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06 July 2015 @ 11:32 pm
IXUS 70 vs IXUS 160  
In 2008, just before heading off on honeymoon, I purchased a little digital camera, the Canon Digital IXUS 70 (known as the PowerShot SD1000 in the USA. Don't ask me why Canon insist on having different names for the same camera). 7 years, a fair amount of abuse and just under 9000 photos later, the same camera gave up the ghost while we were recently in Ibiza ("Lens error: restart camera" and fairly terminal sounding clicky noises from the lens motor).

While I've joined the SLR crowd in the meantime, the "little camera" still has its uses (something I can stick in my pocket when we go out for the day and don't want to lug the SLR around, something the lovely wife can easily grab for snaps of the kids, something I can give to James without too much fear that he'll break it), so we went shopping for a replacement. The requirements were not too demanding: no bigger than the IXUS 70, at least as much zoomy goodness and at least as good image quality. A quick survey of the market revealed that there wasn't much difference between the manufacturers, so we went for a Digital IXUS 160 (also known as the PowerShot ELPH 160), nominally the successor of the IXUS 70. Better the devil you know, and all that. So, what's changed in the compact camera market in the past 7 years?

Image quality: as the "70" died before we got the "160", I can't do an even semi-controlled comparision. However, the 160 isn't obviously better than the 70, so I'm calling this one a draw.

Zoominess: 70: 35-150 mm equivalent. 160: 28 - 224 mm equivalent. Clear win for the IXUS 160.

Megapixels: 7 megapixels on the 70 was enough. The fact that 160 has 13 megapixels on top of that doesn't actually improve things. I'm tempted to award this to the 70 on the basis that it produces smaller files, but as disk space is cheap, another draw.

Build quality: while the 70 was the "just above entry level" model, it still felt like a premium product - it had an almost entirely metal construction gave the impression it could take a fair amount of punishment before dying. And it did :-) The 160 on the other hand feels like it's constructed to be as cheap as possible - almost entirely plastic construction that feels much flimsier than the 70. Winner: IXUS 70 by a mile.

Cost: 70: £114 in 2007, which is around £140 in 2015 terms. 160: £74. Winner: IXUS 160

: both the 70 and the 160 use a CCD sensor (as opposed to CMOS) which means they're subject to the "CCD bleeding" effect where saturated pixels "bleed" into other pixels in the same column. Where this is really obvious on the 160 is in bright sunlight, when any sky is likely to bleed over the entire column in live view, rendering the whole pixel an ugly shade of blue. While this happened a bit on the 70, it's much worse on the 160. Fortunately, this is an issue only in live view and doesn't happen on the final photo, but it's still a pain. Winner: IXUS 70.

Auto mode: as this is the camera that's grabbed when we don't want the SLR, it's pretty important that it just gets things like exposure about right. Unfortunately, the 160 seems to have a tendency to overexpose quite badly in sunlight which wasn't there on the 70 - I'm frequently having to dial in a stop of so of negative exposure compensation to prevent large amounts of blown out highlights which is something I didn't have to do on the 70. Winner: IXUS 70. And that leads onto:

Gratuitious piece of UX breakage: about the one photographic control that bother the 70 and the 160 have is exposure compensation. On the 70, the appropriate UI for doing this was "left for negative compensation, right for positive" which is perfectly reasonable. The 160 has flipped its UI around so that most menu options are up/down rather than left/right. At this point, I think it's really, really obvious that "up" should be for positive exposure compensation and "down" for negative, but as you've probably guessed from the fact I'm writing this point, it's the other way round: "up" for negative compensation, "down" for positive. I've already found myself getting this wrong on more than one occasion. Come on Canon, did anyone who actually uses a camera actually have a say in that decision? Winner: IXUS 70.

As you can probably guess from all that, I'm not actually that impressed with the IXUS 160 - it's made a number of significant regressions from the IXUS 70. On the other hand, it does cost half as much, and it's not like I was expecting miracles in this end of the market.