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== Introduction ==
It's no secret to anyone who's read my camera reviews over the years that I'm generally quite a fan of Canon's compacts. For the most part they're robustly made, well-featured and nice to use. They're not always the most stylish cameras around, especially the A series, but that complaint goes out of the window when it comes to the Ixus series. This is a range which concentrates on style, but - so Canon hoped when they launched it, at least - does so without compromising on ability or handling. It certainly gives a great first impression, by powering up and being ready for action *very* fast, but let's see if that can last...
The 2008-vintage, eight-megapixel Digital Ixus 82 is a bit of an oddity, as it's actually exactly the same camera inside as the Ixus 80. Mine was bought second-hand, so I can't be absolutely certain about this, but I believe that the 82 was a special edition sold only through Jessops shops in the UK. It is, incidentally (and like the 80) the same camera that's called the SD1100 in the United States and the Digital Ixy 20 in Japan. I hope that's cleared things up! Oh, and in all those cases there's an "IS" at the end - which is a very important designation, as we shall see later on.
== Looks and handling ==
The 82 is a dainty little thing, and light with it: a mere 125 grams without battery or memory card. It's not quite as tiny as the Pentax Optio S, and as such *doesn't* quite fit into an Altoids tin, but it's not far off - and it's considerably sleeker, if I may use that dread word. Mine is a rather attractive powder blue colour, officially known as "Rhythm and Blue" would you believe? They were also available in four other shades, which all had silly names but which boiled down to brown, pink, silver and gold. Note that there was no black option; I suppose Canon thought that would come across as too "serious"!
The case is made of aluminium, and certainly that gives the little Ixus a rather more upmarket feel than the plastic-bodied A-series cameras. It's all very smooth, with only slight curves here and there to act as grips; these are not actually very grippy, especially given the smooth metal of the casing, and so I would be very wary of using this camera unless I had the strap firmly around my wrist. On the top is a small power button, a reasonably-sized shutter and (as a collar around this) the zoom control. Underneath is the battery/card door and a tripod socket, which is a little off-centre but is at least metal. On the front, apart from the lens is the rather titchy and not too powerful flash.
On the back of the camera there's a 2.5-inch LCD, an array of buttons which will be familiar to most Canon users, what may be the world's tiniest optical viewfinder - seriously, it's barely more than a peephole - and a three-position mode switch: shoot, movie and review. The buttons are all quite small and flush to the back casing, which looks very elegant but does make them slightly awkward to use quickly. The mode switch, meanwhile, is the one really disappointing aspect of the 82's design: it's of rather cheap black plastic that feels out of step with the otherwise very high build quality.
== Optics and display ==
This digicam has only the standard 3x optical zoom, but the lens moves in and out smoothly and quietly; indeed, there's more noise when you first switch the camera on than at any time thereafter. Although the lens is small, Canon have done a good job in ensuring that it's of sufficient quality to produce good results. It's very pleasing to see the inclusion of true optical image stabilisation (that's why it's the "82 IS"), something often eschewed in "stylish" cameras in favour of the vastly inferior "digital shake reduction" method.
The range of focal lengths available (expressed in the usual, familiar 35 mm film equivalent terms) is 38 to 114 mm, which is fairly average but tilted just a little towards the telephoto end. There are only six steps from end to end, which is mildly disappointing. A "social" camera like this, which may well be used a lot indoors, might have benefited from a little more wide-angle capability, though this might have been impossible without raising the price unacceptably. As for speed, it's rated at f/2.8 at the wide end and f/4.9 at the long end, which is about as standard as you can possibly get!
The LCD is a little smaller than the average these days, at 2.5", but it is highly responsive, extremely clear and a joy to use: its 230,000 pixels give it twice the resolution of the previous generation of Canon compacts, and it shows. Icons and menus show up very well too, which is just as well as there are plenty of those. Newcomers to Canons will have to learn which settings are found via the Func/Set button and which via the Menu button: this can be fiddly at first, but after a while it starts to become second nature.
== Modes and settings ==
For such a dinky little thing, the Ixus 82 is well supplied with options to play about with. Of course, many users will never delve very deeply into the menus, so it's a good job that the Auto mode (in which many settings are disabled) generally chooses sensible parameters. "Manual" is not a full manual mode; it's more like "Program", meaning that you can change things such as ISO, white balance and exposure compensation but not shutter speed or aperture setting. (In any case, this camera does not have a true iris, relying instead on a neutral density filter to simulate the effects of different apertures.)
This camera has Face Detection capability, which works efficiently for the most part, though as with most of its rivals it can get confused from time to time. You don't have to choose a special mode for this; it can be selected as an alternative to automatic focusing (AiAF) or central focusing via the Menu, er, menu. There are around ten scene modes (the exact number depends on how you define it) and a whole slew of options for controlling colour, sharpness, contrast and saturation. Canon have also included their fun "trick" modes, which do such things as letting you swap one colour for another, or draining out all but one shade.
This isn't really the camera for you if you really need superb-quality movies. This thing predates the coming of widespread HD video capability, and the best you'll get is VGA (640 x 480 pixels) at 30 fps. It would have been nice to have seen an ultra-smooth 60 fps option, but its absence is no real problem. Picture quality is perfectly adequate though not amazing, while sound is mono and as usual is rather tinny. You can't use the optical zoom while recording, though you can set it to a particular focal length before you start.
The 82 is compatible with CHDK, the unofficial but very popular software upgrade for many Canon compacts. You can use the version for the 80 without modification, since (as stated above) they're the same model in hardware terms. I've had no problems at all with using CHDK on my own camera, and it adds an extra dimension to what is already a pretty capable digicam. The ISO range, for example, is extended from 80-1600 to 10-8000, while the implementation of shutter-priority and bracketing give the Ixus facilities very rarely found on ultra-compacts.
== Photo quality ==
The news here is generally very good. In decent light, with a little input from the photographer, the Ixus 82 produces superb photos, certainly the equal of any other 8mp compact I've used. It's in another league from many ultra-compact models, and I'd go far as to say its results were as good as those from the much larger and better-specified Canon PowerShot A710 - a camera I love. The 82 certainly isn't just a camera to show off with; you could happily take it on a day trip somewhere as your only camera and return with a card full of excellent pictures. It also has a very acceptable macro mode, which focuses down to about 3 cm.
Even in less than ideal conditions, or indoors, you should get decent pictures out of this camera, though in bright sunshine you may need to dial down exposure compensation a little bit. At high ISO (800 or 1600) there is a fair bit of image noise, but for use on screen or even (if you're careful) in postcard-sized prints ISO 800 is not really objectionable. The presence of IS helps, too; I don't find it quite as effective as the IS on my A710, but it can certainly save you a stop or so, meaning that you should be able to get acceptably sharp results at twice as long a shutter speed as you otherwise might. There really is very little to complain about.
== Consumables and costs ==
Unsurprisingly given its thinness, the Canon is powered by a dedicated Li-ion battery, coded NB-4L. This is a 3.7V, 760 mAH affair which considering its small size lasts reasonably well. Canon originally claimed a life of over 200 shots, but that's optimistic unless you keep the LCD turned off for much of the time. I've found that 150 photos is a realistic expectation, but then I don't use flash very much; if you do, then you might find yourself running out of juice around the 100-shot mark, and therefore want to consider investing in a spare battery.
I found my own Ixus 82 in a Cash Converters shop for £24.99 including charger and good battery, which I consider a steal, even though it was (very slightly) scuffed. You should probably expect to pay more in the region of £40 for a decent unboxed example (again, with charger and good battery) and more again for perfect mint boxed specimens. Replacement chargers and extra batteries can be bought easily enough on eBay and the like if required, and shouldn't cost more than single figures of pounds each.
As far as memory cards go, the 82 accepts both SD and SDHC cards (or the older MMC format, if you have any reason to use it) but *not* the more recent SDXC format, which post-dates the camera's release. Like the majority of digicams, this one has a shared battery/card compartment, but a small plastic holder ensures that cards can be inserted and removed without the battery falling out. As usual, I recommend the use of a card reader rather than direct transfer of photos via USB cable; it's both cleaner and battery-friendly.
== Verdict ==
The Canon Digital Ixus 82 is a very good camera. It's nice not to have to qualify that with something like "considering its small size", because it really is good enough to use as your everyday snapper - all the more so if you've installed CHDK. It could perhaps do with a slightly rougher finish to aid grip, and the skimping on the mode switch is annoying and lets down an otherwise superbly finished case. These are small complaints, however, and this is certainly a four-and-a-half star camera. For the impressive way in which it packs a truly capable all-rounder into a tiny body, I'm rounding up to the full five.