Canon IXUS 860 IS Digital Camera Review

Matt Grayson takes a look at the new Canon IXUS 860IS. A small, slick compact with image stabiliser and a wide angle lens.

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Canon IXUS 860 IS Digital Camera Review Matt Grayson takes a look at the new Canon IXUS 860IS. A small, slick compact with image stabiliser and a wide angle lens. 3.0 5

The IXUS name is a like a brand these days. People will buy the camera because it says IXUS on it. But do you get what you pay for?

Canon IXUS 860IS Canon IXUS 860IS Specification

  • Sensor: CCD - 8Mp
  • Image Size: 3264 x 2448 pixels
  • Lens: 3.8x (35mm equivalent: 28 - 105mm)
  • Focus: TTL 9-point AiAF- 3cm Macro
  • Exposure: TTL Program AE
  • Metering : Evaluative/CW/Spot
  • Monitor: 3in P-Si TFT
  • Movie Mode: Yes, with sound
  • Storage: SD
  • Batteries: Rechargeable Li-Ion NB-5L
  • AC Adaptor: Optional
  • Video Output: Yes
  • Size/Weight: 92x58.8x25.9mm - 155g
  • Transfer: USB 2.0

The IXUS 860IS comes in at £299 and notable features on the Canon are the 8Mp resolution, wide 28mm lens and Image stabiliser. Similar specification cameras are the Nikon Coolpix S510 with 8.1Mp and stainless steel body. It lacks in the wide angle lens and image stabiliser and is priced £100 less than the Canon at £199. The Panasonic FX33 also has 8.1Mp, metal body, 28mm lens, Image stabiliser and a Leica lens all for the price of £219.

Canon IXUS 860IS Modes and features
Four features adorn the top plate of the camera and they are the Shutter release, the zoom which is on a swivel switch wrapped around the shutter release, the power button which is just a small plastic button sitting flush with the body and a quick switch which gives quick access to Picture taking, Scene modes and the Video mode.

The back of the camera is dominated by the 3in LCD screen which dwarfs its button companions. The Playback button is located at the top of the camera with the Print direct button just below and the Menu Canon IXUS 860IS navigation pad closely below that. The Menu and Display buttons complete the back of the camera. I think the layout could have been designed a little better as I think the switch on the top is unnecessary. It could have been put as a button on the navigation where Macro is and add Macro and Landscape to the Scenes. I also think the Print direct button could have been put in the menu to reduce the squashed look that the buttons have on the back.

The screen is clear, colourful and bright, but does suffer a little motion blur. Purple stripes can sometimes be seen when pointed at windows and this is because the camera has set the aperture to cope with indoor photography and suddenly has the brightness of daylight cast on it. This is only visible whilst panning past the window but it soon disappears when the camera is settled and has compensated for the added light.

The navigation buttons double up as is commonplace now on any digital camera. They can allow changes to the ISO, Flash, Drive where you can choose from Single shot, Continuous shooting and three Self timer modes. There is even a quick access to Macro and Landscape and looking in the Scenes, they have not been doubled up. The Scenes can be accessed by switching to Scene on the switch located on the top of the camera and pressing the centre Function button. Scenes available are Portrait, Night shot, Kids & pets, Indoor, Foliage, Snow, Beach, Fireworks, Aquarium and Underwater. It baffles me why Canon have put kids & pets together and not Beach & snow as they are basically the same.

Hitting the function button in the centre of the navigation pad will bring up some of the cameras overriding options which will expand if the camera is changed to manual mode. The first option is the Camera setting which gives choices of Auto, Manual, Digital Macro, Colour Accent, Colour swap and Stitch assist. The next option is Exposure compensation followed by White balance settings, Colours which can be changed from Colours off to Vivid, Neutral, Sepia, Black & white, Positive film, Lighter skin tone, Darker skin tone, Vivid Blue, Green and Red and a Custom colour setting. Following on from the other options, next along is Metering, Picture quality and Widescreen setting.

After you have got to grips with those options, the Menu hasn't even been touched. In the menu, three tabs are available depending on whether you wish to change settings on the Recording functions, Core camera functions or Favourites. The Recording menu allows changes to the AF Frame from Face detection to Intelligent AF to Centre. Choosing Centre will open the following option which is the AF frame size so the camera knows how much of the screen to look at when focusing. The Digital zoom can be changed as can the Slow sync, Red-eye reduction, Self timer, Auto ISO shift which can be switched on, off or dedicated to the print direct button. AF Assist beam can be toggled as can the Review time, Review info, Auto category, Display overlay, Date stamp and Setting the direct print button so it can double up for a number of different options.

Canon IXUS 860IS The Settings tab allows changes to be made to the Mute, Volume, Touch icons, LCD brightness, Power saving, Time zone, Date/time, Clock display, Formatting the card, File name whether you would like it continuous or to renew, Create a new folder, Auto rotate images, Lens retract time, Language, change Video system setting from PAL to NTSC, Print method for the direct print and a Reset all button.

The final tab is a personal setting for how the camera acts for instance the music it plays when starting up or the picture it shows. The options available are for the Theme, Start-up image, Start-up sound, Operation sound, Self-timer sound and Shutter sound.

Canon IXUS 860IS Build quality
No complaints with the 860IS as the sturdy metal exterior houses a good construction. The zoom is fast and the lens has only a little play in it which is perfectly normal. The switch on the top of the camera for the video, Scene and camera options can be stiff and whilst flicking from camera to video is no problem, getting it into the middle for the Scene selection is not as easy and can take some time..

The battery is housed in the bottom of the camera along with the SD card and the cover could be a better quality as it feels quite weak. The zoom switch feels solid enough on the camera, but the grip is a small peak on the front of the zoom ring and can become uncomfortable.

Canon IXUS 860IS Canon IXUS 860IS Flash options
Flash on, Flash off and Flash Auto. That's it. Although Red-eye can be changed in the menu, however I think if I was going to spend this amount on a compact I would want more flash options.

The distance is 30cm - 4m at wide angle which is slightly above average and 2m at zoom which drops off to just about acceptable.

Canon IXUS 860IS Performance
Quite a sterling performance from the Ixus 860IS as the start up time is under a second along with fast focusing and shutter lag brought down to a minimum. 13 images were taken in 10 seconds at the highest resolution which is a reasonable result at just over 1fps.

The colourchart is the usual with the aqua colour boosted more than normally seen. The primaries have been focused on and the skin tone is balanced. The portrait mode has warmed the skin tones slightly, but not a great deal. In fact, it is very difficult to detect. The image is slightly sharper, which is unusual as portraits are normally softer than the Auto mode. The Macro image is detailed and crisp with great detail on the centre of the flower but is let down a little on colour reproduction.

One thing that lets the macro image down is the fringing around the petals although this is more likely down to the firmware getting confused with the contrast. The lock image is detailed enough and the wide angle of the lens captures more of the scene although there is a distinct appearance of barrel distortion. Fringing appears in the form of a greenish band around the lock and on the roof of the building, but it is minimal.

Canon IXUS 860IS colourchart image
The colourchart produces a decent result with priority given to primaries and skin tones.

Canon IXUS 860IS Macro image
The Macro mode is good, but succumbs to fringing in high contrast areas.

Canon IXUS 860IS portrait
The portrait mode warms the skin tones and sharpens the image.

Canon IXUS 860IS
Normal Auto softens and cools the image down.

Canon IXUS 860IS wide image
The wide angle is great but has a lot of distortion.

Canon IXUS 860IS zoom image
The zoom is a modest 3.8x optical which isn't wonderful.

Canon IXUS 860IS Lock image
The lock image is balanced, but does have fringing on the winch and building.


Canon IXUS 860IS Noise test
ISO80 has a good result and is followed closely by ISO100 also with good results, however, the two settings are very close, so it is no surprise they are so similar. ISO200 is still very good and noise is minimal. Noise can be seen in low key areas at ISO400 and the lines between the black and grey card are starting to deteriorate.

A large jump in noise evidence happens in the step from ISO400 to ISO800 and the petals which have got a darker cast to them are also starting to decay in detail. Finally ISO1600 has a terrible result with random pixels being added as the camera struggles to cope with the setting. The detail of the petals has also all but disappeared.

The Canon IXUS 860IS also has a Hi setting on the ISO button and this selects the most suitable high ISO for the situation. I feel this is a little unnecessary as the Auto ISO should really be doing the same job.

The ISO80 test
The ISO80 test.

The ISO100 test
The ISO100 test.

The ISO200 test
The ISO200 test.

The ISO400 test
The ISO400 test.

The ISO800 test
The ISO800 test.

The ISO1600 test
The ISO1600 test.

Canon IXUS 860IS Verdict
The IXUS name has become famous now for being the high quality range of the Canon compacts. What this usually means is that the price is higher for less of a camera specification wise. However, the build quality is very good, the camera is pretty and a few little extra bits have been added for good measure like the wide angle lens and the fast start up time. However, the distortion provided by the wide angle lens cannot be escaped.

This is a disappointing release from Canon. As one of the major manufacturers of cameras, they can overcome issues such as barrel distortion. It makes them look as though they are not bothered about the quality of their products which is unfortunate and untrue. However, £299 is a lot of money to get bad distortion and fringing on pictures.

Canon IXUS 860IS Plus points
Good build quality
Image stabiliser
Quick start up time

Minus points
Wide angle barrel distortion
Buttons are close together
Fringing is visible at high contrast areas





The Canon IXUS 860IS costs around £299 and is available from the ePHOTOzine shop here.


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