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Canon IXUS 990 IS Digital Camera Review


Digital Camera Review by: Katrina Putker 


The IXUS 990 IS is the top-of-the-range amongst the Canon IXUS family and boasts a 12.1-megapixel sensor and the most powerful zoom amongst the line as well: five times optical.

It offers an equivalent 37mm-185mm image stabilised lens, can record high definition movie clips, and combines scene, face, and motion detection with noise reduction technology to make point-and-shoot operation easier and more reliable than ever before when using intelligent auto mode.

All of these and even more features are packed into the full-bodied 160g metallic casing measuring some 94.8 x 56.8 x 26.3mm that is beautifully designed with a blend of rounded and hard edges complimented further by a two-toned gold and silver body.

The generous 3inch ‘PureColour II’ LCD screen offers a clear and bright display with only minute lag not easily detectible by the human eye.

It appears to adjust well to a variety of lighting conditions (tungsten or fluorescent indoors, bright daylight or shade outdoors etc.) offering true colour representation although is most accurate at lower ISO settings.

Scenes in low-light conditions will automatically be brightened on the LCD to help the user set composition as desired and fortunately, the ultra-grainy preview offered in these situations is not representative of the resulting picture quality.

The triple-tiered image stabilised lens on the 990 IS is only 37mm at its widest, forcing users to back away from subjects and scenes in order to fit more into a single frame.

Upon start-up it extends some 25mm from its housing at the front of the body and at full zoom (five times optical, 185mm) extends out to approximately 40mm.

A power save/lens retract function can be turned on so that after a minute without use, the lens automatically retracts back into the 990 IS body to help reduce any possible damage that may occur as a result of accidental knocking or dropping etc.

When the power is turned off and lens neatly retracted, images can still be reviewed simply by activating the preview function via its dedicated playback button.

This is another intuitive design function that will reduce the risk of damage to the lens when handling the unit for reviewing or passing it around between family and friends etc. where unexpected knocks are likely.

The auto focus feature constantly readjusts to ensure accurate focus is achieved and does this very effectively, although the process itself is quite noisy with regular clunking and whirring occurring with each minor change in composition.

While this does mean the IXUS 990 IS will produce stunningly crisp images almost all of the time, when being used in situations where subtlety is important (weddings and baptisms, shooting bugs and insects on macro mode, shooting speakers or presenters and sleeping babies etc.) the mechanical noises may draw unwanted attention to the photographer and/or disturb your subject/s.

High definition movie mode is an important added feature further increasing the ability and the value of the 990 IS in terms of what it offers consumers.

At full 1280x720 quality, it can shoot a maximum clip of 10min 53sec, which extends to 23min 49sec at the reduced quality of 640x480 and 1hr 13min down at 320x240. All settings shoot at a rate of 30 frames per second, which will not change no matter what size you elect to shoot your video at.

During recording however, the five times optical zoom capability in stills mode is made unavailable and replaced instead by a four times digital zoom which, as is to be expected across the board with digital zoom, becomes quite grainy beyond two times extension.

Intelligent auto mode is included as a part of Canon’s TruCapture technology, along with a DiG!C 4 image processor for higher image quality and faster processing, and an optical image stabiliser to help reduce the effects of camera shake.

With intelligent auto mode, users have the luxury of letting the 990 IS determine the best possible settings for any given scene and trusting that it will produce optimal results with minimal fuss and effort.

It’s a more sophisticated style of point-and-shoot operation, which, while just as easy for consumers to use, is more technologically advanced behind-the-scenes and this is what many consumers enjoy: an increase in technology and capability without any complicated changes in basic point-and-shoot operation.

Users who enjoy greater control over their images however are unlikely to favour the IXUS 990 IS as it doesn’t allow for any manual control of settings such as aperture and shutter speed and therefore the look of your images is limited to what the camera itself determines will create the best results.

In terms of ergonomics the design of the 990 IS, while not uncomfortable, doesn’t suggest the manufacturer has gone out of their way to make handling of this unit as easy as it could be.

No grip pads are provided neither for the thumb or the forefinger and because the positioning of two of the triangular control buttons (direct print and playback) is in direct conflict to where users are traditionally encouraged to place their thumb (towards the top right-hand corner) it means one of two things: either users will place their thumb there anyway and may accidentally push these buttons whilst shooting or instead, they’ll rest their thumb under the bottom edge of the unit, which is fine, although it means a lot of to-and-froing between that stabilised position and the control buttons and dial etc.

The internal menu system is well laid-out and easy to navigate especially with the control wheel that surrounds the navigation pad. iPod users will be quite familiar with this rotating control action although others may find it flimsy and prefer to use the arrows on the navigation pad itself.medal-gold-r.jpg

As with all compact cameras, noise becomes a significant blight on image quality at higher ISO settings and the 990 IS seems to suffer from a degree of colour desaturation as the ISO increases as well.

Canon’s IXUS 990 IS is probably best suited for the more sophisticated point-and-shoot photographer who is happy to relinquish control over manual settings but is looking for a greater level of image quality than a lot of lower-end compacts offer.

As the 990 IS is on the upper end of the compact camera price scale, buyers are likely to have a little more cash to burn as well and will receive a stylish, reliable point-and-shoot with high definition movie mode and an ability to produce good images across a large array of situations for their dollar.

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Appearance rating 4.5 stars
Functionality rating 3.5 stars
Image quality
4 stars
Lens quality
4 stars
View finder / LCD screen 3.5 stars
Value for money 35 stars
RRP (AUD) $649
Effective Pixels 12.1 Million mega pixels
Image Sizes 6 Sizes
Lens - zoom wide [mm] 37mm (35mm equivalent )
Lens -zoom tele [mm] 185mm (35mm equivalent )
Lens - Optical Zoom Yes, 5x
Resolution Settings From 640 x 480 to 4000 ×3000
Shooting Modes 21 Scene options
Face Detection Yes
Manual Focus No
Auto Focus Yes
Focus Range [cm] 50cm - infinity
Aperture Range F3.2 - F5.7
Aperture Priority No
Macro Yes
Macro Range [cm] 2cm - 50cm (W), Digital Macro: 2cm- 10cm
Shutter Speeds 15s - 1/1600s
Shutter Priority No
ISO Auto6, ISO 80/100/200/400/800/1600
LCD Monitor Yes
LCD Size 3.0 inch Pure Color LCD II monitor with wide viewing angle
Viewfinder No
Flash Auto, on, off, Slow Synchro, Auto Red Eye Correction, Red Eye Reduction, Face Detect FE, FE
Hot Shoe No
White balance Auto , Daylight , Cloudy , Tungsten , Fluorescent , Fluorescent H , Custom
Self Timer Yes, 10 sec or 2 sec delay, custom, FaceSelf-Timer
Movie Options Yes. Limited only by memory card size.
Video Out Yes, PAL or NTSC selectable
Storage Type SD Memory Card, SDHC Memory Card, MultiMediaCard, MMCplus card, HC MMCplus card
Storage Included [Mb] -
Image / Audio Formats JPEG Compression (EXIF 2.2 Compliant), MOV (Image Data: H.264; Audio Data: Linear PCM monaural)
Connectivity USB 2.0 Hi-Speed (mini-B compatible), HDMI (mini-connector)
Power Source Optional, AC adapter kit ACK-DC30
Battery Options Rechargeable Lithium-ion Battery NB-5L
Dimensions (W) 94.8 x (H) 56.8 x (D) 26.3 mm
Weight 160g


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