As I mentioned in my review of the PowerShot A710 IS last week, Canon launch a lot of new models every year, but even so I was astonished to learn that since it’s inception in June 2000 there have been no fewer than 27 different cameras in the Canon Digital IXUS range. What’s even more remarkable is that for the last six years, those 27 models have pretty much defined the market standard of ultra-compact digital cameras. They have consistently managed to combine stylish design, superior build quality, exceptional performance and cutting edge technology with ease of use and superb picture quality. Of course those advantages come at a price, and the Digital IXUS range has always been expensive compared to its market competitors.
Take this IXUS 850 IS for example. Launched just last month in time for the Photokina camera show, it’s a 7.1 megapixel ultra-compact with a 3.8x optical zoom lens and a 2.5in monitor, which would put it on the same shelf in the camera shop as cameras like the Pentax Optio T7 (£199), the Casio Exilim EX-Z70 (£179), the Sony DSC-W70 (£164) or the Olympus mju 700 (£163).
However the IXUS 850 has a list price of a whopping £369.99, and even shopping around on the internet you won’t find it for less than £262.50, making it nearly £100 more expensive than some of its direct competition.
So is it worth the price? Well, it certainly looks as though it should be. Like most Canon cameras the IXUS 850 is very well made. It has a tough all-metal body in a stylish two-tone semi-matt metallic colour with chrome details. It seems to have some sort of clear lacquer finish which resists scratches, so it should stay looking good for longer.
The body is rounded with no protruding edges. The lens retracts flush with the body, and all the controls are smoothed off, so there’s nothing to snag on your clothing. Measuring 89.5 x 58.0 x 25.1mm the IXUS 850 is certainly small enough to fit in a pocket, although weighing a hefty 150g without battery or card you’ll certainly know you’re carrying it.
There’s no denying that it’s a very pretty little camera, but it’s also surprisingly solid and comfortable to use. The controls are large, easy to operate and clearly labelled, and the main mode switch on the top right of the back panel doubles as a thumb rest, providing a very secure grip.
The IXUS 850 is designed as a snapshot camera for social use, so its controls and main options are fairly simple and straightforward. This is fortunate, because as usual Canon has neglected to include a full printed manual, opting instead for a printed 32-page basic guide with the full manual included on a CD. They say that you can always print it out yourself if you want, but if I was paying £370 for a camera I’d expect someone to have gone to that trouble for me.