Canon PowerShot SD980 IS / Digital IXUS 200 IS review
I'm a DSLR user and a fan of the Elph/SD series, having purchased or used several over the years (SD600, SD800IS, SD870IS). With the recent loss of my elph, I looked to the latest incarnation of the Elph by default. My options in the 28mm range were the SD960IS (about 8 months old), SD940IS (similar sensor, only 28mm wideangle), S90 (low-light ISO performance, 28mm, mega-features, $$$) and this (touchscreen, 24mm wideangle). After spotting a deal at Staples, I pulled the trigger for $330 CDN in late November 2009. I will briefly go over notables in point form:
- the headline feature of the SD980is (ixus200) was the touchscreen, which I found to be semi-useful. The touch-focus feature didn't appeal to me, since I rarely ever stayed in one hand-position when using a P&S. However, I did like the touch-scrolling/zoom feature. Other reviews have panned the camera as 'unresponsive touch'; coming from an HTC Touch phone, I was used to the pressure required to navigate the images and appreciate the fact that I'm not accidentally pressing buttons on the screen in regular use. Coming from the SD800IS, I actually found the scrollwheel to be the larger UI feature: when reviewing my shots, I could either use the left/right buttons, left/right touch-gesture, or scroll the wheel to run between images quickly.
- When taking shots one-handed, my right thumb would accidentally hit the touchscreen and modify something during the shot. Extremely annoying: wish there was a firmware update to allow disabling touchscreen while shooting, playing back, or both.
- I feel it's a step down from the SD800 and SD870, which felt like tanks. This unit (along with the SD940is) seemed lighter without being as structurally rigid -- it adds to the pocketability.
- The touchscreen seemed nice and sturdy, but I'm hesitant to pass judgement until the screen sees more fingermarks. The plastic touchscreen is similar, perhaps slightly harder than those found in PDA's and recent touchscreen mobile phones. Like any surface like this, it will attract smudges.
- Anecdotally, Image quality straight out of the box is 'OK', certainly not canon's best effort. I haven't done an shot-to-shot comparison between this an the previous generation sd870is cam, but it feels like the. Tried setting picture size to M1 instead full 12.1MP resolution, colours to less sharpening, vivid / contrast -- it still showed rather washed out indoor shots without flash.
- image stabilizer appears to have worsened since the SD800 and SD870: hand-held shots were slightly
- using iContrast feature improved shadows in my pictures, but at the expense of losing contrast (it added to the 'washed','noisy' image)
- Using flash improved picture quality, but that's true of any pocket-cam (where the aperture and lens performance matters less)
- I am aware of the other reviews/advice on the net about not using AUTO, hardcoding to low ISO, and setting Custom Colors to no-sharpening. My point is that I often WANT to have sharp pictures in low-hight, so high-ISO is major for me.
- Macro-mode 5cm quality was fair, but was again impeded by the image stabilizer. Camera shake was an issue for me, compared to the handheld shots I was able to attain using the SD800is.
- 24mm wideangle is noticeably wider than other 28mm cameras on the market, with slight distortion (As other reviews have stated, the camera is doing lens perspective correction during JPEG processing). This was the single reason I did not step up to the Canon S90, and I was glad I got the chance to see the difference. For those considering between LX3 (24mm) and Canon S90 (28mm widest), I would argue that 24mm focal length is a real advantage here.
- Movies are HDMI, and come out nicely due to the stabilizer. I was happily surprised with the video and sound quality, perfectly usable for low-light. Here, the 24mm lends itself very well to hand-held use, helping to contain the shaking that usually occurs when you're walking or panning with the camera.
I ended up returning the unit for an S90. The only saving grace was the 24mm wideangle (unique for this combo of features/price), HDMI movies, and let's face it, price. The unit can now be found for ~$330 CAD around christmas, well over a hundred dollars cheaper than the S90. For that amount, it is a relatively capable pocket camera, but I feel you are paying for the touchscreen R&D rather than the camera. I would likely *not* have purchased this at the original $399 Cdn retail price.
- 24mm wideangle lens (to me, it's biggest selling feature, not the touchscreen)
- HDMI wideangle movies (vs the S90)
- User interface
- brutal image stabilizer (a noticeable difference from the previous generation)
- poor low-ISO indoor performance
- pictures adjusted using iContrast were washed out and noisy
- thumb or palm kept hitting touchscreen while shooting
- see above for discussion re: image quality
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