Here’s my full review of the Canon PowerShot ELPH 300 HS (or as some of you may know by the name Canon IXUS 220 HS). This small and stylish camera has an ultra-wide-angle 24mm zoom lens, 1080p Full HD movie mode and a 12 megapixel CMOS sensor. Check out the Canon ELPH 300HS/IXUS 220HS photo gallery for full-sized sample photos from the camera.
DPInterface Canon PowerShot ELPH 300HS/IXUS 220HS Review
Brad Soo – July 15th, 2011 (Updated July 19th, 2011)
The Canon PowerShot ELPH 300HS is one of Canon’s next generation ultra-compact cameras for the year 2011. Still clad in metal and small enough to hide behind a standard credit card or business card, the ELPH 300HS (which is joined by two other models, the ELPH 100HS and ELPH 500HS) now sports a CMOS image sensor, a 5X optical zoom lens that starts at 24 mm and Full HD movie mode. In addition to that, the camera has various High-Speed features (hence the HS in its name) such as high-speed continuous shooting modes (up to an advertised 8 FPS at 3 megapixels) and very high frame rate ‘slow motion movie’ modes.
To mark this joyous milestone, Canon has introduced a new naming convention for their ELPH/IXUS models for the year 2011, dropping the ‘Digital’ and ‘IS’ monikers from both the ELPH/IXUS names. So we now have the shorter-named (but still a mouthful) Canon PowerShot ELPH 300HS in Canada/United States and, if you live in Europe, Asia or Australia, you’ll know the camera by the name Canon IXUS 220HS. It is also known as the IXY 410F in Japan.
While the Canon ELPH 300HS has a pretty solid feature set, does it have enough to take on the stiff competition in the ultra-compact camera market? Find out now!
Size and Weight
The Canon PowerShot ELPH 300HS is a really small camera which will readily fit into your pocket, purse or bag. Canon touts it as the world’s slimmest camera with a 5X zoom lens that starts at 24 mm. The ELPH 300HS (or IXUS 220HS) measures 92.2 x 55.9 x 19.5 mm (3.6 x 2.2 x 0.77 inches) in size, which is much smaller in footprint than most smartphones nowadays. The camera weighs just 122 grams (4.3 oz) empty which is pretty light.
The Canon PowerShot ELPH 300HS comes with a standard issue bundle, which includes:
- Canon PowerShot ELPH 300HS/IXUS 220HS camera (depending on where you buy the camera)
- NB-4L rechargeable lithium-ion battery
- Battery charger
- Wrist strap
- A/V and USB cables (separate)
The Canon PowerShot ELPH 300HS doesn’t come with any memory card, which is something probably everyone has gotten over ages ago (especially those who own digital SLR cameras). The camera takes SD, SDHC as well as the newer high-capacity and extremely pricy SDXC cards and you might probably have one lying around.
Still, I would recommend having or getting at least an 8 GB high-speed memory card (Class 6 or 15 MB/s or faster). A high-speed memory card really makes a difference here because the camera can certainly perform much faster with one, and it comes especially in handy when it comes to the camera’s Full HD movie or continuous shooting modes. You should be able to fit 30 minutes worth of 1080p Full HD video or 2,400 full-resolution photos onto an 8 GB card.
The Canon PowerShot ELPH 300HS uses the rechargeable lithium-ion NB-4L battery which has been around on various ELPH and IXUS models for years now. If you’re coming from another IXUS/ELPH model, you might have one of these batteries around. The ELPH 300HS/IXUS 220HS is rated to last around 220 shots per charge, which isn’t a lot and a tad below average compared to other cameras.
There aren’t many accessories available for the Canon ELPH 300HS save for an optional AC adapter, various camera cases and neck straps. However there’s also an underwater case available for the camera so you can bring the camera near and into water.
The Canon ELPH 300HS is a very small and well-built camera. The ELPH looks a whole lot like preceding models in the ELPH/IXUS family, and it certainly does bear a whole lot of resemblance to the SD780 Digital ELPH of last year. The main changes of the camera are found on the inside, for instance the 12 megapixel CMOS sensor that enables the camera’s various high-speed shooting and low-light modes. The camera has good build quality and enough space around for you to hold in one hand. One thing I’m missing is the spring-loaded bottom compartment door which we saw on Digital ELPH models at one point in time… the ELPH 300HS has a relatively flimsy plastic-hinged door over its battery/memory card compartment.
The Canon ELPH 300HS/IXUS 220HS comes in your choice of three colors: silver, black and a rather fascinating red. This, of course, is the rather plain silver model (looks a tad beige to me!) which has some black accents around its body.
One of the big features of the Canon ELPH 300HS is its ultra-wide-angle 5X optical zoom lens that is equivalent to 24-120 mm. And in simple English, that means you’re gonna be able to fit more stuff into a single photo compared to a 28 or 35 mm lens – great if you’re planning to squeeze an extra person into your arm’s length self-portrait or more scenery of that tourist destination you’re visiting in Rome this summer. The lens has a decent aperture range of f2.7 to f5.9 and comes with optical image stabilization to help reduce blur caused by camera shake.
To the upper right of the lens are two things: the camera’s autofocus assist lamp (which doubles as the redeye reduction light and self-timer countdown visual indicator) and the built-in flash. The flash isn’t very powerful, with a range of 50 cm to 3.5 meters (1.6 to 11.5 feet) at wide-angle, which drops to just 90 cm to 2.0 meters (3 to 6.6 feet) at telephoto.
On the back of the ELPH 300HS, you’ll find a 2.7 inch LCD, which is what you’ll be using for composing and viewing photos. The LCD has just 230,000 dots, which doesn’t sound very high in resolution nowadays, but it still looks sharp. Legibility is very good in both bright and low light conditions.
To the right of the display is where all the action is. First off are the easily accessible movie button and mode switch, which should rest right under your thumb. The movie button lets you instantly start/stop recording a movie clip while the mode switch moves you between auto and other shooting modes. Skipping ahead of the navigation pad for a moment, there are the playback and menu buttons, along with a status indicator light.
And back to the 5-way navigation pad. The navigation pad gives you quick access to the following functions:
- Up – Exposure compensation (+/- 2 EV in 1/3 increments)/Exposure lock
- Down – Display (Toggle information shown on the display)
- Left – Focus mode (Macro, normal, landscape)/Focus lock
- Right – Flash setting (Auto, flash on, flash off, slow sync; redeye reduction toggled on/off in the menu
- Center – Function menu/OK
The Canon ELPH 300HS has a bunch of options in its Function menu that you’ll be able to access quickly. Keep in mind that not all these options are available in ‘Auto’ mode, but if you flick that mode switch to Program mode, you should be able to see all of these (as well as access other shooting modes):
- Metering mode (Evaluative, center-weighted, spot)
- My Colors effects (Off, vivid, neutral, sepia, black and white, positive film, lighter/darker skin, vivid red/green/blue, custom color)
- White balance (Auto, daylight, cloudy, tungsten, fluorescent, fluorescent H, custom white balance)
- ISO sensitivity (Auto, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600, 3200)
- Shooting mode (Program, scene modes, slow motion movie mode – more later in the review)
- Self-timer (Off, 2 seconds, 10 seconds, custom)
- Drive mode (Single-shot, continuous shooting)
- Image settings (Aspect ratio, resolution and compression) and movie settings
The Canon ELPH 300HS has plenty of options in its menu, including the various other shooting modes which we’ll get to later. The camera has two notable custom options: custom white balance along with custom self-timer (which allows you to customize self-timer countdown duration and number of pictures to be taken).
At the top of the camera, you’ll find the ELPH 300HS’ stereo microphones, power on/off button and shutter button with a zoom lever wrapped around it.
Over here, you can have a good look at the ELPH 300HS and its relatively slim profile.
And here’s the other side of the Canon ELPH 300HS, where you’ll find two ports hidden under a rubber cover and the wrist strap loop.
Peeling back that cover, you’ll find a combo port for USB and A/V Out connectivity as well as port for connecting an (optional) HDMI cable.
At the bottom of the Canon PowerShot ELPH 300HS is its battery/memory card compartment. The compartment door is not as flimsy as on past models, but it still doesn’t feel very solid and certainly could be better reinforced at the hinges. There’s also the metal tripod mount next to the compartment, whose placement is slightly off-center of the lens and will hinder you from opening the compartment door when the camera is attached on a tripod.
Taking pictures (Shooting mode)
The Canon ELPH 300HS tells you a bunch of things as you compose your photos, covering photo and video shooting settings, exposure information and showing a battery indicator all the time at the top corner of the on-screen display. The camera also brings up a zoom indicator whenever you use the zoom control (there are just 14 steps throughout the 5X zoom range in shooting mode, but you can be extremely precise when recording a movie) and allows you to toggle optional 3×3 framing gridlines. What’s missing here, though, is a live histogram of any sort – the camera lacks one.
The Canon ELPH 300HS has four image resolution options for you to choose from (12, 6, 2 and 0.3 megapixels), four aspect ratio options (default is 4:3, the other options 1:1, 3:2 and 16:9 ‘crop’ and narrow your images) and two compression options (Fine and Normal). The camera allows you to mix and match any combination of these options, though resolution is sometimes fixed in certain modes (such as High Speed Burst mode). You should be able to fit 2,400 photos at the highest settings (12 megapixels, Fine, 4:3 ratio on an 8 GB memory card.
The Canon PowerShot ELPH 300HS has an actual menu, in addition to the Function menu, for you to adjust less commonly used camera settings. Still, the options here are worth a look:
- Autofocus mode (Face detection, center, subject tracking)
- AF point size (Normal, small) – Choose the size of the camera’s focusing point in Center AF mode)
- Digital zoom (Standard digital zoom digitally enlarges your photos, which lowers quality, while a Smart Zoom option is available that just crops your photos down to increase perceived zoom)
- AF point zoom – Magnify the autofocus point once the camera locks focus
- Servo AF – Turning this on will make the camera focus continuously as you hold down
- AF assist beam – To help the camera focus in low-light
- Flash settings – toggle red-eye reduction and slow sync
- iContrast (Off, low, medium, high) – Brightens dark areas of your photos; may lengthen processing time (means slower shooting) after each photo is taken and increase noise levels in brightened areas slightly
- Review – How long the image is shown on the LCD screen right after the picture is taken
- Review info
- Blink detection – Checks for any closed eyes after taking pictures and alerts you about them
- 3 x3 gridlines (On/off)
- Optical image stabilization mode – Off, Continuous, Shoot-only, Panning
- Date stamp (Off, date, date and time)
The camera also has the standard-issue Canon setup menu which has a bunch of very simple and self-explanatory options.
Macro and scene modes
The Canon ELPH 300 HS has a very good macro mode that allows you to get as close as 3 cm (1.2 inches) to your subject at near wide-angle. There are also numerous scene modes, which include: portrait, kids and pets, smile shutter, high-speed burst, best image, handheld night scene, low-light, fisheye, miniature effect, toy camera effect, monochrome, super vivid, poster, color accent, color swap, beach, underwater, foliage, beach and snow, fireworks, long shutter, stitch assist and slow motion movie.
The first and foremost feature I would like to highlight here is the Smile Shutter mode on the ELPH 300HS. Canon has placed three of their main face detection related features here, from which you can choose. There are smile and wink detection modes; where the camera automatically takes a picture (or pictures, depending on what you set it to) when it detects a smile or wink respectively. The third mode is suitable for group shots where the camera starts counting down and takes a picture when it detects a new face entering the scene.
The camera’s high-speed burst, best image, handheld night scene and low-light modes all take advantage of the CMOS image sensor to fire off several shots in rapid succession (though images in these modes are lowered to 3 megapixel resolution). Best image mode takes several photos in a row and the camera picks the ‘best’ one for you (I’m not entirely sure what kind of criteria the camera looks at, but I’m guessing the sharpest photo of the bunch). The latter two modes, handheld night scene and low-light modes take several shots and combine them into one lower noise photo – it won’t work miracles and make the tripod extinct, but they’re really handy when you don’t have a tripod or flat, steady surface around to take photos.
And then there are all those new modes: Fisheye, miniature effect, toy camera, monochrome, super vivid and poster modes… you can learn more about Canon’s 2011 new effects in this little tutorial I’ve written.
The camera also has a unique Movie Digest mode which is useful for logging events that happen and summing things up in a single video at the end of the day. What the camera lets you do is record a series of clips, at 4 seconds each, and it (automatically) combines these short clips into a single, long movie at the end of the day.
The Canon ELPH 300HS has a top-notch Full HD movie mode. The camera can record Full HD (1080p) videos at 24 frames per second with stereo sound. You can also opt to lower resolution to Standard HD (720p) or even smaller VGA (640 x 480); both at 30 frames per second. With an 8 GB card, you should be able to record up to 30 minutes of Full HD video or 40 minutes of Standard HD. There’s a limit of 4 GB or 30 minutes per movie clip, whichever comes first.
The camera automatically adjusts exposure and continually focuses during recording. And for the first time in ELPH/IXUS history, the ELPH 300HS/IXUS 220HS allows you to use optical zoom (as well as digital zoom, if you feel like it) while recording movies. The lens normally moves fairly quickly and audibly, but the camera moves the lens very slowly and extremely quietly during recording. You can also enable optical image stabilization, which is another plus, to help reduce the effects of camera shake on videos.
The ELPH 300HS (along with other ‘HS’ Canon cameras which use CMOS image sensors) has a very unique Super Slow Motion movie mode (found as the last option below the bunch of scene modes in the Function menu), which is a fancy term for high frame rate, slow playback movie recording. You can choose to record at either VGA (640 x 480) resolution at 120 frames per second or QVGA (320 x 240) at a whopping 240 frames per second! Videos are then played back at a much slower 30 FPS to give a ‘slow motion’ feeling to things. I would personally recommend sticking to VGA resolution, since QVGA is too small to digest, really. Sound is not recorded since videos are played back in slow motion anyway, you cannot use any zoom while recording and each slow motion clip is limited to 30 seconds each (which will stretch out to 2 and 4 minutes respectively when played back).
Movie quality was overall very good with plenty of detail retained in videos as well as clear-sounding audio (you can check the samples below to see for yourself). And surprise, surprise! I have not one, not two but THREE sample videos from the Canon ELPH 300 HS for you. The first two show off the camera’s 1080p Full HD mode while the last one of the fireworks was recorded at a whopping 120 FPS (played back at 30 FPS) in Super Slow Motion movie mode:
Fireworks 1080p Full HD video
Squirrel 1080p Full HD video with use of optical zoom when recording
Super-slow motion VGA at 120 FPS
All performance testing of the Canon PowerShot ELPH 300HS was performed using a 16 GB SanDisk Extreme SDHC memory card.
The Canon PowerShot ELPH 300HS starts up very quickly in about 1 second (yes that includes the time to extend its lens!). Autofocus times were very quick, with focusing speeds averaging 0.1 to 0.3 seconds at wide-angle and 0.2 to 0.6 seconds at telephoto. The camera takes slightly longer than usual to focus in low-light, but manages to lock focus accurately thanks to the AF-assist light.
- Shot-to-shot speed – 1 shot every 1.5 seconds, very fast
- Flash recharge time using a fully charged battery – 4 seconds, decent
- Optical zoom speed (from wide-angle to telephoto) – 2 seconds, very fast
The Canon ELPH 300HS/IXUS 220HS follows the suit of its competitors this year by sporting two continuous shooting modes. Its full-resolution continuous shooting mode allows you to shoot at around 2.4 frames per second until the memory card fills up; while the camera’s High-speed burst mode lowers resolution to 3 megapixels and allows you to shoot up to 6 frames per second till the card fills up. Those are pretty high numbers, but lower than the advertised 3.4 and 8.2 FPS rates respectively. Also, some of the competition (notably Sony) can take short and very high-speed bursts, even at full-resolution (ie 10 pictures in a row at 10 FPS). The ELPH 300HS takes the slower but steadier route with its unlimited consecutive shooting at 2.4 FPS.
The ELPH 300HS is overall a solid performer in the speed area; producing good numbers and being an all-round responsive camera. The only small letdown is the actual burst speed is about 20-30% slower than advertised speed (some other reviewers also mention this, so it isn’t just me). I’ve also already mentioned the pros and cons of the ELPH 300’s full-res burst mode: this camera does it at a lower speed but can shoot indefinitely (provided you have a high-speed card), while some of the competition can output much higher frame rates, but can only sustain a single burst for roughly 1 to 2 seconds (that’s 10 to 16 shots assuming a frame rate of 8 to 10 FPS).
The Canon ELPH 300HS starts out nice and sharp at ISO 100 with a slight bit of visible grain at 100% viewing. Going up to ISO 200, images are still plenty sharp and retain detail, although we see another bump in the amount of noise. Despite that, noise is still only visible when photos are scrutinized at full magnification. Photo quality is still very usable at ISO 400 with just a light touch of noise reduction. At ISO 800, there’s a saturation drop as well as smudging of finer details. You still should be able to use photos for most print and display purposes though; especially if you downsize things slightly.
At ISO 1600, image quality becomes muddier and less usable right out of the camera (at most you might get a decent small 4 x 6 print or wallpaper for your laptop. If you’ve got the time to either downsize photos or process them to reduce noise, or both, on your computer, you should be able to squeeze out midsized prints from image quality. The last and final option on the ELPH 300HS is the camera’s ISO 3200 mode. Image quality is very muddy with most details gone at this point. Use it at your own discretion but I would save this setting for situations when you absolutely need to use it to get a clear shot (ie in very low-light)
The Canon ELPH 300HS produced good quality photos with great saturation (up till ISO 400, at least) and sharpness. The camera also exhibited very low amounts of lens distortion photos, which is surprising considering the very wide 24 mm starting point of the lens (either Canon must have made the lens really well, there’s some processing from the camera’s image processor involved or both). However, there was noticeable color fringing (chromatic aberration), particularly in high contrast scenes, as well as slightly soft corners.
Redeye was a non-issue since the camera effectively and automatically removes any it can detect (be sure to turn on the software based redeye reduction in the camera menu). In case the camera misses any redeye, you still don’t have to turn to your computer yet since the ELPH 300HS sports a redeye removal tool in playback which lets you manually pinpoint the location of any redeye – very useful!
Overall, the Canon PowerShot ELPH 300HS produced very good image quality right out of the box. Old-timers and pixel-peepers might complain of the noise grains at lower ISO levels, which is certainly slightly more noticeable than cameras from 4 to 5 years ago… but we’re kinda comparing apples to oranges; those older cameras had bigger sensors with just 3 to 5 megapixels. To the defense of the ELPH 300HS, this camera has 12 megapixels packed on a smaller CMOS sensor and if you manually downsized photos to lower resolutions, you can see that noise is in fact much lower than results from older cameras. The ‘CMOS difference’ isn’t noticeable until we hit higher ISO levels, where shots taken at ISO 800 and 1600 are a lot more usable than output by CCD-based cameras in the more recent years.
Head on to the Canon ELPH 300HS/IXUS 220HS photo gallery to view more photos in full resolution!
The Canon PowerShot ELPH 300HS has a very feature complete playback mode. Of course, the basics such as image protection, erasure, rotation and print marking. The camera can playback photos and videos with sound; complete with transition effects, playback zoom up to 10X (photos only) and thumbnail viewing (the camera can display photos in sets of 4, 9 and up to 100 thumbnails).
Photos can be grouped into several preset categories or marked as your favorites, as well as played automatically using the slideshow feature (which has 6 transition effects to choose from). There are also basic editing features you would expect such as iContrast (brightens your photos), software-based redeye removal, trimming (cropping), resize and the ability to apply My Colors photo effects to photos.
The Canon ELPH 300HS has a very unique Smart Shuffle (right screenshot) feature that lets you randomly playback photos. The camera shows the ‘main’ photo in the center accompanied by four random photos which you can go to by using the navigation pad. I’ve read somewhere that the camera is supposed to pick ‘similar’ photos but I disagree; its choices seem to be rather random at best.
The camera tells you plenty about your photos in playback: exposure and shooting information, brightness histogram and image settings are all here. There’s even a dedicated ‘focus check’ screen for zooming into and inspecting focus points the camera chose.
The Canon PowerShot ELPH 300HS is a small little camera with plenty of features. The camera retains the familiar ELPH/IXUS design with its compact dimensions, very good build quality and stylish looks; and is available in three different colors. The camera is packed with many notable features; chief among which include the 5X optical zoom lens and CMOS sensor. The camera’s ultra-wide-angle lens enables you to pack wider viewing angles into your photos than before (it is noticeably wider than conventional lenses that start at 28 or 35 mm) while the CMOS sensor allows for high-speed shooting and improved noise levels.
There’s a 2.7 inch display with decent resolution for you to frame and compose photos with, though in a world of iPhones, Droids and smartphones with 3.5 to 4.5 inch displays, a slightly larger (perhaps 3 or 3.3 inches) would certainly have been nice on this ELPH model. Considering the size of its display and supposedly low power nature of CMOS sensors (though I’m not sure of the exact specifications of the 12 megapixel unit Canon has used here), the ELPH 300HS also has slightly below average battery life.
The camera has various ‘high-speed’ tricks from shooting and combining several photos for clearer shots at high sensitivities, to being able to take multiple shots at high speed and extremely high frame rate movies. Speaking of which, the ELPH 300HS demonstrated excellent performance; fast and responsive it was. What was a let-down was the slower than advertised burst rates (no doubt they were still fast). An additional mode to shoot very fast, short bursts at full resolution would also have been nice – the camera tops out at under three frames per second at full 12 megapixels.
One thing that I also missed that other ‘high speed sensor’ cameras have that the ELPH 300 doesn’t, is any sort of ‘easy panorama’ mode… one which lets the camera automatically create and stitch panoramic images as you pan the camera from side-to-side (you have to snap them with the guidance of Stitch Assist mode and stitch them later on your computer with the bundled software). However, the camera makes up for that with its numerous scene modes and excellent movie mode. The camera sports the ability to record Full HD video with stereo sound, optical zoom, image stabilization, continuous autofocus and exposure adjustment… this is one tiny camera you can easily pocket when going out without bringing a full camcorder.
The Canon PowerShot ELPH 300HS (remember, also known as the IXUS 220HS) produces good image quality too, which tops it all off. The ELPH 300HS is a very good all-rounder ultra-compact camera that I would highly recommend. The camera has its flaws, like any human-made electronic product out there, but they’re minor and just a small compromise you’ll have to make for all the other appealing features of the camera – see if you can bear with them in the list below to know if this little ELPH/IXUS is for you.
- Versatile 5X optical zoom lens, starts at 24 mm
- Small and stylish, well-built camera; very legible display
- Plenty of point-and-shoot features and scene modes; useful low-light and handheld night scene modes
- Excellent performance; very fast
- High-speed continuous shooting (albeit at 3 megapixels) and slow motion movie modes
- Excellent movie mode; Full HD recording with stereo sound, optical zoom and stabilization
- Great feature-complete playback mode
- Good image quality
- Below average battery life
- No manual exposure controls
- Bigger and higher resolution display would be nice
- Flash is on the weak side
- No automatic ‘sweep’ panorama mode
- No high-speed burst mode at full-resolution
- Some color fringing and corner softness