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Canon IXUS 210 / PowerShot SD3500 IS ELPH Ken McMahon, March 2010

Canon IXUS 210 / PowerShot SD3500 IS verdict

Considering the IXUS 210 / PowerShot SD3500 IS is only the second touch-screen compact the company has produced, it feels like a very 'finished' product. If you have any qualms about having to rely solely on the screen to change settings and choose options, you can forget them; the touch-screen on the Canon IXUS 210 / PowerShot SD3500 IS works like a dream. About the only drawbacks are the fingerprints and smearing which you'll have to get used to.

Like the IXUS 200 IS / SD980 IS before it, the IXUS 210 / SD3500 IS has a 5x optical zoom lens with a maximum wide angle focal length of 24mm (equivalent). With the notable exception of Panasonic, compacts sporting super-wide-angle zooms have been thin on the ground up to now, so if you've been waiting for a good quality compact that will do justice to your landscapes and can cope with cramped interiors, this could be it.

14.1 Megapixels will allow you to make big prints, other than that it confers no real advantage over models with lower pixel counts. The big appeal of the IXUS 210 / SD3500 IS lies in its ease of use combined with some very clever consumer-friendly features - auto exposure with scene detection, smart shutter controls with intelligent self-timer options and excellent image stabilization.

It's also worth noting the earlier IXUS 200 IS / SD980 IS may be available at a discounted price. So if you're happy with 12.1 Megapixel resolution and a smaller touch-screen augmented with physical controls, it could prove to be a better value option - see our Canon IXUS 200 IS / SD980 IS review for more details.


Compared to Sony Cyber-shot DSC-TX7


The central appeal of both of these models has to be the touch-screen and on that basis, there's really very little to choose between them. Though the Cyber-shot TX7's panel has twice as many pixels, in practice this makes very little difference either to its touch-screen operation or for composing and viewing stills and movies. We preferred the menu system on the IXUS 210 / PowerShot SD3500 IS, but the Sony system works equally well and there's a large element of subjectivity involved.

In terms of design and handling, both cameras look great and are very well put-together, but we preferred the feel of the IXUS 210 / PowerShot SD3500 IS. Again, this is a personal choice and, as always, we'd recommend you get your hands on both models to try them out before making a purchasing decision.

What about how these models measure up in terms of features? The IXUS 210 / PowerShot SD3500 IS has a 5x optical zoom with a bit more reach than the Cyber-shot TX7's 4x lens at the tele end. It has a higher resolution sensor with an impressive 14.1 Megapixels making the Cyber-shot TX7's 10.1 Megapixels look a little paltry by comparison. If you like to make big prints, the IXUS 210 / PowerShot SD3500 IS will take you just about to A3 size.

Do the extra Megapixels make much difference in real-life detail? In our outdoor resolution test the IXUS 210 / SD3500 IS outperformed the Cyber-shot DSC-TX7 producing a cleaner, sharper punchier shot with more image detail in all areas of the frame. Sony makes much of the low-light performance of its Exmor R sensor and in our high ISO noise tests the Cyber-shot DSC-TX7 certainly performed well at lower ISO settings, producing cleaner images with less noise than IXUS 210 / PowerShot SD3500 IS. At 400 ISO and above though, the TX7's performance becomes fairly average with noticeable smearing eliminating fine details.

When it comes to shooting in low light conditions the optical image stabilization provided by both cameras is equally effective, though one thing that may tip things in the Cyber-shot TX7's favour if you do a lot of action photography is its ability to shoot a burst of 10 full-resolution frames in a second. This is a major advantage of the TX7 over most compacts, and the camera further exploits this speed with a number of innovative modes which can reduce noise by stacking multiple images, or stitch together impressive panoramas with a single handheld sweep.

Finally there's the movie shooting performance. With stereo mics, a wider choice of HD movie modes (including Full HD at 1920x1080), and an optical zoom that can be used during movie shooting (and which barely makes a sound) this is another major area in which the Cyber-shot TX7 outperforms the IXUS 210 / PowerShot SD3500 IS, justifying its higher price tag. So if Full HD movies, very quick shooting and gadgets like the Sweep Panorama appeal to you, the Sony TX7 is the touch-screen camera to go for. Look out for our upcoming Sony Cyber-shot DSC-TX7 review for more details, and if you like the idea of the Full HD movies, fast shooting and clever modes, but are willing to trade the touch-screen for a 10x zoom, check out the similarly-specced Cyber-shot DSC-HX5.


Canon IXUS 210 / PowerShot SD3500 IS verdict

The IXUS 210 / PowerShot SD3500 IS is a mid-range general purpose compact that combines stylish design with touch-screen operation. Following up on Canon's first touch-screen compact, the hugely popular IXUS 200 IS / SD 980 IS, it ups the resolution to 14.1 Megapixels and loses the earlier model's physical controls to make space for a bigger, higher resolution 3.5 inch LCD panel.

It retains the 5x optical zoom with a range that's optimized for wide angle performance with a 24mm (equivalent) starting point. Although it lacks significant reach at the telephoto end, the range is right for the market at which this compact is aimed.

Canon's first touch screen compact was a bit of a half-way house. The touch icons and gestures didn't always work first time and the presence of physical controls to augment the screen-based ones didn't inspire confidence. With the IXUS 210 / PowerShot SD3500 IS though, the physical controls are gone. It's a more confident move by Canon and well justified here. The touch-screen on the IXUS 210 / PowerShot SD3500 IS works so well that after a short time using it you find yourself wondering why we ever bothered with little buttons.

The IXUS 210 / PowerShot SD3500 IS provides a neat balance between consumer-friendly features that make taking pictures easier and good results more likely, with a degree of advanced control. In addition to Auto mode with Scene detection, smart shutter functions like smile detection and wink-activated self-timer are winners. We're not sure how how popular the new Fish-eye and Miniature effect scene modes will turn out to be, but the Low-light scene mode is a worthwhile addition, particularly when used to give a boost to the camera's (not very impressive) continuous shooting capabilities.

The IXUS 210 / PowerShot SD3500 IS is a classy and capable mid-range compact, capable of producing high quality, high resolution images, but it's main attraction is a responsive and functional touch-screen that not only works better than its physical counterparts, it's a lot more fun. Recommended, but compare closely with the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-TX7.

Good points
Responsive touch-screen controls.
Manual touch focus.
Excellent image quality.
SDXC and Eye-Fi card compatible.

Bad points
Flash performance and slow recycle.
No optical zoom while shooting movies.
Slow continuous shooting.


(relative to 2010 compacts)

Build quality:
Image quality:


18 / 20
16 / 20
16 / 20
17 / 20
17 / 20


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