The latest touch screen pocket camera to enter our lives is the Canon IXUS 310 HS. It boasts a 3.2-inch, 461k dot resolution LCD screen swallowing up almost the entirety of its rear plate which lends it a certain wow factor. This is used as a viewfinder, review screen and operational tool, and its implementation distracts somewhat from otherwise modest headline specifications: namely a top stills resolution of 12.1 megapixels, plus standard fare 4.4x optical zoom.
Close competition comes from Panasonic's own latest touch screen compact in the Lumix DMC-FX77, identical in resolution and matching the Canon's lens at wide angle, with both starting out at an impressively wide 24mm (in 35mm film terms), though the Panasonic extends to 120mm compared to the 105mm on the IXUS 310. So neither quite extends far enough to be a true super or travel zoom compact - look to the Canon SX220 HS or its rival's own TZ20 for an expanded focal range - but both cameras have an identically slightly high but still reasonable street price of £250, making it hard to choose between them.
For those who want to deactivate the built-in flash for more natural results, the lens does slightly stand out from the snapshot crowd by offering a bright f/2.0 maximum aperture. Further suitability for low light shooting is suggested by a 1/2.3-inch back illuminated CMOS sensor, plus a light sensitivity range topping out at ISO3200. Details such as these in part justify Canon sticking the 'HS' suffix on the end of the model name, standing as it does for 'High Sensitivity'.
Added support for low light and telephoto shooters comes via the fact that the lens is optically stabilised to prevent camera shake, the equivalent its maker suggests of four extra f-stops. Additionally there's a dedicated Low Light mode denoted by the candle icon, the caveat being resolution drops down to 3 megapixels. For action shooters there's the ability to capture up to 3.4 JPEGs per second at maximum 12.1 megapixel resolution, or push speed and lose resolution, shooting up to 8.2 fps with a drop down to three megapixels.
Full HD 1920x1080 video is on the cards but we don't get a dedicated video record button here as on its Panasonic rival. Canon has at least borrowed a trick from Sony touch screen Cybershots in featuring a virtual red record button on the LCD screen. Press this and the screen display elongates to fill the 16:9 format screen to more closely ape how footage will appear when replayed on a flat panel TV. Otherwise, if you're shooting stills in standard 4:3 aspect ratio, black bands crop the screen left and right.
Fortunately the full extent of the optical zoom can be utilised when shooting video - though it's much slower to move through its range when in video as opposed to stills capture mode - and there's the bonus here of stereo sound, with a microphone placed either side of the lens at the front. This inevitably means that the sound of the lens making its adjustments is recorded too, despite the slow movement. You'll also find movements of the user's fingers about the faceplate are captured so you'll need to move carefully in quieter enviroments to keep from ruining your footage. A mini HDMI connection also features alongside standard AV and USB 2.0 output. And, like Casio Exilim models, there's a slow motion movie option on this Canon, with the ability to shoot at 640x480 pixels at 120fps or 320x240 at 240fps, which are then replayed at 30fps.