The camera does have one unusual feature, which is a video mode which can shoot at a resolution of 1024 x 768 pixels, about three times the size of normal VGA, but only at 15fps. Fortunately it does also have a standard VGA 60fps mode.
The real features of the 900 Ti are less obvious, at least until you switch the camera on. It starts up in roughly one second, which is fast by any standard, but it is the autofocus system that really stands out. It focuses in well under a second in virtually any lighting conditions, and thanks to a bright AF assist lamp it will even focus in darkness at a range of around three metres. Canon is of course well known for its high-quality AF systems, but the 900 Ti really does impress. The only faster camera I’ve seen recently is the IXUS 70. The rest of the camera’s performance figures are equally impressive. In single-shot mode shot-to-shot cycle time is an impressive 1.5 seconds, and in continuous shooting mode it is capable of an even more impressive two frames a second, and can keep this up until the memory card is full. I can’t think of another compact camera that can match that speed. It should be able to keep it up for a while too, because the big 1120mAh Li-ion battery is supposed to be good for 230 shots, but this may be a bit on the conservative side because I was able to take over 150 shots and the indicator was still on two out of three bars.
Picture quality is also impressive. The larger 1/1.8″ CCD avoids most of the problems associated with small high-resolution sensors, and produces better dynamic range and much better image noise control than some other 10MP compact cameras. The 900 Ti produced usable pictures with fine detail at 800 ISO, and from 400 downwards I’d describe the picture quality as excellent, although I still don’t think there’s a noticeable advantage in choosing a 10MP sensor over an 8MP one. However the 900 Ti uses very low file compression at maximum quality, resulting in JPEG files that can be over 5MB. This means that a 1GB memory card is will hold around 239 images.
The 37-111mm equivalent f/2.8 – f/4.9 lens is particularly good, producing excellent centre sharpness with almost no wide-angle distortion, and only in the extreme corners of the frame did sharpness really fade. Colour and exposure were of course effectively perfect, with the multi-zone metering system coping well with high-contrast scenes and producing good shadow detail, although sometime at the expense of highlights. The picture quality alone almost justifies the price. Almost.
The Canon IXUS 900 Ti may have a tough and attractive exterior, but inside it has a fairly straightforward specification, with little in the way of unique features. Its impressive build quality, class-leading performance and excellent picture quality are undeniable, but there are other models in the Canon IXUS range that offer these same qualities plus more, but for less money.