Canon Digital IXUS 55 Review
(Canon PowerShot SD450 Digital ELPH in the USA)
Review Date: March 23rd 2006
Ease of Use
The Canon Digital IXUS 55 is a superbly made compact digital camera, with a stylish all-metal body and excellent overall finish. If you require a pocket camera that is both good-looking and hard-wearing, then look no further. The Canon Digital IXUS 55 is easily small enough to fit into the palm of your hand, yet it also has a reassuring weight of 140g without the battery or memory card fitted. This is one of the best digital cameras that I have reviewed in terms of build quality. Every aspect has a quality feel with nothing feeling flimsy or ill-thought out. The only minor criticisms that can be leveled at the Canon Digital IXUS 55 are that the large 2.5 inch LCD screen is susceptible to fingerprints, and the plastic A/V Out / USB cover on the side of the camera feels a little flimsy.
The Canon Digital IXUS 55 is comfortable to hold, despite being such a small camera. Both thumbs naturally support the bottom of the camera, whilst operating the shutter button with your right index finger. You can also comfortably hold the camera and take pictures with one hand. Despite the smooth all-metal body, the camera is not too slippy when gripping it. The various buttons are well-made and easy to operate, and the camera feels well-balanced in your hands. There are no real innovative features here, but everything that the Canon Digital IXUS 55 does, it does extremely well. Overall the Canon Digital IXUS 55 is well constructed and designed with no obvious signs of corners being cut.
|Direct Print Button / Navigation Pad / Display Button / Menu Button||Camera / Movie / Play Mode / Speaker|
The Canon Digital IXUS 55 has relatively few external controls, just 9 in total, reflecting the fact that this is strictly a point and shoot camera in functionality terms. Cleverly you can directly access the various flash, macro and timer options by clicking on the navigation pad, and Canon have also dedicated the Up position to ISO speed, which is a commonly used feature. There is also a sub-menu accessed via the Function/Set button in the middle of the navigation pad, which allows you to set exposure compensation, white balance, image effects, metering and image size/quality settings. This system is a good compromise given the small size of the camera and therefore the limited space for external controls. All 9 external controls are clearly labeled using industry-standard symbols and terminology. Overall the camera body feels very well-designed and not at all cluttered, despite the presence of the large 2.5 inch LCD screen. A small optical viewfinder is also included, which is welcome for moments when it is difficult to use the LCD screen i.e. in very bright sunlight. I found it to be a little on the small side, however, so you will probably find yourself using the LCD screen most of the time.
If you have never used a digital camera before, or you're upgrading from a more basic model, reading the comprehensive and fairly easy-to-follow manual before you start is a good idea. Unfortunately Canon have chosen to cut costs and only supply it as a PDF on a CD, rather than in printed format. Not much use if you're taking pictures and need to find out what a particular option does.
|Power Button / Zoom Lever / Shutter Button||A/V Out Port / USB Port (underneath cover)|
The menu system on the Canon Digital IXUS 55 is extremely straight-forward to use and is accessed by a dedicated button underneath the navigation pad. Quite a lot of the camera's main settings, such as white balance, exposure compensation and ISO speed, are accessed elsewhere, so the main menu system isn't actually that complicated. A row of 3 icons along the top of the LCD screen represents the various sub-menus, with most of them being the kind that you set once and then forget about. Due to the very large and bright LCD screen, the various options are easy to access and use, especially as only 6 are shown onscreen at one time.
The Manual mode setting on the Canon Digital IXUS 55 may make you think that this camera offers full photographic control, but sadly it doesn't. Manual mode is just Canon's way of giving you access to more "advanced" features, like setting the ISO speed and White Balance. The Canon Digital IXUS 55 is purely a point and shoot camera with absolutely no control over aperture or shutter speed. It does, however, have some features that you won't find on other digital cameras. Press the Function button and select the My Colors option to reveal the Custom Color menu, which includes a number of pre-set looks, such as Positive Film and Vivid Green. These are a quick way of achieving a particular effect. More exciting are the Color Accent and Color Swap options in the same menu. Color Accent allows you to select one colour and render the rest of the image in black and white, whilst Color Swap lets you select a colour in the image and change it for another completely different one. As far as I know, Canon are the only manufacturer to offer what is quite an advanced feature directly in their cameras.
|Battery Compartment||Memory Card Slot|
The start-up time from turning the Canon Digital IXUS 55 on to being ready to take a photo is very quick at around 3/4 second, and it takes about 2 seconds to zoom from the widest focal length to the longest, and back again. Focusing is very quick in good light and the camera happily achieves focus indoors or in low-light situations, helped by a powerful focus-assist lamp. The visibility and refresh rate of the 2.5 inch LCD screen are perfectly acceptable, although the resolution is a little on the low side. It takes about 1 second to store an image, allowing you to keep shooting as they are being recorded onto the memory card - there is no LCD blackout between each image. In Continuous mode the camera takes 2.1 frames per second at the highest image quality, which is quick for this class of camera, and best of all this shooting rate is maintained until your memory card is full! All in all the Canon Digital IXUS 55 is fast in terms of operational speed.
Once you have captured a photo, the Canon Digital IXUS 55 has an excellent range of options when it comes to playing, reviewing and managing your images. You can instantly scroll through the images that you have taken, view thumbnails, zoom in and out up to 10x magnification, view slideshows with lots of different user settings, delete, protect, and rotate an image. You can also add a sound clip to an image, set the print order and the transfer order. The Display button toggles detailed settings information about each picture on and off, such as the ISO rating and white balance, and there is a small histogram available during playback which is helpful in evaluating the exposure.
In summary the Canon Digital IXUS 55 is a very stylish, very compact, well built point and shoot digital camera with no notable flaws.
PhotographyBLOG is a member of the DIWA organisation. Our test results for the Canon Digital IXUS 55 have been submitted to DIWA for comparison with test results for different samples of the same camera model supplied by other DIWA member sites.