The shape of the body is unusual, and different from previous IXUS models. The right end of the body has a concave pinched-in contour, and is slightly flared out at the top and bottom. This makes the camera very comfortable and secure to hold, helped by the mode dial which also serves as a thumb grip on the back. The position of the controls is very natural and comfortable and even though the buttons are quite small they are raised up slightly making them easy to operate.
I’m not usually a big fan of optical viewfinders on pocket compact cameras, because they tend to be too small and suffer from parallax problems at close range. The 960’s viewfinder is larger and brighter than average though, and due to its position, almost directly above the lens, the effect of parallax is reduced. The monitor is also excellent, very bright and sharp with a fast refresh rate, and with an exceptionally wide angle of view.
My only real criticism of the external design of the camera concerns the battery hatch, which is spring loaded but has no locking latch. I found that is came open in my pocket several times, which could lead to it becoming damaged despite its strong metal hinge.
The 960 IS is an automatic point-and-shoot camera, but it does have a fairly wide range of options. Basic shooting modes include a full-auto option in which most menu options are disabled, a “manual” mode with a full range of options (although not manual exposure or focusing), a scene mode with eleven scene program options, and the movie mode, offering 1024 x 768 at 15fps or 640 x 480 at 30fps, with mono audio.
The 960 IS uses the same menu system as all the other models in the IXUS range. Pressing the Function button in the centre of the D-pad activates a quick live menu with most of the main shooting options, including exposure compensation, white balance, colour mode, metering mode, quality and image size. The colour mode offers a number of useful pre-sets including settings for different skin tones, plus a manual setting with adjustable contrast, saturation, sharpness and colour balance. Combined with the shooting options available on the D-pad, such as drive mode, flash mode, macro/landscape selection and ISO setting, the 960 IS is exceptionally quick and easy to operate.