Canon’s first foray into touch screen territory comes in the form of the PowerShot SD980 IS. It falls into line style-wise with the current generation of Digital ELPH cameras and it won’t look out of place sitting side-by-side with your iPod and your touch screen smartphone – it’s curvy, boldly colored, and is relatively slim for a camera housing a 5x optical zoom lens.
Like the Panasonic Lumix FX580, the Canon Powershot SD980 IS keeps all of the physical buttons and offers the touch screen as a kind of supplement in terms of camera operation. The result is more of a hybrid than a total touch screen makeover. There are three major areas where the touch screen will come into play: image review, touch-selected auto focus lock, and shooting mode selection.
It’s a new interface for the PowerShot lineup, but there are plenty of familiar features here as well. The DIGIC 4 processor, optical image stabilizer, and 12.1 megapixel 1/2.3 inch CCD are carried over from previous Digital ELPHs. Slow, steady enhancements to an existing, capable platform have been the trend for Canon in recent years. Does the SD980 follow the trend, or is it just another very pretty interface?
The Canon Powershot SD980 features a 5x optical zoom, starting at an equivalent 24mm for a nice wide angle and extending to 120mm. It’s quite a fast lens, with a maximum aperture of f/2.8 at wide angle. Maximum aperture at telephoto is f/5.9. Zoom operation is a little bit noisy, which is perhaps one of the reasons why optical zoom isn’t available in video recording mode.
Barrel distortion cropped up more often than pin cushioning. The vertical lines of the window in the wide angle image below do bow outward slightly. In the telephoto image, there’s not as much evidence of distortion.
The get-up-and-go PowerShot SD980 takes some very nice images right out of the box. Colors are bright, in the traditional vein of Canon’s consumer digitals, and reasonably saturated. The neutral setting, one of the options available under the “My Colors” submenu, will bring saturation down a notch. Adjustments can also be made to color, saturation, and sharpness and saved as a custom setting under the “my colors” submenu.
It should also be noted that though the SD980 boasts 16:9 wide-aspect image capture, you won’t be able to utilize it at the camera’s highest resolution. The wide images are roughly 9 megapixels.
Our studio images show noise beginning to appear starting at ISO 100, though it’s very faint in the cropped image. ISO 400 displays more distortion, though the thumbnail image still looks fairly good.
What the PowerShot SD980 IS does the best is show off. Flipping through images with a swipe of the LCD or a flick of the wrist is sure to please a small crowd of friends and family. However, no camera is going to inspire any real “wow” factor if the images don’t look as good as the actual interface. The SD980 delivers dependable image quality whether or not you choose to utilize the touch screen.
The PowerShot SD980 won’t compete with Canon’s more advanced compacts, but it’s as good a performer as the popular SD1200. It hits a sweet spot between chic design and reliable performance. In the expanding world of touch screen cameras, the SD980 is as good as any we’ve seen thus far. It doesn’t offer the level of control that Panasonic’s Lumix FX580 does, but manual control is probably not what you’re after if you’re shopping for a touch LCD. If it’s reliable image quality with limited user input that you want, then the PowerShot SD980 is a good option.