with an optional casing. Shooting mode lets you go fully automatic with some minor adjustments, or drop it into Program AE, which gives you control for exposure compensation, white balance, tone and ISO.
At first glance it looks like there's plenty going on with the controls, and there is, but operation remains reliably straightforward.The directional pad is pretty standard -- it's the thumb dial that adds interest here. In SCN mode, the dial is used for rifling through your options. It's also used for swapping between Auto and Program in Shooting mode and tone control in Video. It works well, but you can barely feel stops when spinning the dial, making it just a little too easy to switch out of whichever mode you want. The dial can be used for navigating Menu settings, too. Overall, we like the key design and wheel, but we can also see it confusing new users to the point of frustration.
The buttons have a pillowy, convex shape, which is not only attractive, but makes for unmistakable presses. The Print/Share button can be turned into a shortcut key to access one of nine shooting functions.