Canon IXUS 310 HS £250
26th May 2011 | 16:02
The high-performance compact with a sense of style
Canon IXUS 310 HS Review: Overview
Canon's latest crop of IXUS compacts continues to target fashion-conscious photographers who don't want to compromise on features, with the new 12.1mp IXUS 310 HS replacing the 10mp 300 HS.
While the latest model may not look all that different to its predecessor, it packs in a glut of upgraded features, including a higher resolution back-illuminated CMOS sensor, wider 24mm 4.4x optical zoom lens with Image Stabilisation, larger 3.2in LCD with a significantly higher resolution (461,000-dots compared to 230,000) and Full HD movie recording - an improvement over the 300 HS' 720p offering.
The 310 HS boasts the latest DIGIC 4 processor with integrated iSAPS technology, which means the camera analyses the scene you're photographing and selects the best scene mode for the situation.
The latest generation processor also helps to drive this compact's performance when shooting, allowing for easy capture of both high-speed burst stills and Super Slow Motion movies at 240fps.
Like the design we saw in the older 300 HS, the 310 HS' sensor has all of its circuitry tucked neatly behind its photoreceptors, increasing their sensitivity and promising images with less noise as result. Also likely to appeal to avid low--light shooters is the 310 HS' lens, which offers a fast maximum aperture of f2.0: perfect for making the most of ambient light as well as creating beautiful out of focus effects.
Canon IXUS 310 HS Review: Build & handling
Looking very much like its predecessor with its distinctive curves and angles, the 310 HS upholds the IXUS tradition of combining good looks with functionality. Available in silver, brown, gold and pink, this distinctive compact is bulkier than some of its competitors, but will still slip into a pocket or handbag for easy portability.
As we've come to expect from the IXUS range, the build quality of the 310 HS is superb, with a robust stainless steel body that's built to withstand the rigours of daily life. The top panel houses a smattering of controls, including the power button, with a sliding switch on the left to flick between exposure modes and the shutter release on the right, which is encircled by a spring-loaded zoom lever.
Around the back, things look very minimalist indeed, with the sole control being a chunky playback button. Everything else has to be accessed via the camera's colossal touch screen which dominates almost the entire back panel.
At 3.2-inches, the 310 HS' screen looks very impressive - until you turn it on. Due to its 16:9 aspect ratio, you only get to use a small central portion of the LCD when shooting stills, with large black bands on either side accommodating various icons and virtual controls. Start recording a movie however, and the live view image fills the entire screen, letting you witness its full, high resolution glory. With a decent anti-reflective coating and fairly wide viewing angle, the screen performs well and makes composing stills and video at odd angles an easy task.
The touchscreen interface is the sort of thing you either love or hate. Thankfully, recent developments in this area of technology mean that the 310 HS' offering is simple to get to grips with and - on the whole - responsive.
Large icons offer fast access to key settings like the flash mode, self-timer and exposure compensation (among others) and a dedicated red movie icon lets you start and stop filming instantly. There's also the neat trick of being able to select your intended subject directly on-screen, whereupon the AF system locks onto it and starts tracking: great for shooting moving targets or for off-centre compositions.
Stick with Auto mode and the options available for tweaking are limited, but flick the switch on top of the camera to the left, then tap the FUNC. icon on the bottom left of the screen, and you unlock a whole host of creative possibilities.
A long list of icons encompassing everything from metering, white balance and ISO to focus range, drive mode and image quality - to name a few - can be explored and altered at will. For the most part, this system works reasonably well, however occasionally we did have to swipe or tap the screen a few times in order to get it to respond.
Jabbing the symbol at the top left of the LCD calls up the range of exposure modes on offer, of which there is no shortage. More experienced shooters will appreciate the inclusion of program, aperture and shutter speed priority options, which allow the greatest level of manual control over camera settings.
The rest of the exposure modes comprise presets like Portrait, Movie Digest and Kids & Pets, along with special features including Smart Shutter (which uses face detection to take portraits automatically), 3mp High-speed Burst and Handheld NightScene - the latter combining three shots taken in succession to reduce the effects of camera shake in the final image.
The remaining pages (totalling five in all) are populated with scene modes (Foliage, Fireworks and Snow for example) plus a set of creative filters. These filters apply distinctive characteristics to your shots automatically, allowing you to create unusual images without having to go near a computer. There's a bulbous fish-eye effect, miniature, toy camera and creative light settings, along with a pleasingly contrasty monochrome setting and - finally - super vivid and poster effects.
While it's great to have so many options to explore, this is where the touch screen interface does hamper operation as you have to scroll through seemingly endless pages of icons in order to get to the setting you want. This is where we found ourselves longing for a physical mode dial to quickly switch between modes.
Canon IXUS 310 HS Review: Performance
Image quality from the 310 HS is very pleasing, rendering natural colours with just enough punch to liven up your shots and a good level of detail. By default, jpegs (there's no option to shoot RAW) tend to turn out a little on the soft side, but a bit of sharpening in post crisps things up nicely.
Unfortunately, chromatic aberration is quite prominent in areas of high contrast, visible in some scenes even without zooming into 100%. On the other hand, distortion at the extremes of the lens' focal lengths and vignetting are well-controlled and white balance performance is pretty accurate under a range of lighting conditions.
Noise is present from around ISO 800, but remains unobtrusive throughout the 310 HS' sensitivity range. The camera's on-board noise reduction does a good job of keeping images looking squeaky clean, however the price you pay is loss of detail and contrast, with a fair degree of softening at the top end of the ISO range.
Canon IXUS 310 Review: Image quality
As part of our test we shoot our resolution chart at every sensitivity setting.
The higher the value quoted in the caption score, the greater the level of detail being resolved and the better the image quality.
ISO 100, score: 22, see full image
ISO 200, score:20, see full image
ISO 400, score:18, see full image
ISO 800, score:16, see full image
ISO 1600, score:12, see full image
ISO 3200, score:12, see full image
Canon IXUS 310 HS Review: Sensitivity
ISO 100, see full image
ISO 200, see full image
ISO 400, see full image
ISO 800, see full image
ISO 1600, see full image
ISO 3200, see full image
Canon IXUS 310 HS Review: Sample images
The 310 HS' 24mm setting is perfect for capturing wide scenes
The 310 HS' 24mm setting is perfect for capturing wide scenes
The AF system is quick to respond, while the ability to select your desired AF point on-screen is a useful feature
The ability to focus down to 3cm in the camera's Macro AF mode allows you to get reasonably close to small subjects
Dynamic range is generally good, resulting in high-contrast scenes being accurately reproduced
Colours and detail are both pleasing in shots from the 310 HS, however you are likely to need to apply some post-shoot sharpening to reveal their true potential
An example of the results you can generate using the 310 HS' creative filters - in this image we used the Toy Camera effect to add an atmospheric vignette
Canon IXUS 310 HS Review: Specification
Effective pixels: 12.1 million pixels
Sensor: 1/2.3 type back-illuminated CMOS
Lens: 4.4x optical zoom, 24 – 105mm (35mm equivalent), f/2.0 – f/5.8 with IS
Memory: SD, SDHC, SDXC, MMC, MMCplus, HCMMCplus
Viewfinder: No viewfinder
LCD Screen: 3.2" PureColor II Touch (TFT), 16:9 aspect ratio, Approx. 461,000 dots
Video resolution: (Full HD) 1920 x 1080, 24 fps
ISO range: Auto, ISO 100-3200
Focus modes: Single, Continuous (Auto mode only), Servo AF/AE, Touch AF
Max burst rate: Approx. 3.4 shots/sec., High-speed Burst (3.0MP): Approx. 8.2shots/sec., (until memory card becomes full)
Shutter speeds: 1 – 1/1600 sec. (factory default) 15 – 1/1600 sec. (total range – varies by shooting mode)
Weight: 185g (including batteries and memory card)
Dimensions: 100.6 x 55.4 x 25.0 mm
Power supply: Rechargeable Li-ion Battery NB-6L (battery and charger supplied). Optional AC Adapter Kit ACK-DC40
Canon IXUS 310 HS Review: Verdict
Touch-screen aficionados will revel at the size and clarity of the 310 HS' monolithic LCD, although - in spite of putting in a generally good performance - there were occasions when we missed the immediacy of being able to switch modes using physical controls. These intermittent frustrations aside, image quality and low light performance is particularly impressive.
Throw in Full HD movie recording and superb build quality, and you end up with a very capable compact that compares favourably to its rivals.
Full HD movie capability with HDMI output, excellent build quality and a very impressive low-light performance are the 310 HS' main highlights.
Some touch screen controls prove to a be a little fiddly to operate, and - for the same price or less - you could pick up one of the 310 HS' bigger-zoom rivals.