Canon has got the building of its IXUS cameras down to a fine art.

The casing and controls on the 10-megapixel Canon IXUS 85 IS have barely changed from the earliest 3-megapixel IXUS, which may sound lazy but we feel it's a very good idea.

The flat finish of the sturdy casing makes it easy to hold securely and it's as easy as can be to stand on a flat surface should you wish to use the self-timer.

Easy to use

The layout is straightforward with a hatch on the bottom that covers the battery and SD card. There is no internal memory, but Canon includes a 32MB SD card in the package to get you started.

Under a cover on the right-hand side, there's a single mini USB port that can be used to connect to your laptop or you can use the supplied Composite cable to display photos and movies on your TV.

The controls are incredibly easy to use as the menus are a model of clarity. In Auto mode you can adjust the picture size and choose from a tiny handful of modes that include Kids & Pets, Portrait and Night Snapshot. The Fujifilm below has 16 scene modes, including Sunset and Fireworks, and while you could argue this is over the top, Canon seem to have erred in the opposite direction.

It's the same story with the rest of the specification, as the lens doesn't have a wide angle setting and the 3x optical zoom is rather basic, giving the IXUS 85 a rating that is the 35mm equivalent of 35-105mm.

Sharp pictures

Image quality was generally good, although the digital zoom was typically unusable and made our photos look grainy.

Wherever possible, we also tried to avoid using the optical zoom, as it reduced image quality. Close-up photos were sharp and clear, but interior shots often required the use of flash, even if the room was bright.

On balance we like the IXUS 85 IS, as it's the type of camera you can carry in your pocket or bag where it is ready for instant action, but the price is rather steep for a camera that is relatively basic.