Canon was one of the first companies to embrace the era of digital point-and-shoot cameras. Since those first digital compact cameras emerged, the look of the IXUS range has remained essentially unchanged. Like its IXUS siblings and forebears, the 240HS is a slight rectangular box with lightly rounded edges. On the front, there's the usual pleasantly machined metal plate, while on the sides and back there's quality plastic. Oddly, the 240HS is available in only two colours: blue and a very traditional silver.
The 240HS houses a 5x optical zoom lens, feeding into a 16.1 megapixel CMOS sensor. At its widest, this Canon's lens is equivalent to a 24mm lens in 35mm speak. On the right-hand side of the unit there's a flap concealing a mini-HDMI port (cable not included) and a standard USB socket (hurrah!). At the bottom, there's the usual door hiding slots for the battery and SD/SDHC/SDXC card; there's no user accessible internal memory. An off-centre, both to the camera body and the lens barrel, tripod mounting point also lives on the underside.
Most of the real estate at the rear is occupied by the IXUS' 3.2-inch resistive touchscreen, which boasts a class average pixel count of 461,000. Despite the touchscreen interface, the 240HS doesn't completely eschew physical buttons, which, in this case, proves to be a great idea that's less than perfectly executed. Some aspects, such as the always-present virtual buttons for video record and flash settings, work well enough. There's also the playback button to the bottom-right of the touchscreen that allows you to review images and videos without awakening the lens.
Other elements are a little confused, such as the switch — along the top of the camera next to the zoom, shutter and power buttons — that's marked Auto at one end and with a camera icon at the other. This switch allows you to change between the highest level of automation and the ability to choose between various scene modes, include Program Auto, smart shutter (which enables the camera's automatic face and smile detection shutter), soft focus, fish-eye effect, monochrome, colour swap and others. Cycling through the various modes on offer is a simple task of tapping on the virtual button, in the top-left corner, displaying the current mode's icon.
It's beyond us why changing between Auto and every other mode requires a special physical switch. And if you want to access or configure the 240HS' wireless functionality, you need to drop on into playback mode, although the wireless system's virtual button is usually lost amongst the screen's various other controls.
Manual controls available in Program Auto include selection of light metering modes, white balance, colour, ISO sensitivity, exposure compensation, self timer (off, two, 10 or custom), focus range (normal, macro, infinity), aspect ratio, resolution, image quality and video resolution.
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Powered by a lithium-ion battery, the IXUS 240HS is rated at either 170 shots or three hours of playback between charges. Canon's estimations proved to be conservative, as we easily racked up around 180 photos, at least four minutes of video and a not-inconsiderable amount of playback time before the battery pack gave up the fight.
What the 240HS might lack on a spec sheet, it makes up for in image quality. Zoom in to 100 per cent and compare the 240HS' output to any of the point-and-shoot cameras we've reviewed recently around the AU$300 mark, and it's clear that the combination of the Canon's lens, Digic 5 image processor and CMOS sensor is able to extract the most detail from almost any given situation. The only slight downside is that in shadowed areas, the 240HS exhibits a noticeable, but not excessive, graininess at 100 per cent.
A 100 per cent crop from the IXUS 240 HS.
Between ISO 100 and 400, the 240HS does its best work. At ISO 800, detail begins to be traded away for a small amount of digital haze. The deterioration is markedly more evident at ISO 1600, but if you're of the mindset that using the flash is akin to trading away all the tea in India for one smelly, moulding pea, then it's perfectly usable for a 6x4-inch prints and tablet, TV or computer display. At maximum sensitivity, ISO 3200, everything seems to be captured through a murky soft focus filter.
Click the image for the larger version.
It's a shame that if you switch to Auto mode, as we're sure many users are wont to do, that the Canon defaults to regular "fine" image compression, and there's no way of switching to the higher quality "superfine" mode. Which is a shame, really, because regardless of one's skill level, the camera shouldn't be hobbled from producing its best results.
The IXUS 240HS is able to capture video at a maximum resolution of 1920x1080, but as the maximum frame rate is limited to 24fps, this results in motion being rendered choppily. Indeed, the best frame rate the 240HS can manage at 1280x720 is 30fps. It's not until you change into Super Slow Mo mode that you can manage higher frame rates, albeit, at hugely reduced resolutions.
Optical image stabilisation works well to smooth out any jitters you might have, especially in low light situations, but the system isn't really too stressed by the camera's 5x optical zoom lens. It does, however, seem to go AWOL when you start recording video.
Exposure: 1/40, f/2.7, ISO 100
Exposure: 1/30, f/2.7, ISO 125
Exposure: 1/800, f/2.7, ISO 160
Exposure: 1/125, f/2.7, ISO 100
We wouldn't complain if the 240HS (or its successor) had a longer zoom lens or was able to capture HD video at a higher frame rate, but the Canon IXUS 240HS proves that quality can easily overcome quantity.