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Canon IXUS 300 HS - Performance and Results

By Cliff Smith


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Review Price £230.82

Canon isn't the first manufacturer to use a back-illuminated CMOS sensor; as usual that honour falls to Ricoh. In conventional sensors the wires connecting to the photocells run over the front of the chip, partly obscuring the light falling on it. In a back-illuminated sensor the wires come in from underneath, allowing more light through and improving low-light performance. The sensor has innately fast performance, which when combined with Canon's high-speed DIGIC 4 processor gives the 300 HS some impressive performance figures.

Canon IXUS 300 HS top

It starts up in approximately two seconds, and in single-shot mode it has a shot-to-shot time of approximately 2.3 seconds, which is actually not that fast, but it is the continuous shooting modes which excel. It can maintain 3.7 shots a second at full 10MP resolution, or 8.4 shots a second in the 2.5MP high-speed continuous mode. However it's worth noting that the Ricoh CX3 can beat it soundly on all counts and costs £80 less.

The main reason the single-shot shooting speed isn't as fast as expected is that the autofocus system isn't anywhere near as fast as I'd usually expect from a Canon camera. It takes almost a second to focus even in good light, and in low light it does appear to pause briefly before activating the AF assist lamp. Focusing is reliable and accurate though, even in low light, and the AF assist lamp has a range of several metres.

The f/2 lens does provide some advantage in low light shooting, but it's not as great as you might hope. It's only a one-stop advantage over the IXUS 110 IS, and it's only f/2 at the widest zoom setting. The aperture drops very quickly as soon as you zoom in, with a maximum of f/5.3 at full zoom, which is not much faster than most other comparable compacts.

Canon IXUS 300 HS battery

The lens does produce good edge-to-edge sharpness though, with minimal wide-angle distortion. There is a little chromatic aberration visible at the corners of the frame, but it's not too obtrusive. The overall level of detail is very good for a 10MP compact, although it's not as good as Canon's own PowerShot S90. With a file size of around 3MB the compression is a bit higher than I would have expected, but overall image quality is very good, with superb colour rendition, flawless exposure and excellent dynamic range thanks to the advanced sensor design, especially with the i-Contrast feature enabled. Noise control is also exceptionally good, with virtually no visible noise at 800 ISO and usable images even at the maximum 3200 ISO, which is a remarkable performance for a small-sensor compact.


The IXUS 300 HS is a very good camera, with a nice easy-to use controls, a good range of features, decent performance and excellent image quality, especially at higher ISO settings. Build quality and handling are very good, and the design looks stylish and contemporary. However it doesn't offer any decisive advantage over cheaper products from rival manufacturers, or even some of Canon's own other models, and the ludicrously high price is a major disincentive. If it comes down to around £250 you can add another point to the overall score.

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June 7, 2010, 9:32 pm

Isn't this camera basically the S90 without the ability to shoot RAW?

Tony Walker

June 8, 2010, 3:03 am

The very excellent (I bought one!) Panasonic TZ7 can now be had for under £200 which has to be a stonking bargain for a camera which would probably equal or better this one for image quality.


June 8, 2010, 3:27 am

How does the reader interpret the image quality score of 9 for 300 HS vs for thirds vs dslr aps sensor equipped products? Would be useful, in my opinion, to get a relative image score (against other compacts in its class) & also an absolute image quality score.

For example, does the Canon EOS 550D and Canon IXUS 300 HS (both score 9) have identical image quality if you review the output without regard for the device?

The image quality score interpretation will become even more confusing as future cameras do not fit comfortably into the existing categories, e.g. Sony NEX-5.


June 8, 2010, 2:53 pm

GerryD: IMO it would be impossible to have an "absolute" score for image quality; it can only be relative. For example if you were to use digital medium format cameras costing many thousands of pounds as the standard, then even the highest-end full-frame dSLRs would end up with a relatively average IQ score - which would hardly be fair.

Mike 39

June 8, 2010, 3:50 pm

Your review makes for interesting reading. I was looking forward to this review with anticipation, especially as it's the 1st compact Canon have used a CMOS sensor in so was expecting good things. I was disappointed to read the auto focus feature on this model as being 'sluggish' in low light conditions, as this is partly what this model was hailed as by Canon.AlsoI feel ( probably as will most member of the public who are interested in purchasing a compact), that the price this has debued at is just too high to be competative at present.I also feel Canon could have made the zoom more versatile, i.e. zooming in more than 3.8x, the wide angle bit is probably about right to avoid barrel distortion. Maybe they'll introduce a DIGIC 5 processor?!to speed opeartion up. I think these are my main bones of contention and until Canon improve on the overall perfromance of this camera, my money stays where it is! Come on Canon, i want to buy an IXUS with CMOS sensor as they're good, but just no way at this price for that tech spec!

Basil Speaks

June 11, 2010, 7:53 pm

"Isn't this camera basically the S90 without the ability to shoot RAW?"

While I can see why you might think that, it's not. The manual controls aren't as extensive or as accessible as on the S90 and this has HD video as well as a host of other modes made for the ixus user over more technical users. The sensors are also different, this is CMOS (like in SLRs), the S90 is a special CCD made for low light scenarios. Basically - this is for everyone (all be it a rich everyone), the S90 is more prosumer in my opinion.

Having used this out and about, it's stonking at low-light shots.

I've got an S90 and was very interested to see how the CMOS would work out in comparison and it does a great job. Easily one of the best low-light performers I've seen. Yes, it's expensive, but Canon always put a crazy entry price then slash it after not long at all.

I didn't get any lag with focus to be honest though did most of my shooting in a restaurant, so my tests weren't rigorous. It was just great having a pocketable, reasonable megapixeled camera that handles low-light and has stereo HD video. I really liked the size as well - MUCH more pocketable than my S90.

Oh, and having had a TZ7 before - yes, £200 is a good price for it, but this delivers MONUMENTALLY better low-light performance and I found it quite a bit zippier too.

dave 2

August 11, 2010, 11:14 pm

I have had this a month now and found it a excellent point and shoot with just enough to temp you into photography. I think it is awesome for the size. Lacks in the optical Zoom but has everything else, good low light performance and HS means exactly that it is fast. I have never been so excited after buying a product as i have this. I am now looking at photography totally in a differnet way. and have started playing with all the settings. Never been bothered before. This has made me want to get a Super-Zoom camera or even a beginners DSLR. :)

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