This year's crop of IXUSes (IXi? we've never decided) is here at last and we've been spending some time cosying up with Canon's next top model, the IXUS 310 HS.
One part fashion item to two parts digital camera, the 310 HS certainly looks like the sort of device you'd be happy to be seen out on the town with. But would you really want to spend £260 for the privilege?
So last season
Outwardly, there's not an enormous amount to differentiate the Canon IXUS 310 HS from its immediate predecessor, the. The metallic body is still a solidly built blend of sharp angles and elegant curves.
It's very attractive, but there are only a few small tweaks, including a larger (3.2-inch), higher-resolution (461,000-pixel) LCD monitor on the rear and an inner lens housing that matches the colour of the main body, as opposed to the 300 HS's slightly cheap-looking black equivalent.
Curiously, the choice of colours is fairly limited. The 310 HS can be purchased in standard silver or three other shades: a chocolatey brown, a pretty pink or a glamorous gold. The lack of anything at the 'butch' end of the colour spectrum -- a dreary black, perhaps -- is a possible indication of Canon's conclusions regarding the feminine appeal of the IXUS product line. Fair enough, we suppose, but overlooking colour-shy purchasers altogether does suggest a certain level of face-spiting nose removal on Canon's behalf.
Beauty's on the inside
Compared to its forerunner, the 310 HS receives marginal boosts in a number of crucial areas. For instance, the image sensor increases from 10 to 12.1 megapixels. It's not a huge leap, but it brings the camera in line with some of its rivals. Similarly, optical zoom magnification is bumped up from 3.8x to 4.4x, while things like focal length and shutter speed make minor gains compared to those of the 300 HS.
Home filmmakers will be interested to learn that it's now possible to shoot video at up to 1080p high-definition quality with added stereo sound and full use of the optical zoom while filming. An HDMI-out socket lets you view your work directly on an HD TV screen.
Many of the more notable features of the 300 HS are retained here too, including a very effective optical image stabiliser and an interesting high-speed video recording mode. The latter lowers resolution right down to 320x240 pixels, but captures at an astonishing 240 frames per second. Visual detail may be lacking, but it provides you with a very cool slow-motion effect.
The 310 HS has a grand total of four buttons over its entire surface -- most of the camera's functions are controlled via its touch-sensitive display. The screen is widescreen-shaped, which leaves black pillarbox bars at either side of a standard (4:3) photo image. Canon makes use of this dead space by filling it with a changing selection of controls.