Canon's IXUS range of compact cameras is treading a tricky line. If it starts to offer too many features it'll end up treading on the toes of Canon's PowerShot range. Too few features, though, and the camera phone - already taking chunks out of the compact camera market - will offer an altogether more compelling and convenient alternative.

The Canon IXUS 510 HS (known as the Canon ELPH 530 HS in the US) is resolutely consumer level. Pick up the rather angular 163g camera and the most immediately noticeable thing is the lack of buttons - a power button, a playback button and the shutter button are all you get. The only other physical control is the zoom rocker switch around the shutter.

The back is occupied almost wholly by the 3.2-inch LCD screen, which is a touchscreen, hence the lack of hard controls.

Canon IXUS 510 HS

It's what's inside the Canon IXUS 510 HS that makes it interesting. Canon has crammed in 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi, for example, which means you can connect the camera directly to the internet from an enormous variety of places, uploading your images and videos to Facebook, Twitter or YouTube, or emailing a link.

Alternatively, you can create an ad hoc network straight from the camera, enabling you to finally ditch your Medusa's haircut of USB cables and beam your images from the Canon IXUS 510 HS to a computer.

Canon IXUS 510 HS at a glance
Sensor: 10.1MP, 1.2/3-inch CMOS
Lens: 12x zoom (28-335mm equivalent) f/2.4-5.6
LCD Screen: 3.2-inch touchscreen, 461,000-pixels
ISO range: ISO 100-3200
Dimensions: 86 x 20 x 54mm, 163g

Finally, Canon has launched its hat into the mobile app ring, creating apps for iOS devices.

Lest we forget, there's a Canon compact camera underneath all the tech niceties, with the package priced at £349 in the UK (about $550).

Impressively, the camera includes a 12x optical zoom (28-336mm in 35mm terms), a 10.1 megapixel sensor and Canon's much-vaunted High Sensitivity (HS) System for better performance in low light.

Build quality and handling

Canon IXUS 510 HS review

The Canon IXUS 510 HS is a rather boxy camera - the curved edges seen on cameras such as the svelte Canon IXUS 125 HS are gone, but there's no doubt the Canon IXUS 510 HS is still a pretty chic-looking device.

The shiny finish is something of a double-edged sword: on the one hand it initially looks great, but after a days' handling it picks up more fingerprints than a crime scene.

There's no terribly natural way to hold it, either. There's no grippy area on the front, and you have to hold the camera with your thumb underneath the bottom edge to avoid tripping the touchscreen, which occupies the entire back surface, with the exception of a 4mm bezel on the right-hand edge. Supporting the camera with a hand on the left-hand side works pretty well.

Canon IXUS 510 HS review

Speaking of the touchscreen, it's a resistive, rather than capacitative, screen, which means it's less sensitive and a little more bendy than the high-calibre glass screens on high-end phones. But it's still pretty accurate - typing Wi-Fi access point passwords is simple enough, for instance.

Swiping gestures work a little less reliably, but it's always possible to simply tap your way through the menus.

In general, using the touchscreen to navigate the Canon IXUS 510 HS's various options works very nearly as well as using the buttons on Canon's non-touchscreen cameras. The menu system is recognisable from other IXUS cameras.

Canon IXUS 510 HS review

The wireless features are among the camera's most interesting. The playback screen has a Wi-Fi logo at the top left; give it a poke and by default you can send images to another camera, a mobile phone or a computer.

Setting up a wireless network is quick and easy, and Canon's CameraWindow app, though basic, is free and works well. It's a tad sluggish, with high-quality previews of images on the camera taking around four seconds to render from their low-res counterparts, but being able to browse the contents of the camera from a connected iPad or iPhone is undeniably cool.

CameraWindow also enables you to post images to Facebook, save them to your device's camera roll, or email them out. Assuming your device has a 3G connection, being able to create an ad hoc wireless network is a great way to share photos without needing to splash out on Apple's £25/$29 Camera Connection Kit.

Canon IXUS 510 HS review

At places with internet-connected Wi-Fi networks, it's possible to share directly from the camera, although this takes a little more legwork. You need, for instance, to sign up to Canon's Image Gateway service, then add that to your Facebook profile. All this needs to be done from Canon's desktop CameraWindow software and the settings synced to the camera over a USB cable, but it's a one-time job.

Frustratingly, you can't define the name of the Facebook album you're uploading to without connecting to a computer: the camera simply uploads everything to the same set of pictures, which is great if you've set up an album before going away for the week, but less ideal if you're away for a year and fancy splitting your shots up by country.

There are also restrictions when it comes to sending shots by email - you can't tap in an email address on the camera itself. Instead you have to create a group of email addresses on your PC, then sideload it to the camera. From the camera itself you can select these preset groups and email out links to your galleries.

Another one-time annoyance is the Canon IXUS 510 HS' taste in memory cards - the 8.6cm wide, 2cm-deep camera only takes microSD cards, so most - including those upgrading from another compact camera - will need to add one to their shopping list.