This review appears in the April issue of PC Advisor, on sale now.

While Canon's ultracompact Ixus digicams have tended to be pricey and somewhat short on features, the models are invariably innovative, beautifully designed and easy to use, producing great automatic images for point-and-shooters who want compact style. It's good to see the i zoom doesn't swerve from the Ixus principles.

Specifications alone are average – if you want to exploit the possibilities of digital photography you can't do it here. The 5Mp (megapixel) CCD (charge-coupled device) provides a resolution of 2,592x1,944, and the optical zoom is just 2.4x. Shots are saved on a measly 16MB MMC card, and there's no optical viewfinder to compose shots. Movie mode manages no more than a slightly jerky 15fps (frames per second).

So far, so average; but the i zoom excels when you look beyond its constituent parts. The silver-and-black metal body with its contoured Perpetual Curve design screams 'must-buy gadget' and we found it as much of a joy to use as it is to look at.

This is one responsive camera. Focus lock, startup and shot-to-shot time are impressively speedy, so you shouldn't miss a trick. Reviewing pics is also rapid – hold down left or right and the i zoom flips the images to a low resolution so it can scroll quickly through hundreds of snaps. It then reverts to high-res when you stop on a shot to see if it's worth keeping. Top points too for the blur-free 1.8in LCD, which is fine for composing shots in low ambient light.

The zoom buttons are up and down on the four-way navipad, doubling as navigation controls when you're going through the options – which include white balance, exposure compensation and colour effects – on the i zoom's uncluttered interface.

And on the all-important question of image quality the Ixus doesn't disappoint. Colours are accurate and not overbearing, while the detail is great for a 5Mp model. Macro shots are spot-on, but the flash lacks depth – low-light shots taken from more than 2m away using auto mode are very dark.

Canon Digital Ixus i zoom: Specs

  • 5Mp
  • max res 2,592x1,944
  • 2.4x optical zoom
  • 4x digital zoom
  • 16MB MMC card
  • max photos on 16MB=138
  • min=5
  • 1x lithium battery (supplied, along with recharger)
  • movie/audio capture
  • 1.8in LCD
  • 1-year warranty
  • 96x45x24mm
  • 120g
  • 5Mp
  • max res 2,592x1,944
  • 2.4x optical zoom
  • 4x digital zoom
  • 16MB MMC card
  • max photos on 16MB=138
  • min=5
  • 1x lithium battery (supplied, along with recharger)
  • movie/audio capture
  • 1.8in LCD
  • 1-year warranty
  • 96x45x24mm
  • 120g

OUR VERDICT

This is one of the best ultracompacts around. If you want a simple point-and-shooter that looks amazing, feels great to use and takes top shots, the i zoom can't be beaten. Just remember you're paying a premium for the styling and don't expect a huge range of photographic options.

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