Can Canon’s latest ultra-compact IXUS 870 IS regain the market lead?
Having recently lost its long-held lead in the European compact camera market to Panasonic, and with stiff competition from Sony and Samsung, Canon is fighting back with some impressive new Autumn/Winter models, including this 10-megapixel, 4x zoom ultra-compact IXUS 870 IS. It succeeds the popular IXUS 860 IS which was launched at about the same time last year.
The 870 IS is a very attractively designed camera with a strong half-metal, half-plastic body, and is available in either gold or silver and black. It is a very compact design, measuring 93.8 x 56.8 x 23.6mm, and it is quite heavy for its size, weighing approximately 180g including battery and memory card. As a result the camera feels very solidly made and reassuringly expensive. Build quality is up to Canon’s usual high standard, and the fit and finish is excellent.
The control layout is somewhat unusual, with a curved row of large angular buttons on the back that have no space between them. This looks distinctive and stylish, but it leaves little room to grip the camera without accidentally pressing the buttons. Mode selection is via a rotating ring around the D-pad, and this too is quite fiddly and very easy to accidentally jog while shooting.
The camera’s overall performance is excellent, starting up in just over a second, with a 1.8-second shot-to-shot time in single-shot mode, and a continuous shooting speed of one frame every 0.7 seconds. Autofocus is fast and accurate, and low light focusing is also very good, although the flash is a bit underpowered leaving the corners of the frame looking a bit dark. The claimed range of 4.2m is optimistic, but it is well metered and doesn’t overpower close-range subjects.
As a point-and-shoot compact the 870 IS doesn’t have a lot of features, but those it does have work well. The optical image stabilisation is superb, and the face detection system is also very good. This is used in the 870’s one unusual feature, the Face Self-timer function. This is a clever and useful feature for social photography. If you want to take a self-timer group portrait, it detects the faces of your group, and then waits until it detects that a new face is added when you move in front of the camera to join the group. It waits a further two seconds and then takes three shots in a row. It’s simple, ingenious and works very well.
The LCD monitor is also particularly good, sharp and bright with an anti-glare coating and a very wide viewing angle of almost 180 degrees, which is great for overhead shooting.
Image quality is excellent, with plenty of detail, very low image compression, superb colour rendition and Canon’s usual excellent noise control. Shots at 80-200 ISO are noise-free, and it produces usable shots even at its maximum ISO setting of 1600.
A well made and attractive camera with excellent performance, useful zoom range, outstandingly good LCD monitor and superb image quality. A little light on features, but the only real downsides are its slightly awkward handling and the relatively high price.