Over the years Canon has managed to pack an enormous array of features into its never-ending series of IXUS cameras. Generally speaking this seems to be the electronic equivalent of squeezing a pint into a half-pint pot, as IXUS has always been small and compact.
The IXUS 300 HS that we are reviewing is a full 10-megapixel camera yet it measures 100 x 54 x 24mm and only weighs 175g. In the past this would have been impressive, but the fact is that the likes of Panasonic and Samsung (among others) have delivered compact cameras that are similar in size and shape, so the time has come for Canon to up its game.
The HS suffix on the model name stands for High Speed and refers to the back-illuminated CMOS sensor technology that Canon has introduced with this model. The immediate benefit becomes apparent when you use Drive mode for continuous shooting, as you can take photos at a claimed rate of 3.7fps at 10-megapixels or 8.4fps at 2.5-megapixels. We approach such claims with grave scepticism, but in the case of the IXUS 300 HS we counted to nine photos before the screen told us the memory card was busy.
Canon has introduced another high speed feature, this time in the video department. The starting point is that the IXUS 300 HS can shoot 720p high definition video, so apart from anything else you’re going to need an SD card with a decent capacity for storage. In addition to regular HD video, Canon has added two variants. Colour accent mode gives you an eye-dropper tool so you can select a colour that will be highlighted wherever it appears in the movie, while the other parts of the scene are shot in monochrome. The feature works very well and it is impressive to see this work done in real-time.
Colour swap uses a similar idea but this time you have two eye droppers so you can select one colour that can be substituted for another, for instance changing every instance of red to yellow. Unfortunately it doesn’t work as well as we would hope.
The fourth video mode is very interesting and shoots video at 240fps. When you play back the movie the frame rate is slowed by a factor of eight, hence the name ‘super slow motion’. There are a couple of limitations as you can only shoot 30 seconds of video (which becomes four minutes of slow motion) and the resolution is a mere 320 x 240 pixels. If Canon can deliver 720p super slow motion video in the near future, we shall consider it to be a killer feature.
We assume that you will wish to use the mini HDMI port to watch your movies on your TV. If so we strongly recommend that you ignore the £40 official Canon cable and instead trawl through eBay and other websites where you will find the equivalent cable for £5.
When it comes to taking regular still photos the IXUS 300 HS does a decent job. It is limited by the 4x optical zoom, as many compact cameras offer 10x or 15x zoom, but this is a limitation of the small form factor. We shall ignore the 4x digital zoom as we can achieve the same end when the time comes for editing photos in software. Canon includes ZoomBrowser EX, ImageBrowser and PhotoStitch in the package.
As you would expect with such a small camera, the three-inch PureColour II G LCD screen pretty much covers the back of the camera. This means that the array of controls is limited to a navigation pad and three buttons, which is actually more than you need when you take photos in Auto mode as the Canon handles all of the work leaving you to point, zoom and click.
When you switch to AV mode you gain control over ISO speed, white balance and continuous shooting, but we feel confident that the majority of IXUS customers will be happy to stick to Auto and Movie modes most of the time.
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