By December 3, 2008

Canon Digital IXUS 85IS review

A little while ago, our friends at Canon provided us with a very smart looking Canon Digital IXUS 85IS. This is the mid range camera in the latest Digital IXUS range of cameras from Canon. The IXUS range has been around for a number of years now, and the latest versions certainly seem to continue Canon’s acclaimed styling, reliability and quality. However, if this new version is anything to go by, I have to say that first impressions show an even higher level of build quality than previous units. This little gem is solid, well built and looks like it would take a few knocks or accidental drops for sure.

Have a look below at the front of the camera and judge for your self…


The Canon Digital IXUS 85IS


Canon have certainly stuck to their initial plans from the very first IXUS ranges, and this latest version doesn’t really differ too much in functionality from some of the original cameras. Obviously the electronics have got faster, lenses smother in operation and Image Resolution has increased but the look and feel remains around the same. Don’t expect technical wizardry, in camera editing or a host of scenery effects with this little camera, Leave that for Photoshop. Canon have however built in a really good Image stabilisation system into this camera so there is a little of something for everyone. The processing power of the DIGIC III engine is actually very good, and whilst some of the options seen on other cameras may not be included, the more important benefits really shine through such as very fast focusing and excellent colour capture and reproduction..

What’s in the Box?

Not surprisingly, pretty normal for a compact Digital camera, LI-ON Battery, Manuals, Charger, USB connection and AV cables. Wish I had the patent for those AV cables everyone uses.


Canon IXUS 85IS Specification

  • Type: Type – Ultra Compact
  • Pixels: CCD – 10 megapixels / Resolution (in pixels) – 3648 x 2736
  • Optical: Optical Viewfinder – Real-image zoom, optical viewfinder / LCD display – 2.5" (6.35 cm) PureColor II TFT screen 100% coverage 230,000 dots Up to 15 brightness settings / Macro Distance – 3 cm / Normal Distance – From 30 cm upwards / Optical Zoom – 3x / Digital Zoom – 4x / ISO range – Auto, High ISO auto (with movement detection), 80, 100, 200, 400, 800 and 1600 ISO /
  • Storage: Image formats – JPEG / Memory Card Type – SDHC, SD, MMC Plus, HC MMC Plus cards / Included Memory Card – 32 MB / Internal Memory – No
  • Video: Video mode – Yes, with sound / Video Sequence – 640 x 480 at 30 images/sec. / TV Output – No / Webcam – No
  • Classic IXUS design
  • 10.0 Megapixels
  • 3x zoom with optical IS
  • Motion Detection Technology
  • Face Detection Technology
  • Red-Eye Correction
  • DIGIC III processor and iSAPS
  • 2.5" PureColor LCD II
  • 19 Shooting Modes
  • Creative movie options



The IXUS 85IS, takes its lead from the earlier IXUS80 taking the well tried and tested Image stabilisation introduced with this earlier version and increasing the Image resolution to 10megapixels. This should really be enough for almost anyone allowing a substantial range of enlargements whilst retaining high quality.

Looking at the camera starting at the back shows a very uncluttered set of controls.

A simple “Shoot or Play” switch at the top, menu access via pretty standard buttons, but with direct access to some of the most common used controls such as flash, autotimer and macro settings. It certainly would not take anyone who has used any compact camera before very long at all to use this camera to full effect.


Unusually though for a compact camera is a built in viewfinder which in my opinion is a very useful addition. Seeing any compact camera screen clearly in a very bright sunny day can be difficult, and with additional power saving of not using the screen a further advantage.


A standard SD card slot is provided which will take SDHC cards located right next to the battery location.

ixus_top_off ixus_top_on

Shutter controls and zoom functions are located at the top of the camera, initially I thought the zoom control was slightly too far to the centre of the camera but this turned out to be quite comfortable.


With the majority of the case metal, the look and feel of the camera are very good, controls are simple to operate and menu response very fast when jumping through settings.



  • Very fast to operate – Average start up times of the camera around 1 second
  • Fast focusing of the autofocus engine is very good, allowing shots to be taken very quickly. It takes about 1.5 seconds between shots which is average for a camera of this size and type. Continuous shooting allows a couple of frames a second, but the camera does not refocus though.
  • Good colour and Saturation of images and shots taken
  • Image Stabilisation helps remove lots of camera shake allowing pictures to be taken in lower light levels (This is more important as the IXUS 85IS does suffer from noise at higher ISO levels)
  • Simple to use menus and controls


  • Noise levels on High ISO values over around ISO 400 do start to affect image quality
  • Levels of purple fringing on some shots taken outdoors in bright Sun



This little Canon really looks and feels like its earlier stable-mates from the original IXUS mould. Enhancements have been made, and the increase in image resolution and Image Stabilisation are great benefits but are becoming more and more standard across all manufacturers. What sets Camera this apart is the IXUS style, build quality and performance. Built to take knocks and I’d suggest a reasonable amount of abuse. It’s almost akin to what that certain “Fruit Named” manufacturer did with MP3 players – Added style!

The lens is relatively standard 3x Optical zoom equivalent to a standard 35-105mm lens, perhaps not offering quite the range of some other cameras – I missed a slightly wider angle. Quality though was excellent and zoom in and out times quite impressive. Built into the lens is Canon’s tried and tested image stabilisation which again does the job very well.

Images taken were very sharp and very crisp to view, even when zoomed in at very high levels. The 10MP CCD is certainly well up for almost every demand that most photographers would throw at it. Some issues were seen with shots, mostly with outdoor images in bright sun, with some fringing in a great shade of purple against edges of images. I had seen reports of softening of images towards the corners but I found this acceptable and not overly soft.

Image noise on high ISO values (mostly above 800) was quite high and got worse as the ISO level was increased. I’m sure most users would not really use these high ISO settings on a day to day basis though so probably would never been noticed.

The controls are synonymous with most of the other cameras in the IXUS range as well as most other compact cameras. The simple DPAD and switches to choose Picture, Video or Play mode are located in sensible places, very clearly labelled and simple to understand.

The 2.5” LCD is clear, crisp and very bright in most light levels with the added advantage of a small but very useful viewfinder.



Staying true to the IXUS brand, the IXUS 85IS is a commendable well built and performing compact digital camera. It is very simple to use, light weight (Whilst still feeling very well built) and a fast performer with autofocus taking around ½ second even in low light situations.

The evidence of some fringing in bright shots and the noise on High ISO settings did let things down a little, but most normal photograph takes would never notice these issues.

Overall another worthy contender to the IXUS brand, with prices now coming down on this little unit to very reasonable levels around £140 advertised on various web sites it is a very good day to day camera with some good nifty features.

If you are looking for a reasonably priced, point and shoot camera, with some nice additions this one should be on your list.


Review by: John

Posted in: Reviews

About the Author:

More than 20 years in the IT industry. Blogging with a passion and thirst for new technology since 2005.
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