I remember when Canon launched its first IXUS camera. The original IXUS used APS film to record its images, rather than a CCD and memory card. The introduction of the APS film format allowed for far smaller compact cameras to be produced, but the IXUS took things to the next level. Canon had created a camera that was no larger than a packet of cigarettes, meaning that you really could have it with you at all times, ensuring that you captured all those priceless moments no matter where or when.
The IXUS was a runaway success for Canon, despite the fact that APS was far from the best quality film format. That said, I took some stunning pictures with my APS IXUS in situations where I wouldn't have had a camera with me if it hadn't been so small. But when digital photography came along, it was a match made in heaven for Canon's diminutive snapper.
There have been many incarnations of the Digital IXUS, and over the years many of Canon's competitors have created cameras that are just as small and stylish. As always though, the competition is a good thing, as it has pushed Canon into developing the IXUS line and continually improving it. And I have the latest Digital IXUS in my paws right now - the IXUS 90 IS.
The IXUS 90 IS forms part of a trio of new models that Canon announced last week and sits in the middle of the group. Below the 90 IS is the 85 IS, while sitting at the top of the range is the 970 IS. As you've probably worked out from the names, all three of these new cameras feature Canon's image stabilisation technology.
Image stabilisation is one of the buzz words in photography at the moment, along with face recognition (the IXUS 90 IS has that too), but you need to be aware that it has its limitations. It's true that a good IS system can give you a couple of extra stops before you have to resort to a flash, but it's important to remember that it's only useful when you're shooting a static subject. The ability to use a longer shutter in a hand held situation isn't going to help you if you're subject is running, walking, or even waving their arms. To freeze the action in low light you need fast glass, which is why SLR lenses rated at f2.8 or below carry a hefty price premium.
Talking of glass the IXUS 90 IS sports a 6.2 - 18.6mm (35 - 105mm 35mm equivalent), which equates to a 3x optical zoom. The focal range is slightly disappointing when you consider that many compacts of this size sport lenses with 28mm settings at the wide end, giving you just a little more flexibility. The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX33 that we reviewed last August for instance offers similar features, design and build to the IXUS 90 IS, but gives you 28mm at the wide end. And when you throw in the fact that the Panasonic also offers 3.6x optical zoom, then it can almost match the IXUS 90 IS at full zoom too, offering 100mm compared to 105mm.