When I was at school, there was a guy in my year who had every natural advantage. He was tall, blonde, blue-eyed and handsome, came from a wealthy and well-connected family, was captain of cricket and rugby, got straight A's in his O-levels, did something like five A-levels and got A's in those too, and was on the fast track for Oxbridge. Like everyone else I really wanted to hate him for being a smug over-achieving git, but in fact he was also a really nice and likeable guy. Call me weird if you will, but the top models in Canon IXUS range of digital compacts often remind me of him.
Take this 12.1-megapixel IXUS 960 IS for instance. Sure, at around £240 it's pretty expensive, but it has a titanium body, a 3.7x zoom lens with optical image stabilisation, a 2.5-inch 230k monitor and an optical viewfinder. At the same time it is simple to operate, a pleasure to use and takes fantastic pictures. I really want to find something negative to say about it so this review doesn't turn into the kind of hagiography to the almighty Canon seen all to often in camera reviews, but dammit there's just no getting away from the fact that the IXUS 960 IS is a really nice and likeable camera.
There aren't many other cameras that can stand in direct comparison to the 960 IS. Other high-spec 12MP compacts such as the Pentax Optio A40 (£190), Nikon CoolPix S700 (£200), Fuji FinePix F50fd (£145), Panasonic Lumix FX100 (£175), Sony Cyber-shot W200 (£165) and Casio Exilim Z1200 (£160) are all a lot cheaper, and all of them lack one or more of the Canon's features as well as its overwhelming air of quality. But that's OK, you wouldn't compare a Bentley Continental with a Nissan Primera anyway. And that of course is the key; the triple-digit models in Canon's IXUS range are luxury products, and some people are willing (and able) to pay a bit more to get the very best.
The sheer quality of the IXUS 960 IS is apparent as soon as you open the box. The matt grey finish of the titanium body looks fantastic, and the camera feels immensely solid and sturdy. Titanium is lighter and stronger than steel, but even so the 960 isn't a particularly light camera, weighing 165g without the battery. It's also not particularly small, measuring 95.9 x 59.9 x 27.6mm, larger than any of its main rivals. Still, it is small and light enough to slip into in a pocket for a night out and won't take up much room in your holiday luggage.