The IXUS 115 HS feels robust when gripped thanks to the proportion of metal in the build. It weighs a very portable 140g, and with a width an almost exact match for a credit card it will slip into a top pocket without any problem. Official dimensions are a svelte 93.1x55.8x19.9mm, and we had the subtly stylish battleship grey variety in for review, one of four colour options.
Once again though, like previous generations of the digital IXUS, in being enslaved to the need for compactness there's nothing resembling a hand grip here. We just get the rough feel Canon logo preventing fingertips from sliding about at the front, while your thumb is left to slide around over the controls on the back. Thankfully the compact size makes one-handed operation manageable, especially if you opt for the safety net of a wrist strap.
On the IXUS 115 HS' top plate a simple slider switch allows users to alternate between standard Smart Auto mode, which compares the scene or subject before the lens with 32 on-board presets and selects the most fitting for optimal results, and Program Auto.
As on the IXUS 220 HS and 310 HS, with the latter mode selected further manual options are available via the 'func/set' button in the right hand middle of the camera's backplate. In standard Auto mode there's just the option to select the camera's self timer, alter the photo aspect ratio from the default 4:3 to 16:9, 3.2 or 1:1 aspect ratio, and adjust image quality for both stills and video. But in Program Auto mode you get three metering options (evaluative, centre weighted and spot), 11 'My Colors' options, white balance, ISO speeds (ISO100-3200), and single shot or continuous shooting mode. If you tab down and select the 'P' for Program icon, the shooting mode options also open up further.
As on the 310 and 220 HS models there's an esoteric Movie Digest mode, which records a short four second video burst at the point a still image is taken and then automatically stitches these clips together to form a little standalone movie, as Canon claims, telling the backstory of your day's shooting.
Also available are dedicated scene modes for photographing children and pets, a smart shutter mode that uses face detection to take shots automatically, high speed burst mode (8.2 fps, with a resolution drop to three megapixels) and best image selection (with resolution drop again), handheld night scene, low light mode, plus aforementioned digital effects including fisheye, miniature (for stills as well as video), toy camera, monochrome, super vivid, and faded poster effect. Furthermore individual colours can be highlighted and swapped. We then get individual scene modes covering beach photography, underwater snaps (there are a couple of waterproof case options available for the IXUS), foliage, snow, fireworks, more unusually for an 'auto everything' camera a long exposure mode for dark subjects, plus two stitch assist modes for shooting panoramas (panning left to right and vice versa).
The last among this list of shooting options is the Slow Motion movie mode which allows 240fps capture at an email friendly 320x240 pixels, replayed at an eighth of the actual speed for that walking through treacle effect, or standard definition 640x480 pixels clips at 120fps, which are then replayed at a quarter of the actual speed. All-in-all a more versatile array of features than one would expect to find on a Â£150 pocket snapper.
Furthermore, ranged around the familiar backplate control pad, that on the IXUS 115 HS is getting close to being a little too small for comfort, are a means of adjusting exposure compensation (a modest +/- 2EV), flash and display settings and adjusting focus between infinity and macro settings. That's if the camera is in Program mode. If you've opted for Smart Auto instead, the focus point is obviously decided by the camera and pressing the exposure comp option calls up an AF tracking point instead for those who want to maintain focus on a moving subject - for example children or pets who won't stay still.