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Canon IXUS 980IS Digital Camera Review

Canon IXUS 980IS Digital Camera Review - It's a politically correct world we live in, so it's nice to see the Canon IXUS 980IS with its well-rounded design. Secretly, Matt Grayson thinks it's fat.

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Category : Compact Cameras
Product : Canon IXUS 980IS
Price : £269
Rating :
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Canon add another steed to the IXUS stable with the 980IS. An upgrade to the 960IS but with a stupidly high resolution and nifty new quick menu.

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Canon IXUS 980IS Canon IXUS 980IS: Specification

  • Zoom: 3.7x optical
  • Resolution: 14.7Mp
  • Sensor size: 1/1.7in
  • Sensor type: CCD
  • Image size: 4416x3312
  • File type: JPEG
  • Sensitivity: ISO80-1600
  • Storage: SD, SDHC
  • Focus types: TTL AiAF (9 point face detection), 1 point (centre, face select and track)
  • Close focusing: 5cm
  • Metering types: Evaluative, centre-weighted, spot
  • Exposure compensation: /- 2EV in 1/3 step increments
  • Shutter speed: 15sec-1/1600sec
  • Flash: Built in
  • Monitor: 2.5in LCD
  • Interface: USB 2.0
  • Power: Li-Ion battery
  • Size: 96.7x62.2x27.9mm
  • Weight: 160g

£269 will give you 3.7x optical zoom, a massive 14.7Mp resolution and an excellent build quality. The Olympus Mju 1030 at £249 offers a lower 10Mp resolution, similar 3.6x optical zoom and has additional safety such as water proofing, crush proofing and drop proofing.

Alternatively, the Ricoh GX100 at £293 moves into prosumer territory with a wide angle 24mm lens, 10.3Mp resolution and RAW recording.

Canon IXUS 980IS: Features
Canon hit on a winner with the IXUS brand. The original IXUS was Canon's prestige offering in what was then the newly developed APS system and its name stood for style, quality and innovation. Through the years the name has held itself above others and proved to be one of the most popular brands available in the compact classification.

The new IXUS 980IS is the follow on to the IXUS 960IS that I reviewed back in November 2007 and nothing has changed in design between the two models. The new model is just as curvy and fluid reminding me of the organic Mon Calamari cruisers in Return of the Jedi.

Canon IXUS 980IS
A wheel has been added to the camera for faster selection and the layout of the best shot dial has been revised.
Canon IXUS 980IS
The quick shot option brings up this screen. Pressing function highlights the options so they can be scrolled through.

There are subtle changes or additions in the layout such as a command dial wrapped around the D-pad which allows you to navigate the menus and playback area much faster than before. A couple of new features have also been added to the best shot dial including a program/manual mode and an innovative new "Quick Shot" option.

Entering this mode brings up a quick menu on the LCD screen allowing you to see more clearly what the options are that you're controlling. This means you no longer have to use some of the options in the function menu although that remains. Pressing set enters into the options in the quick menu and you can change the settings by using the command dial. Pressing up, down, left and right on the D-pad moves through the options.

Manual focus has been added to the D-pad when you enter the focus options by pressing left and that about ends it for the additions to the camera apart from the power button now lighting up when the camera is on. It's a snazzy green but the great thing is that when the camera's off, it looks silver fitting in with the rest of the camera.

In this day and age I'm surprised that the screen is the same size as the previous model and not upgraded to a larger 2.7 or even 3in version. After all, the camera is bigger so they're not using the same chassis as before.

There are so many quick access options on the IXUS 980IS that it's starting to get confusing. Not only is there the new Quick Shot mode on the best shot dial but you also have the function button in the centre of the D-pad and you can press the various directions of the D-pad to get into other functions such as flash, ISO, focus modes and drive modes.

Remembering all these options could be troubling so think about this if you decide to take a look at one. Of course, this view is a little pessimistic and I could say that it gives you greater scope and a higher possibility of getting the right shot because all modes are easier to get to. Whichever way you look at it is your own decision.

Canon IXUS 980IS
Canon IXUS 980IS

Canon IXUS 980 IS: Build and handling
Build quality has always been excellent on the IXUS brand and the 980IS doesn't let the side down. It feels solid from its metal casing and the curvy styling fits it nicely into the palm of your hand. The Canon zoom lens is a 3.7x optical zoom taking you that little bit closer into the action than a normal 3x and it's image stabilised for sharper results.

The screen is nice and bright and suffers only slightly from purple banding when the camera is pointed at a bright light. It doesn't have motion blur which is a problem that can be a pain if you like to pan your images.

There are subtle additions that show the camera is set into a higher classification such as the metal tripod bush and solid battery door.

Some features can take some time to master such as the command dial changing the settings when in the function menu instead of scrolling through the options.

I like the firmness of the buttons and switches although the best shot dial could be easier to move.

Canon IXUS 980IS: Performance
Shutter lag varied but could be my own reflexes letting me down in my old age and times came in at the usual 0.08sec to 0.15sec.

I'm quite impressed with the continuous shooting mode kicking out a perfectly respectable 14 images in the ten second burst test.

Canon IXUS 980IS I really like the colours that the IXUS 980IS has produced on the colour test chart. The primary colours are boosted while the earth colours are rich and the mono tones are balanced. The skin tone tile looks even and not too pink while the pastel colours down the left side of brown, orange and blue have their subtleness poking through.

When I actually took the portrait shots, the image has come out a little flat which is disappointing considering how nice the colour test chart image is. Adding flash has warmed the image a little more and given it more depth.

Canon IXUS 980IS Canon IXUS 980IS
Canon IXUS 980IS

Macro mode has worked its magic selecting an aperture of f/2.8 and a slow ISO100 rating. Using a little creative lighting has helped the image along and the thin focal plane can be seen easier.

Canon IXUS 980IS: Focus and metering
As far as I'm concerned, focusing and metering go hand in hand in terms of importance so I'm confused why Canon place the metering modes in the function menu and the focus modes in the main menu. Not that either of them are difficult to get to, it simply suggests that one is more important than the other.

If this is the case it certainly conflicts with the principle of equal importance that face detection uses as they're inextricably linked together when in use. I really like this about the face detection mode and also really like what Canon are doing with this feature in terms of technological improvement.

There are only three metering modes although you could argue that face detection is a type of metering and that exposure compensation is also tied to it. Albeit loosely.

There are more focusing options in the main menu which is maybe why it was relegated to here, to save space. You can change the AF frame (the white square) from centre to face detect or AiAF (Artificial intelligence AF) and by choosing centre, you can also change the size of the square for more selective focusing.

With AF-point zoom, the camera will show you a zoomed in portion of the screen to ensure that the correct part of the image is in focus in a similar way to manual focus. Servo AF will adjust focusing while you keep the shutter button half pressed. the box will turn blue instead of green so that you know you're in Servo mode.

The preset focusing modes can be accessed by pressing left on the D-pad and you have the choice of manual, landscape, macro and landscape with portrait.

Canon IXUS 980IS: Noise test
With a maximum sensitivity of ISO1600, I'm surprised that ISO800 is the setting that noise starts to become a problem at. However looking at the ISO1600 image and it's amazing what a difference the two settings make. ISO800 has noise showing but it's manageable and could be removed with some decent software. 

On the other hand, ISO1600 has no detail in the petals, ferocious colour invasion and looks pretty drab next to the previous setting. The larger sensor is a welcome relief for compact cameras but with so many pixels all crammed next to each other, the resultant heat is bound to affect each one despite having more space.

Canon IXUS 980IS
The ISO80 test.
Canon IXUS 980IS
The ISO1600 test.

Canon IXUS 980IS: Verdict
The results I got from the IXUS 980IS are good quality, colourful and sharp. Exactly what I expected, but does that mean that it's reliable or predictable? That depends on your own perception of the results. 

I don't like the portrait shots but I think for the resolution, the noise results are great. I had fun taking photographs with it, I found that with the wheel I can take pictures faster and I even enjoyed taking the product shots of the IXUS because of its cool design.

I think if you're well and truly bowled over by resolution and you have to have a prestige compact then this is a camera that will fit those needs. Bear in mind that the larger file sizes mean your cards fill up quicker unless you buy larger ones. They're not that expensive these days but it's worth considering.

Canon IXUS 980IS: Plus points
Excellent build quality
Quick shot menu
Nice design
Good colour rendition

Canon IXUS 980IS: Minus points
Too many menus
Best shot switch is too firm
Portraits are a bit flat

FEATURES

HANDLING

PERFORMANCE

OVERALL

Because of the new features and noise performance given the higher resolution, I've awarded the Canon IXUS 980IS a highly recommended award.

The Canon IXUS 980IS costs around £269 and is available from Warehouse Express here:

Canon IXUS 980IS

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