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Canon IXUS 310 HS

Small, mirrorless, interchangeable-lens cameras may be all the rage nowadays, but there's still a place in the world for tiny, cheap, simple cameras. Enter Canon's latest IXUS, the 310 HS.

Tiny? You betcha. It fits in a back pocket with ease. Our unit came in pink, which made us want to hide it in our back pocket permanently, but no doubt, the target market will adore the paint job (it comes in brown and silver, too).

The back is devoid of buttons (except for the playback button) because this camera is one of those fancy, new touchscreen numbers. The as-big-as-possible 3.2-inch screen works to eliminate the button bonanza found on many cameras, but the touchscreen does take some getting used to. On the plus side, you can tap on objects and people on the screen to focus on them. On the minus side, the touchscreen controls aren't as buttery smooth as, say, an iPad's. Thankfully, this is a point-and-shoot camera, so you won't be digging into menus too often, but it can be a chore to swipe through recent shots.

Cheap? Not exactly, as the Canon IXUS 310 HS is in the higher end of the compact-camera spectrum, putting it squarely against competitors like the Panasonic LX5. But at P19,950 (SRP), it's still well within reach. And you do get a lot of value with the camera. Besides the sleek design, the quality is more than your usual compact camera. More on that later, though…

Simple? It doesn't get any simpler. Power up the camera and it's instantly on, faster than you can say "IXUS 310 HS!" Simply select a shooting mode, and you're ready to rock. There are plenty of shooting modes to choose from, too. Program mode will suffice for virtually all situations. There are also many fun modes thrown in, like the fisheye and miniature modes. It does a pretty good job of aping these lenses/lens systems, and the modes are oodles of fun.

FYI, the camera is fast. We had dozens of shots within seconds of turning the thing on. This is the Canon IXUS 310 HS's strongest suit. You just turn it on and take photos. The camera focuses immediately and you're ready for your next shot.

Of course, image quality is what makes or breaks any camera, and here, the IXUS 310 HS is no slouch. Resolution is at 12.1 megapixels, and mostly, the lens manages to deliver sharp photos in bright situations. Colors are vibrant and pleasing, a strong suit of Canon, but not gimmicky. For super saturated colors, you can turn to another one of the new modes, Toy Camera mode or Super Vivid mode. These modes are really a blast.

Canon makes a big deal about the maximum aperture of f2.0, which allows you to shoot photos with blurry backgrounds (aka bokeh), just like the pros. We managed to pull this off without much fuss.

This is a compact camera, make no mistake about it. By virtue of its small sensor, it has trouble in dark situations, no matter how high you crank the ISO. Shots are often blurry or noisy or both. Canon has tried to improve matters with a "high sensitivity" sensor (that's the "HS" in "IXUS 310 HS"). Compared to other compacts, the HS sensor makes things a smidgen better, but it's still no match for SLRs or even mirrorless cameras.

To be fair, you'll get the shot off, whereas you may never achieve focus on a lesser compact, and in some situations, say with a tripod, the results may even be good. But this is not a camera for the dark. Again, to be fair, no compact is. The "high sensitivity" is more of a boon in brighter situations, which is no doubt the reason for its speed and responsiveness, which we mentioned above.

Turning on the flash helps a bit, but the flash isn't very strong and will fail to light truly dark places completely or very far.

All told, you get above-average compact-camera performance from the IXUS 310 HS. Canon's IXUS line has long been the go-to place for affordable, high-quality compact cameras, and the IXUS 310 HS is no exception. Its powers to shoot in the dark may be a stretch from what is advertised, but the camera nevertheless comes highly recommended. It's a tiny, affordable, simple, fun, and responsive camera to use. What more do you want from a compact?

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