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Canon PowerShot SD850 IS Digital ELPH (IXUS 950 IS) Concise Review

January 2008 | By Lars Rehm
Buy on From $329.99

Review based on a production Canon Digital IXUS 950 IS (SD850 IS)

The SD850 IS (IXUS 950 IS in Europe) was first announced in May 2007 as a replacement for the Powershot SD700 IS. It constitutes only a relatively subtle upgrade. Visually the SD850 is virtually indistinguishable from the older model (only the color of the camera back has changed, from black to gray), and there are only a handful of modifications to the specification of the camera. Most notably the sensor now records 8MP images instead of 6 and the resolution of the 2.5" screen has been increased to 230,000 pixels. The 'digital heart' beating in the SD850 is now the latest generation of Canon's imaging processor, the DIGIC III. With the new processor there come a couple of new features too: Face Detection and the useful Auto ISO shift option.

The long standing tradition of the very successful series of IXUS/ELPH cameras started in 1996 when the first APS (Advanced Photo System) model was introduced. Every new generation got its innovations and found its followers but has the IXUS/ELPH series finally matured to perfection? Let's find out in our review, starting, as ever, with the headline features:

  • 8.0 million effective pixels
  • 4x (35-140mm equiv.) zoom
  • ISO 1600 and optical IS for flash-free indoor shooting
  • Canon's DIGIC III image processor, iSAPS, 9-point AiAF and Face Detection
  • Wide viewing angle 2.5" LCD screen (230,000 pixels)
  • 16 shooting modes
  • My Colors photo effects
  • Widescreen (16:9) stills recording
  • 30fps VGA movies with time lapse mode

Note: Some sections of text in this review are taken directly from the Canon SD 700 IS review as in many respects the cameras are functionally identical. All test images are from the SD850 IS.

SD850 IS / IXUS 950 IS specifications

Street price • US: $250
• UK: £190

SD 850 IS Digital ELPH (US)
Digital IXUS 950 IS (EU)


• 1/2.5 " Type CCD
• 8.0 million effective pixels

Image sizes

• 3264 x 2448
• 2592 x 1944
• 2048 x1536
• 1600 x 1200
• 640 x 480

Aspect ratio 4:3 and 3:2 (3264 x 1832)
Movie clips

• 640 x 480 @ 30 / 15fps
• 320 x 240 @ 60 / 30 / 15fps
• 160 x 120 @ 15fps
• 640 x 480 @ 0.5 / 1 fps (Time lapse, playback at 15 fps)
• WAVE audio

File formats • Still: JPEG (Exif 2.2)
• Movie: AVI (Motion JPEG compression)

• 35 - 140mm equiv
• F2.8 - F5.5
• 4x Optical zoom

Image stabilization Yes (lens shift-type)
Conversion lenses None
Digital zoom up to 4x
Focus • AiAF (Face Detection / 9-point)
• 1-point AF (Fixed center)
AF assist lamp Yes
Focus distance • Normal: 1.6 ft./50cm-infinity
• Macro: 0.79 in.-1.6 ft./2-50cm (WIDE), 1.3-1.6 ft./40-50cm (TELE)
• Digital Macro: 0.79 in.-1.6 ft./2-50cm (W)
Metering • Evaluative (linked to Face Detection AF)
• Center-weighted average
• Spot
ISO sensitivity

• Auto
• High ISO Auto
• ISO 80
• ISO 100
• ISO 200
• ISO 400
• ISO 800
• ISO 1600

Exposure compensation • +/- 2EV
• in 1/3 stop increments
Shutter speed 15-1/1600 sec
Aperture F2.8-5.5
Modes • Auto
• Manual
• Digital Macro
• Color Accent
• Color Swap
• Stitch Assist
• Movie
• Special Scene
Scene modes • Portrait
• Night Snapshot
• Kids & Pets
• Indoor
• Creative Light Effect
• Foliage
• Snow
• Beach
• Fireworks
• Aquarium
• Underwater
White balance

• Auto
• Daylight
• Cloudy
• Tungsten
• Fluorescent
• Fluorescent H
• Custom

Self timer • 2 or 10secs
• Custom
Continuous shooting Approx. 1.3 fps until card is full
Image parameters My Colors (My Colors Off, Vivid, Neutral, Sepia, Black & White, Positive Film, Lighter Skin Tone, Darker Skin Tone, Vivid Blue, Vivid Green, Vivid Red, Custom Color)
Flash • Auto
• Manual Flash On / Off
• Slow synch
• Red eye reduction
• Flash exposure lock
• Range: 50cm-3.5m (wide) / 2.0m (tele)
Viewfinder Real-image zoom optical viewfinder
LCD monitor • 2.5-inch TFT
• 230,000 pixels
Connectivity • USB 2.0 Hi-Speed
• AV out
Print compliance • PictBridge
• Canon SELPHY Compact Photo Printers and PIXMA Printers supporting PictBridge (ID Photo Print, Fixed Size Print and Movie Print supported on SELPHY CP & ES printers only)
Storage • SD / SDHC / MMC compatible
• 32 MB card supplied
Power • Rechargeable Lithium-ion battery NB-5L
• Optional AC adapter
Languages English, German, French, Dutch, Danish, Finnish, Italian, Norwegian, Swedish, Spanish, Simplified Chinese, Chinese (traditional), Japanese, Russian, Portuguese, Korean, Greek, Polish, Czech, Hungarian, Turkish, Thai, Arabic, Ukrainian, Romanian
Other features

• Playback red-eye correction
• My Camera
• My Category (image tagging)
• Sound Memo
• Orientation Sensor
• Histogram
• Playback zoom

Weight (No batt) 165 g
Dimensions 90 x 57 x 26 mm

If you're new to digital photography you may wish to read the Digital Photography Glossary before diving into this article (it may help you understand some of the terms used).

Conclusion / Recommendation / Ratings are based on the opinion of the reviewer, you should read the ENTIRE review before coming to your own conclusions.

Images which can be viewed at a larger size have a small magnifying glass icon in the bottom right corner of the image, clicking on the image will display a larger (typically VGA) image in a new window.

To navigate the review simply use the next / previous page buttons, to jump to a particular section either pick the section from the drop down or select it from the navigation bar at the top.

DPReview calibrate their monitors using Color Vision OptiCal at the (fairly well accepted) PC normal gamma 2.2, this means that on our monitors we can make out the difference between all of the (computer generated) grayscale blocks below. We recommend to make the most of this review you should be able to see the difference (at least) between X,Y and Z and ideally A,B and C.

This article is Copyright 2008 and the review in part or in whole may NOT be reproduced in any electronic or printed medium without prior permission from the author. For information on reproducing any part of this review (or any images) please contact: Phil Askey

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