Canon PowerShot SD980 IS
At long last, Canon has finally adopted touchscreen technology. And fittingly, they opted to debut this new functionality on one of the more unique members of the Digital ELPH line, the PowerShot SD980 IS. The Canon SD980 is unique because it’s the first ELPH to feature a 24mm lens. Also sporting a 12.1-megapixel CCD image sensor, 5x optical zoom lens, DIGIC 4 image processor, and the newest versions of Face Detection, Blink Detection, and Motion Detection, the Canon SD980 has a lot to offer.
The Canon PowerShot SD980’s smooth contours and small size make it easy to stash. Gentle curves ensure it won’t snag on pockets, and a wrist strap provides a little added security when you’re on the move, and the SD980’s strap integrates a small stylus to help you with the new touchscreen if necessary. Minimal external controls make the Canon SD980 IS easy to use, while its range of intelligent automatic settings yield great results even when you don’t have the time to figure out exposure settings. No less than 20 Shooting modes are available to choose from, or you can let the intuitive Smart Auto mode do that for you, as it automatically selects from among 22 predefined shooting situations to select a suitable exposure mode.
More advanced users will appreciate a few of the exposure options that the Canon SD980 IS offers, including ISO (up to 3,200 via a special scene mode), white balance, metering mode, and image stabilization, and iContrast, among others. For post-capture effects, the camera’s Playback menu also offers an iContrast mode, which automatically adjusts the tonal distribution if necessary (so you can let the camera be the judge before exposure, or select the amount of correction you think you need afterward). Other impressive offerings on the Canon SD980 IS include the wide-aspect 3.0-inch PureColor LCD monitor with Active Display and a limited touchscreen function, and 720p HD movie capability with true HDMI output.
Weighing in at only 5.4 ounces (152g) and measuring a very pocketable 3.9 x 2.1 x 0.9 inches (100 x 53 x 23mm), the Canon PowerShot SD980 IS is definitely meant to go places. Available at a MSRP of $329.99, the SD980 IS is available in traditional silver, or in gold, light blue, or purple body colors. Be sure to use our shopping links to check for the lowest prices!
Canon PowerShot SD980 IS
by Stephanie Boozer and Shawn Barnett
The Canon PowerShot SD980 IS is the first in Canon’s Digital ELPH line to include an LCD touchscreen, and though we’re not always fond of touchscreens, we think Canon did this one well, limiting its purposes and still including some control buttons. Fairly compact, with an easy-to-learn point-and-shoot interface, the Canon SD980 offers the same great usability and performance we’ve come to expect from the PowerShot line.
Look and feel. Ranking among the smaller PowerShot models, the Canon SD980 IS has smooth contours that are both comfortable in the hand and perfect for pockets. At just 5.4 ounces (152g), the Canon SD980 measures only 3.9 x 2.1 x 0.9 inches (100 x 53 x 23mm), definitely small enough to fit into evening bags, pants pockets, and shirt pockets.
Because the Canon SD980’s contours are so smooth and is too small to include a handgrip, I strongly recommend attaching and using the wrist strap to prevent the camera from slipping through your fingers. The Canon logo on the front panel is raised just slightly, giving fingers some purchase as they cradle the right side, but that’s about all you get.
Controls. On the left of the top panel is a triangular Mode switch that chooses among Movie, Program, and Full Auto modes. A tiny, triangular Power button on the Canon SD980’s top panel activates the camera, with a startup time of about 1.7 second, a little better than average. The smooth silver shutter button is surrounded by a zoom toggle. All of the top controls are easy to reach one-handed except for the Mode switch, which is just a little too far to the left. Your thumb rests in a small recessed area on the back panel, overlapping the Playback button, with two sculpted ridges to the left of the button serving as a small grip.
The Canon SD980 has fewer external controls on its rear panel than most ELPH designs, assuming you’ll also interact with the LCD touchscreen. Most of the common functions are accessed via the Multi-controller or on-screen menus, and all of the controls are fairly negotiable when shooting one-handed. The wide, 3.0-inch PureColor LCD monitor provides about 100% frame accuracy at both zoom settings, and features virtual buttons on either side in its touchscreen capacity.
You can adjust the shooting mode, exposure compensation, flash mode, or move the AF area target around simply by touching the LCD. However, the Canon SD980 IS does not provide touch access to its standard Record and Function menus, which still require the Multi-controller for navigation. Also worth mentioning here is the LCD Active Display mode, which we’ve seen on previous models, that lets you switch between Playback images simply by giving the camera a firm shake (not too firm, however, or a warning appears onscreen to be gentle). Additionally, quickly moving the camera forward activates a Focus Checker frame. Using the same action in Playback mode, you can pause or restart movie playback.
A very tiny flash is in the extreme left corner of the camera’s front panel, and its operating modes are controlled either by the right arrow on the rear-panel Multi-controller or via the touchscreen virtual button. The PowerShot SD980 IS’ flash is rated effective to about 11 feet at full wide-angle, and to about 4.9 feet at telephoto. However, we noted that the camera had to raise the ISO to 250 to qualify the rating.
Lens. Ranging from a nice, wide 24 to 120mm equivalent, the Canon PowerShot SD980 IS’ 5x optical zoom offers good quality and a better than average zoom range for this size digital camera. Blurring in the corners is only a minor issue at full wide-angle, but is inconsequential at telephoto. What blurring is present at full wide-angle does not extend very far into the frame.
You’re more likely to run into extreme perspective distortion with such a wide angle, where people close to the lens edges are stretched abnormally compared to the center of the frame.
The PowerShot SD980 IS’ lens employs Canon’s Optical Image Stabilizer technology for relatively blur-free shots in low lighting, or when shooting at full telephoto. The camera’s intelligent autofocus system also factors in the latest versions of Face Detection and Blink Detection technologies, as well as Motion Detection for moving subjects. By combining these features with the self-timer, you get accurately-focused self-portraits as well, since the camera locks onto your face as soon as you enter the frame.
Modes. The sliding mode switch on the top panel accesses Movie, Program, and Smart Auto shooting modes, while Playback mode is accessed via its own button on the rear panel. Smart Auto mode selects from among 22 predefined shooting situations, depending on a range of variables from lighting and subject contrast to faces and subject movement, ultimately choosing the mode it estimates will best handle your subject. This is great for users who appreciate having so many automatic presets available, but are unsure of when to use them. In this case, the Canon SD980’s Smart Auto has the brains to figure it out.
In Program mode, you can opt to stay in the standard Program AE shooting mode, or use your own judgment to select one of the preset scene settings yourself. Preset modes include Portrait, Night Snapshot, Kids&Pets, Indoor, Sunset, Fireworks, Beach, Aquarium, Foliage, Snow, ISO 3200, Digital Macro, Color Accent, Color Swap, Stitch Assist (panorama), Creative Light Effect, and Long Shutter. Staying within the Program AE mode gives the user control over a handful of slightly more advanced exposure options, including ISO, metering, resolution, quality and white balance, and image stabilization.
The Canon PowerShot SD980 IS’ movie mode shoots in high definition at 720p HD with a mini-HDMI connector for HDTVs. Shooting at 30 frames per second, the SD980 IS offers movie resolutions as high as 1,280 x 720 pixels. There is also a Continuous shooting mode, though its performance is a maximum of 0.8 frames per second, much slower than average.
Menu. The Canon PowerShot SD980 IS’ standard Record menu is straightforward and easy to navigate with a simple system of tabs and list options. Anyone already familiar with Canon’s typical menu setup will find the SD980 IS’ menu familiar, and anyone new to Canon should easily find the features they need with just a quick read through the Getting Started Guide (a PDF of the full manual is included on a CD-ROM).
The Record menu is not part of the touchscreen capability, something Shawn thinks is a refreshing approach because so many other cameras have been frustrating to use. Stephanie, on the other hand, thinks companies should go all the way if they’re going to use a touch screen at all. Your opinion may vary too. Certainly the most successful smartphones have gone nearly all touch.
For navigating menu screens, the Canon SD980 features the same Multi-controller we’ve seen on other models, featuring an external spinning dial that also scrolls through menu options. You can use the up, down, left, and right directional arrows to navigate as well.
In addition to the regular menu system, the PowerShot SD980 IS offers Canon’s new standard Function Menu, which is launched with a press of the Func./Set button at the center of the Multi-controller. Options like shooting mode, white balance, drive mode, resolution, metering, and ISO are accessed here. The sidebar display moves as you scroll up or down, keeping the main selection at the center of the frame, and the left or right arrow keys allow you to make changes. The new Function menu is a little odd to use compared to the old one, oriented as two rolling menus that appear on the left of the screen. You have to press the right arrow to move to the secondary menu so you can scroll through that. The old design took up the whole screen, but you could start moving from wherever the selection point was using the left and right arrows without having to first jog right. You could also see more of the options with the old method. It’s strange that Canon introduced this new Function menu at a time when many other companies are emulating their old one.
Storage and battery. The Canon PowerShot SD980 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; even a 4 to 8GB card should do, unless you plan to shoot a lot of video with the PowerShot SD980 IS.
The PowerShot SD980’s battery is a 1,000mAh, 3.7-volt lithium-ion design, Canon model number NB-6L. The rectangular battery pops into place beneath a sliding, plastic door with the metal hinge, and is kept in place by a small pressure switch. A single charge is good for about 240 shots. That’s about average, so consider buying a spare battery and keeping it on the ready for longer outings.