I already own (and love!) my Nikon D40 DSLR, which at the time I bought it from Amazon was incredibly cheap, but being an SLR (Even a tiny one) it's still too big to carry everywhere. I needed a compact that could do maybe 80% of what the D40 could do, but still fit in my pocket. Where to start?
Well, after much researching, I decided on the IXUS 95IS. Why?
1: It's size. It's incredibly tiny, yet still easy to operate, even with my huge (Size 11) hands.
2: The image quality is excellent. Also movie mood doesn't disappoint either. It has Image Stabilisation, which for me is a must.
3: The colours are incredibly bright and vibrant.
4: The battery life is amazing. Especially if you turn the monitor off.
5: The price. It's very good value.
6: Menu layout. Everything you need can be accessed quickly and easily.
7: An optical viewfinder! Yay! Okay, it's only basically a hole that you look through, but then you can't really expect Canon to squeeze a full wealth of "Head-up display" info like on a DSLR into something this size. Top marks to Canon for even including one.
8: Low Megapixel count.
(Rant mode engaged!):
You would think the more Mp that a camera has the clearer the picture, right? but to be honest that's just marketing speak. The physical size (surface area) of the sensor is what matters, and all these compacts have miniscule sensors, even Compacts that are sold as "High End" or "Professional" models like the Canon G9, G10 and G11 series.
The more pixels that are stuffed into a small sensor, the fewer photons it can gather and the less sensitive it is to light. If you have fewer pixels then you get brighter pictures. My D40 Nikon makes absolutely outstanding pictures and that's only 6 megapixel! I really don't want more than 10 or even 7 megapixels on a sensor this tiny. I really wish that Canon made this with a 3.2 Megapixel sensor. That would be awesome! Fewer pixels also mean that the noise reduction software has far less work to do, meaning better images and of course faster shooting. Not least because it's quicker to save a smaller file. You can save more of them on one card too. I've printed A4 from a 3.2mp Minolta compact and it was as sharp as you'd need in all honesty.
It's very interesting to note that Canon have actually reduced the pixel count by about 30% in the G11 compared to the G10. A brave move, but the right one. The image quality has improved massively and if you read the G11 reviews on Amazon you can see that it was the right thing to do.
It's time to halt the "Megapixel Wars" because there are no winners except people who measure market share!
Anyway... Back to the review:
So, a great camera - IF you take the time to get to know how to use it! A lot of reviews here say "Oh, it looks washed out" or "The colours aren't very good" etc. I've never found that with mine, and with modern manufacturing techniques I find it hard to believe there can be that many "Dodgy" ones out there.
I'm no expert, but I know enough to get photos that I'm happy with. Here's a few hints if you're struggling:
"Auto" is fine, but for really outstanding photos I use it in "Program" mode (2nd position down on the slider) and set the following. (Press "Func Set" then in the left hand menu bar, from the top):
Select "ISO 100" or even "ISO 80" for the best image quality. It's a bit "Grainy" at the higher ISO numbers (Even as "High" as a lowly ISO200!), but that's common to almost all compacts, so no big deal.
Select "AWB" (Auto white balance). The auto function on this is so good that there's rarely any need to mess with this in most situations.
Select "V" for "Vivid" on the colour setting (represented by a paint tube) You may or may not like colours, but I love colour, so the more vivid the better for me.
Select "Evaluative" metering (I think this is default anyway) Sure, you may want Spot Metering for certain things, like super-close-up Macro stuff, but there is a lot of metering experience built into this little device, so I take advantage of Canon's knowledge. I'm lazy like that!
Personally I'd like to see a dedicated button for spot metering, but it would just complicate things for the people this camera is intended for (Hope that doesn't sound patronising - it's not meant to). Same goes for exposure compensation, which is something I use all the time on my DSLR and real (film) cameras. A dial would be nice. But then by adding all these things it would look more like a Canon G11 and that would defeat the purpose of this little device.
I select "Continous" shoot mode, because that way I can fire off a bunch in rapid succession and just pick the ones I like to keep. Set single if you prefer. Up to you.
If you're someone like me who can't seem to take a straight photo, then there's a great feature in the Ixus 95 which overlays a "Grid" in the LCD screen in "viewfinder" mode. A brilliant idea!
Flash: Try not to use flash, but if conditions demand it, ie: for people when they have strong light behind them, use "Slow Synchro" if you can. This will take a longer exposure picture, with a flash at the end to provide fill light in the dark areas. I'd be very surprised if your pictures look washed out with Slow Synchro.
Hope all that helps. :-)
Video: Surprisingly good! with a decent frame rate. Audio has a fierce AGC (Automatic Gain Control) which means that volume remains fairly constant between speech and loud noises. I like this personally, some people hate it.
The only bit I'm not so keen on is the grainy quality of playback when recording in low light. But to be honest - "What do you want for this sort of money, the Moon on a stick?" as my mate would say.
Video is a nice thing to have as an extra, but if it's your main reason for buying this then there are better options out there.
Bad points? Very few really. The case is plastic and a little bit "Creaky" sure. And the battery hatch looks particlularly feeble, BUT: the most common thing that fails on any of these types of camera is the automated lens cover and/or the motorised lens extension system. I'm pretty confident that I'm careful enough not to break the camera, so the mechanical parts above are the limiting factor for me. I don't see a lot of point in spending more money for the IXUS 100 with its metal casing personally. You may feel differently, but you pays your money and takes yer choice!
Would I buy another one? Yeah! Without hesitation. If you buy one - AND take the time to learn how to use it! - You won't go far wrong.
BUT: Bear in mind that it's still only a compact. If you do a side by side comparison with the results from a real camera (DSLR) like a Nikon D40 or D60, there's absolutely no contest. It's like night and day.
UPDATE: December 2010:
Well, I've had this a year now, and what's gone wrong? Nothing! Not a thing.
The battery hatch that I had my doubts about is still fine, and the lens extends and retracts with its usual vigour.
I did manage to scratch the rear screen though, and like a pillock I tried to polish it out with some special plastic polish that's used to repair aircraft canopies. Big mistake! I took off a great big chunk of the anti-reflective coating! D'Oh!
Fortunately even this sort of savagery didn't affect the quality of the screen when viewing pictures, although it did look unsightly when it was turned off. I purchased some dead cheap screen protectors and put one on. Looks like new again, so problem solved.
The original battery is as good as it ever was. I've hardly ever needed the spare. Longest I've been away with it was 1 week and I was still using the first battery.
Interestingly, for use on small prints and the web (Facebucket, etc.) I actually prefer the pictures off this to those of my Nikon D90 DSLR. I guess because they're lower resolution files they don't seem to suffer as much degradation when reducing to a sensible size for posting.
A mate of mine has just bought the IXUS105 and I must admit I prefer the pics from my 95 to hers too.
One more thing I've only just discovered:
If you want to save wear and tear on the retracting lens, don't turn the camera on with the power button when all you want to do is view your pictures. You can just press the "Play" button instead.
This powers up the screen but doesn't activate the picture-taking functions, so they lens stays "parked" under its cover. Nice touch from Canon there. Well done.
So yes, I'm still glad I bought it. Keep it clean, look after it and it'll serve you for a good while.