The 310 HS has a fairly large assortment of shooting options, but almost all of them are automatic modes, meaning there's no full control over shutter speed and aperture. The shooting-mode switch on the camera's right side has two options: one for Smart Auto and one for everything else, designated by a picture of a camera. Leaving Auto gives you access to a Program mode as well as all the scene modes, creative effects modes, and miniature effect and slow-motion video recording. However, they're laid out in one long list, so if you're the type to change modes frequently, this can be a pain. If you want to do more than just take snapshots, there is certainly a lot to play with on the 310 HS--for both movies and photos.
One of the biggest benefits of CMOS sensors is their fast speed compared with CCD sensors. The camera goes from off to first shot in 1.4 seconds, with shot-to-shot times averaging a slightly lengthy 2.2 seconds without flash and 3.4 seconds with flash. Its shutter lag--the time it takes from pressing the shutter release to capturing a photo--is 0.3 second in bright lighting and 0.6 second in low-light conditions, which is good for its class.
The camera's regular, full-resolution continuous shooting option is capable of capturing at 3.6fps, with focus and exposure set with the first shot. It can shoot until your memory card fills up, though, which is nice, as competing cameras have a burst limit and make you wait while images are stored before you can shoot again. There is just a brief delay while the buffer empties some before you can snap again. The camera also has a high-speed burst mode that can shoot 3-megapixel photos at up to 8.7fps. The results are very good compared with similar modes on other cameras I've tested, suitable for small prints and definitely for Web use.
More of issue for me is the camera's autofocus performance. When shooting in Smart Auto, it frequently locked onto the wrong subjects, forcing me to prefocus with a half-press of the shutter release again and again. Most of the time that wouldn't work and I'd end up switching to using the tracking AF option, which helped but only really with stationary subjects. Or you can switch to Program mode and select center focus, which is how I shoot most of the time anyway for this reason. It can be frustrating, and if you generally don't prefocus before you shoot, you may end up with your subject out of focus.
The overall design of the 310 HS is very good, especially for those just looking for more zoom in an ultracompact body. All of the controls are flat and flush with the body. It gives the camera a very smooth appearance, but using the four-way directional pad and center Func/Set button can be a little difficult. The camera's menu button and shooting-mode switch are on the right side, which is unusual. It doesn't improve use in any way, though I guess it keeps the back from being cluttered. Also, while I had no problems using them, the buttons, shooting-mode switch, and zoom rocker are tiny, which might be a problem for some; it would be an excellent idea to lay hands on one before you buy it.
Regardless of their shape and size, the controls are easy to master. The menu system can take some getting used to depending on how quickly you can remember to hit the Func/Set button for shooting-mode specific settings and the Menu button for everything else. You also have the option to turn on a help system with hints and tips for choosing the appropriate settings or simply telling you what the shooting mode you're in is going to do. It's not uncommon to find, but Canon does a nice job of it. The next step would be to put a full, searchable user manual on it since there's no printed manual included.
For connecting to a computer, monitor, or HDTV there are Mini-USB/AV and Mini-HDMI outputs underneath a panel on the right side of the body. The battery and memory card compartment is on the bottom under a nonlocking door. The battery does not charge in camera, and the shot life is rated at 210, so you'll probably find yourself opening the compartment quite a bit if you shoot regularly. Keep in mind, too, that using the zoom or burst shooting a lot, shooting full HD movies, and keeping the screen brightness high will all cut into your battery life. If you regularly go out shooting all day, you'll want to pick up a second battery.
The Canon PowerShot Elph 310 HS is certainly a recommendable camera. It takes nice photos, it's relatively simple to operate, and it's well priced for what you're getting. Snapshooters looking to improve on the photo quality of their smartphones and actually have an optical zoom without feeling weighed down should check it out.
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