The old adage of good things coming in small packages seems right at home with the 95 IS. This little camera is really quite small, measuring 88.5x54.8x21.8mm. At first, you'd be forgiven for thinking it seems a little flimsy as you take it out of the box, revealing the plastic front panel — it is certainly a bit of a shock considering the all-metal construction of other IXUS cameras. Any doubts are soon put to rest with the significant weight advantage offered by the new materials — at 120g it is also lighter than a lot of the Canon compacts that have come before it.
Turn this little pocket rocket around and you'll see that the buttons at the back all sit flush with the camera body and have a nice rubberised feel to them. It's the standard Canon compact configuration, with the LCD screen situated at the back left and the buttons arranged to the right, along with a mode switch that changes the camera from fully automatic to program and movie options. The power and shutter button sit toward the top right, with the zoom rocker nestled around the shutter.
Smooth textures and buttons at the back of the 95 IS.
At the bottom is the standard battery/SD card slot arrangement and a small tripod attachment. Colour choice is varied, and follows the lead from the rainbow-styled IXUS 80 IS — silver, blue, green, pink and grey.
Much to our enjoyment, the 95 IS features an optical viewfinder, something which has been much missed on a range of the IXUS cameras previously. While it's incredibly (and we mean, incredibly) small, it is still very useful in bright situations when the screen is hard to view, or when the battery is running low and you're trying to conserve energy for just a few more shots. On the topic of small, the LCD screen is 2.5 inches — it suits the footprint of the camera, but we are left wanting just a little more.
In terms of the lens, 3x optical zoom is what you'll get here which is relatively standard on a camera of this size and price. So too is the focal length of the lens, which is 35mm at its widest — slightly disappointing. Indeed, when we look at the specifications it's really quite similar to the popular IXUS 80 IS, but instead has two extra megapixels (topping out at 10 megapixels on the 95 IS) and an improved processor (Digic 4) to name the most obvious differences. A new Canon technology called intelligent contrast correction is also included, which is purported to automatically correct the exposure for dark and light situations.
Unlike the IXUS 100 IS, the 95 IS doesn't have high-definition movie mode, only 640x480 at 30fps. The two other modes that you'll need to acquaint yourself with on the 95 IS are the automatic and program modes. Full automatic is fairly self explanatory, with the camera adjusting all settings depending on shooting conditions. In this mode you can only adjust the recording size of the photo, activate or deactivate the flash, and use the self-timer.
Program is a little different, and while not affording full control over aperture and shutter combinations, the 95 IS allows a little more flexibility. You can adjust ISO, white balance, camera colours, metering mode, single or continuous shots, and recording size as well as scene modes, exposure compensation and all the above mentioned options available to you in automatic.
Performance and image quality
Start-up time on the 95 IS was particularly good, with the time taken from pressing the power button to the camera being ready to shoot being just over 1 second. In continuous shooting mode, the 95 IS averaged just under 1 second for sequential shots.
For the most part, the 95 IS chose the right shooting mode accordingly when in automatic (whether that be landscape or macro), though we noticed that the auto focus was particularly loud, with the lens sounding like it was clunking as the camera adjusted to the light. It wouldn't be a problem in most situations, but in a quiet space it was noticeable to the photographer.
Greens are beautifully saturated and the whole scene is incredibly sharp. Click on image to enlarge. (Credit: CBS Interactive)
Photos were generally very crisp and sharp — perhaps a little over-sharpened though. Colour saturation was also pleasing; the 95 IS gave a particular punch to greens and reds. Chromatic aberration exhibited itself as a slight purple halo around objects, and was a little disappointing to see. There was also a moderate amount of barrel distortion at the widest end, which was disappointing as the lens is a standard 35mm (film equivalent) at its widest.
We also found that you may need to use the supplied wrist strap when shooting as the camera is quite small and slippery, making it easy to drop if you're not holding onto it properly.
Noise was barely visible at ISO levels below 400, and only started to creep in at ISO 800. In general, we really had to praise the 95 IS for keeping noise under control, which we feel is due to the improved image processor, the Digic 4, which first made its appearance on one of Canon's prosumer dSLRs, the EOS 50D. At 1600, we definitely could get a usable, printable shot from the camera, despite small amounts of coloured noise and grain.
Canon has traditionally had a stronghold on the compact, stylish camera market with its IXUS range, and if the 95 IS is anything to go by, the company is likely to maintain its position. This is a capable little camera that can produce some really nice pictures, but it is relatively expensive for the limited features you get. For a little more money (AU$50) you can pick up the IXUS 100 IS which features high-definition movie recording and an additional 2 megapixels. The other option is to downgrade to the IXUS 80 IS, if you can still find it, and save a bit of money that way.