Canon IXUS 950 IS Digital Camera - Review

Canon IXUS 950 IS Digital Camera - Review

Canon's IXUS series, is an exercise in slow evolution. Since the company has hit on a very successful design, these compact point-and-shoots typically see only minor tweaks from year to year. This year's follow-up to the popular 850 IS is the new IXUS 950 IS. The main differences between the two include a jump up to 8.3 megapixels and the new Digic III image processor, which brings with it face detection and a higher top sensitivity of ISO 1,600 (up from ISO 800). The IXUS 950 sports nearly everything you'd want in a point-and-shoot.

Design and Features of the Canon IXUS 950 IS Digital Camera

The only thing you might want to change would be the 4x optical zoom lens. The IXUS 950's lens starts at an equivalent of 35mm and ends at 140mm. For a compact camera such as this, we prefer a lens that starts wider. The wider lens lets you fit more people into those group photos, or get closer to your subject, such as in a nightclub.

Of course, we can't really hold this against Canon in this case, since the IXUS 950 IS basically offers everything the IXUS 950 IS does, but with a different lens. So if you side with me in the lens debate, check out the IXUS 950 IS. Both cameras include Canon's very effective optical image stabilization to help keep your images sharp even if your hands aren't very steady.

Canon hasn't fixed the wacky on/off button that irked us on last year's model. It sits to the right of the tiny viewfinder above the 2.5-inch LCD screen on the camera back. The button is in an awkward place and is also rather small and completely flush with the camera back. We've never had much of a problem with positioning the power button atop the camera and aren't sure why Canon decided to put it here in the first place. Maybe they'll move it next year.

We also found that the mode dial, embedded into the right side, felt a bit flimsy and occasionally skipped a couple of notches when we were trying to move only one. Once we got used to it, though, it wasn't much of a problem.

Compared to last year's multicontroller pad, which was perfectly fine, the IXUS 950 IS's pad is an improvement. A raised ring around the pad gives it better tactile response. Plus, when you rest your thumb in any particular direction, a graphic appears on the LCD to show you what you'd do if you press fully.

This came in handy, since you don't have to move your eyes away from the screen when changing settings. Plus, it makes it easier to discern the controller's multiple functions, since the onscreen graphic only shows the function that is active in the mode you're currently using.

Performance of the Canon IXUS 950 IS Digital Camera

The IXUS 950 IS took 1.2 seconds to start up and capture its first JPEG. Subsequent JPEGs took 1.7 seconds between shots without flash but slowed significantly to 3 seconds between shots with the flash turned on.

The IXUS 950 IS's shutter lag measured 0.5 second in our high-contrast test and 0.7 second in our low-contrast test, which mimic bright and dim shooting conditions, respectively. The other area where the IXUS 950 IS lags behind its predecessor is continuous shooting. The IXUS 950 IS yielded about 1.4 frames per second (fps) regardless of image size.

Image Quality of the Canon IXUS 950 IS Digital Camera

Images from the IXUS 950 IS are very impressive. Colors look accurate, there's plenty of sharpness, especially for a compact camera, and at its lowest ISO settings, we saw no appreciable noise. In fact, noise doesn't even begin to encroach until you reach ISO 200.

Even then, it's just a very light covering of off-color splotches that's barely visible on computer monitors and won't show up at all in prints. Noise remains similar at ISO 400, with a just-perceptible increase that still won't mar your prints much, if at all. At ISO 800, noise becomes more pronounced, robbing some finer image detail, and adding filmlike grain to prints. Surprisingly, while darker colors become washed out at this point, there's still a fair amount of shadow detail.

At its highest sensitivity setting of ISO 1,600, most finer detail is obliterated by noise, and lots of shadow detail is lost. Rather than a fine grain, the noise becomes larger and causes a nasty blotchy look overall. We recommend staying below ISO 1,600 if you plan on making prints and below ISO 800 if you plan to make prints larger than 8 x 10-inches.

There's very little to complain about on the IXUS 950 IS. Fans of ultracompacts, such as Sony's T-series, might complain that this Canon isn't small enough, but given its excellent image quality and speedy performance, we're not complaining. Also, unlike those Sony cameras, this one includes an optical viewfinder, for situations, such as concerts, in which an LCD might annoy those around you.

Bargain hunters will likely balk at this camera's price, but again, its features and performance make it worth the premium over a bargain-basement camera.