Resembling a sci-fi gadget, the Canon Elph 2 was marketed as the smallest and advanced APS camera in the market at the end of the naughties (1990s). It was known as the Elph 2 in the Americas, in Japan it was the IXY 320 and in Europe it was called the IXUS II.
Canon really did put everything they could into the design of Elph 2. This begins with the all metal construction through to the instant responsiveness. It was also a leaping jump into a dead end, as the APS film format was not long of this world at that point in time.
You could say the timing of this camera, along with some dubious decisions on the format is what lets this camera down. It ticks all the boxes for what a compact camera should be. It is small, very small, it is easy to use and produces very good results. Bundled with the flexibility APS has inherently built in, it is the ideal pocket camera.
APS is also the Achilles heel. Firstly, the format is smaller than 35mm. That has quality disadvantages when compared to 35mm negatives, but at least is much, much better than any disc camera results. The second issue with APS is that it was introduced not long before digital photography becoming the dominant format in photography. It effectively relegated the format and the cameras that use it as redundant.
This also leads to the need to use expired film for this review, so please keep this in mind that the film used was very expired and with unclear storage history.
I came across my little Elph 2 in a bargain shelf at a charity shop and got it for a bit of a laugh, let’s find out a bit more about it and how I got on with it.
The Advanced Photo System, or APS for short, was a new film approach and format introduced in 1996. It was introduced by film companies Kodak, Fujifilm and camera manufacturers Minolta, Nikon, Canon, Olympus, Rollei, Vivitar and others. Even Leica later released an APS camera. APS is also known as IX 240.
The aim of the format was to modernise or even replace the traditional 35mm film format. This was with easier loading through a cartridge and advanced user functions. It included multi formats on the same roll, with a log of how it was taken and used by the lab to produce the results. Mid roll changes were catered for and even storage was considered, where the film resided in the cartridge after processing.
Three native formats were included in most of the cameras which shoot APS. They are Classic (“C”, 3:2 ratio), High Definition (“H”, 16:9 ration) and Panoramic (“P”, 3:1 ratio). The film was 24mm wide and these formats were all portions of the frame.
While the size of the negative was smaller than 35mm, it was balanced against the advancement of emulsions. The resolution was getting better and better with every new release, so it would not be a big disadvantage for long, or so it was planned. Of-course, digital came along and film advancement was paused for a few years, leading to the discontinuation of APS completely in 2011.
The original Canon Elph/IXUS was released in 1996 with the introduction of APS film. It is a compact camera with a full complement of features offered by the APS system. It was designed to be stylish and something that would be eagerly carried in a bag or pocket. The Elph was very successful with 2.2 million units sold up to 1999.
In 1999 Canon released the Elph 2/IXUS II as an upgrade to the original model. It has the distinction of being the world’s smallest fully automatic zoom APS compact camera. It was designed to push the envelope in size, being another 13% smaller than the original Elph. The Elph range, across the three naming conventions, became the best-selling APS cameras.
When released it sold for $300 – $350 AUD ($220 – $250 USD). That equates to $588 AUD ($395 USD) in 2020.
Within a few years, roughly 2005, digital took the mantle and APS and the cameras supporting the format were relegated to a historical photographic offshoot.
The Canon Elph 2 (also known as IXUS II and IXY 320) is a small APS compact camera with a full feature set. It was released in 1999. It is a very small camera measuring 87mm x 57mm x 24.5mm. Even with a full metal body, without a battery it weighs in a wafer 170g.
The Elph 2 has a fully automatic 2x zoom lens, ranging from 24-46mm with a maximum aperture of f/4.2-5.6. This is 29-87mm equivalent in 35mm format. The lens is constructed in 6 elements in 6 groups. Zooming is controlled with moving the ring around the shutter release on top of the camera.
Autofocus is a 3-point active/passive hybrid auto-focusing system. Close focus is limited to 0.25m but there will be a green lamp blinking under 0.45m. Pre-focus is enabled allowing off centre focusing.
All three standard APS frame formats are available, with an overall frame size of 16.7mm x 30.2mm. The format is selected by a switch next to the viewfinder at the back of the camera. Options for format are Classic (25.1mm x 16.7mm), High Definition (30.2mm x 16.7mm) and Panoramic (30.2mm x 9.5mm). This does require the lab to read the format off the film when printing or scanning, which in 2020 would rarely be done.
The viewfinder is also adjusted for the format selected and for the current zoom setting.
Aperture and shutter speed are fully automatic, as is the ISO which is read from the cartridge called IX data. The shutter release button is on top, with a self-timer button next to it and the zoom ring surrounding it. Just behind it, at the back, is also the power button, which activates the lens to uncover itself and pop out.
At the back is an LCD screen with battery level indicator, frame number, date or message selected to print on the photo, and settings. The settings are about the flash, redeye etc.
At the bottom of the camera are the buttons to select flash settings, multi exposure, message and date selections. Settings of the actual date and a rewind button are also there but require the nib of the wrist strap to depress them.
Loading the film is easy by first opening the latch of the film bay. Unlike 35mm, there is no threading or pulling out a leader. Once inserted, the camera reads the position of the frames used and moves the film across to the next frame. When unloading the film, it requires the camera to be powered by the battery as it first rewinds the film automatically, so no chance of accidental exposure.
Power comes from a single CR2 battery, which adds a miniscule 11g to the camera.
The Canon Elph 2 came to me unplanned. I saw it sitting there in the glass bargain shelf of the charity store. It was shiny and there was nothing around it. I had never really considered these. The label said $5 and it was shiny, so I bought it.
When I got home, I inserted a fresh battery and was surprised to find that it had film in it. Bonus! Most of the photos, the ones on Fujifilm Nexia A200, are actually from that film, with the last two on this page from the previous owner.
Something happened though, I actually really liked this camera. It is so tiny, it actually does fit into a pocket. The build is also very good, the all metal body giving it a sense of toughness. When powered up, it is also very quick to respond.
The viewfinder is a bit small, but considering everything else on the camera is as well, it’s not a big issue. It is bright and easy to see which format it is currently set to.
I started to take a few photos at home, annoying both my son Alec, and our dog Oscar. I could tell right away from a usability point of view this was a camera I enjoyed carrying around. Next, I took it to work in the city centre and tried it a few lunch breaks on the street.
While I would not really rate this as a street camera, I could imagine this would be great for someone travelling with a camera. It would pack easily and can be pulled out quickly for a shot or two. Usability only gets you so far though and the results are what would matter, so at the end of the roll I found a lab that would process it. I could not use my usual lab as they don’t support APS and they looked at me strange when I brought it up.
To be honest, I did not expect much, as the film had been sitting in there for an unknown period of time. When the processed film and scans came back, I was actually surprised. There is an obvious colour shift and quite a bit of grain from the old film, but not as bad as I thought it would be.
Further to that, the little lens performs quite well. Grant you, the smaller negative size probably helps in that sense, but it is quite sharp. The camera also exposes very well too, with most of the shots well exposed.
Next, I wanted to insert some expired Kodak Advantix 200 I had purchased, which I had been assured had been refrigerated its whole life. I loaded up and carried the camera around for a few days.
Again, I enjoyed using it, it was good to have around. It is not much more effort than having my mobile phone with me. The added benefit is that no one takes notice of you photographing, though I did not get the chance to use it on many people photos. At the end I had this film processed too.
Unfortunately, this time round the film was in much worse shape. Even with the corrections from the lab within the scans you can still see the colours are all wrong. In some cases, I have had to even convert to black and white to salvage the photos.
Even with the damaged film, the camera performed really well. It really points to the market the Elph/IXUS series was aimed at. Someone that really wants a very uncomplicated and easy shooting experience. I actually quite like the concept of APS, though disagree with the smaller negative. But then again I do sometimes shoot half frame, which contradicts this statement! The functionality makes a lot of sense.
The Canon Elph 2 was an unplanned purchase, and a dead format I really was not going to do much with. Using the camera, I was really impressed and enjoyed the experience. No fuss, small, and it can produce really good results. A camera that was great in concept but it and the format it supports came out at the wrong time. Now, it is a nice little camera to see out the final days of APS and looks great on the shelf, all metal and shiny.
There isn’t many recent reviews of the Canon Elph 2 as APS has not been manufactured for nearly a decade, but one I enjoyed reading is Peggy’s experience at Camera Go Camera. It is for the original Elph/IXUS, but relevant.