The control layout is similar to most of the other recent IXUS models, with large and clearly-labelled buttons, a simple round D-pad and a slider switch to select shooting, video or playback mode. The zoom control is a rotary bezel around the shutter button, which I far prefer to the rocker-switch type used by some manufacturers. The optical viewfinder is useful for conserving battery life, but like most viewfinders on ultra-compact cameras it is very small and a bit awkward to use, especially if you wear glasses. However its position directly over the lens at least reduces horizontal parallax problems. The LCD monitor is superb though; it is bright and sharp with good contrast, an effective anti-glare coating and an exceptionally wide angle of view, wide enough to use while holding the camera above your head for shooting over crowds.
In terms of features the IXUS 85 IS doesn’t have anything we haven’t seen before on other cameras in the same range. It’s a relatively simple point-and-shoot model with two basic shooting modes, one fully automatic and the other allowing some user input, but only to the extent of exposure compensation, white balance, ISO and colour mode via the function menu. Some further options are available in the main menu, but these are also quite limited. It has Canon’s 9-point AiAF autofocus system, which is good for most subjects but is easily confused by foreground detail, but it also has face detection for portraits and centre-zone AF with two different frame sizes for trickier subjects.
The IXUS 85 IS is equipped with optical image stabilisation, and as usual Canon’s system works very well, providing a consistent three stops of additional hand-held stability. To be honest IS isn’t as useful on a 3x zoom compact as it is on a camera with greater telephoto range, but it doesn’t do any harm either. Another useful feature is in-camera red-eye correction in playback mode, which also works very well.