A 28-105mm, f2.8-5.8, 3.8x optical zoom lens is what sets the Canon Ixus 860IS apart from other Canons, like the similarly-named Ixus 850IS. The Canon Ixus 860IS also has a 8.3 megapixel CCD censor, a 230K pixel, 3-inch LCD, and Advanced Face Detection, which can be used to set exposure and autofocus for up to nine faces. It’s a real break-through for Canon, even if it isn’t without flaws.
I might as well jump in with the cons first, just to get them over with. First, you won’t find an optical viewfinder on the Canon Ixus 860IS. Although this was most likely in the interest of a better design, the new look in itself left out a very important feature, in my opinion- room for the thumb in one hand shooting, although one-handed shooting might not be the best idea, since the camera weighs 160g. You might need that extra hand to help produce a stable image, even with the optical image stabilization. Also, controlling exposure manually is a no-go with the Canon Ixus 860IS, which is typical with this line. You use either auto exposure or one of the preset scene modes.
The good things in the Canon Ixus 860IS more than make up for any negatives. The LCD control pad is more intuitive, in that a button’s functions show up on the screen if you rest your finger on it, which would help if you’re adjusting while shooting. The Canon Ixus 860IS has flash exposure compensation, meaning you don’t get an overexposed subject when you use flash at close range, which is not something most compact cameras like this offer. In bright lighting, shutter lag is only 0.4, and it rises by just 0.3 seconds under dim conditions; 1.3 fps seemed to be the standard rate of the Canon Ixus 860 for any image size and compression.
The Canon Ixus 860IS produces extraordinary shots. The only thing to note is that you might want to use the tungsten preset under incandescent lighting if you want to neutralize the warm tones it adds. Under ISO 200, there’s virtually no noise with the Canon Ixus 860IS; it becomes quite visible on a monitor at ISO 400, though it can be fixed with Canon’s noise reduction algorithms. Surprisingly, images still show a lot of shadow detail up at ISO 800, although noise will also show quite a bit, but it doesn’t get really bad until ISO 1600. At this point, your images will show a lot of softness, and the only place you might be able to use them is on the web or for small prints.
Although the Canon Ixus 860IS is a point-and-shoot, it provides impressive quality, and even professionals would gladly carry it in their pockets. The only downside is the lack of manual controls for exposure, but other than that the Canon Ixus 860IS is perfect.