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Canon IXUS 90IS Digital Camera Review

Canon IXUS 90IS Digital Camera Review - Matt Grayson takes a look at the Canon IXUS 90IS, a camera with lines so sharp, it would make an Aichmophobic start to sweat.

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Category : Compact Cameras
Product : Canon IXUS 90IS
Price : £199
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Initial impressions of the styling make me cast my mind back to the original IXUS released in September 1996. It was a bigger camera and took the recently developed yet ill-fated APS format. The quality of lens, performance and build ensured that despite the film it took, the brand would continue growing in popularity.

Canon IXUS 90 IS Canon IXUS 90 IS: Specification

  • Optical zoom: 3x
  • Resolution: 10Mp
  • Sensor type: CCD
  • Colour: Silver
  • Focal length: 6.2-18.6
  • Max aperture: f/2.8-4.9
  • Viewfinder type: Real-image zoom
  • Movie mode: 640× 480 30fps
  • Screen size: 3.0in
  • Card format: SD/SDHC/MMC/MMCplus/HC/MMCplus/32Mb memory card supplied
  • Battery model: Rechargeable Li-Ion NB-5L
  • Weight: 155g
  • Size: 91.6 x 56.8 x 20.9mm
  • Image size: 3648x2736
  • Minimum focus distance: 3cm
  • Exposure modes: Evaluative/Centre-weighted/Spot
  • Screen resolution: 230,000dots (76,000)
  • File formats: JPEG compression
  • Connectivity: Hi-Speed USB, A/V Output, dedicated connector
  • Flash type: Built in
  • Flash metering: Auto, Manual Flash On/Off
  • Shutter speed max: 1/1500 sec
  • Shutter speed min: 15 sec
  • Image stabilisation: Optical Image Stabilizer
  • ISO min: 80
  • ISO max: 1600
  • PictBridge: Yes
  • Face detection Technology: yes

For the same price, you may want to look at the Nikon Coolpix S550 which shares the same resolution and zoom as the Canon and has a slightly smaller screen. The Nikon is dimensionally smaller by a few millimetres and weighs less. For macro enthusiasts, the Canon has a closer focusing distance of 3cm compared to 10cm on the S550.

You could also take a look at the Sony DSC T70 for comparison. It has a lower 8Mp resolution but the same 3in screen and 3x optical zoom. The macro focus goes to 8cm, so still not as good as the Canon and its the same physical size, give or take a Gnat's hair.

Canon IXUS 90IS: Modes and features
IXUS models are now fully digital and run alongside their more feature laden brothers in the Powershot range. IXUS has and always will be directed at consumers who take looks over features and the 90IS is no different.

Canon IXUS 90 IS It's a simple box with a modest lens which pokes out of the stainless steel casing when the power switch on top of the camera is pushed. The shutter release is also located on top with the zoom wrapped around it on a spring loaded switch.

The back of the camera is a more minimalistic affair with a hint of futurism. The screen is very bright and is contained on the left of the camera with all other functions and buttons found on the right.

Interestingly enough the Canon IXUS 90IS only has one button in the strictest sense of the word and that's the OK button to confirm actions in the menu. The rest are a series of touch sensitive pads that are flush with the rest of the camera body and only signified by the title of the function written on the metal.

To ensure that the wrong button isn't pressed by accident, Canon have split the separate pads by fitting small, thin rubber separators in a letter I shape.

Switching between the Camera, Scene and Video modes is done using the tried and trusted switch which sits on the edge of the camera in the top right corner. Playback used to be on the switch, but now has its own button next to the Print Direct button which in turn is sat next to the small thumb pad.

The navigation pad doubles up with the functions listed in white on the camera body. Pressing up will access the ISO settings with left changing the focusing modes through AF, Macro and Landscape. Press right and you can change the flash options from Auto, Off and On while pressing down changes the drive settings. You can choose from Single or Continuous shooting and there's the option of three Self-timer options including a Custom timer. This is also accessed in the menu and allows you to select your own personal timer from anything between one second and 30 seconds.

Canon IXUS 90 IS Recently reviewed models from Kodak have shown evidence of a culture where the buttons on the back of the camera are being stripped of multiple functions. I think the IXUS range can benefit from this as they are generally laden with options. The IXUS 90IS isn't as bad as the IXUS 960IS, for example, which boggles the eyes with the amount of stuff happening on it.

The navigation pad is shaped like a wheel and it also now turns in a similar fashion to iPods. The wheel is used to choose the different scenes when in Scene mode and also switches through a selected amount of different options when in Auto mode such as Colour Boost, Manual mode, Stitch Assist mode and Digital Macro.

The Display button will show information on the screen or take it off depending on your personal preference. The Rule of thirds grid usually found there is absent, but can be accessed in the menu. You can also switch on a 3:2 grid to show where you'd crop the picture if you shot in that format.

The menu also lets you change other fundamental areas of the camera such as Review information, Volume controls, LCD Brightness, Date & Time and File numbering depending on which of the three tabs you choose to access.

The first tab is for Recording options while the second tab is for the Set-up of the camera. This has options for large changes to the camera including Formatting the card. The third tab is a more fun area and allows you to change the start up music and picture as well as adding a theme to the camera which will then change the background colour in the menu area.

The Image stabiliser has four separate options of Continuous, Shoot only, Panning and Off. It's no secret that the Continuous stabiliser uses more power. I reported this in the review of the Kodak M893IS. Canon appear to have a similar way of thinking and have added a single shot mode to save power. The Panning helps with the reduction of motion blur but not my dizziness from testing it.

canon IXUS 90 IS Canon IXUS 90IS: Build quality
The IXUS 90IS is the replacement for the IXUS 85IS and not much has changed except the styling, dimensions and weight because at 155g it's a whole lot heavier. The build quality is just as good as it was 12 years ago when the IXUS brand was launched, with a snazzy looking metal shell, good lens quality and firm buttons to press.

The screen is a bright 3.0in LCD which suffers from a little motion blur at high speed panning, but doesn't get any banding in areas that are backlit such as windows or open doors.

The tripod bush is metal, which is great to see on a compact and sits in the middle of the camera next to the battery door.

The battery lid still has the useless plastic patch on it that fools you into thinking you have to manipulate it to access the battery and card which share the same bay. The Canon IXUS 90IS doesn't have an internal memory, so is supplied with a memory card.

Canon IXUS 90IS: Flash options
Aside from the three options found in the Flash button on the navigation pad, the Red-Eye reduction can be adjusted in the menu under the Flash settings option. Here the Red-Eye lamp can be switched on or off and the Red-Eye correction software can be switched on too.

The flash has a firing distance of 30cm to 3.5m at wide-angle and 30cm to 2m at telephoto. The wide-angle capability is OK, but the 2m performance of the telephoto setting could be better.

Canon IXUS 90IS: Performance
The shutter lag test gave a mixed bag of results, but most bordered under 0.10second. Interestingly, when I pressed the shutter release halfway to focus, the camera didn't do anything. I checked the focus settings in the menu and still nothing. I tried taking a picture and that's when I noticed that the camera has a secondary level of resistance. The first one was where I was stopping as is normal in this situation, but the IXUS 90IS needs a little more push to get to the point where the focus kicks in.

The continuous shooting mode will only open up when the camera is in manual mode and can manage 14 shots in ten seconds. Not a bad result, but that's only when the flash is turned off. If it's on, then the camera will take one picture and stop there.

The landscape shot has produced a nicely detailed mid-ground area with reflections on the canal. The white bars show some purple glowing from fringing, as do the windows on the building but the roof is clear.

The Canon IXUS 90IS has a close focusing distance of 3cm. This is pretty good for a compact as most are around the 10cm mark these days. The daisy was swinging about in the breeze, so to get a shot this sharp is a great result. Before you start wondering, the daisy wasn't your ordinary lawn variety.

The Camera enjoys several scene modes and one of those is the Foliage mode. While I was out testing the camera, I flicked it onto the mode in the scene menu and shot with it. The greens are richly saturated.

Canon IXUS 90 IS
The primary colours are boosted and the mono tones look nicely balanced. The skin tone is a little too pink for my tastes.
canon IXUS 90 IS
The Macro mode can reach an invading 3cm.
Canon IXUS 90 IS
The Foliage mode boosts the green of trees and bushes as well as moss growing on rocks.
Canon IXUS 90 IS
The skin tone has been warmed a bit too much. Less is more in this case.
Canon IXUS 90 IS
The warm tones are still showing through, but the flash has balanced it out more and brought needed relief to shadows.
Canon IXUS 90 IS
Program mode seems to have softened the image to a degree. Lines appear to be softer.

Canon IXUS 90 IS
The landscape shows good detail throughout with only faint traces of fringing in high contrast areas.

Canon IXUS 90IS: Noise test
An excellent result for the Digic processor as noise only just starts to appear at ISO400 in small amounts.

Whereas normally different colours start to appear in the noise areas consisting of purple or green, the ISO800 shot hasn't even got these colours showing. The detail of the petal is starting to break down, but it's still an excellent result.

The highest rating of ISO1600 does show a dramatic change in quality as lots of noise is viewable in black and grey areas. the sharp lines dividing the squares and the flower details have gone to pot as the processor tries desparately to rectify the noise issue.

Canon IXUS 90IS
The ISO80 test.
Canon IXUS 90 IS
The ISO100 test.
Canon IXUS 90 IS
The ISO200 test.
Canon IXUS 90 IS
The ISO400 test.
Canon IXUS 90 IS
The ISO800 test.
Canon IXUS 90 IS
The ISO1600 test.

Canon IXUS 90IS: Verdict
The Canon IXUS 90 IS is a beautiful camera to look at and use. You can tell the quality just by touching it and it also shines through in the performance.

I'm surprised at there being no internal memory and it coming with a memory card instead. Not that it's a bad thing, it's simply not something that is done with today's cameras.

If you're looking for a camera that's strong on looks and quality and you want to look trendy on your nights out, take a look at this.

Canon IXUS 90IS: Plus points
Nice design
Great build quality
Interesting design
Great noise performance

Canon IXUS 90IS: Minus points
Skin tones are a bit too warm
Annoying resistance on the shutter release

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The Canon IXUS 90 IS costs around £200 and is available from the ePHOTOzine shop here.

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