Take the camera versions of Marilyn Monroe, Paula Radcliffe and Carol Vorderman and what do you get? The Canon IXUS 960 IS with a 12Mp brain, Digic III processor for increased performance and more curves than you could shake a stick at.
Canon IXUS 960 IS Specification
- Sensor: CCD - 12Mp
- Image Size: 3264x2448 pixels
- Lens: 35-140mm f/2.8-5.5 (4x zoom)
- Focus: TTL 9-point AiAF- 2cm Macro
- Exposure: TTL Program AE
- Metering: Evaluative/CW/Spot
- Monitor: 2.5in P-Si TFT, 230000 pixels
- Movie Mode: Yes, with sound
- Storage: SD/SDHC/MMC, 32MB card supplied
- Batteries: Rechargeable Li-Ion NB-5L
- AC Adaptor: Optional
- Video Output: Yes
- Size/Weight: 90x57x26mm - 165g
- Transfer: USB 2.0
£275 will give you a large 12Mp brain, 3.7x optical zoom and the revered Digic III processor. Nikon offer the bridge Coolpix P5100 with 12Mp, 3.5x optical zoom and hotshoe for creative flash use for £19 less. Panasonic have the FX100 also with 12Mp a 3.6x optical zoom and a Leica lens for £10 more.
Canon IXUS 960 IS Modes and features
The super curvy look of the Canon Ixus 960IS is a sight for sore eyes. Any indentation or addition to the basic shape has metal flowing over it like water over a rock on a slow exposure. The dulled grey colour also makes a refreshing change to the army of silver squares that are laying siege to shop shelves the world over.
The lens is surprisingly small in comparison to the body and is accompanied by the Flash, AF assist beam and the, now antiquated, optical viewfinder.
The top of the camera has the Power button which is flush to the body, the shutter release and zoom wrapped around it.
The back is more haphazard with a 2.5in screen, dominating the lower left portion, the optical viewfinder sat above which then also heeds the return of the orange and green LED which shine in your eye to show you when the camera is focusing and downloading.
To the right, a small switch flicks through the options of Auto, Manual, Scenes and Video. This is a nice change to the usual switch or mode dial that Canon have been known to use.
The two buttons below are dedicated to Playback functions. To the left is the Direct Print button and the right is the Playback to access images already taken. The main navigation pad is cluttered with doubled up functions which strains the eye. Pressing Up sets the ISO, Left chooses between Macro or Landscape, Down is the Drive for continuous shooting, or Self-timer and also acts as the delete button. The right button changes the Flash modes. In the centre is the Function button which gives access to the quick options of the camera. Depending on the mode you are in will determine what options are available in the Function menu. Auto will only give access to the Resolution and Image quality, whereas Manual will give access to the other functions. They are Modes to choose from Manual, Digital Macro, Colour Accent, Colour Swap and Stitch assist.
The other options in the Function menu are Exposure compensation, White balance, Colours and Metering. The colours available are Vivid, Neutral, Sepia, Black & white, Positive film, Light skin tone, Dark skin tone and three Vivid options for Red, Green and Blue.
Two buttons remain and are located under the navigation pad. They are the Display button and Menu. The Display button rotates through switching the screen off, putting the info on or taking it off.
The Menu on a Canon is split into three tabs which are allocated different colours so you know where you are. The first tab is for Recording, is Pink and designated the Camera icon. The Orange tab is for the set up and the third, Purple tab is the useless start up tab.
Canon IXUS 960 IS Build and handling
Expectedly with IXUS, the build quality is to a very high standard. The body, like mine, is curvy, but solid. The massive 12Mp sensor will give you great quality images on the larger memory card you will have to buy and the 3.7x optical zoom gives a gentle boost to the usual 3x optical found on other compacts.
The battery door has what looks like a switch to lock it shut, but turns out to be a useless patch of plastic resembling half of a Yin/Yang emblem. The door simply pushes out to the side slightly then springs open. It's strong enough to withstand the occasional knock, but won't cope with constant pressure.
I like the inclusion of the optical viewfinder despite how archaic it looks. It means that users have the option of going back to basics or if you are going out for a long time and won't have electricity access, the viewfinder will save power.
Through prolonged use, I discovered that the navigation pad can be quite temperamental as it didn't work sporadically. The door that protects the USB port does its job a bit too well. I had great difficulty gaining access.
Canon IXUS 960 IS Flash options
Only three options of Auto, Flash on and Flash off are available on the Flash mode which is standard for Canon cameras at the moment. Red eye is adjusted in the menu. The distance guidelines are 50cm - 4.6m at wide angle and 50cm - 2.4m at telephoto which is a very good result.
Canon IXUS 960 IS Performance
The shutter lag test resulted in a delay of 0.08 of a second which is a decent result for a compact.
The colour test chart has shown a boost of colour in the primary colours. Skin tone is balanced and earthy tones have retained their qualities. The cast from the lights has been removed in Auto colour as the day was not bright enough to produce a suitable result from daylight.
Portrait mode warms the image ascan be seen on the whiteness of the wall in the background. The flash has given a three dimensional effect with the highlights compared to the Program mode which has a cooler tone and gives a flatter result.
The Landscape image taken at the canal has exposed brilliantly for the ground, but has had to burn out the sky in order to get this result. The sky was a nice bluewith a few clouds and this has been lost unfortunately. To get the right result from the sky would have resulted in underexposing the ground to near black.
Colours are reproduced well with good boost to the primary colours and the tones have come out nicely.
| The Macro facility can get within 5cm of its subject. Twice as good as some other models in the same price range.|
The Neutral colour setting dulls the green of the grass and the blue of the sky. Upsettingly, it has also subdued the remnants of the sunrise on the church wall. Spot metering was taken from the church on both images.
| Vivid colour on the other hand has saturated the grass and boosted the sky enough to give detail to a cloud that was there. The sunrise on the church has turned out nice. The downside is that the image has underexposed.|
The flash evened out the skin and the warmth of portrait mode can be clearly seen.
Program mode cooled the image more than Becky's stare.
The lock image has exposed for the ground and burnt out the sky.
Canon IXUS 960 IS Noise test
A smooth result from ISO80 as to be expected and ISO100 doesn't change much from there.
At full size, ISO200 shows a tiny amount of sharpening in the black area, but I am being brutal by mentioning it and the camera cannot be marked down for that amount of change. ISO400, however, shows further sharpeningand a very vague loss of detail on the petals.
ISO800 is like leaping to a different camera as the noise jumps out from the image with a visible presence in all tonal ranges. ISO1600 starts to show the Purple blobs of imagedegradation which, when you think about it, normally arrives at ISO400 and sometimes even ISO200 when examined really closely. To not get this problem until ISO1600 is a very good result.
Canon IXUS 960 IS Verdict
The ISO80 test.
The ISO100 test.
The ISO200 test.
The ISO400 test.
The ISO800 test.
The ISO1600 test.
Aesthetically and cosmetically, I am bowled over by the Canon IXUS 960 IS. I think it is a lovely looking camera with its fluid curves. The large sensor will produce images with great quality up to most size enlargements.
The quality of the IXUS brand has been retained and I think the only thing that could improve on the camera would be the dodgy navigation controls, making the USB easier to get to and fitting a physically bigger lens to retain the chunky feel.
If quality is a big priority for you and you want a brand name you can trust to deliver, The Canon IXUS 960 IS is a serious contender.
Canon IXUS 960 IS Plus points
Beautiful organic design
Excellent Noise results
Canon IXUS 960 IS Minus points
Dodgy navigation pad
Inaccessible USB port
Because of the overall performance and quality of build, the Canon IXUS 960 IS has received results worthy of our coveted Highly recommended award.
The Canon IXUS 960 IS costs around £275 and is available from the friendly neighbourhood ePHOTOzine shop here.