The IXUS i Zoom provides an almost perfect looking package for the point'n'shoot snapper, with easy to use controls and menu systems combined with enough specification to offer a modicum of control or fully automated settings for straight out of the box use.
To that end, the camera can be turned on and within a second it's ready to start snapping, you don't need to do a thing. The little 2.4x (38-90mm equiv.) optical; zoom lens sits flush with the tiny body until it's switched on when it pops smartly out ready for action.
Just above is the camera's very small And low-powered flash that can illuminate up to around 2m in front of the lens at ISO 100; talking of ISO, sensitivity includes settings up to ISO 400 and down to ISO 50.
The top plate houses a large shutter button with an adjacent on/off button and that's it. Turning the curvy little 105g camera round we find the back plate controls that allow you to switch from shooting to playback (or the 640x480 video with sound mode) allows zooming and gives access to the camera's shooting functions. Menus are logical and not overly extensive but provide access to all the deeper settings for the camera's operation.
A direct print button allows exactly that when the camera is connected to a compatible printer. Using the camera upright also highlights another neat feature, the camera's FUNC(tion) button doubles as another upright shutter release, the camera used in a mobile phone-style fashion for getting shots.
The camera's modest by today's standards 1.8-inch colour screen is clear and bright to use but it's small size (and the lack of an optical viewfinder) make it a tad irksome to use, particularly when reviewing images or for menus, which are necessarily small on the screen.
In terms of metering and focus, the performance is almost flawless. With the latter, although the 9-point AiAF set-up is generally top-notch, the macro setting made focusing problematic on some of my shots. The former works unerringly while the white balance control offers warm results in the auto setting. Colour rendition is on the rich side of neutral too, ideal for those direct prints in fact.
Nine scene modes are in there as well and include most of the usual settings along with a My Colours custom setting, an Underwater mode and a Stitch Assist mode for in camera panoramas.
Storage is via SD/MMC external memory cards that slot into a small compartment alongside the rechargeable NB-4L battery pack. To recharge the camera it must be sat in a small docking station, which also allows the connection of the camera to a PC or printer whilst being charged.
This helps keeps cables tidy and allows you to keep the camera topped up in term s of power whenever it's not in use. The little battery also provides enough juice for plenty of shots, up to around 160-shots says Canon, although I got around 110 in cold conditions.
Image quality is generally superb, however there's an overall softness to the images that mean they can lack bite out of the camera, a little astute sharpening worked wonders on my shots. However, directly printed 6x4-inch prints won't be adversely affected, as the level of detail is small anyway in such small prints.
The camera's DIGIC II processing works well in terms of processing prowess, particularly in backlit situations without flash where shadow detail is well captured, although highlights can suffer. Skin tones and portraits are particularly well handled. Image noise is apparent in most shots in shadows but the overall noise pattern is not intrusive. Low light shots and at higher ISO, image noise runs from average to poor at ISO 400 in low light.
The IXUS i Zoom is a stunning-looking, petit package that can create high resolution snaps to be proud of. There's only a modicum of manual control making this less suitable for the more enthusiast user and its RRP is tad pricey, though you'll be sure to pay less online or the High Street. But, it's a gem, slightly flawed yes, but a gem none the less.