Canon IXUS 990 IS digital camera

Deluxe, 12.1-megapixel Canon digital camera with a high-definition movie mode

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Canon Australia Pty Ltd IXUS 990 IS
  • Canon Australia Pty Ltd IXUS 990 IS
  • Canon Australia Pty Ltd IXUS 990 IS
  • Canon Australia Pty Ltd IXUS 990 IS

Pros

  • Good image quality, 720p video mode, excellent build quality and design

Cons

  • Limited manual modes and options, too expensive, noise levels could be lower

Bottom Line

The Canon IXUS 990 IS is a great compact camera that combines impressive image quality with an elegant design. However, when it comes to bang for your buck, there are several better deals on the market.

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The Canon IXUS 990 IS is a deluxe compact camera equipped with a 12.1-megapixel CCD sensor. As the premium model in Canon’s IXUS range, it comes with some extraordinary features, including a 5x optical zoom lens (the highest of any IXUS camera to date), high-definition (720p) video recording, an enlarged 3in LCD display with 461,000 pixels and an ultra-stylish design. However, it is curiously lacking in advanced manual features, which is a shame given its high-end credentials. In this respect, the Canon IXUS 990 IS is decisively beaten by the FujiFilm FinePix F200EXR — a rival digital camera with similar imaging capabilities.

The Canon IXUS 990 IS overtakes the Canon IXUS 980 IS as Canon's premium model — despite having fewer inbuilt features and a lower pixel count than its predecessor. As is often the case with flagship cameras, the IXUS 990 IS partially relies on its sleek good looks as a selling point.

Without a doubt, it's one of the best looking cameras on the market, with a high-gloss finish, sleek curves and a compact body. The metallic body is at turns silver and gold, depending on how the light hits it. In short, it looks exactly how a $650 camera should. At 94.8x56.8x26.3mm, it’s slightly bigger than the average compact camera, but this is forgivable given the plus-sized zoom it’s housing. If you want something that's eye-catching and elegant, you won't be disappointed by the IXUS 990 IS.

On the downside, the Canon IXUS 990 IS is incredibly noisy — and we’re not talking about image quality (at least, not yet). Powering up the camera, making menu selections and using the autofocus all caused the 990 IS to emit a series of alarming buzzing sounds. The bizarre noises continued to plague us throughout testing and swiftly got on our nerves. (Note: It’s possible that this was an isolated manufacturing glitch in our model, but we advise checking it out in the store just to be safe.)

Apart from this one caveat, the Canon IXUS 990 IS was a joy to use throughout testing, with the plus-sized LCD being an obvious highlight. For navigation, the camera has a traditional control wheel configuration. If that sounds too boring for you, you can also use Active Display: a cool new feature that lets you scroll through photos by giving the camera a shake. We guiltily confess to loving this feature. Sure, it might be less practical and require more effort than pressing the control wheel, but it made us look cool (as IT journalists, we need all the help we can get.)

We found picture quality to be reasonable for the asking price. Images remained sharp, well detailed and accurately coloured throughout testing, although we did notice some barrel distortion in our panoramic shots. Its low-light performance was also problematic. Noise became an issue at ISO 400, which is unacceptable for a camera in this price range. Images began to suffer from speckling and colour desaturation at ISO 800, with significant loss in fine details. The 37-185mm lens could have been a bit wider, too.

On the plus side, the addition of anti-shake and a powerful inbuilt flash means you can still capture great night photos with this camera. The Canon IXUS 990 IS also acquitted itself well in high-contrast situations, with purple fringing kept to a minimum. All up, we were quite happy with the IXUS 990 IS's imaging performance, despite the flaws mentioned above. Provided you stick to the optimum settings, it is capable of producing stunning photos with minimum fuss from the user.

The ability to shoot high-definition movies is one of the Canon IXUS 990 IS’s main claims to fame. It records video in the Quicktime MOV format at a maximum resolution of 1280x720. We were fairly impressed by the quality of our output, although the tiny inbuilt microphone is incapable of capturing good audio. We were also dismayed to find we couldn’t use the optical zoom while shooting video (it instead reverts to digital zoom during recording).

The Canon IXUS 990 IS comes with blink detection, which warns you if one of your subjects closed their eyes at the critical moment. On paper, this sounds like a pointless gimmick — who doesn’t check their photos in playback immediately after taking them? However, having an instantaneous alert did prove useful during group photos — it allowed us to quickly take another snap before everyone dispersed, instead of reeling everyone back for a pained re-enactment.

Other noteworthy features offered by the Canon IXUS 990 IS include advanced face detection (which now detects up to 35 faces), an anti-shake system with inbuilt motion detection, My Colours (which allows you to add creative digital effects to photos), Smart Auto mode (a fancy automatic scene selector), manual exposure, continuous shooting and 19 scene modes. This should be more than enough to satisfy casual users, though we were personally expecting more hands-on controls. With its advanced chipset and three EXR modes, the FujiFilm FinePix F200EXR offers more versatility.

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