Canon IXUS 255 HS / ELPH 330 HS verdict
The Canon IXUS 255 HS / ELPH 330 HS is a new mid range point-and-shoot camera. Launched in January 2013 it has a 12.1 Megapixel CMOS sensor, a 10x stabilised optical zoom lens and a 3-inch, 461k dot LCD screen. Below it in the range are three entry-level IXUS / ELPH models, the IXUS 140 / ELPH 130 IS with an 8x zoom and 16.1 Megapixel CCD sensor plus two similar models with smaller screens. Above it, are the 12x IXUS 500 HS / ELPH 520 HS and the touch-screen equipped IXUS 510 HS / ELPH 530 HS.
The IXUS 255 HS / 330 HS is an entirely automatic camera with modes including Smart Auto with sophisticated scene detection as well as a more conventional Program Auto mode. It also has a Hybrid Auto mode that takes a short video clip before each shot and edits them all together to produce a movie of your day's shooting. Add in Smile, wink and face self timers, Face ID, creative effects filters, full HD 1080p and Super Slow Motion movies and it adds up to a great all-round point-and-shoot compact with the 12.1 Megapixel CMOS sensor delivering excellent image quality - indeed better than that delivered by Canon's 16 Megapixel CCD models. It also features built-in Wifi for wireless transfer of images.
In terms of consumer choice, the 2013 IXUS / ELPH line-up makes a lot of sense, but Canon has retained a number of older models. In the middle of the range there's the IXUS 230 HS / ELPH 310 HS and IXUS 240 HS / ELPH 320 HS as well as the entry level IXUS 125 HS / ELPH 110 HS. If you're prepared to make a compromise on zoom range, one of these older models is likely to prove a great value for money alternative - click the links to check out my reviews of those models. Now before my final verdict, here's how it compares to a couple of cheaper options in the range.
Compared to Canon IXUS 140 / ELPH 130 IS
The IXUS 140 / ELPH 130 IS is the next model down in the range from the IXUS 255 HS / ELPH 330 HS and costs around 30 percent less. The two models are similar in size (the IXUS 255 HS / ELPH 330 HS is a tiny bit bigger and heavier), both have Wifi and also share a virtually identical control layout, but there are big differences on the inside.
First, there's the sensor. The IXUS 255 HS / ELPH 330 HS sticks with the back illuminated CMOS sensor that has been the mainstay of the IXUS / ELPH range since 2012. As well as providing better image quality and high ISO noise performance the 12.1 Megapixel CMOS sensor in the IXUS 255 HS / ELPH 330 HS is combined with the more recent Digic 5 processor. Compared with the older Digic 4 that Canon has chosen for the IXUS 140 / ELPH 130 IS, this provides a wider range of scene detection modes, the Handheld Nightscene stacking mode, faster low resolution burst shooting, and a higher upper sensitivity limit of 6400 ISO.
The IXUS 255 HS / ELPH 330 HS has a longer, wider 10x optical zoom with an equivalent range of 24-240mm compared to the 8x 28-224mm of the IXUS 140 / ELPH 130 IS, so not only do you get a longer telephoto, but you also have a wider wide angle that will allow you capture panoramic landscapes (though not true panoramas, something Canon has steadfastly ignored despite its popularity on other compacts), interiors and big groups. Both models feature Intelligent IS optical image stabilisation.
It also provides the IXUS 255 HS / ELPH 330 HS with full HD video at 1080p24 compared to 720p25 on the IXUS 140 / ELPH 130 IS. Futhermore, the IXUS 255 HS / ELPH 330 HS has built-in stereo microphones and an HDMI output, so it's a more capable video camera compared with the IXUS 140 / ELPH 130 IS which has a mono mic and no HDMI port. And for the video icing on the cake, there's the IXUS 255 HS / ELPH 330 HS super Slow Motion video mode as well as Hybrid auto which automatically compiles a movie digest of the day's shooting.
In its favour, the IXUS 140 / ELPH 130 IS is significantly cheaper than the IXUS 255 HS / ELPH 330 HS and provides an affordable entry point into the classy IXUS / ELPH brand (especially if you go for one of the cheaper variants - the IXUS 135 and the IXUS 132 / ELPH 115). Essentially, what you get for the extra money is a wider, longer zoom and a better sensor and processor providing improved image quality, more versatile exposure modes, and superior video.
See my Canon IXUS 140 / ELPH 130 IS review for more details.
Compared to Canon PowerShot A3500
The PowerShot A3500 is the second from top model in the PowerShot A-series. Though not widely available in North America, it shares a lot of similarities with the next two models down, the A2600 and A2500, both of which are on sale there.
The PowerShot Range has been growing progressively closer to the IXUS / ELPH design ethos over the years and, at a casual glance, you be forgiven for mistaking the PowerShot A3500 for an IXUS. The size and weight are almost identical and the shape and styling differences are fairly minor.
External similarities aside, there are two key differences between these two models. The 10x optical zoom on the IXUS 255 HS/ ELPH 330 HS has twice the range of the PowerShot A3500 IS and is both significantly wider and longer. It's 24mm equivalent wide angle fits more in than the 28mm of the PowerShot A3500 IS and its 240mm maximum telephoto will get you significantly closer to the action than the A3500 IS's 140mm.
The PowerShot A3500 shares the same sensor and processor combination as the IXUS 140 / ELPH 130 IS. The 12.1 Megapixel CMOS sensor in the IXUS 255 HS / ELPH 330 HS produces better quality images and performs better in low light at higher ISO sensitivities. Furthermore, the newer Digic 5 processor in the IXUS 255 HS / ELPH 330 HS provides a wider range of scene detection modes, the Handheld Nightscene stacking mode, faster low resolution burst shooting, and a higher upper sensitivity limit of 6400 ISO.
It also provides the IXUS 255 HS / ELPH 330 HS with full HD video at 1080p24 compared to 720p25 on the PowerShot A3500 IS. Furthermore, the IXUS 255 HS / ELPH 330 HS has built-in stereo microphones and an HDMI output, so it's a more capable video camera than the PowerShot A3500 IS which has a mono mic and no HDMI port. And for the video icing on the cake, there's the IXUS 255 HS / ELPH 330 HS super Slow Motion video mode as well as Hybrid auto which automatically compiles a movie digest of the day's shooting.
The PowerShot A3500 IS costs around half the price of the IXUS 255 HS / ELPH 330 HS and also sports Wifi, but you're giving up a lot of features for that price saving including a longer zoom, better image quality, full HD video and some really useful shooting modes. If your budget won't quite stretch to the IXUS 255 HS / ELPH 330 HS, a better alternative would be one of the older IXUS / ELPH models from 2012 which remain in the line up like the 8x IXUS 230 HS / ELPH 310 HS or even the older entry level model, the IXUS 125 HS / ELPH 110 HS.
See my Canon PowerShot A3500 IS review for more details.
Canon IXUS 255 HS / ELPH 330 HS final verdict
The IXUS 255 HS / ELPH 330 HS is positioned in the middle in the IXUS / ELPH range and provides a good balance between features and performance on the one hand and price on the other. It outclasses the 16.1 Megapixel CCD sensor-based entry-level IXUS / ELPH models in every way, sporting better image quality and noise performance, a wider range of shooting modes, Full HD video, a longer zoom and a better quality screen.
In terms of progress, it's also a better model than the 2012 IXUS 230 HS / ELPH 310 HS that it replaces. But aside from the 10x zoom range, (the IXUS 230 HS / ELPH 310 HS has an 8x 28-224mm zoom), the changes are incremental. The IXUS 230 HS / ELPH 310 HS remains in the IXUS / ELPH line-up for the time being and now looks like a great value for money buy. Nonetheless the IXUS 255 HS / ELPH 330 HS is an excellent choice for those looking for a versatile and classy point-and-shoot compact with great image quality and a capable zoom range. As such it's a deserving recipient of Cameralabs' Highly Recommended Award.
10x stabilised optical zoom.
Built-in Wifi and GPS via a smartphone.
Hybrid Auto movie digest mode.
Excellent image quality.
Lengthy shooting mode menu.
Complicated Wifi operation.
(relative to 2013 compacts)
17 / 20
17 / 20
18 / 20
17 / 20
17 / 20