Canon's latest digital camera has been on sale for just two weeks in Japan, but it's already one of the hottest items in Akihabara, Tokyo's famous electronics district.

The Digital Ixy is the smallest 2-megapixel-class digital still camera developed so far, according to its maker. Imagine a credit card-sized package approximately one inch deep and you have a good idea of its dimensions.

The camera is expected to be available in the UK by June and is expected to called the Powershot S100 Digital Ixus. The cameras retail for around £450 in Japan, but Canon says pricing will vary by region.

Canon has paced its camera with a range of features. Among them are a 2X optical zoom in addition to a digital zoom, a 1.5-inch thin-film transistor liquid crystal display, and an auto-focus system with an artificial intelligence engine that Canon says can determine a picture's subject even if it is off-center.

The camera offers three shooting resolutions: large/super-fine 1600 by 1200 pixel resolution; large/fine 1600 by 1200 pixel resolution; and small/fine 640 by 480 pixel resolution. An 8Mb memory card holds a maximum of four images taken in the large/super-fine mode, 12 images in large/fine mode, or 46 images in small/fine mode.

Most of the camera's functions are accessed through a row of five buttons under the LCD and an on-screen graphical user interface, which makes for easy use. The GUI can switch among five languages: English, Japanese, French, German, and Spanish.

Canon claims a shutter release lag-time (the difference between the time the camera establishes focus and when the picture is taken) of just 0.05 seconds. Its shooting interval (the minimum amount of time that can elapse between shots) is 1.7 seconds. A continuous shooting mode, with the LCD switched off, lets you take two shots per second.

The Digital Ixy stores images on a CompactFlash-type memory card. Canon also supplies a kit that enables you to connect the camera to a PC with a USB interface. A video output socket also allows you to view images on a television or video monitor.