Canon has decided to break the Ixus mould with its new flagship model. Not only does it offer a series-high resolution of 7.1-megapixels, but it's moved away from the classic rectangular design of previous models, boasting a curved edge to the right of the body.
As an update to a classic design, we wholeheartedly approve; things can't stay the same forever, and even the coolest styles can start to look a bit dated after a few years on the shelves.
A while ago 5MP was something to write home about, but it seems that 7MP is the new magic number, with recent cameras from Sony, Casio, and here Canon adds to its magnificent seven pairing of the PowerShot S70 and Powershot G6 with this compact cutie.
Is this extra resolution going to make much difference to the average punter? Okay, so you can print out images taken on this Ixus to A3 size, but how regularly are you going to do that, especially since this camera has a feature list aimed at the keen amateur rather than the more serious enthusiast?
In some cases it can result in poorer pictures than a 5-megapixel rival, because the extra pixels are often squeezed onto the same size sensor. This is the case here, with Canon utilising a standard 1/1.8-inch CCD.
Canon has gone some way to counter this by using its impressive DIGIC II image processing system, technology shared with the 20D and 350D. The most notable benefit in day-to-day use is the fast start-up time and the speedy writing of images to the SD memory card - although the 32MB card supplied won't be much use if you opt for the top quality setting and least compression option.
The lens is a pretty standard 3x zoom affair, with a max aperture range of f/2.8-f/4.9, and while two-inch LCDs are also pretty common now, there's enough resolution for reviewing shots. The screen's visible in bright sunshine thanks to its QuickBright option.
Canon has staked out this camera for the amateur market, with features available post-picture taking. The most notable feature is the My Colour option, which enables you to mess around with the colour in an image. You can select one colour and change the rest to monochrome, or choose to swap two colours around. It's all fun, and produces some interesting results (and you can also save two copies of the image, one without the processing applied).
On a more serious note, there's also a choice of metering options between evaluative, centreweighted and spot, timer and flash options - accessed via the userfriendly four-way navipad on the back of the camera. Video quality options are also impressive.
As well as enabling you to record in 640 x 480 pixels at 30fps to the capacity of your memory card, there's also an option for a minute's worth of 320 x 240, which is useful if you want to record a sporting event or fast-moving subjects.
Fears about the usefulness of the 700's extra megapixels are dispelled when it comes to printing out pictures. Even with prints only slightly larger than standard 5 x 7, the extra resolution has excellent levels of detail. There's also little noise on display considering the specifications. Shooting indoors at ISO 400 does induce some digital artifacts, but it's far from the worst we've seen and the pros of this system outweigh the cons.
The good news continues with focusing. The 700 uses Canon's AiAF auto focus system, which displays where in the image it has locked onto. Using the metered white balance option - where a press on the menu adjusts the settings for the shot - also proves useful, producing better results than the settings on the Function button. However, the Canon is occasionally prone to over-exposing the background of images, which can lead to washed-out skies.
Colour reproduction is generally spot on, with lots of bright hues when shooting at the seaside in the bright sunshine, and an equally impressive grasp of natural shades and tones using the Macro modes indoors. There's also minimal barrel distortion or chromatic aberration; the Canon produces good, solid images. But it's perhaps not enough to warrant the extra cost over a good quality 5-megapixel camera.
Overall, the Ixus 700 is an attractive digital camera, and a worthy flagship model for Canon's style range. It's easy to handle, quick and responsive; and most of the time it produces top-notch images that can be blown up as large as you like. However, it's inhibited by a few problems that make it a touch temperamental, especially in terms of colour reproduction. Hunt around for a good price, and it could still prove to be something of a bargain. Shaun Marin