Change isn't always big. New versions of products aren't always massive, sweeping upgrades to their predecessors. A system pack, a bug fix or a single handy new feature might be all a product gets. It might not be revolutionary, but at least it's an improvement.
That's the case with the Canon Digital IXUS i7. Canon has taken its supersmall Digital IXUS i, dropped in a 7-megapixel sensor and a new image processor, thrown in a few handy accessories, and called it a day.
The camera is small and stylish, using the same body as its predecessor, the IXUS i. Its chocolate bar-size form is all metal and comes in a variety of oddly named colours: noble blue, olive grey, twlight sepia and precious rose (pictured). At 23mm thick and weighing only 122g, the IXUS i7 fits easily into almost any pocket.
Alas, small size means small features in the IXUS i7's case. The viewfinderless camera has only a 46mm (1.8-inch) LCD, and it uses a relatively narrow angle of view for the 38mm-to-90mm-equivalent lens, the same as the IXUS i.
Beyond the higher resolution, the IXUS i7's most notable improvement over the IXUS i is its new Digic III image processor. Canon claims the Digic III processor increases image quality, performance and battery life, but we didn't notice any significant improvement over the IXUS i. If anything, performance was somewhat sluggish, though that might be simply because of the camera's higher resolution. The IXUS i7's sensor can also bump up its sensitivity to ISO 1,600, a fair improvement over the IXUS i's ISO 400 ceiling. Finally, the camera features SDHD support, allowing the use of 4GB and larger SD memory cards.
Though it doesn't have many new features, the IXUS i7 includes some extra accessories the IXUS i lacked. The camera now comes with a small cradle to rest it on while charging, plus an infrared remote control. The cradle's a nice home for the camera, but the remote has more limited uses than we typically see -- it works on the camera only while it's on the cradle and only for reviewing, uploading or printing images. The remote can't be used for shooting.
We recorded some lacklustre performance in this tiny shooter. After taking 1.3 seconds to wake up, we could snap a shot once every 2.3 seconds. With the onboard flash enabled, that wait more than doubled to 5.2 seconds.
Shutter speed was acceptable but not breathtaking -- the shutter lagged 0.5 seconds in bright light and 1.4 seconds in dim light. Burst mode was very slow, sustaining only 1.2 frames per second.
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
||Typical shot-to-shot time||
||Time to first shot||
||Shutter lag (typical)|
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Image noise is the IXUS i7's biggest problem. Speckles and grain became visible at ISO 100 and rendered photos almost unusable at ISO 800 and above. The camera's sensor may be able to hit ISO 1,600, but at that setting, photos look like they're covered by a thin layer of sand. Colours were faithfully captured, though the automatic white balance tended to give indoor lighting a marked yellow pallor.
The Canon Digital IXUS i7 proves that sometimes beauty is only skin-deep. Its small and stylish body is pleasing to look at, but its sluggish performance and heavy image noise make it a poor choice for a regular shooter. If you really want a small and stylish digital camera, you might want to check out Sony's Cyber-shot DSC-T10 or Casio's Exilim EX-Z850 instead. Both are slender, similarly priced cameras without the performance and image issues of the IXUS i7.
Edited by Lori Grunin
Additional editing by Nick Hide