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a new camera: Canon Ixus 220 HS

Technology, — June 2012

I've just acquired my third digital camera, a Canon Ixus 220 HS (aka Elph 300 HS in the US). Comparing this with my first digital camera, a Canon Powershot S330 bought almost exactly a decade ago, provides a nice illustration of how much camera technology has improved.

First of all, I should make it clear that the new camera is not going to be replacing my Olympus E-1, a sophisticated if now aging DSLR which I will continue to use for serious photography. The Ixus intended as a "carry everywhere" camera, which will live in my backpack and allow for more impromptu photography.

The DP Review side-by-side comparison has a full table of differences. They key advantages of the new camera for me:

  • it has a little over half the weight and half the volume, making it an easy, comfortable fit in a pocket rather than an awkward one
  • it is vastly more responsive, refreshing and focusing and imaging fast enough to feel quite immediate, where the older camera had a distinct delay (though zooming is still extremely stodgy compared with the SLR)
  • it has a 24-120 (equivalent) lens instead of 35-105 - this is actually wider than any of my SLR lenses go
  • it goes to ISO 3200 instead of ISO 400 and has an image stablised lens, making indoor photography without a flash quite practical
  • it has a 2.7" screen instead of a 1.5" one, which is better for framing as well as playback (the older camera also had an optical viewfinder, but I never used it)
  • it takes 4000x3000 (12 megapixel) images instead of 1600x1200 (2 megapixel) ones

But the biggest difference is probably in the video capability. The S330 could do video, but only just - short, low resolution clips with dinky sound and no zoom. The Ixus 220 does full 1080p video, at 24fps, or 720p at 30fps, in clips up to 10 minutes in length, with surprisingly good stereo sound. And a smooth zoom and the image stablisation make a big difference for practical video quality.

Another big difference: the Powershot S330 cost me $900 (Australian) back in 2002, while the Ixus 220 HS was only £120!

I'll write more about the new camera once I have some more experience with it.

Update April 2014: Generally I've continued to be happy with this camera, and the vast bulk of the first year's baby photos have been taken with it. I love having the 24mm wide-angle, the video works nicely, and the auto white balance and exposure are pretty good (when I keep it at -2/3 stop).

Some problems:

  • macrophotography just doesn't work: the camera will focus on (say) a flower, with a green square indicating focus lock, but the actual photographs that result have the background in focus instead. (I suspect there's something wrong with my camera in particular, as this doesn't seem to be a general problem with this model.)
  • it's noticeably less sharp when zoomed in.


  1. Hey Danny, thanks for researching my new camera for me! I know you will have done the work so I'll just skip the investigation phase. Your feature summary sounds good and you match my rationale with 24 mm equiv wide angle a clincher for me. My current old Olympus is sluggish and has been lost for a week or so but I'll skip the search. Cheers.

    Comment by Jim Birch — June 2012
  2. Glad you found that useful, Jim! The other camera I considered was the Canon S100, which is kind of a "pro compact". But that was considerably more expensive and not as portable. And being able to set aperture or shutter speed with such a small sensor (and focal length) didn't seem terribly useful.

    Comment by danny — June 2012
  3. It begs the question: could you not wait a little longer and buy it duty / tax free because you have visitors calling soon?

    I am not into serious photography, but I had been on outings with people who owned Hasselblads ( roll-your-own film days ). I loved to hear the clicking of a Hasselblad shutter. I had some studio shots taken with a Mamiya back in 1978. The image is so sharp that I could read the time on my wristwatch.

    Comment by DL — June 2012
  4. BTW, I ended up with the 240 HS. I couldn't get the 220 online from an Australian site. This model is about the same photographically but has a touch screen. This is a mixed blessing. Also, a bit more expensive. Still, I like it. The wide angle lens is good as expected. The low light capability is great - less flashed photos.

    Comment by Jim Birch — July 2013
  5. […] but it's still going strong; I love using it and it takes fantastic photographs (much nicer than my Canon point-and-shoot). The downside is that, with the standard 14-54 zoom, it weighs over 1.2kg and is pretty chunky; […]

    Pingback by a new camera? - Oxford Blog — April 2014

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