The Canon IXUS 310 HS digital camera offers a truckload of features and superior image quality.
The Canon IXUS 310 HS is the spiritual successor to the Canon Powershot S95. In essence, Canon has done away with the physical controls and opted for a full touchscreen experience with the IXUS 310 HS.
It boasts superior night-time photography capabilities, and Canon has also embedded a truckload of features in the camera. It's a bold move by Canon; read on to find out how the camera fares in our review and against competition from the Panasonic Lumix DMC FX-78 and DSLR offerings from Canon and Nikon that are available at a slightly higher price than the IXUS 310 HS.
Canon IXUS 310 HS: Feature and specs
The IXUS 310 HS has a 12.1Mp lens with 4.4x optical zoom which is average for a camera in this range. It has Canon's proprietary HS system for low-light photography and it also has the latest DIGIC4 processor with integrated iSAPS which helps the camera in automatically choosing the right scene while shooting pictures. The 310 HS has a 3.2in LCD with a higher resolution of touchscreen (461,000 dots compared to 230,000) with five adjustable brightness levels similar to the other compact digital cameras offered by Canon.
The IXUS 310 HS has an ISO rating starting from ISO 100 right up to ISO 3200. The camera's ultra wide f/2 optically stabilised wide angle (24mm to 120mm) lens is top-notch.
Apart from the Smart auto mode, where the camera chooses the scene settings on its own, the advanced users have a range of shooting modes at their disposal. There are a total of 24 modes apart from the program mode.
The most interesting features are the Aperture Priority (Av) and Shutter Priority (Tv) modes. The others include Toy Camera effect mode and Handheld Night scene mode (allows you to take pictures in low light without a tripod). The Low-Light (lets you choose shutter speed), Miniature and Fisheye Effect modes, which we saw in the IXUS 300 HS and the 220 HS, is present along with the standard Canon scene modes like Color Accent, Color Swap, and Stitch Assist etc. In the High speed burst mode Canon claims the camera captures 8 shots per sec at 3Mp resolution. We shall test those claims in the latter part of the review.
The Canon IXUS 310 HS records 1080p HD video at 23fps with stereo audio recording and also features Super Slow Motion and iframe movie modes. In the super slow motion mode the camera records VGA (640X480) at 120fps and QVGA (320x240) at 240fps.
Apart from the miniUSB port for transferring images to your computer, Canon has also included HDMI support via mini HDMI port. The IXUS 310 HS supports SD, SDHC, SDXC, MMC, MMCplus, HCMMCplus cards but does not have any internal memory which is disappointing.
The box contained an AV cable, battery charger, Software CD (with the software ZoomBrowser and Photostitch), a 2GB memory card and manual.
Canon IXUS 310 HS: Design, interface and usability
For some reason the bulky design of the Canon IXUS 310 HS, with a slightly bulging curve in the front, reminds me of the second-generation Honda City. The camera is available in three colours: chocolate brown, silver and salmon pink. We received the salmon pink one for review (contrary to my preference). But this pink was not at all obtrusive and I grew to like it. I firmly believe that the IXUS 310 HS has a 'love it or hate it' design.
This camera is definitely heavy at 185g and is not exactly a fit-in-your-pocket kind of camera; it has dimensions which read 100.6x55.4x25mm and it is quite big even for my huge palms.
The build quality didn't inspire confidence. It took a while before I could figure out how to open the door for the HDMI and USB cable slot, and once I finally managed to crank it open the hinge felt cheap. However, the battery compartment door looked sturdy. The use of metal in the hinge gave a little more peace of mind.
Shooting with one hand is difficult because of the sheer largeness of the camera. The circular zoom rocker is a little hard and I had trouble zooming easily. The entire back portion of the camera is occupied by a 3.2in touchscreen LCD and has space for just one preview button. There are a total of five physical buttons.
The Canon IXUS 310 HS's touchscreen is not very responsive but does the job well. Having a purely touchscreen-dependent user interface (UI) made it more difficult to navigate through the menu.
The UI is also not very intuitive. It took me a while before I could figure out how to go about erasing a captured image or changing the shutter setting in the shutter priority mode (TV).
Overall, the design of the Canon IXUS 310 HS is a mixed bag.
Canon IXUS 310 HS: Speed
The Canon IXUS 310 HS has decent shooting speeds but considering the price point at which the camera is selling, it could have been better. The IXUS 310 HS takes 1.4 seconds to power up and be ready for shooting.
Shot to shot performance was a little better than the IXUS 220 HS. It clocked around 4.7 seconds for capturing two back-to-back images, and with flash it took around 5.5 seconds. Shutter lag is minimal: the IXUS 310 HS takes just 0.1 to 0.2 seconds with pre-focus (touch-based) and 0.5 to 0.6 seconds without pre-focus, which is good.
Using the full-resolution continuous mode, the camera can shoot full resolution images at 2.3fps while the high speed burst mode can shoot at 7.33fps at 3Mp, which is just about average and lower than Canon's claims. Canon needs to improve the shooting speeds of their compact digital cameras considering the competition out there is fierce.
Canon IXUS 310 HS: Image and lens quality
What the Canon IXUS 310 HS lacks in speed, it makes up with good image quality, as our colleagues at PC World India discovered in their testing labs.
Images taken in daylight have very pleasing natural colours. They were adequately saturated and the details captured were really good. There was minimal chromatic aberration and absolutely no barrel distortion. The IXUS 310 HS lets you shoot subjects within 3cm in the macro mode and we managed to grab some great pictures with absolutely no loss of focus.
The automatic scene detection also works really well. A small disappointment is the 4.4x optical zoom. The IXUS 310 HS's aperture priority (AV) and shutter priority (TV) modes are a great addition to the feature set: combined with the superb f2.0 ultra-wide lens I managed to capture some great images. Don't go expecting miracles from the camera with these modes, but they worked well (if we don't compare it to the results you'd get with a DSLR).
Keeping in line with the IXUS HS series of cameras, the IXUS 310 HS captures some really good photographs in low light. We noticed considerably less noise in the captured images. But somehow we feel that the details captured with the Canon IXUS 220 HS were better. However, I would again like to reiterate that using a tripod will get you much better results.
The Image Stabilisation (IS) works like a charm and it detects every minor shake and reduces it to bare minimum. And the flash distance was also very good. But another major negative point was that many times, the zooming didn't feel smooth.
I was very impressed with the ISO test as we noticed noise creeping into the image only after ISO 800 just like the IXUS 220 HS. Two thumbs up!
Canon IXUS 310 HS: Video quality
The Canon IXUS 310 HS captures 1080p video at 1920X1080 resolution and 23 fps. Even though the camera captured really good details, I noticed overexposure in some places, and the whites looked a bit dull. Also 23fps video capture meant that there was jerking in the captured video. We can say that the video capture quality was just fair.
Canon IXUS 310 HS: Battery life
The camera has below-average battery life. On full charge, the camera produced only around 170-190 shots, which is very low and will be a major issue for those who need a good battery life.