The IXUS 80 in terms of its offering, unsurprisingly, sits below the IXUS 90 we reviewed recently on Pocket-lint and replaces the IXUS 70, adding image stabilisation and upping the pixellage to 8 million over that model. But is this compact camera over-shadowed by its big brother? We take a closer look.

In terms of design, the IXUS 80 is very stylish indeed, refining the IXUS 70 that it replaces, offering smoother lines. Measuring 8.7 x 2.2 x 5.5cm, and weighing 125g, this is a truly pocketable snapper and is smaller than some mobile phones currently on the market. Our test version was silver, with a timeless black band around its skinny sides. The other colour options are Candy Pink, Caramel and Chocolate to appeal to all types.

The back sports a 2.5in screen, smaller than the IXUS 90, but you get a viewfinder above this, which is an absolute must for some photographers. This optical viewfinder is small, but with the screen turned off, it is usable, and it zooms with the 3x optical zoom. If you wish to use the 12x digital zoom, you’ll have to use the screen as this isn’t reflected in the viewfinder.

The LCD screen itself is good quality and we have no complaints with it – it copes a little better with bright sunlight than some rival screens, but is prone to getting smeared with fingerprints.

Also occupying the back of the camera are the main controls following the logical traditions that will be familiar Canon users. There is a slide to select camera, video, or playback, which is great because you can view your images without the lens having to extend – a sensible option not always found on cameras of this size.

The main options are managed via a round four-way control centred with a "Func. Set" button. The four-way control allows you to navigate the on-screen menus, as well as accessing common shortcuts: flash auto/off; ISO auto/"Hi"; normal or macro shooting; and self-timer.

Other controls include the Menu, "Disp" and print buttons. The display options are good, allowing you to view your images with lots of detail, including a histogram, which can be your default setting. Over-exposed sections flash at you, and there is also a zoom option to take a closer look at your image. On a relatively small screen you have the opportunity to assess the quality of your image to avoid disappointment when you get home. This consideration is one we like a lot.

Image quality, we felt, was actually very good. We found that exposure was generally very good, colours are vividly produced and in full auto modes the camera did most of the thinking and produced a good shot as a point and shoot camera. We were also impressed by the focusing, with macro mode focusing actually working around the stated distance of 3cm.

The IXUS 80 sits on the DIGIC III processor enabling face detection, which seems to have become this year’s must-have feature, but this feature is hidden away in the menus.

There is a manual mode which really allows you to access some advanced features. It is questionable whether users looking for a camera in this form will ever want to use these features. You can then access the ISO up to 1600, which of course introduces a lot of noise, but the alternative in auto mode is to select "Hi" ISO, which will then pick an ISO for you.

As with other Canon models, you only get a 32MB card in the box, which will see you through 8 pictures, so you’ll have to pick-up a decent sized card at the time of purchase.

Verdict

It is clear that we were impressed by the little Canon and there is something of a "but" lurking around the corner. Hot on the heels of the IXUS 80 is the IXUS 85 (due April 2008), essentially offering the same features as the 80, but with 10 megapixels, so if you do crave double figures, then you might want to consider that model. It may also have the effect of lowering the price of the IXUS 80 (you never know) which would make this a very compelling purchase indeed.

Great features and great results in a camera of great design. It may not offer some of the really smart features now appearing, but what it does, it does very well indeed.

You can find similar specification from other manufacturers at a lower price, but the IXUS 80 is seriously worthy of consideration; it doesn’t over-complicate things, it just takes good pictures.