There’s no doubt that you do get a lot of camera for your money though. The IXUS 990 IS has pretty much every feature you could hope to find on a modern digital compact., apart from a wide angle lens which is found on its sister model the IXUS 110 IS. Like all the best new compacts it has HD video recording, shooting at 1280 x 720 resolution at 30fps, although it only has mono audio and the optical zoom cannot be used, which is a little disappointing at this price level.
Other advanced features include a very effective optical image stabilisation system that operates in both still and video modes. Canon’s compact camera IS system continues to improve with every iteration, and the 990 IS can take shake-free pictures at some ridiculously slow shutter speeds. I was easily able to take sharp pictures at full zoom at 1/10th of a second.
As well as the video mode, the 990 IS has a number of still shooting modes, selected by a small and quite stiff slider switch on the top panel. They inclide Program, in which settings including sensitivity, white balance, metering, autofocus and drive modes and a wide range of colour settings can be manually adjusted, a list of 18 scene mode programs, and Auto, in which virtually all camera control is fully automatic. This includes automatic scene selection and a range of face detection features including blink detection and a clever face detecting self-timer. The automatic setting is reliable, and will usually take a good picture almost any lighting conditions, but I found that it had a worrying tendency to turn people’s skin bright pink in both indoor and outdoor shots.
The camera’s settings are adjusted via Canon’s very slick new live menu, which is all partial transparencies and gradient fill. It works extremely well in conjunction with the rotary bezel navigation control around the D-pad. The main menu has also had a facelift, and the whole operating system not only looks good, but it also runs very smoothly and responsively.
The hardware is also impressive, with a high quality 5x zoom f/3.2-5.7 lens, equivalent to 37-185mm, and an exceptionally good monitor with an ultra-sharp resolution of 461,000 dots, adjustable brightness and an anti-glare surface that actually works in bright daylight. The built-in flash is also very good, and surprisingly powerful for its size, easily filling a large living room and balancing well with ambient light in larger spaces or outdoors. The overall feel of the camera is solid and reliable, and at approximately 185g fully loaded it has the reassuring weight of something very expensive and well made.