Canon Digital Ixus 200 IS
Trendy touchscreen snapper, anyone?
Review Some digital cameras cry out to be touched. They’re sleek, they’re stylish and it’s hard resist the temptation to pick them up. Canon’s range of Ixus cameras falls into this category, and the Digital Ixus 200 IS takes this step a further by being the first Ixus to offer a touchscreen interface.
Touching gesture: Canon's Ixus 200 IS
At £329, this is no entry-level camera, but nor is it designed for the enthusiast who wants lots of manual control. But if you’re hunting for a camera that looks cool and would nicely complement your iPhone, then the Ixus 200 IS has clearly been designed with you in mind.
Available in four colours – gold, silver, blue and purple – the Ixus 200 IS includes a 3in, 16:9 touchscreen. Yet Canon has opted for a TFT display composed of just 230,000 dots, which is a tad disappointing on a camera costing this much.
The image sensor is also a bit of a letdown, comprising of a 1/2.3-inch CCD chip with 12.1Mp (effective). Cramming so many pixels onto a CCD of this size has noise implications and we suspect that a 10Mp performance (or even less) would be fine for most purchasers of the Ixus 200 IS.
A quick rundown on the main features includes a 5x optical zoom in the form of an f/2.8-5.9, 4.3-21.5mm lens, equivalent to a 24-120mm lens on a 35mm camera, which means the Ixus 200 IS is ideally suited for wide angle shooting. Other features include an ISO range of 80-1600 – with an optional, lower resolution, ISO 3200 mode – and shutter speed range of 15-1/3000 sec.
A big touchscreen, but the resolution could be better
You can also shoot HD video in the .MOV file format at 1280 x 720 resolution and 30fps, as well as in VGA and QVGA modes, also at 30fps. The Ixus 200 IS uses SD/SDHC cards, plus several flavours of MMC cards, and is powered by a lithium-ion battery with a CIPA rating of 240 shots. A slim paper start-up guide is provided, but the full instruction manual, along with the Canon Utilities software is on a CD-Rom.
The Ixus 200 IS measures 99.9 x 53.4 x 22.9mm and weighs around 180g with battery and card. Its brushed metal body is nicely contoured and the camera looks and feels classy. A shame then, that Canon hides the USB and mini HDMI ports behind flimsy plastic lugs, and the battery/card flap doesn’t inspire much confidence when it comes to longevity either.
Looks the part, but interfacing protection lacks finesse
There are just three operating modes – Auto, Scene and Movie, which are selected by a small slider on the top. The power switch is a small triangular button but, thankfully, the shutter button is a conventional size and shape. In addition to the usual multi-control rocker, there’s a control dial, which can be used for scrolling through menus or images.
Switch on is fast – around one second. And if you select the Auto mode, Canon’s Smart Auto system will do everything for you, using scene detection and face detection technologies. If you want to be more adventurous, you can opt for one of 20 shooting modes, which include program, portrait, panorama and beach.
Being a touch-controlled camera, this interface needs closer examination. If you set the Ixus 200 IS in Auto mode, you can use the touch screen to switch the flash on or off, or operate the touch focus system. The latter works like this: if you want to focus on say, a face, simply touch the face on the LCD screen and four small white pointers lock onto it. If the face moves across the frame, the AF system continuously tracks it – this works very well.
In Program mode, the touch technology also allows you to adjust exposure compensation using a numerical scale running along the bottom of the screen. You can change the compensation level by either tapping a figure – the scale runs from -2 to +2 EV in 1/3 step increments – or running your finger along the scale.
In Auto mode, only a handful of menu functions are accessible from the touschscreen
It’s a neat system. Touch control can also be used for selecting shooting modes, and you do this by scrolling through three screens, each showing six icons. Tap an icon once to select a mode and then a second time to confirm your choice, and it’s done.
i-Contrast on. The system helps boost exposure in the shadow areas
The touch technology is also used in playback mode. You can scroll through your images by swiping them with a finger or digitally zoom into an area by tapping it. In fact, the Ixus 200 IS offers no fewer than four ways of scrolling through images; using touch technology, the multi-controller, control dial or what Canon describes as Active Display, which involves shaking the camera. No pun intended, but this last method really is rather shaky in operation.
Bin and gone: where's the wastebasket?
But if you expected lots of touch control options on the Ixus 200 IS, you’ll be disappointed. In Program mode, for instance, almost every function is selected using a conventional function button and menu. In the movie mode, touch focusing is disabled.
What’s more, the touch technology is rather temperamental, and Canon has chosen a clunky touch-based system for deleting images. If you want to delete an image, you draw a reverse L on the screen. But all too often, we inadvertently ended up digitally zooming or scrolling onto the next image.
An alternative method for deletion uses a clumsy menu-based system. What happened to the simple wastebasket icon Canon? You can also use gestures to create a slideshow or tag images as a favourites, but again, it’s all too easy to get it wrong. There’s no manual focus, aperture or shutter speed control, although a long shutter mode lets you select 13 shutter speeds, ranging from 15 seconds to one second.
When it comes to performance, the Ixus 200 IS delivers decent, if not spectacular results. We liked the 24mm lens, which is ideal for times when you want to squeeze more into the picture. Fortunately, our fears about noise issues were largely unfounded – the Digic 4 image processor must be working overtime – although noise becomes noticeable around ISO 400 - and the ISO 3200 setting is best ignored.
The wide angle lens gets more in the picture – ideal for party shots in confined spaces
Colour and sharpness are good, although the AF system didn’t always lock onto subjects and the resulting images were sometimes a little soft. Low-light shooting produced good results using the slow shutter mode, but pictures shot at the 1600 and 3200 high ISO settings looked ropey. The Ixus 200 IS offers continuous shooting at a rather pedestrian 0.8fps, but at least you can keep shooting until you remove your finger from the shutter – or your memory card fills up.
The camera’s CCD shift-based image stabilisation (IS) system helps to keep things steady and you can opt for continuous, shoot-only or panning modes. Canon’s i-Contrast is designed to improve contrast and exposure and works reasonably well, although it can be overpowering at times and make shots look a little anaemic.
HD movie recording is appealing, but has its quirks
The Stitch Assist panoramic feature worked a treat, although sadly, there’s no in-camera stitching and you have to use the supplied software. A pity, as the widescreen display would have been ideal for checking results in the field.
Movies ran smoothly, although we did notice an occasional thin vertical band triggered by bright pinpoints on some recordings. Sound quality was adequate, but you wouldn’t want to replace your dedicated camcorder with the Ixus 200 IS.
While some touch-based functions – such as touch focus and scene selection – are great to use, others – like image delete and tagging – are clumsy. Surely, Canon could have made more of the touch technology. The lack of manual control and a mid-resolution screen are a let down on a camera costing more than £300. Indeed, the Ixus 200 IS is really an ordinary camera with an extraordinary interface. Stylish looks apart, we think Canon can do rather better than this. ®
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