Canon PowerShot SD950 IS Compact Camera
At a Glance
At the top of Canon's Digital Elph line, the $450 SD950 IS looks stylish and is a pleasure to use. Enclosed in a titanium shell, it should handle bumps and scrapes better than the average snapshot camera. At 3.75 inches wide and just over 1 inch thick, the unit is slightly too big to park comfortably in a shirt pocket--but it fits nicely in large hands, and it's easy to pack along on any outing.
Especially attractive is the combination of a bright, 2.5-inch LCD screen and an eye-level viewfinder.
In our detailed lab tests, the 12.1-megapixel SD950 IS produced sharper detail in its images than did competing 8-megapixel point-and-shoot models. But the higher pixel count will be cost-effective only if you make jumbo enlargements or do lots of cropping.
The SD950 IS's 12.1-megapixel CCD does let the camera take videos at 1024 by 768 pixels--a significant improvement over the 640-by-480 ceiling that limits most models. But because the Canon records its higher-resolution movies at just 15 frames per second (versus 30 fps at 640 pixels), movies can be a little jumpy, especially if you pan rapidly. Only the size of your memory card limits movie length.
The PowerShot SD950 IS permits you to delete a photo at the quick review stage, immediately after you take a shot--a capability that remains rare on point-and-shoots--and this model (like its siblings, the PowerShot SD870 IS and the PowerShot SD850 IS) takes quick review a step further: A small window shows a magnified portion of your shot, letting you double-check the focus. You can examine the original points of focus and move the window to any other part of your photo. Nicely done.
Esoteric features include a Color Accent mode, which retains one selected color in a scene and reduces all others to black-and-white, and a similar option for swapping colors. More useful are the 11 color enhancement options, such as Vivid, Lighter Skin Tone, and Darker Skin Tone.
The SD950 IS performed smoothly and efficiently, powering up in less than 2 seconds. The large trigger button falls naturally under your index finger, and the dual menu system is logically organized, neatly laid out for quick scrolling, and easy to read.
Our test photos came out impressively sharp, with no distortion such as color banding and speckling (or noise). In most shots, images looked slightly underexposed, and colors weren't as warm as we'd have liked. Overall, however, we were quite pleased with the results. The SD950's optical image stabilization worked well when we used it to shoot objects in shade at full telephoto--a situation where camera shake often ruins an otherwise great shot.
At $450, the SD950 is pricey for a point-and-shoot, but if you're looking for a compact camera that goes well beyond happy snaps, this is a heck of an attractive package.