With a great number of digital cameras on the market it seems to be falling to the products designers to package up the technology in a manner that will attract the eye as well as the mind and pocket. Thus manufactures are now using sleeker bodies and tempting curves to help shift the latest models.



The freshest addition to Canon's successful Ixus digital range, the ‘i', brings a slim-line and very compact body to the product group, placing it into the same strata as the Casio ExSlim and the Pentax Optio range.

Instead of Ixus i planning to have numerous very similar models rolled out in succession, the launch product has been supplied in 4 different colour bodies, presumably picking up tips from the mobile phone market and positioning itself as a ‘fashion item'. The bodies are all metal, except the battery/media door, and the feel both is robust and sturdy.

Canon has opted for a surprisingly beefy 4.0Megapixel CCD sensor that also records video clips with sound as well. The operational range of the camera is designed more for close up portrait shots indoors rather than Ansel Adams in the park, but never the less the AF beam assisted 5-point AiAf focus and a punchy flash means that it performs well through out. Taken pictures are stored on secure digital, and Canon has been wise/generous enough to give you 32Mb free in the box. Image resolution can be set between 2272x1704 down to 640x480 and the three compression modes mean that you can quickly free-up space on the to keep on shooting.

The menu system is detailed, but numerous prompts make them easy to use. Shooting modes include auto and manual but you also get a long shutter exposure and even macro down to 3cm. In general the ‘i' demonstrates the real development in digital cameras over the last 12 months, with half the features being offered in considerably larger bodies until only relatively recently. Some concessions have had to be made, such as a manual viewfinder and an optical Zoom but neither feature is really missed. Interestingly, when you look at the size of the rechargeable Li-ion battery you realise that most of the camera's size is due to the slow-down in the reduction in scale of power sources.

Variable ISO, metering, flash settings and shutter speeds are available, although I think two different white balances for fluorescent and fluorescent H light is possibly guilding the lily somewhat but what do you expect from a device the size of a mobile phone that has 12 different language settings!

Unexpected, but welcome, features are the speed of the rapid-fire system, which can belt along at 1.6 frames per second with a impressive 8 frame maximum successive capacity. Falling into the ‘fun but pointless' category are features such as being able to record your own shutter release sound and the sound of birds tweeting when you turn the camera on. I also happen to think the all weather case (AW-DC10), which resembles a piece of diving equipment, is an excellent idea, as it will keep the environment away from image taker. Canon claims that the camera can operate up to 40ºC and 90% humidity but I'd rather not risk my holiday pictures to prove them right.

Following suit, with its other new models, Canon has concentrated on getting images from camera to print. The ‘i' supports not only the PictBridge system but direct print and bubble jet direct transfer systems, all aimed at allowing computer-less image printing via compatible devices. Data is transferred via standard USB for still images and A/V out for movies, which can be set to either NTSC or PAL formats.

Verdict

Overall if you like having a camera on you at all times to capture those magic moments, still want to have enough folding in your trousers to afford to make prints of them afterwards, or to simply mortify your nearest and dearest, then this little camera will take a lot of beating.