File compression seems to vary much more widely than usual, with shots taken on the highest quality setting varying between 2.2MB and over 4.1MB, although the average was around 3.5MB, roughly what I’d expect from a 7MP camera. I have no idea why there should be such a wide variation, since the camera appears to use standard JPEG compression, but it does mean that the number of pictures you can fit on a memory card will vary greatly depending on what sort of pictures you take. However the camera seems to think that a 1GB card is enough for 322 shots, or just over eight minutes of video at the standard VGA 30fps setting.
As has been the case with some previous IXUS cameras, picture quality has many good points but also a few bad ones. Overall exposure and colour reproduction are never less than superb, with the multi-zone metering system coping easily with some very tricky shots. The level of fine detail is also very good, but the haphazard file compression produced visible artefacts on a number of pictures.
Canon lenses are usually very good, and this one produces good centre sharpness and very little barrel distortion at wide angle, but I have to say that corner sharpness could be a lot better. As I’ve mentioned, the camera copes very well in low light and the built-in flash is excellent, providing superb frame coverage and colour balance, and easily surpassing its listed 3.5m range.
Canon’s noise control system is usually very good, and the IXUS 70 is no exception. There is no visible noise from 80-200 ISO, only a slight amount at 400, and even at 800 and 1600 the noise reduction system greatly reduces visible colour distortion, although there is considerable loss of detail especially at the highest setting.
My main concern with regards to image quality is the surprisingly high level of purple fringing visible on many of my test shots. I know this is a common problem with many small compacts, but I would have expected better from such a sophisticated little camera as the IXUS 70.
The Canon Digital IXUS 70 is a wonderfully stylish ultra-compact which offers lightning-quick performance, outstanding low-light ability and a useful range of features. Value for money is also surprisingly good for what is usually an expensive brand. Its picture quality isn’t perfect, but it can produce good results under difficult circumstances. For social photography and holiday snaps it will not often disappoint.