Canon has taken the IXUS back to its roots with the 510 HS. Over the years, the company's ultra-pocketable digital cameras have become decidedly less friendly towards tight jeans-wearing hipsters. But with the 510 HS, the once expanding girth has been significantly trimmed.
It's smaller than a pack of cards or cigarettes -- the traditional benchmarks -- at just 85mm by 53mm by 20mm, and it tips the scales at just 163g, including the battery and memory card. That's not much, but in this compact a body, it feels surprisingly weighty.
The Canon IXUS 510 HS retails for £350 but is available online for around £285.
Features and build
Despite its diminutive size, this camera, which is available in either white or black high-gloss finish, is absolutely packed with features. The whole of the back of the case is given over to a generous 3.2-inch screen. This is touch-sensitive, allowing you to swipe through the menus and review your pictures by sliding a digit across the screen.
The native image resolution is a respectable 10.1 megapixels, and the optical zoom is an impressive -- considering its size -- 12x. That's equivalent to 28-336mm in a 35mm camera at f/3.4 to f/5.6. The ZoomPlus feature extends this to 21x with pretty impressive results. This is one of the few cameras with which I'd be happy using non-optical magnification.
The 10.1-megapixel resolution equates to images of 3,648x2,736 pixels, which it writes to a microSD, microSDHC or microSDXC card that fits into a tiny covered slot at the front of the base. Despite their growing popularity, these are still comparatively rare formats for digital cameras (to date they've been more popular in mobile phones). If you're upgrading from a regular SD-based camera, you should budget to buy some extra memory. Shopping around will net you a fast (class 6) 16GB microSD card for £14.
Sensitivity runs through the range from ISO 100 to ISO 3,200, with compensation of +/-2EV in 1/3EV steps. That's pretty much par for the course, as are the shutter speeds, which range from 1/4,000 to 15 seconds.
The big surprise with this camera is the built-in Wi-Fi -- a feature it shares with the IXUS 240 HS. This lets you send your photos to another Wi-Fi-enabled Canon camera, an iPad or , Facebook, YouTube or email. It worked flawlessly in my tests, allowing me to download images direct to an iPad using the free companion app from Apple's App Store.
My only complaint where the physical aspects of this camera is concerned is the battery life. On a full charge, I managed to shoot 142 photos and 1 minute 45 seconds of video before the three-part battery icon was flashing to warn me that it was in its last segment. While it was still working, this is the point where I would normally be looking to recharge. So if it happened at the start of a day's holiday, I wouldn't be happy. If you think I'm being harsh, it would be easy to take 140-odd shots of your kids in a theme park in just one day now that the cost of film isn't a factor.
My stills tests produced very good results. Colours were vivid, images were sharp, and thanks to the tap-to-focus feature on the touchscreen (and tap to fire if you choose), it was easy to focus on precisely the part of the frame I wanted.
Macro performance was impressive. It takes you to within 1cm of your subject and it does a great job of separating the focal point from the rest of the frame, throwing those points outside of it into soft focus.
At less close quarters, it certainly didn't skimp when it came to splashing about the colours. On a bright, cloudless day, the shot of the sky was particularly vivid, with a rich, deep blue and smooth, unstepped transitions between tones.
Green foliage was very well handled and flowers posed no problem when they dominated the scene. But when the camera occasionally had to compensate for particularly bright flowers in shot with more muted tones, it did lose some detail.