Comparing the 980 to other models in Canon's IXUS line-up, one thing is clear — the normally diminutive camera has put on a bit of weight. It's not actually that much heavier than the other models in the series, but it certainly looks it, all bulging corners and figure-eight profile curves.
The Canon only has a 2.5-inch LCD screen, though it does have an optical viewfinder.
Surprisingly, the curves actually make it easier to hold the camera with one hand, as the gentle recessed mid section provides a perfect space to put your finger. Turning the camera around, the back shows no real differences from the Canon configuration, except that there are a few more buttons and toggles to get used to.
At the top right sits the mode dial which can easily be flicked from automatic, through to program/manual, quick shot, movie and scene settings. The power button is, unfortunately, recessed too far into the top of the body which makes it quite difficult to press, killing any spontaneity of the moment.
One boon is the optical viewfinder. Though this means Canon has sacrificed some real estate of the screen (it's still only 2.5-inches), we like being able to have the choice in how we frame and compose our shots.
Just like its predecessor, the 960 IS, the 980 features program and manual modes. These are a great addition on a compact camera for those photographers willing to go beyond the simple automatic point-and-shoot settings.
The scroll wheel, which was implemented more successfully on some of the earlier models from the new Canon range, seems a little fiddly here — it frequently skips options you try to select, even with the lightest touch.
Also, as exciting as the manual mode is, we were very disappointed to see that there were only two aperture settings available depending on the extension of the lens. Speaking of the lens length, we were also disheartened to see that there was only a measly 3.7x optical zoom in the package. While we are of the Robert Capa school of thought that believes "if your pictures aren't good enough, you're not close enough", we would still have liked to see Canon include a little more length for consumers.
At its widest, the lens is only 36mm — in other words, not very wide at all. Unfortunately, it seems the 980 hasn't taken any cues from its slightly less expensive sibling, the 870 IS, in regards to a 28mm wide-angle lens.
A photo taken on the 980's manual mode set at f/2.8, 1/30 and ISO 80 showed excellent colour and minimal noise in low lighting.
(Credit: CNET Australia)
Performance and Image Quality
Turning the camera on (after fiddling with the tricky power button) resulted in a quick start-up time of around 1.7 seconds. From there, time to first shot was incredibly quick, and shooting continuously allowed the 980 to show off just a little in regards to its speediness.
As would be expected from the Canon range, the 980 produced some excellent pictures in most shooting situations. In darkened rooms, the flash illuminated subjects correctly, without washing them out. Colours were also particularly pleasing, with some vivid tones rendered throughout all our pictures.
Noise was generally kept under control, and we liked the fast, responsive auto focus. Slower shutter speeds were actually usable without a tripod thanks to the image stabilisation built into the camera body.
The quick shoot mode proved to be one of the most interesting and useful inclusions on the 980, allowing you to compose the shot through the viewfinder and set other options such as flash, ISO and so on via the screen. A minor quibble was that we could see the top of the lens at its widest extension (36mm) through the viewfinder.
Unlike many other camera manufacturers, the top-of-the-line model in the IXUS range doesn't feature anything particularly astounding that will set it apart in a crowded market. The extra resolution is a nice touch, but we don't like how there is no higher video recording available above VGA.
However, with overall image quality being so high compared to other cameras of a similar resolution, we prefer the 980.