Canon PowerShot SD940 IS / Digital IXUS 120 IS review

Started Nov 5, 2009 | User reviews
robin1980
New MemberPosts: 2
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Canon PowerShot SD940 IS / Digital IXUS 120 IS review
Nov 5, 2009

This camera DOES NOT have a "Superfine" jpeg mode as the details say. It has Fine
and Normal only. I actually compared the output from the Ixus120 with an old
Ixus30, which does Superfine, and the image results are literally -the same- in terms
of noise and jpeg artifacting. The difference is that the Ixus120 produces smaller
files. The trend and choice of leaving better quality compression out, keeping a
consistent "not better quality level than this" in Canon's ultra compacts is no doubt
business reasons, to leave an incentive for purchasing an upgrade. The Digic4 chip
used in the Ixus120 is no doubt better at same level than the Digic3, and
preventing it from Superfine mode sadly keeps the Ixus120 on-par with older
models in terms of jpeg image quality, with the little benefit of producing smaller
files.
The camera also struggles with keeping fine detail and sharpness at its widest angle,
even in the center of the image - surely a combination of the low quality jpeg
compression and the optics. The widest angle is worse than the far zoom in this
aspect.
As for the video, I am quite disappointed. Many people say the 720p renderings
from this camera are excellent. Truth is they are anything but excellent. Inspecting
the material in 1:1 resolution quickly shows very rough compression artifacts, and a
hideous interpolation method used that gives quite fuzzy quality. A down-scaling to
around 800*448 pixels from the 1280*720 original is required to yield anything
that can be considered clear quality in video.
The jog-dial buttons and other controls positioned under the user's thumb could
need a bevel or "notch" of sorts to indicate what button your thumb is resting on.
The control surface of this camera is entirely flat, smooth, and you often make
mistakes since you really don't know where your thumb is or what button you will
press. Not even small "japanese hands" like mine can feel where the thumb is
resting, leaving navigation of this camera's buttons up to building a "motoric
memory" of the controls. This takes a little while, and the annoyance of it never
quite lets go - it leaves even my small hands to be forced to navigate by using the
tip of of thumbs and the nail, rather than the thumb's surface itself. This is why I
give the camera 3.5/5 in Ease of use. Other than this stupid design choice, anyone
could manage this Ixus.
The only place where this camera really shines, in my opinion, is its incredibly small
and robust package. It feels genuinely solid and sturdy, thought perhaps a bit too
smooth to the hand, leaving a certain sensation that it might slip out of your hands
if you are not careful. Battery time is excellent, even with the camera using the
same 760mAh battery they've used for all the Ixuses since 5 years back. It can use
SDHC cards, allowing you to store pretty much an infinite amount of "memories".
I would not recommend this camera to anyone looking for acceptable 720p
capabilities in a portable format. Simply "spitting out" video material that is
1280*720 pixels in size is just not good enough. I would however recommend it to
anyone who needs something really small and portable, and doesn't mind spending
a bit too much. More, more and more mpix isn't what quality is about. It's about
what the CCD platter in combination with eventual image compression returns to
the user, and as far as the image render quality concerns, this camera is only on-par
with all the other, several years older Ixuses - not one single bit better.

Problems:

I had a cluster of about 5 or 6 pixels stuck on "full red" on mine. The annoying
interpolation method this camera uses when shooting video caused this small cluster
to be blurred and stretched out to a big, red, fuzzy blob, covering a 6-7 times larger
area of about 25*25 pixels on the video material, from the original ~3*3 pixels the
broken CCD elements covered. Just amazing...

robin1980's score
3.4
Average community score
3.6
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