The latest high-end compact from Canon is the IXUS 990 IS. It’s aimed squarely at those users who demand a high megapixel count, good zoom capability and yet a body that’s small.
If you’re going to consider the IXUS 990 IS as your compact camera of choice you’ll have to be serious about your photography as it retails for around £379, hardly a credit crunch friendly camera. It’s not a big step up to an SLR or bridge camera so you’re paying a premium for the smaller design.
The 12-megapixel sensor produces 4000 x 3000 pixel images while there’s a 5x zoom included too. That equates to a 35mm lens equivalent of 37–185mm, a hefty range considering the dimensions of the Canon. This IXUS can also record HD quality video footage at a resolution of 1280 x 720 and 30fps. The 990 IS outputs directly to your HD TV through a HDMI connection too.
As the name suggests the 990 IS has a built-in image stabilisation for better low light performance and it’ll help at the long end of the zoom range too. Automatic scene detection and face detection technologies are also present. There’s no viewfinder, however, so you'll have to use the 3in screen exclusively to compose shots.
Canon cameras are usually strong in the ease of use department and this one is no exception. The only reason you’ll need to use the instruction book is if you need a flat surface to rest the camera on while you take a self-timer shot. The camera is well designed with one exception. We found the dial on the rear of the camera a bit fiddly, it’s not a major drawback, but it took a bit of getting used to.
The LCD screen is marvellous, bright, crisp and clear it’s everything you could ask for in an LCD. It’s very impressive and probably one of the best screens we’ve seen on a compact. For the more adventurous there are a good set of manual controls. Spot, centre weighted and evaluative metering options are available as is an impressive range of ISO options: Auto, 80, 100, 200, 400, 800 and 1600.
One of the problems inherent with small cameras and large megapixel counts is the increased noise in images. The Canon coped well in our testing and we were very impressed with the images it produced. Images were sharp and colourful though in some pictures the greens were a little over saturated, that said it was only in a handful of shots. Skin tones were natural and even with the flash on, detail was good. Across the range of shots we took with the Canon results were very good. The HD video capability of the Canon was impressive, though sound quality was a bit flaky.
If you must have a compact camera but need lots of pixels and a decent zoom then the 990IS is certainly a top performer. The range of functions and features is good and it’s easy to use. Image quality is very good with very little to be concerned about in that department.
Our only real worry with the Canon is the price. It’s a big chunk of cash for a compact camera. A DSLR isn’t that much more, in some cases, less, and you’ll get better output and more control. If that’s not important to you and you just want a really well specified compact camera then the Canon would be a good choice.