As you'd be right to expect for such an inflated price, the build quality is superb and the overall design is stylish but functional. The body is all aluminium, and is available in either the rugged matt black seen here or in a sandblasted silver, glossy white or high gloss red finish. I've criticised some previous IXUS cameras for being slippery and difficult to hold, but the high-friction surface of the matt black version provides a very secure grip. Will the same be true of the red and white versions?
The shape of the body is quite complex, with both rounded and bevelled edges, but it has no protrusions and slips easily into a shirt pocket. It's quite small, measuring 100 x 54.1 x 23.6mm, although at 175g including battery and card it is quite heavy for its size. My only real criticism of the design is that the rounded shape and very small bottom panel make it tricky to balance the camera on a surface for self-timer shots.
The control layout is very simple and elegant. The top panel carries the shutter button with a rotary bezel for zoom control, the on/off button and a three-position slider switch to select video, standard shooting or easy auto modes. On the back there are only two buttons, one for the main menu and the other for playback mode, and a D-pad with a central function button and a rotating bezel. This is used to navigate the very attractively designed sidebar menu that controls all of the camera's main shooting options, of which there are plenty.
Unusually for a pocket compact the IXUS 300 HS offers aperture priority and shutter priority shooting modes, as well as the usual program auto. It also has a wide range of scene modes and colour effects, and some fun filters, such as fish-eye effect and a “miniature” effect, previously seen on the PowerShot SX210 IS (and shamelessly nicked from the Ricoh CX3).
One stand-out feature is the video mode, which can shoot in 720p HD with stereo sound and full optical zoom. In video mode the zoom action slows down, making it quieter and smoother. Since the 300 HS has a CMOS sensor I was expecting it to suffer from the infamous “Jello effect” when shooting video, but it appears to avoid it somehow. It also has a high speed video mode which shoots at 240fps but plays back at 30fps, for an 8x slow motion effect.