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Design

The dimensions speak for themselves, I think it's sufficient to say the IXUS 300 is very small, not quite as small as the original Digital IXUS but still definitely pocketable.

This is one camera which has the "gadget factor" sorted out to a tee.. It has all the elements, a strong solid steel case (with that lovely brushed effect front) and has that tactile cool feeling every time you pick it up, ultra compact, completely "flat fronted" which gives it its perfect "box" proportions, well designed and very well built.

There are many nice touches around the body, the fully retracting lens with automatic lens cover, front "grip lip" and rear thumb indentation make it easy to hold, protruding mode dial is right under your thumb, as is the zoom controller.

Here's the IXUS 300 compared in size to Nikon's Coolpix 880, as you can see it's quite a bit smaller. Beside the supplied 8 MB Compact Flash card you can see just how small the IXUS 300 is. People who ever considered a digital camera had been disappointed by their slightly odd, bulky designs they really should come back and see what Canon have done with the Digital IXUS range, they're almost indistinguishable from their APS counterparts, very well built and ultimately desirable. It feels far more like a "camera" than a "computer accessory" (which many digital cameras can).

I've heard criticism that the IXUS design is hard to hold, Canon have added a small (and again, beautifully styled) lip on the front of the camera to hook your finger.. I had NO problems gripping the IXUS 300 despite its small proportions (then again I had no problem with last years Digital IXUS either).


Main LCD Display

Knowing they were onto a good thing Canon have used the same excellent 1.5" LCD they used on last years IXUS, it may be small but it's very bright, sharp and best of all has one of the best anti-reflective coatings I've seen on any digital camera. You may think it's too small to be useful, but hey, size isn't everything, this little LCD is far more useful than many of its larger counterparts.


Viewfinder

The viewfinder on the IXUS 300 is identical to that found on last year's Digital IXUS, it's relatively small with no parallax error lines, just a set of brackets to indicate the center of the frame / left and right focus points. There's also no dioptre adjustment. Me thinks you'll be using the rear LCD quite a bit...

The lights beside the viewfinder indicate:

Green Steady (top) Good AF Lock
Green Blinking (top) Compact Flash activity / camera busy
Orange Steady (top) Flash charged / will use flash
Orange Blinking (top) Shake warning
Yellow Steady (bottom) Macro focus mode


Battery Compartment

About the only way they could maintain the IXUS 300's small proportions it to implement a small Lithium-Ion battery, this pays off two fold, first of all it's considerably smaller than an equivalent power NiMH battery and secondly it's far lighter. The battery clips easily into place with a push and is removed by just pushing the brown clip to the left.. Couldn't be easier.


Battery Charger

New to the IXUS 300 is this rather trendy looking battery charger, the CB-2LSE, it replaces last years charger and is far neater, lighter and in-keeping with the overall feel and packaging of the 300. Simply push the battery into the charging bay, the LED on top of the charger will indicate red during charging and turn green once the battery is fully charged.

A full charge takes approx. 130 minutes.


Compact Flash compartment

About the only plastic component on the outside of the IXUS 300 is the Compact Flash door (along with the battery compartment door, above), spring loaded and opened by sliding a small catch downwards an indentation has been deliberately cut in the case to enable a longer-throw eject button which pushes the card at least half way out (indeed, on several occasions right out!).

Power and size constraints mean that the IXUS 300 doesn't support Type II CF cards, and thus doesn't support IBM's Microdrive. That said, the price of Type I CF cards are coming down month by month and you shouldn't have to pay more than $80 for a 64 MB card (something you'll probably have to consider as Canon only supply an 8 MB card with the camera).


Connections

Hidden behind a rubber (boo hiss) cover on the left side of the camera you'll find the AV out (yes, audio and video) and Canon's tiny "digital connector" which enables USB connectivity via the supplied cable.

It's a shame Canon couldn't come up with a neater solution to protecting these connectors, this is the only part of the camera which spoils its otherwise clean lines, perhaps next year they could sink the connectors in a little and have a small metallic covering door.


Lens

The biggest change from last years Digital IXUS is the 300 now features a 3x optical zoom lens (35 mm equiv. 35 - 105 mm, F2.7 - F4.7), bringing it in line with most other compact digital cameras (though relatively unique amongst ultra compact digital cameras). This lens is made to Canon's usual high standards, when retracted the lens section bezels form a metal ring with the automatic lens cover closed, extended the same metal bezels protect the lens from knocks.

Here's something refreshing, a lens which extends quickly, the IXUS 300 lens is extended and ready in just 1.1 seconds and takes the same amount of time to retract (compare this to nearly 3 seconds for most extending 3x optical zoom lenses, and most of those don't have automatic lens covers either), this adds up to fast startup times that may make the difference between getting "that shot" or not. To demonstrate we've provided a short MPEG-1 movie (with audio; 1 MB) of the lens extension and retraction.

 
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