Design wise, in its chocolate brown incarnation the IXUS 310 HS looks good enough to eat. Curved edges and bulging face plate disguise what would otherwise be boxy dimensions and make it look almost engorged (clearly it's been indulging in a bit of cannibalism – Ed.). For those looking for the best fit for a pocket, it's marginally wider than the slim-line Panasonic FX77, though near identical in width and height. Neither is ultra-compact but should comfortably sit in most trouser or jacket pockets. Canon claims the body is fashioned from stainless steel, but you wouldn't immediately know it. Though it is indeed robust when gripped in the palm, it pulls off the trick of feeling lightweight at the same time.
If we've one immediate design grumble it's that, once again, there's no definitive hand grip on this IXUS - fingers tend to slide about its smooth front plate as you wrestle to keep a steady grip. There is a slight rasied edge on the rear of the camera to give your thumb some purchase but it's a fairly token effort. Also the thumb tends to slide onto the top right hand corner of the touch screen itself, where Canon has located its virtual video record button. So, a couple of times we would find ourselves capturing bursts of video when a still image was what we sought.
As this camera is an exercise in minimalist design, the top plate buttons are well blended with the bodywork. Set level with the surface is the largest control here, the shutter release button, being ergonomically encircled by the lever for operating the zoom, the merest of raised lips at the front just providing enough purchase for the forefinger. Next to this is a lozenge shaped on/off button, and adjacent to this, a slider switch for swapping between Smart Auto capture and Program Auto, or whichever of the extended shooting modes happens to be in play at the time.
This being an IXUS, we also get the ability to adjust colour tones via the familiar 'My Colors' settings, and furthermore, tucked away beyond the shooting modes, Canon has packed a range of digital effects into the 310 HS that to an extent take inspiration from the 'creative studio in a box' Art Filters and Magic Filters of the Olympus Pen and Tough compacts. These are located with the rest of the main shooting mode icons represented by cartoonish icons of up to six on-screen at once, tabbed through with the aid of left and right arrow keys; the one in use at the time displayed in the top left hand corner of the screen.
Said effects consist of the usual fisheye and pinhole camera style effects, plus a super vivid setting which is Pop Art by another name, and Monochrome for those who want to inject an artistic moodiness, plus our favourite of the miniature effect, which apes the result from a specialist tilt and shift lens, narrowing the portion of the image in focus to give the illusion that you're looking at a photograph of a model rather than an actual building. This can be applied to video clips as well as stills and at 1.5, three or six frames per second to provide a time-lapse movie style effect, thus extending the camera's creative uses.