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Like all of the models in the IXUS range the build quality is exemplary. The body is all metal, the battery hatch has a strong metal hinge and closes securely, and the controls are solidly mounted, clearly labelled and easily accessible. The five-position main mode dial doubles as a thumb grip, and while the 980 still has that rotary bezel around the D-pad it seems to have been improved and is now much more responsive. The 980 IS is available in silver or the gorgeous matt black finish of my review sample.
The 2.5-inch monitor screen is a little smaller than average, to make room for the viewfinder, but with 230k dot resolution it is very sharp. It is very bright with excellent contrast, and has an effective anti-glare coating for use in bright daylight. It also has a very wide angle of view in all directions.
Optical viewfinders are very rare on ultra-compact cameras; in fact Canon is the only manufacturer to routinely include them in the specification. The viewfinder on the 980 IS is very small and quite dim, has no dioptre correction and only has about 80 percent frame coverage, but there are many people who will buy the camera just for this feature. Personally I'd far rather use the monitor than such a fiddly finder.
The 980 IS has a wider range of features than most luxury compacts. It has four main still shooting modes; a full Auto mode in which only image size can be adjusted, a Program auto mode with a wider range of user options, and a manual exposure mode with a choice of minimum or maximum aperture and a full range of shutter speeds from 15 seconds to 1/1600th. It also has a Quick Shot mode, which is a bit unusual. The monitor is used for a quick menu system, meaning you have to aim using the viewfinder in this mode. It's lees than ideal, because the glare from the monitor at close range is distracting. You can turn the monitor off, but that rather defeats the object of having the fixed quick menu.
The 980's other features are common to most of the IXUS range, including i-Contrast dynamic range enhancement, face detection with face self timer, an adjustable colour mode with contrast, saturation and sharpness control, and of course Canon's excellent optical image stabilisation system. This is one of the best on the market, giving around three stops of extra stability.
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