The Canon IXUS 220 HS is a 12Mp compact that's slim, well built and easy to use. It doesn't have a lot of manual features, so it's a true point-and-shoot camera, but you can fiddle with the ISO speed, focus mode, white balance and colour output if you dare.
Sitting in front of the Canon IXUS 220 HS's 12Mp CMOS sensor is a retractable 5x optical zoom lens with a range of 24-120mm. It's a wide lens that's especially suitable for landscape photography, and it's zoom also makes it suitable for portraits and for shooting any subject that isn't too far away. It also does a decent job of capturing macro images, as it allows you to get in close to your subjects (about 1.5cm away).
Even though it's a largely automatic camera, the Canon's CMOS sensor didn't perform too badly when exposing images in very sunny conditions, although it did occasionally blow highlights. We found its image clarity to be high even when we viewed photos at their native 4000x3000 resolution, but there was a slight drop in sharpness.
There is minimal noise for a compact camera and colours look vibrant. Even at ISO 1600, images didn't suffer from too much noise or discolouration - performance is similar to that of the Nikon S9100, which also uses a CMOS sensor (but it's a different class of camera thanks to its bigger zoom lens). You can view the Canon IXUS 220 HS's images on a big-screen TV or even crop them a little without having to put up with blemishes and discolouration. The lens doesn't exhibit any noticeable chromatic aberration, but there is some noticeable distortion at the widest angle.
The focusing performance of the camera is decent; it has central focus, face priority and motion tracking, and these are selectable if you use program mode. Tracking mode worked well in relatively close situations, but it was hit-and-miss when focusing on objects in the distance - the focus point would jump to similar looking objects as the camera moved. In full automatic mode, the camera selects the type of focus automatically. It also selects a scene mode depending on the type of scene you are trying to shoot.
There are 24 different scene modes to choose from, including miniature and fish-eye effects, colour effects, panorama stitching and slow-motion video recording. You can select any of these by hitting the function button on the rear of the camera when you are in Program mode. A lot of fun can be had with these modes (especially the slow-motion video mode, which records at up to 240fps).
The overall speed of the camera is swift enough so that there is barely a one-second delay between shots, and we also didn't experience any shutter lag.
We're not too fond of the shutter button. It feels a little too soft and it's sometimes difficult to tell whether you've pressed it halfway. We think it could stand to be a little stiffer and have a more distinct two-step feel. It's nowhere near as bad as the shutter on the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W570. The rest of the controls are adequate, and you can even press the play button when the camera is switched off to instantly view the photos on your SD card. The screen is sharp and bright, but as is the case with most compact camera screens, it can be hard to see in the middle of a bright and sunny day.
A dedicated video button allows you to shoot movies at a Full HD resolution of 1920x1080, and the fact you don't have to change modes makes this very handy. However, you'll want to keep the camera as steady as possible when shooting movies because movements will make the video look jerky. This is par for the course for most of the compact cameras we have seen.
The camera auto-focuses in video mode, which is handy when zooming; you won't want to zoom too much though as it will wreak havoc on the audio recording - not only will you be able to hear the zoom operation, the audio will also sound muffled during the operation. In saying that, it's a good little compact with which to shoot video at a concert or any other type of event that you want to commemorate.