Canon Ixus 800 IS
The ‘IS’ in the name of this credit card-sized, metal-bodied Canon stands for image stabilisation, a feature that comes in very handy for avoiding image blur when shooting at the extremity of its 4x optical zoom indoors without flash. With a top light-sensitivity setting of ISO 800, it’s the lowest specified on test here but, arguably, going above this would worsen the effects of image noise – and it’s still one step beyond the maximum ISO 400 traditionally found on digital compacts.
The 6-megapixel resolution may seem average now that competitors are offering up to 10 megapixels, but the optics of many of its rivals are incapable of fully resolving their complement, and most of us won’t be printing larger than the A3 poster size the 800 IS affords anyway.
What this Canon does it does well. It includes the same swift operating DIGIC II processor found in Canon’s more expensive SLRs, meaning it powers up in just over a second, while there’s little noticeable shutter delay or wait between shots. It feels reassuringly weighty in the palm despite its minimal size and dimensions, delivers close-ups down to 2cm from a subject, and its optical image stabilisation system can be set to operate continuously or on an individual shot basis. You also get the less essential extras of gimmicky photo effects, TV-quality movie clips, widescreen stills and 16 fully auto shooting modes, whereby settings are optimised for common subjects and shooting conditions.
The back of the 800 IS is dominated by a good-sized 2.5in screen for shot composition and review and, unusually, there’s an optical viewfinder as a battery-saving alternative. It’s also a useful fallback if the dingy corners of the stationery cupboard or flashing disco lights at the office party render screen visibility poor.
Reviewing images reveals that although the image stabilisation is not infallible – there’s still the odd shaky shot – the individual shot setting seems to work more accurately than continuous. Colours in general are warm and vibrant, while skin tones are flatteringly healthy.