Canon PowerShot Elph 310 HS review: Canon PowerShot Elph 310 HS

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The Good The Canon PowerShot Elph 310 HS' photo quality is excellent for its class and it has a good assortment of shooting options.

The Bad The 310 HS has a relatively short battery life and its autofocus in Smart Auto mode can be hit or miss.

The Bottom Line Snapshooters wanting better photo quality than their smartphone and an 8x zoom lens in a tiny package should certainly consider the Canon PowerShot Elph 310 HS.

7.6 Overall
  • Design 8
  • Features 7
  • Performance 7
  • Image quality 8

The Canon PowerShot Elph 310 HS is sort of a misfit camera. Its 8x zoom lens isn't quite long enough to attract people looking to improve on an older ultracompact camera, and the lens' other qualities aren't good enough for photographers who value a wider lens and larger maximum aperture. It seems to serve as an easy way to upsell from the older 5x zoom 300 HS: The 310 HS is only slightly larger, but has higher zoom for only $30 more. The 310 also has a larger, higher-resolution screen, making the deal look sweeter.

The 310 HS, when it was released in October 2011, was not an update to the 300 HS from February 2011--despite the serial naming. The 300 HS instead will be refreshed as the Elph 320 HS in March 2012 for $279.99, and will have the same lens as its predecessor--5x, f2.7-5.9, 24-120mm--but gets a new sensor and processor, Wi-Fi, and a touch-screen LCD. This, in turn, will probably make the 310's longer zoom and now lower price look attractive to people looking to save money because they don't need Wi-Fi or a touch screen.

Yes, it seems the 310 HS exists mainly to fill a hole for retailers, which shouldn't matter, I guess, as long as the camera is good. And it is good, by the way.

Key specs Canon PowerShot Elph 310 HS
Price (MSRP) $259.99
Dimensions (WHD) 3.8x2.2x0.9 inches
Weight (with battery and media) 4.9 ounces
Megapixels, image sensor size, type 12 megapixels, 1/2.3-inch backside-illuminated CMOS
LCD size, resolution/viewfinder 3-inch LCD, 461K dots/None
Lens (zoom, aperture, focal length) 8x, f3.0-5.9, 28-224mm (35mm equivalent)
File format (still/video) JPEG/H.264 AAC (.MOV)
Highest resolution size (still/video) 4,000x3,000pixels/ 1,920x1,080 at 24fps
Image stabilization type Optical and digital
Battery type, CIPA rated life Li-ion rechargeable, 210 shots
Battery charged in camera No; wall charger supplied
Storage media SD/SDHC/SDXC
Bundled software ZoomBrowser EX 6.7/PhotoStitch 3.1 (Windows); ImageBrowser 6.7/PhotoStitch 3.2 (Mac); Map Utility 1.0 (Windows/Mac)

The Elph 310 HS produces generally excellent snapshots. Photos do get softer and noisier above ISO 200--typical for point-and-shoots--but ISO 400 and 800 are still very usable. The noise and noise reduction are well balanced, so you still get good color and detail at these higher sensitivities without things looking overly smeary or blurry. Colors desaturate some at ISO 1600 and 3200, subjects look very soft, and detail is greatly diminished. You may also notice yellow blotches of color noise. While you might not want to view them at larger sizes or heavily crop them, the high-ISO results should be satisfactory for Web use at small sizes.

Video quality is on par with a very good HD pocket video camera: good enough for Web use and nondiscriminating TV viewing. The full HD video records at 24fps. Panning the camera will create judder and there is visible trailing on fast-moving subjects. Those things are typical of the video from most compact cameras, and less noticeable at small sizes. Some viewers, including myself, may still find it too distracting. The zoom lens does work while recording; it moves very slowly, though, likely to prevent the movement from being picked up by the stereo mics on top. In quiet scenes, you'll likely still hear it. Audio in general sounds somewhat muffled, which can make even close subjects difficult to hear.

General shooting options Canon PowerShot Elph 310 HS
ISO sensitivity (full resolution) Auto, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600, 3200
White balance Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Tungsten, Fluorescent, Fluorescent H, Custom
Recording modes Auto, Program, Movie Digest, Portrait, Kids & Pets, Smart Shutter, High-Speed Burst, Best Image Selection, Handheld Night Scene, Low Light, Fish-eye Effect, Miniature Effect, Toy Camera Effect, Monochrome, Super Vivid, Poster Effect, Color Accent, Color Swap, Beach, Foliage, Snow, Fireworks, Long Shutter, Stitch Assist, iFrame Movie, Super Slow Motion Movie
Focus modes Face Detection AF, Center AF, Tracking AF
Macro 0.4 inch to 1.6 feet (Wide)
Metering modes Evaluative, Center-weighted average, Spot
Color effects Vivid, Neutral, Sepia, Black & White, Positive Film, Lighter Skin, Darker Skin, Vivid Blue, Vivid Green, Vivid Red, Custom Color (adjustment of contrast, sharpness, saturation, red, green, blue and skin tone available)
Burst mode shot limit (full resolution) Unlimited continuous

The 310 HS has a fairly large assortment of shooting options, but almost all of them are automatic modes, meaning there's no full control over shutter speed and aperture. The shooting-mode switch on the camera's right side has two options: one for Smart Auto and one for everything else, designated by a picture of a camera. Leaving Auto gives you access to a Program mode as well as all the scene modes, creative effects modes, and miniature effect and slow-motion video recording. However, they're laid out in one long list, so if you're the type to change modes frequently, this can be a pain. If you want to do more than just take snapshots, there is certainly a lot to play with on the 310 HS--for both movies and photos.

One of the biggest benefits of CMOS sensors is their fast speed compared with CCD sensors. The camera goes from off to first shot in 1.4 seconds, with shot-to-shot times averaging a slightly lengthy 2.2 seconds without flash and 3.4 seconds with flash. Its shutter lag--the time it takes from pressing the shutter release to capturing a photo--is 0.3 second in bright lighting and 0.6 second in low-light conditions, which is good for its class.

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