Canon's first digital compact with built in Wi-Fi (wireless) control is here in the shape of the aptly named Digital IXUS Wireless. This camera features a 5-megapixel image sensor and Canon's proprietary DIGIC II image processor, the same processing power built into its professional D-SLRs.
Before we look at the Wi-Fi bits and pieces, the camera's otherwise "normal" specification is pretty much that, normal at this level of camera. The all-metal bodywork is slim and stylish and the control layout is as neat as we've come to expect from canon's IXUS range of diminutive digital compacts.
The Wireless is a tad bulkier than most however thanks to the Wi-Fi antenna being housed in a wrap-around extension to the right side (from the front) of the camera. There's also a small blue indicator that flashes when the Wi-Fi kit is in action.
The camera's 3x optical zoom lens is standard fair offering a 35-105mm (35mm film equiv.) focal length lens with a maximum aperture range of F2.8-F4.9 and provides reasonably sharp results.
Sensitivity settings run from ISO 50 to ISO 400, again standard fair for the type of camera. Interestingly however, the camera features a nine-point AiAF focus system that works quickly and accurately as does the metering system, which got most shots spot on, with only some pretty contrasty scenes causing slight underexposure. This is backed up by Canon's other proprietary iSAPS technology that helps to get the best from any shooting situation. The combination of this AiAF, iSAPS acronym laden compact provides a camera that gives a speedy handling experience and overall nice image quality, more on which later.
The built-in flash is more a fill-in than anything else as it is underpowered, but a slow synchro flash helps you get more from it, providing the camera is kept steady in low light to stop camera shake. One of the disappointing aspects to the camera is the image quality, which suffers from a surprising amount of image noise, particularly in shadow or low light parts of images.
That said and overall, the colour and white balance is pretty much spot on, the former can be tweaked in camera via menus and the latter can be adjusted through the "usual" array of options such as tungsten, fluorescent and direct sunlight to name a few.
Fourteen scene modes are built into the camera as well providing a faster route to predefined shooting scenarios such as landscapes, portraits, parties, or firework displays.
Moving onto the IXUS Wireless' Wi-Fi aspects, it's nice to see the camera comes complete with a software suite designed to get your camera and printer or PC talking quickly. The camera must be identified by the PC or printer (see below) first and this took me a couple of fiddly moments to get everything talking on the same channel, but once there it was fine.
A downside of the Wireless' Wi-Fi set is that only Windows XP SP2 operating system users will be able to directly transfer shot images from the camera or control the camera's shutter release via a PC using the wireless set up. But the camera does come supplied with a neat Wi-Fi adapter that can be plugged into a compatible Canon printer for direct printing from the camera either during or after you've shot some images. Neat.
At a pound short of £400 the Wireless looks pricey, but the extra cash is buying you that Wi-Fi kit, the adapters and clever software. The camera part of the equation is however, a fairly mediocre affair, built to Canon's usual high standards, filled with great kit but at the end of the day the images are not that much better than similar, cheaper cameras with the same resolution.
If the Wi-Fi connectivity is critical for what you're going to be doing with the digital camera (and you're a Windows user) then the extra cash might be worth it. If Wi-Fi is not a particularly important then save your cash, the extra cost of the Wi-Fi will be surplus to your requirements so save your money.