At the time of this review, the Canon PowerShot Digital Elph line featured no fewer than 10 models--not even including lingering older models--so deciphering what makes one better or different than another gets tricky (here's our succinct breakdown). The 10-megapixel PowerShot SD880 IS Digital Elph is the follow-up to the popular SD870 IS, and what a worthy successor it is. It's capable of producing truly excellent pictures for a camera of its size and it has nice components for a sub-$300 model including a wide-angle lens and optical image stabilization. There are a couple weaknesses, but nothing that keeps it from being an excellent point-and-shoot camera.
At 6.3 ounces and measuring 3.7 inches wide by 2.2 inches high by 0.9 inch deep, it'll fit more comfortably in a pants or coat pocket than a shirt pocket, but it's by no means big. Compared with the SD870 IS, the SD880 IS has the latest version of Canon's image-processing engine, Digic 4, jumps from 8 megapixels to 10, and offers a few more scene modes. The 4x f2.8-5.8 28-112mm lens is a highlight of the camera; the wide angle is so nice to have on a camera this small, and it's a tad longer zoom than on the SD870. It also records video using the H.264 codec instead of Motion JPEG.
Scene modes are plentiful--16 in all--and include Stitch Assist for panoramas and Underwater for use with an optional casing. Shooting mode lets you go fully automatic with some minor adjustments, or drop it into Program AE, which gives you control for exposure compensation, white balance, tone, and ISO.
The directional pad is pretty standard; instead it's the thumb dial that adds interest here. In SCN mode, the dial is used for rifling through your options. It's also used for swapping between Auto and Program in Shooting mode and tone control in Video. It works well, but you can barely feel stops when spinning the dial making it just a little too easy to switch out of whichever mode you want. The dial can be used for navigating Menu settings, too. Overall, I like the key design and wheel, but I can also see it confusing new users to the point of frustration.