[frame][/frame]Last month saw the world's best selling gadget magazine - Stuff - host it's annual gadget awards ceremony for 2011 at the Globe Theatre in London, and I was lucky enough to be there as a guest of camera manufacturer Canon. This was partly to enjoy the evening (with entertainment provided by Angelos Epithemiou) but also to test drive their new compact camera, the Ixus 220 HS in the tricky low light environment around the ceremony dinner.
The camera itself is extremely compact and nice in the hand and not too slippy for such a sleek body, start-up time is quick and AF is nippy enough for this price bracket and it has all the features you'd expect:
Full-HD video capture
Stainless steel body
5x optical zoom
Equivalent focal length of 24-120mm
What the Ixus 220 HS does have that makes it a bit more fun to use is a number of preset shooting modes that reflect modern trends for image making. There is a 'Toy Camera' setting which will produce saturated, vignetted images akin to a Lomo - a trend boosted by a number of smartphone apps that do similar things such as Instagram and Hipstamatic. It also features a 'Tilt-Shift' preset which will imitate a proper tilt-shift lens with pretty effective results, giving you the miniaturised look without the usual effort. The other presets are perhaps less impressive but they include a 'Fish-Eye' setting, 'Monochrome', 'Colour Accent', 'Colour Swap', 'Poster' and 'Super Vivid'. The colour swap feature is worth a mention thoug h despite being a little gimmicky, it is clever. The other presets are things you're more likely to want to do in your post-processing software if you have any rather than let the camera decide.
Elsewhere, there are a nice number of options available for those that like to take more control. You can alter a series of options using Program mode, including: drive mode, metering, colour, white balance, ISO and self timer, which again, is pretty impressive in a budget compact and sets it aside from some of its rivals.
As for the video, there are 2 tiny microphones on the front of the camera which allow it to record a decent stereo soundtrack over its HD video, but the microphones are easily covered by stray fingers so you'd need to be aware of that whilst filming.
One the reasons for testing the Ixus 220 HS here, was to highlight Canon's HS system which combines the DIGIC 4 image processor with a new high-sensitivity sensor. This sensor incorporates back-illuminated architecture which lowers noise levels by up to 60% at all ISO speeds, allowing you to capture high quality photos even in low light. It may not have the low light performance of something like a Canon 5DmkII but it's handy in a compact to be able take shots in circumstances where the flash would either spoil the atmosphere or simply be unwelcome. Shots up to 1600 were perfectly usable without undue noise.
As for the rest of the evening, the food and entertainment were excellent, and though the atmosphere got steadily more tense as it came time to announce the winners it was all in good spirits. Most nominees had representatives there (apart from Apple) and with Angelos staying on stage to 'help' with the presentations after his routine, he made sure proceedings didn't get too serious. Altogether the night was a lot of fun, and thanks to Stuff magazine for making it all possible and thanks to Canon UK for the invitation.
To read more about the event and see more of the images taken on the night, check out the January 2012 issue of Stuff Magazine, and possibly pick up a couple of Christmas gift ideas while you're at it.