Although the IXUS 90 IS doesn't offer full manual control, there's still scope to be reasonably creative. If you're looking to take shots at night, the long shutter setting gives you the ability to specify a shutter up to a maximum of 15 seconds. It's unlikely that the target user is ever going to need an exposure any longer than that, or even anywhere near that long. If you're shooting at the wide end of the lens you're also rewarded with f2.8 aperture, and the fully auto setting will generally give you the best aperture setting for the situation and focal length employed. The full-auto mode will also favour the IS over increasing the ISO, thus giving you the best possible picture quality.
On the whole the IXUS 90 IS takes beautiful pictures, and as you'd hope with a small compact, you don't need to be a photography expert to get great results. The built-in flash offers decent coverage too, making for decent results in low-light situations, while also keeping redeye in check most of the time. But it's in daylight that this little IXUS really shines - the metering is generally spot on, ensuring that detail isn't lost in high or low intensity areas. Even in scenes of high contrast the IXUS 90 IS does a good job, and will usually pick the best settings itself.
There's no option to shoot in raw, which isn't unusual for a compact, but an uncompressed TIFF setting would have been nice. That said, the Fine JPEG setting produces such clean images, that it's unlikely that most users would even use the Super Fine setting, which pretty much doubles the file size at almost 6MB per shot.
In the box, you'll find the camera, the battery, a charger, a power cable, a USB cable, an AV cable, a wrist strap and the aforementioned 32MB SD card. I'm still quite disappointed that the vast majority of compact cameras don't ship with a carrying case. With cameras becoming more and more stylish and sporting larger, high quality displays, the last thing you want is scratches all over them. I know that there's money to be made in the accessories market, but I'd rather pay a few pounds more for the camera and get a decent carry case in the box.
Talking of price, there's no getting away from the fact that the IXUS 90 IS is very expensive for a compact, even one with some impressive talents. A quick look around the web shows that the £259 MSRP is what the majority of online retailers are charging right now. It's true that the sleek design and very solid build quality help justify the price, but then the slightly narrow lens and somewhat awkward jog dial navigation take some of that shine off.
The IXUS 90 IS is a very impressive compact camera with a stunning screen, lightning fast auto-focus and a reasonably full feature set. The build quality is also first rate, and exactly what I've come to expect from the Canon IXUS range, while the design is aesthetically and ergonomically pleasing. On the down side, the 35mm wide angle setting of the zoom is slightly disappointing, especially when you consider that IXUS 850 IS, launched back in 2006 came equipped with a 28 - 105mm zoom.
Despite the IXUS 90 IS excelling in many areas, the high price point will place it out of the reach of many prospective buyers. And with the competition in the compact sector getting fiercer every day, there are plenty of alternatives for considerably less cash. That said, if you've got the money, and you can get on with the navigation wheel, then the IXUS 90 IS will make a great "carry everywhere" camera.