When I was a child, I would crawl around my parents’ garden in search of insects, spiders, ladybirds and any interesting plants and weeds that caught my attention, examining them intently for hours and pretending they were a part of my imaginary zoo.
Last weekend I found myself, albeit twenty years older, doing the very same thing except this time I had a new toy, the Canon Digital Ixus 860 IS, and I was on a mission to capture pictures that would live up to my childhood explorations.
You see, the best feature for me on this 8-megapixel digital camera, which has a wide-angle lens of 3.8 times magnification and a 3-inch LCD colour screen, is the macro function.
In combination with the optical stabiliser and safety zoom features, I was able to take some pretty spectacular shots that even David Attenborough would approve of.
As siliconrepublic.com photographer Conor explained to me, ‘macro’ means the camera will take a picture in a 1:1 ratio. You can go into super-macro mode with the Ixus 860, so even though this Canon camera falls into the point-and-shoot category, it actually produces rather professional pictures for its price range.
Being able to focus on subjects that are a mere 3cm away means you can easily snap clear close-ups and this makes for lovely scenery and nature images that I was keen to upload on a photo sharing site immediately.
If you have not begun storing and sharing your digital pictures online yet, I would recommend Pix.ie. This Irish site is like Flickr.com, where you can store pictures privately or publicly and connect with other people on the site’s network, as well as tag your pictures with relevant labels.
The Ixus 860 is a camera with plenty of hidden features to make it idiot-proof for even the most amateur photographer but my favourite fun additions are colour swap and colour isolation.
In a few seconds, you can change your subject’s jumper from red to green or isolate a subject à la the little girl in Schindler’s List.
Another useful feature is the optional 3×3 grid that can be overlaid onscreen. This helps those with little or no photographic training to use the rule of thirds – a basic principle that makes for more balanced pictures which are pleasing to the eye.
As with most good point-and-shoot cameras on the market, the Ixus 860 has handy red-eye reduction. It also possesses the ever-useful anti-shake function for a sharper picture, because the more a camera zooms in on an object, the more evident any movement from the human hand becomes.
I brought this compact digital camera on a night out to see if it could impress as much in a darkened pub as it could in glaring sunlight. I left it on auto and although friends complained the flash was a bit bright, everyone was happy with the results when they crowded around the LCD screen to get a look at their alcohol-infused grins.
One small drawback for me was that although this is a gorgeous-looking camera, it seemed a bit bulky in comparison to some of my friends’ cameras.
One camera was at least one third slimmer, while another had a more impressively sized LCD screen. My conclusion is this camera is not for the casual snapper who wants to throw a small compact into their pocket or bag for a night out.
Pros: Captures amazingly detailed close-ups
Cons: Slightly bulky
Price: RRP €400
By Marie Boran
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