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Conclusion - Pros

  • Excellent resolution, good color
  • Clean, detailed results at lower ISO settings - ISO 400 usable, with fairly light-handed noise reduction
  • Reliable exposure system
  • Fast and accurate focus
  • Responsive operation
  • Excellent user interface, easy to use
  • Face detection AF/AE (it works most of the time but is slower than normal focus and a bit of a novelty)
  • Superb build quality, finish and styling
  • Decent macro mode
  • Decent flash performance
  • Large, bright, high resolution screen & optical viewfinder
  • High quality movie mode
  • External ISO control
  • Some useful features such as AE lock, AF lock and Flash exposure lock functions
  • Titanium construction does seem very durable

Conclusion - Cons

  • AiAF focus a bit unpredictable - turn it off
  • Very little manual control
  • ISO 800 and 1600 of limited use
  • Some smearing of low contrast fine detail at anything over base ISO
  • Occasional purple fringing
  • Still no exposure information for shutter speeds over 1/60 sec
  • Some corner softness and some highlight clipping

Overall conclusion

Camera manufacturers have been producing expensive special-edition titanium-bodied SLRs for years; the combination of durability, strength and lightness (titanium has the highest strength to weight ratio of any metal) offers some real benefits for large, heavy use professional cameras. When it comes to compacts the use of such an exotic material is far less about weight or corrosion-resistance, and far more about luxury and exclusivity. Not that there's anything wrong with that - there will always be a market for over-engineered, premium-priced products and the SD900 does have a certain 'feel' that sets it apart from its numerous steel / plastic / alloy competitors. But beyond such superficial concerns we were pleasantly surprised to discover that the SD900 is more than just a pretty face; it's actually a fairly impressive performer too.

After testing the SD 800 IS recently I didn't have particularly high hopes for the SD900, so I was pleased to see that - as compact high resolution models go - it produces superb, reliable output no matter what you throw at it. This, above all, is the mark of a successful 'point and shoot' camera - that you can rely on it time after time to produce good results no matter how challenging the photographic situation. It's also a beautifully built camera with a superb finish and the unique use of titanium. The latter is surely more of a talking point than of any real practical value unless you regularly expose your camera to corrosives or leave it in the bottom of your bag with your keys (it is more durable than other SD / ELPH models).

Ultimately, however, the SD900 may well be judged on what is is not, more than what it is. It's more expensive than most direct competitors, and it lacks any real 'stand out' features; even the zoom range (37-111mm) is a bit mundane. There are faster, slimmer, more feature-laden, less expensive cameras on the market, and even the SD 800 IS - which costs roughly the same but offers a true wideangle zoom and image stabilization - offers a more compelling feature mix.

The SD900's biggest selling-point for us is simple; it offers some of the best (perhaps the best) image quality in this category, but if we're being honest we're not talking quantum leaps here, and the typical user of this type of camera, producing small prints, is unlikely to really see a significant advantage. If you like a touch of luxury (which the build and finish definitely give you) and want a 'point and shoot' camera that offers reliably high quality output suitable for decent enlargements, the SD900 is certainly a worthy competitor. We just feel that in this, the most competitive and fastest-moving sector of the market, the SD900 will, for many users, have priced itself out of the running.

The SD900 comes as close as possible to a 'Highly Recommended' (and if exclusivity and pixel level image quality is more important to you than features or price it probably deserves one), but for us it misses by a whisker.

Detail Rating (out of 10)
Build quality 9.5
Ergonomics & handling 8.0
Features 7.0
Image quality 8.5
Optics 7.5
Performance (speed) 8.0
Value 6.5

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Canon SD900 Review Samples

30 images • Posted 29 January 2007 • View album
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