The £185 Canon IXUS 220 HS is slim, stylish and offers many of the same advantages as the IXUS 115 HS, which we're rather fond of. But why does the 220 cost around £40 more than its sibling, if the only major differences are a 5x, rather than 4x, zoom and a slightly smaller body? Is there something we're missing?
Canon's IXUS cameras tend to be slightly more expensive than other similarly equipped models -- not grossly so, but enough to make you think twice. That said, they also tend to be much easier on the eye than the majority of compact cameras on the market.
The 220 upholds both of these traditions. Its body is extremely compact, at just under 20mm thick, and it's made almost entirely of stainless steel. The camera has a modern, minimalist and well-engineered feel, yet it's highly portable and practical too.
The 220 also happens to be positioned dangerously close to the £200 mark. For that amount of money, you could buy a number of more versatile cameras, such as a compact superzoom.
Besides its appearance, the 220 is modestly equipped, with a 12.1-megapixel image sensor and a 5x optical zoom lens. On the rear is a 2.7-inch LCD display, which is very bright and clear, but smaller than the 3-inch panel you'll find on the cheaper 115. That's mainly because the 220 is smaller than the 115 as a whole.
The camera offers a reasonable number of shooting options, modes and effects, and it's fairly easy to use. A switch on the back alternates the unit between full auto and standard program modes. Within the latter mode, there are plenty of options available from the function menu, ranging from manual ISO, white balance and metering to various presets and creative filters, such as monochrome and fish-eye effects. All of these are selected via a traditional button-based interface, rather than a touchscreen system, although we wouldn't necessarily mark the camera down for that.
There are plenty of tools at hand to help you take the perfect shot, including an optical image stabiliser and a smart-shutter mode. Video makers will enjoy the fact that 1080p movie capture is available, although the frame rate is 24 frames per second, which isn't exactly silky smooth.
Stereo sound recording is available and an HDMI socket lets you watch your movies directly on a hi-def TV. Further video features include super-slow-motion and movie-digest modes. The latter automatically records four seconds of video before every photo you take and compiles these short clips into a mini-movie.
As for its day job, the 220 provides plenty of detail in its still shots, but the overall image can be on the soft side. We took some of our outdoor test photos on an overcast day and the colours seemed rather flat. A second day of testing, in brighter conditions, resulted in some slightly punchier, natural-looking colours and better levels of contrast. There's some chromatic aberration evident along edges when dark colours meet light ones, but we've seen far worse elsewhere.
The back-illuminated CMOS sensor helps to improve low-light and indoor photography. ISO settings of up to 3,200 are offered and, while noise can quickly ruin your shots if insufficient ambient light is available, we found that we could take some pretty good shots at ISO 400 and below.
The Canon IXUS 220 HS is incredibly small and attractive, but it's otherwise unexceptional, despite being easy to use and offering a good selection of options to play with. Whether it's worth almost £200 depends on how much you value the design. If you don't think you can justify the cost, the IXUS 115 HS is worth a look instead.
Edited by Charles Kloet