The DIGITAL IXUS 300 (PowerShot S300) had probably one of the more distinctive, yet more "APS like" body designs. In the progression to the IXUS 330 (S330) Canon has been careful not to break what is overall a very good design. Instead they have refined it, the front is cleaner with a now continuous metal front. Gone is the finger grip, but then it didn't do very much in the first place.
Around at the back of the camera we get a new sculpted thumb grip and improved controls which include larger buttons and the new 4-way controller (a big improvement). One trade-off you have to consider with this lovely steel case is that it does have a habit of showing finger prints, especially the non-brushed areas of the case and the chromed Canon badge.
The IXUS 330 has some of the highest build quality of any digital camera out there, in your hand it feels reassuringly brick-like there are no rattles or creaks and it's surprisingly heavy for its size. Put the camera down on a table and you get a loud, solid, thunk. It's camera that feels as though it can be just thrown into your bag or jacket pocket without a single worry.
Side by side
Below you can see the IXUS 330 beside its (about $20 cheaper) Nikon competition, the new Coolpix 2500. Both of these cameras have: two megapixels, three times optical zoom lens, Compact Flash Type I storage, a 1.5" LCD monitor, a supplied Lithium-Ion battery and covered lenses. The primary differences are: the Coolpix 2500 is longer, the Coolpix 2500 features a twisting lens system (very nice), the IXUS 330 has an all metal case (Coolpix 2500 is plastic), the IXUS 330 has a viewfinder, the IXUS 330 has a matured 'third generation' feature set (selectable ISO, 3-point AF, manual long exposures, histogram display etc.)
In your hand
In your hand the IXUS 330 is surprisingly comfortable, the recessed thumb grip on the rear of the camera more than compensates for the lack of a front hand grip. The camera feels weighty but balanced and the shutter release and zoom controls are located well for easy access.
The IXUS 330 has the same excellent 1.5" 118,000 pixel LCD monitor we first saw on the DIGITAL IXUS (S100). The LCD screen itself has an anti-reflective coating and the display is clear, detailed and very bright (easy to use in almost any light situation). My only concern could be that the screen doesn't have a thick protective cover which could leave it open to the occasional knock.
As we see in all compact and ultra-compact digital cameras, the IXUS 330 has an "optical tunnel" viewfinder (my phrase for a narrow, distorted view). There are two brackets visible through the viewfinder but these clearly do not correspond to the outer edges of the three AF points. There are also no parallax error lines (to help correct misalignment at near subject distances) nor a dioptre adjustment.
The lights beside the viewfinder indicate:
|Green Steady||AF Lock (ready to shoot)|
|Green Blinking Quickly||Camera startup / CF activity / USB activity|
|Orange||AF Lock (ready to shoot) - flash on|
|Flashing Orange||AF Lock (ready to shoot) - low light warning|
|Yellow||Macro mode / Infinity mode / AF-Lock|
|Flashing Yellow||AF can not lock (no focus)|