Canon Digital IXUS 100 IS / PowerShot SD780 IS ELPH
Written by Gordon Laing
Canon IXUS 100 IS / PowerShot SD780 IS verdict
The IXUS 100 IS / PowerShot SD780 IS is yet another classy compact from Canon. The design is the first thing everyone notices, with its slim build and rounded corners attracting admiring glances wherever we took it. But it’s not just about looks, as the IXUS 100 IS / SD780 IS also debuts a number of technologies – at least as far as Canon’s own compact range is concerned. As such, the camera becomes one of Canon’s first compacts to offer HD movie recording, an HDMI port and Scene Detection in Auto mode.
The newly-enhanced Auto mode works well, recognising not just the difference between people, landscapes and close-ups, but also the lighting conditions, adjusting the exposure and flash accordingly.
The 720p HD movies are recorded at a relatively high bit-rate of around 24Mbit/s and are certainly a step-up from standard VGA modes, but we found the image processing somewhat restrained with softer, more muted-looking footage compared to many rivals. But to be fair, in direct comparisons, the actual recorded detail was similar to other compacts with 720p modes.
On the whole, still image quality was pretty good, with its 12 Megapixels recording a decent amount of detail in areas where the optics perform well. Noise levels were similar to most compacts with similar sensors, which means a faint smattering of speckles if you’re really looking at the lowest sensitivities, and more visible textures at the ISO increases. As usual, the best results are below 200 ISO.
If the highlight of the camera is its tiny and perfectly-formed shell, then the biggest downside is arguably the lens within. The 3x optical range is unremarkable and lacking any kind of true wide-angle coverage. You can’t optically zoom once you’ve started filming a video, and in our results we found the lens also suffered from softness in the corners, especially at wider focal lengths.
Beyond this, the high bit rate used in the movie mode may appeal to enthusiasts reading specs, but in reality it’ll eat through your memory pretty quickly and we didn’t notice significantly fewer compression artefacts than rivals at rates of 17Mbit/s. That’s not to say we don’t want the 24Mbit/s mode, but an option to turn it down a notch for longer recording times would have been nice. It’s also a little odd to find the movie mode delivering relatively restrained (indeed almost soft) processing when the camera’s still images come-out looking so punchy.
It should also be noted that while HD movies, HD output and scene detection are all new to Canon’s compacts, all three have been offered by rivals like Panasonic for some time – albeit with the HD output being in analogue Component. So before wrapping-up, how does the tiny Canon compare?
Compared to Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX40 / FX48
Panasonic’s Lumix DMC-FX40 (or FX48 as it’s known in North America) is one of the closest rivals to the IXUS 100 IS / SD780 IS. Both are slim, stylish compacts with 12.1 Megapixel resolution, 2.5in / 230k screens, 720p HD Movie recording, scene detection and HD outputs.
The major difference between them is the lens, with the Panasonic boasting a 5x range that’s both wider and longer at an equivalent of 25-125mm. This equips the FX40 / FX48 not just with longer reach, but significantly wider coverage than the Canon’s relatively pedestrian 33-100mm / 3x range. The FX40 / FX48 also features Face Recognition which can store up to six regular subjects and give them focus priority in shots with ‘strangers’. It also offers burst shooting modes which can drop the resolution to achieve faster and more useful continuous shooting rates.
In its favour, the Canon IXUS 100 IS / SD780 IS may be a tad taller, but is comfortably narrower, thinner and lighter. Its HD output is digital with a standard Mini HDMI socket, whereas the Panasonic still uses an analogue component output which requires an optional cable accessory. The Canon also encodes its movies using the modern H.264 format, whereas the FX40 / FX48 sticks with the ageing Motion JPEG standard; some may however prefer the latter for easier editing on their computer.
Most of the decision boils down to comparing looks and the lens range. Panasonic easily wins with the latter, but while the FX40 / FX48 is certainly very compact, many will be seduced by the smaller Canon. At the time of writing, we’re also unsure of the price point which the new Lumix will settle down at. As we receive more details, we’ll update this page.
Compared to Canon IXUS 870IS / PowerShot SD 880IS
Canon’s IXUS 870 IS / SD880 IS was one of the classiest compacts of last year and remains a current model in the range – it also costs roughly the same as the IXUS 100 IS / SD780 IS, so how do they compare?
Most obviously the IXUS 870 IS / SD880 IS is a larger, chunkier camera, so if you’re looking for a front-shirt-pocket-head-turner, then head for the IXUS 100 IS / SD780 IS instead. But its larger size gives the IXUS 870 IS / SD880 IS more to hold onto, a control wheel for quickly scrolling through options and room for a great-looking, larger 3in screen. Most importantly of all though, the lens has a longer 3.8x range that crucially starts much wider at an equivalent of 28mm – not as wide as the Panasonic above, but still comfortably wider than the IXUS 100 IS / SD780 IS. In our tests it was also better-corrected in the corners than the IXUS 100 IS / SD780 IS.
In its favour the IXUS 100 IS / SD780 IS is comfortably smaller and lighter, slipping discretely into almost any pocket. Both cameras may share the DIGIC4 image processor with its face self-timer and H.264-encoded movies, but unlike the VGA video mode on the IXUS 870 IS / SD880 IS, the newer, smaller model boasts HD recording and an HDMI output to watch them (and stills) on an HDTV. The IXUS 100 IS / SD780 IS also adds scene and blink detection.
Once again though it mostly boils down to comparing physical looks and the lens range. The IXUS 100 IS / SD780 IS is noticeably smaller and lighter, while additionally boasting HD video, while the IXUS 870 IS / SD880 IS has the wider-angle coverage and bigger screen. Even without HD video though, it remains one of our favourite compacts, and as time goes on, the price could also fall See our Canon IXUS 870IS / SD 880IS review for more details.
Canon IXUS 100 IS / SD780 IS final verdict
Much of the appeal of the IXUS 100 IS / SD780 IS of course lies with its physical build and appearance. See it in the flesh and it’s a real head-turner, and the first model we’ve tested in a long while to attract admiring comments from almost everyone who saw it. The camera really is very small with a smart finish and total absence of sharp corners, ensuring it’ll never dig uncomfortably into your hands or pockets. It simply looks and feels great.
Despite its tiny dimensions, Canon’s also packed it with a great deal of new technologies – at least in terms of the IXUS / ELPH range anyway. As such it’s one of the first Canon compacts to boast HD video recording, HDMI output and scene detection in Auto. And while the 2.5in screen may sound small in today’s terms, it looks great and there’s literally no room for anything bigger.
But with small size inevitably comes compromises. The 3x optical range is unremarkable, you can’t zoom while filming video, and we noticed softness in the corners of images on our sample. Considering the size, it’s pretty remarkable to find an optical viewfinder squeezed in there, but it’s so small we can’t see many people using it – indeed you forget its even there most of the time.
So if you desire wider coverage or images which are sharper across the frame, then look elsewhere, such as to Canon’s own IXUS 870 IS / SD880 IS. But there’s no denying the physical appeal of the IXUS 100 IS / SD780 IS and the fact it does a good job at capturing most moments in its newly enhanced auto mode, while additionally offering HD capture and output. Ultimately if you’re after a slim, stylish compact which handles itself well in general-use and can trade that against its weaknesses, then it comes recommended.
(relative to 2009 compacts)
18 / 20
15 / 20
16 / 20
17 / 20
16 / 20