The IXUS sells itself on more than merely its size these days. With a 10x zoom and a 12.1-megapixel sensor producing 4,000x3,000 pixel shots, the IXUS 255 HS already offers the perfect blend of pocketability and performance.
It's no slouch when it comes to producing decent shots, either. You can pick it up online for around £225.
Specs and build
At the widest end of its range the lens produces a field of view equivalent to a 24mm lens on a regular 35mm camera. That's a broad sweep, and perfect for landscapes. When fully zoomed, it acts like a 240mm unit, which is more suited to distant subjects, such as wildlife and pitch-based sports. Its maximum aperture varies between f/3 and f/6.9 from one end of the zoom to the other.
Around the back, the screen is pretty standard fare, measuring 3 inches from corner to corner without articulation or touch sensitivity. You'll have to navigate the menus using the regular button arrangement, but this is clear and well marked, so doesn't take long to become familiar with. The menus themselves are also clearly set out and easy to find your way around.
Among the hardware buttons you'll find one that turns on the camera's built-in Wi-Fi, so it can connect to wireless networks, printers and PCs, smart phones and tablets. This lets you view and manage your photos on the remote device and, if you're using a phone, pass back GPS data to location-stamp your images so you can position them on a map on sites like Flickr, and in applications such as Lightroom, Aperture and iPhoto.
Sensitivity tops out at ISO 6,400, which should be plenty for the kind of point-and-shoot photography to which a compact of this kind is best suited, and you can tweak it by two stops in either direction in 1/3 EV steps.
Slightly less impressive is the range of shutter speeds on offer, which in the default auto setting stretches from just one second to 1/2,000 second. That might mean you end up relying on sensitivity for low-light shots more than you would have liked. Fortunately, some of the dedicated low-light scene modes do extend the longest exposure time to a more generous 15 seconds, which will allow for more creative long-exposure shots in low-light conditions.
Maximum shooting speed is 2.4 frames per second if you want full-size images. To go any faster than that you'll have to switch to the dedicated high-speed burst mode, which ups it to 6.2fps, but not without reducing the resolution to just 3 megapixels.
The minimum focusing distance puts your subject 1cm from the end of the lens, which is impressive indeed. If you've got the IXUS set to auto mode it'll switch to its macro setting automatically, and the fall-off is particularly attractive. The area surrounding your subject is very quickly defocused, so your eye is very effectively pulled towards the subject itself.
I performed my tests on an overcast day and despite the muted palette and poor lighting the 255 HS put in a good performance, making best use of the available illumination to retain realistic, accurate colours throughout.
Even the skies, which could easily have been flat and featureless on account of the heavy cloud cover, benefited from a high degree of texture and dappling, which added interest to the shots.
In the image below, for example, where the focus is entirely on the darker hull of the boat, the IXUS 255 HS avoids bleaching out the sky and maintains balanced tones right across the frame.
There was no evidence of chromatic aberration, which is an undesirable focusing issue where the lens might sometimes not quite focus each wavelength of incoming light in sync with the others, and thus introduce coloured fringing along the edges of fine details.
As can be seen in the rigging below, the 255 HS had no trouble maintaining fine detail when backlit, and so contrasts and edges remained sharp throughout my tests.