Canon PowerShot SD960 IS
Following in the trend toward more colorful, expressive digital camera bodies, the Canon PowerShot SD960 IS Digital ELPH features smooth contours for a very comfortable hold, with a compact body and capable exposure system that recommends it well for travelers. Available in soft pastel tones of blue, pink, gold, and silver, the PowerShot SD960 caters to both masculine and feminine sensibilities. Equipped with a 12.1-megapixel CCD and 4x optical zoom lens, the PowerShot SD960 Digital ELPH offers HD video capture and intelligent automatic processing systems to handle just about any challenge.
The PowerShot SD960 Digital ELPH’s 4x optical zoom lens offers a nice maximum wide-angle setting at its 28mm equivalent, which offers a little more flexibility than the standard 35mm. The PowerShot SD960 also offers true optical image stabilization, to help reduce blurring when shooting at full telephoto, or in dim lighting. The camera has a range of useful automatic features, including a Smart AUTO mode in which the camera selects the optimum settings based on 18 predefined shooting situations, plus Canon’s improved DIGIC 4 processor with evolved Face Detection for subject tracking.
For shooting videos, the PowerShot SD960 Digital ELPH features HD video recording at 1,280 x 720 pixels, with a mini-HDMI connector for direct connection to an HD monitor. Another interesting update on the PowerShot SD960, which mimics iPhone technology, is Active Display, meaning you can shake the camera to switch between images during playback (as opposed to simply scrolling with the arrow keys). Outside of these updates, the PowerShot SD960 features most of Canon’s standard digital camera inclusions, such as user-adjustable white balance, exposure compensation, My Colors, iContrast, metering, and ISO.
Light, compact, and pocket-friendly, the Canon PowerShot SD960 Digital ELPH weighs in at just 5.7 ounces (162g) with card and battery, and measures just 3.9 x 2.1 x 0.9 inches (98 x 54 x 22mm). The Canon PowerShot SD960 is currently available at a suggested retail price of US$329.99.
Canon SD960 IS User Report
by Stephanie Boozer
The Canon PowerShot SD960 is small and cute, with fun body colors and the trademark ease-of-use that the ELPH name has come to symbolize. Canon ELPH cameras are almost always great performers, with good exposure, color, and quality, always in a very compact package.
Look and feel. With its smooth contours and compact size, the Canon SD960 is very comfortable in the hand. It is pocket-friendly, with only a handful of controls to twiddle with. The glossy finish on the front panel definitely deserves a soft case for protection, as scratches will be pretty obvious in its perfect nail-polish-like shine. There isn’t much handgrip to speak of, though the very slightly raised Canon logo on the front panel provides a precious little texture for your fingers to stick to. Thus, I’d recommend keeping the wrist strap securely around your wrist when shooting, as this slick little camera could easily slip out of your grasp. At just 5.7 ounces (162g) with a memory card and battery, the Canon SD960 is definitely not a burden to carry (its light weight is even more reason to keep the wrist strap attached).
Because of the Canon SD960’s small size and compact dimensions, larger hands might have some trouble negotiating the controls when shooting one-handed. However, I found it quite comfortable in my medium-sized hands, and kids will have a perfect grip.
Controls. Controls are sparse on the Canon SD960, which is part of its charm. The top panel features the sliding Record Mode switch, Power button and the Shutter button/Zoom lever combo. Pretty straightforward. On the rear panel are the Playback and Menu buttons, and a multi-purpose Function dial surrounding a smaller Function/Set button. The Canon SD960’s Function dial can be rotated or pressed up, down, left, or right (similar to multi-controllers on other digital cameras), and comes into play during a variety of camera operations.
Pressing lightly on the dial brings up an onscreen legend to describe the available options. For example, in normal Program AE shooting mode, pressing ‘up’ on the dial activates the self-timer mode, while pressing ‘down’ controls the LCD display. A ‘left’ press enables Macro or Infinity AF modes, while a ‘right’ press controls flash mode. While in a menu screen, you can either press the directional edges of the dial, or turn it to select options. As on most other PowerShots, the Canon SD960’s Function/Set button calls up the camera’s Function menu (ISO, resolution, white balance, etc.) or confirms menu selections.
The remaining controls on the Canon SD960 are simple to navigate and actuate. The rear-panel Playback button not only enters Playback mode, but will also power on the camera and place it into Playback mode. To jump back into Record mode, just half-press the Shutter button.
The flash is activated through a right press of the Function dial, with a selection of operating modes available depending on the shooting mode. The Canon SD960’s flash is powerful enough for use within about eight feet in Auto mode at the full wide-angle lens setting, but diminishes from there.
While not really a control, the Canon SD960 features what Canon calls Active Display. All this means is that you can shake the camera in Playback mode to make it scroll through captured images, rather than use the arrow keys or Function dial. More a cute gimmick than anything, it’s fun to play with for a little while and definitely worth mentioning. Because the camera is small and somewhat slick, though, you should be careful not to accidentally throw it across the room.
Lens. Ranging from 28 to 112mm equivalent, the Canon SD960’s 4x zoom offers a nice wide-angle view with a decent telephoto. There’s very little barrel distortion at full wide angle, which is historically rare, so the Canon SD960’s intelligent processor is definitely at work here. Chromatic aberration is visible at both zoom settings, and blurring in the corners is mild to moderate at wide angle.
The Canon SD960’s lens has Canon’s optical Image Stabilizer, which works automatically to reduce any blurring from camera movement. This is a good feature for full telephoto shots, and indoor shots, helping minimize the amount of blur due to camera motion.
Modes. A sliding Record Mode switch on the Canon PowerShot SD960’s top panel controls its shooting modes, while the Playback button on the rear panel enables image review. The Canon SD960 IS operates in either Movie, Program AE, or Smart Auto shooting modes, with varying levels of user adjustment in each mode. Exposure is automatically controlled in all shooting modes.
The Canon PowerShot SD960 IS offers a range of preset Scene modes to choose from, but its Smart Auto mode will automatically assess the conditions and choose what it decides is the most appropriate scene setting. Preset Scene modes include Portrait, Foliage, Snow, Beach, Sunset, Fireworks, Aquarium, Underwater, ISO 3,200, Indoor, Kids & Pets, Night Snapshot, Long Shutter, Color Accent, Color Swap, Digital Macro, and Stitch Assist. Smart Auto mode also automatically optimizes each exposure for faces, color, saturation, distance, and movement, and will switch modes as your scene changes. Since most people won’t necessarily delve into the Scene selection menu to find the best setting, this is a much more intelligent approach.
The Canon SD960 is also equipped to shoot high-definition video, and also features mini HDMI connector for crisp, clear playback on an HD television set.
Menu. The Canon PowerShot SD960’s menu follows in the footsteps of previous PowerShot Digital ELPH models, with a top-tabbed interface and vertical list of options to scroll through. It’s easy to navigate, and options are fairly limited on this model, so you won’t spend a great deal of time fishing through the screens. The majority of shooting options are accessed through the new Function menu, which is also straightforward, if a little less so than its predecessor.
Storage and battery. The Canon PowerShot SD960 IS stores images on SD/SDHC memory cards, for a current maximum capacity of 32GB per card. That’ll be sufficient for most needs with this camera, and indeed a 4 to 8GB card should be sufficient unless you plan to shoot a lot of video with the Canon SD960.
The Canon SD960’s battery is a 760mAh, 3.7-volt lithium-ion design, model number NB-4L. The rectangular battery latches in place next to the memory card beneath the sliding, hinged plastic door. A fully-charged battery is good for about 200 exposures, which is a bit below average, so a spare backup battery is always a good idea for extended outings.
Shooting. The Canon ELPH series of digital cameras is designed around ease of use, and the PowerShot SD960 is no exception. With minimal controls, a handful of user-adjustable options, and an intelligent autoexposure system, the Canon SD960 is a very user-friendly digital point-and-shoot.
Canon’s Image Stabilizer definitely helps out when shooting conditions are less than ideal, and the Smart Auto mode is pretty good at assessing the exposure conditions and selecting the best preset mode. I found that it quickly identified faces and selected the best preset mode, and just about as quickly changed modes when a person walked out of the shot or the lighting changed. It wasn’t lightning quick in making these decisions, but still fast enough to ensure I didn’t miss anything.
The PowerShot SD960’s zoom is quiet and smooth, but does want to zoom in fairly large steps, making it a little harder to be precise when zooming.
Outdoors, the camera’s LCD was bright under normal conditions, but definitely hard to see very well in bright sunlight. It’s also reflective, which caused some glare in harsh sun.
Overall though, the Canon PowerShot SD960 is fun to shoot with. It’s small, fairly quick, and quiet. Limited user controls and limited options make it that much easier to work with, perfect for novices or younger photographers.