Looking very much like its predecessor with its distinctive curves and angles, the 310 HS upholds the IXUS tradition of combining good looks with functionality. Available in silver, brown, gold and pink, this distinctive compact is bulkier than some of its competitors, but will still slip into a pocket or handbag for easy portability.
As we've come to expect from the IXUS range, the build quality of the 310 HS is superb, with a robust stainless steel body that's built to withstand the rigours of daily life. The top panel houses a smattering of controls, including the power button, with a sliding switch on the left to flick between exposure modes and the shutter release on the right, which is encircled by a spring-loaded zoom lever.
Around the back, things look very minimalist indeed, with the sole control being a chunky playback button. Everything else has to be accessed via the camera's colossal touch screen which dominates almost the entire back panel.
At 3.2-inches, the 310 HS' screen looks very impressive - until you turn it on. Due to its 16:9 aspect ratio, you only get to use a small central portion of the LCD when shooting stills, with large black bands on either side accommodating various icons and virtual controls. Start recording a movie however, and the live view image fills the entire screen, letting you witness its full, high resolution glory. With a decent anti-reflective coating and fairly wide viewing angle, the screen performs well and makes composing stills and video at odd angles an easy task.
The touchscreen interface is the sort of thing you either love or hate. Thankfully, recent developments in this area of technology mean that the 310 HS' offering is simple to get to grips with and - on the whole - responsive.
Large icons offer fast access to key settings like the flash mode, self-timer and exposure compensation (among others) and a dedicated red movie icon lets you start and stop filming instantly. There's also the neat trick of being able to select your intended subject directly on-screen, whereupon the AF system locks onto it and starts tracking: great for shooting moving targets or for off-centre compositions.
Stick with Auto mode and the options available for tweaking are limited, but flick the switch on top of the camera to the left, then tap the FUNC. icon on the bottom left of the screen, and you unlock a whole host of creative possibilities.
A long list of icons encompassing everything from metering, white balance and ISO to focus range, drive mode and image quality - to name a few - can be explored and altered at will. For the most part, this system works reasonably well, however occasionally we did have to swipe or tap the screen a few times in order to get it to respond.
Jabbing the symbol at the top left of the LCD calls up the range of exposure modes on offer, of which there is no shortage. More experienced shooters will appreciate the inclusion of program, aperture and shutter speed priority options, which allow the greatest level of manual control over camera settings.
The rest of the exposure modes comprise presets like Portrait, Movie Digest and Kids & Pets, along with special features including Smart Shutter (which uses face detection to take portraits automatically), 3mp High-speed Burst and Handheld NightScene - the latter combining three shots taken in succession to reduce the effects of camera shake in the final image.
The remaining pages (totalling five in all) are populated with scene modes (Foliage, Fireworks and Snow for example) plus a set of creative filters. These filters apply distinctive characteristics to your shots automatically, allowing you to create unusual images without having to go near a computer. There's a bulbous fish-eye effect, miniature, toy camera and creative light settings, along with a pleasingly contrasty monochrome setting and - finally - super vivid and poster effects.
While it's great to have so many options to explore, this is where the touch screen interface does hamper operation as you have to scroll through seemingly endless pages of icons in order to get to the setting you want. This is where we found ourselves longing for a physical mode dial to quickly switch between modes.