2007-12-09

Ixus 960IS

Update: I recently discovered the Powershot G9. This is probably the camera I should have gotten instead since it seems to address most of my complaints about the Ixus 960IS.

I recently got the Canon Ixus 960IS compact camera as a secondary camera to bring on trips or when carrying my dSLR is impractical. I haven't had a proper compact camera for a number of years so starting to use one is actually a bit of a learning curve. A few things I have noted so far:
  • For some reason I find it easier to see which compositions work when I look through a proper viewfinder. With a compact you get a screen at the back that you use for this purpose (the viewfinder isn't really usable), but it isn't really adequate for choosing the composition or for timing your shot precisely, which brings me to the next problem:
  • Compact cameras have significant shutter lag. The 960 is a huge improvement over other compacts I've tried in that the lag is very short, but it is still there and I still need to get used to how much lag to expect.
  • The controls on the thing are bad. Really bad. For instance, the 960 has a feature that lets you boost ISO for a shot by pressing another button, but there is no way I can manage to press this button without fumbling around. Also, the idea of using the navigation ring as an "ipod selection wheel" to choose between shooting modes, is terrible. It just doesn't work. I suspect they cared more about the looks of the thing than they cared about actually making the controls work.
  • Image quality isn't all that brilliant; especially in low light conditions. I don't like to use flash, but with this camera you simply have to use the flash in low light conditions.
  • Megapixels aren't everything. The thing has 12+ megapixels, but I suspect the miniaturized optics are to blame for the end results. My old 6 megapixel Nikon D70 beats the Ixus 960 hands down. Even with cheap optics.
  • If you are used to an SLR you will miss the tactile feedback. Pushing the shutter button gives you no feedback and the thing is so small and slippery that it is really hard to get a good grip on it. This combined with the badly designed physical controls makes it very hard to get good, stable, well-timed shots.
  • Manual mode should be manual mode. I want to control aperture, shutter speed and ISO directly and I want the camera to have proper physical knobs that makes this easy. The 960 just had an odd mix of various automated modes and you need to navigate the terrible menu system to affect any changes.
  • Give me raw files. I don't want the JPEGs. JPEGs are just a hassle if you want to post-process your shots, and you do need to post process if you are shooting in challenging conditions.
  • Battery life is great. It seems much better than the Nikon Coolpix-something or other camera that I have, and which I have tried to make use of without any success because it runs down the batterly too quickly. I've used the Ixus several days in a row now without recharging and the indicator still says the battery is full.
  • The camera starts up rapidly. Nothing like a dSLR, but the little lens-extension-startup-ceremony is really quick.
Of course, these remarks represent my initial impression of the Ixus 960IS. As I learn more about how to use it, I may develop some habits to work around the limitations. What annoys me is how complicated manufacturers make consumer products. If this was intended for any sort of "prosumer" market they'd focus a lot more on the process of actually taking pictures and less on all the silly face-recognition, the kids-in-snow shooting modes and all the other silliness that isn't really of any use to someone who has spent some time taking pictures. Also, I think cramming all this rubbish into a camera just confuses the novice photographer even more. At least I find the menus and the user interface terribly disorganized and confusing.

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