Here’s my review of the Canon PowerShot SD1200 IS Digital ELPH aka Digital IXUS 95 IS, a stylish and ultra-compact point-and-shoot camera; and the baby in the Digital ELPH line. You can also check out full-sized photos from the camera in the Canon SD1200 Digital ELPH/Digital IXUS 95 IS photo gallery. Click the link for the full review of the camera.
DPInterface Canon PowerShot SD1200 IS Digital ELPH/Digital IXUS 95 IS Review
Brad Soo – March 17th, 2009
The Canon PowerShot SD1200 IS Digital ELPH is the new baby in the family of Digital ELPHs. It may not be as sophisticated as the more expensive models, but this 10 megapixel ultra-compact packs a 3X optically stabilized zoom lens, 2.5 inch LCD and point-and-shoot operation. All of that in a stylish and pocketable package… and you can have this Digital ELPH for a price tag that won’t break the bank, much.
How well does the SD1200 Digital ELPH perform and does it deserve a recommendation from me? If you’re ready to find out more on this Digital ELPH, read on…
By the way, I should mention that the camera is known as the Canon PowerShot SD1200 IS Digital ELPH in the US and the Canon Digital IXUS 95 IS elsewhere around the world. Either way, they’re the same camera and I’ll be using the SD1200 name in this review for consistency’s sake.
Size and Weight
(165.1) 88.5 x 54.8 x 21.8 mm (120 g) – Canon PowerShot SD1200 IS Digital ELPH
(165.1) 94.0 x 55.9 x 15.2 mm (111 g) – Casio Exilim S12
(175.2) 90.5 x 59.0 x 25.7 mm (117 g) – Fujifilm FinePix Z30
(168.0) 91.0 x 57.0 x 20.0 mm (115 g) – Nikon Coolpix S230
(166.6) 93.0 x 55.8 x 17.8 mm (108 g) – Olympus FE3010
(173.1) 97.0 x 54.4 x 21.7 mm (117 g) – Panasonic Lumix FS7
(173.5) 95.2 x 56.5 x 21.8 mm (118 g) – Sony Cyber-shot W220
All the weight figures above show when the camera is empty without a battery or memory card
The Canon PowerShot SD1200 IS Digital ELPH has a bit of a problem fitting into a camera category – at $230, it’s pricier than entry-level cameras but not nearly as expensive as other stylish compact cameras. The SD1200 is too stylish to be just an entry-level or budget offering. In any event, the Canon PowerShot SD1200 Digital ELPH is a very small and light camera – it will fit into even back pockets with ease.
The Canon PowerShot SD1200 IS Digital ELPH aka Digital IXUS 95 comes with an average camera bundle:
- Rechargeable lithium-ion battery (NB-6L)
- Battery charger
- Wrist strap
- USB and A/V cables
- Camera software CD
- User’s manual
The Canon PowerShot SD1200 IS Digital ELPH doesn’t come with any memory card in the box. Instead, you’ll have to use your own. The SD1200 IS Digital ELPH uses SD and SDHC memory cards, and I’d recommend starting off with at least a 2 GB card. You could always get a high-speed card as well to reduce writing times of the camera.
260 shots – Canon PowerShot SD1200 IS Digital ELPH
200 shots – Fujifilm FinePix Z30
160 shots – Nikon Coolpix S230
360 shots – Panasonic Lumix FS7
370 shots – Sony Cyber-shot W220
All the cameras above are rated with rechargeable batteries according to CIPA Standard
The Canon PowerShot SD1200 IS Digital ELPH uses the new NB-6L rechargeable lithium-ion and comes with a charger in the box. The camera is rated to 260 shots per battery charge with the LCD on (CIPA Standard) which is very good and above average for a compact camera; however both the Panasonic and Sony beat it with battery life numbers which are 50% higher. To conserve battery life, you could always turn the screen off and use the optical viewfinder, which can boost battery life up to 700 shots.
There aren’t many optional accessories available for the Canon SD1200 IS Digital ELPH; just an AC adapter, slave flash, waterproof case and various camera cases.
The Canon PowerShot SD1200 IS Digital ELPH aka Digital IXUS 95 looks a whole lot like last year’s SD1100 IS model; and build quality is the same too. The camera doesn’t feel flimsy anywhere but the door over the memory/battery compartment. Despite the SD1200 Digital ELPH being an ultra-compact camera, it still has sizable buttons and sufficient space for your right thumb to go on the back.
Just to make things less dull in life, the SD1200 Digital ELPH comes in your choice of six colors! They are: silver, gray, green, blue, orange and pink – feel free to choose. The one here is the gray colored SD1200.
The Canon PowerShot SD1200 uses the same 3X lens that’s been around on Digital ELPHs for quite some time now. That isn’t a bad thing since it’s quite a good lens (quality wise). In terms of specifications, the lens is equivalent to a pretty standard 35 – 105 mm and has an, also average, aperture range of f2.8 – f4.9.
Directly above the lens are the camera’s optical viewfinder window, and an autofocus assist/self-timer lamp and microphone to the left of it. Then we come to the flash unit which, for some unknown reason, is more powerful at wide-angle than on the higher-end SD780. At wide-angle, the flash covers a range of 30 cm to 4.2 m, while at telephoto, the maximum range goes down to 2.4 m. Compared to other cameras in its class, the flash here is above average in terms of power.
Over here is the PowerShot SD1200 IS Digital ELPH’S 2.5 inch PureColor II LCD. The LCD sports 230,000 pixels so it’s nice and sharp. Both indoor and outdoor visibility is good (well, most of the time with the latter at least) with the SD780 Digital ELPH. If you want to be able to see what you’re framing outdoors better (or conserve battery power), you can use the optical viewfinder located directly above the LCD display. There’s also a clover-shaped grill for the camera’s speaker to the upper left of the SD1200.
Directly next to the LCD are the SD1200’s row of controls and a switch. The first two items are pretty obvious – a playback button and mode switch. The mode switch moves you between smart auto, regular shooting and movie mode. In smart auto mode, the camera will detect what you’re shooting and automatically pick a scene mode for you.
Next up is the Canon SD1200’s five-way navigation pad, which we’ll look at right now:
- Up – Exposure compensation (+/-2 EV in 1/3 steps)/Playback jump
- Down – Drive mode (Single shot, continuous, face self-timer, self-timer)
- Left – Focus mode (Normal, macro, landscape)
- Right – Flash setting (Auto, on, off; red-eye reduction and slow sync are turned on/off in the menu)
- Center – Function menu/Set
The Canon PowerShot SD1200 IS Digital ELPH, like the flagship SD95 IS, has a Face Self-timer mode. This seems to work in conjunction with the camera’s face detection technology. The camera will watch the scene until an ‘extra face’ is detected, then start counting down to take up to 10 pictures in a row. Of course there’s the regular 2 and 10 second countdown modes available as well as a custom timer mode which allows you to set the countdown period and number of shots the camera will take.
Pressing the center button brings up the camera’s function menu which contains several settings that can be changed:
- Sub-shooting mode (Program, portrait, night scene, kids & pets, party, other scene modes)
- ISO (Auto, 80, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600)
- White balance (Auto, daylight, cloudy, tungsten, fluorescent, fluorescent H, custom)
- My Colors (Normal, vivid, neutral, sepia, black & white, custom)
- Metering method (Evaluative, center-weighted, spot)
- Image size and compression
The custom option in the My Colors/Photo Effects area enables you to manually tweak contrast, saturation and sharpness up to +/- 2 in 1 step increments)
Lastly, we have the DISPlay (which toggles LCD display information) and MENU buttons (to bring up the camera menu).
At the top of the camera are the power button and shutter button with a wrapped around zoom controller. And that’s about it. Simple, huh? Let’s move on…
One side of the camera is blank…
And on the other side of the camera is wrist strap mount and single mini-B port for USB 2.0 High-speed and A/V Out connectivity.
At the bottom of the Canon PowerShot SD1200 IS Digital ELPH are the camera’s plastic tripod mount and memory card/battery compartment. The compartment door is flimsy so do handle it with care.
Taking pictures (Shooting mode)
On the LCD screen of the Canon PowerShot SD1200 IS Digital ELPH, you’ll see a lot of information super imposed on your composition. That includes exposure information, camera settings and a simple battery indicator. Like other Canon cameras, you can also opt to display a 3:2 guide, 3 X 3 gridlines or both. There isn’t any live histogram here however.
The 10 megapixel SD1200 IS Digital ELPH allows you to choose from multiple image sizes and compression modes to suit your needs. You can choose to use full 10 MP, 6 MP, 4 MP, 2 MP, VGA and widescreen for image resolution and between Fine and Standard for compression. A 2 GB memory card will hold around 750 full-res Fine, 10 megapixel photos.
Most of the camera’s main settings can be adjusted via the Function menu I described in the previous section, but now let’s head on to the other settings in the camera’s main menu:
- Autofocus mode (Face detection, 9 point AF, center AF)
- AF point size (Normal, small) – Choose how size of the camera’s focusing point area
- Digital zoom – you should keep this turned off, it lowers picture quality
- AF point zoom – magnify the area the camera focuses on
- AF assist beam (On/off)
- Flash settings – toggle red-eye reduction and slow sync
- iContrast – see below
- Review – This option decides whether the camera will show the image on the LCD screen right after the picture is taken
- Review info (Off, normal, detailed) – amount of info shown on-screen after taking a picture
- Display overlay (Toggle grid lines, 3:2 guide or both)
- IS Mode (Off, Continuous, Shoot-only, Panning)
- Date stamp (Off, date, date and time)
The Canon PowerShot SD1200 IS Digital ELPH is able to brighten dark areas of your photos (at the cost of more noise) via its iContrast feature. There’s also face detection, as usual.
As you might have guessed, the Canon PowerShot SD1200 IS Digital ELPH is strictly point-and-shoot. There are plenty of scene modes here, including portrait, foliage, snow, beach, sunset, fireworks, aquarium, underwater, ISO 3200, indoor, kids & pets, night snapshot, digital macro and long shutter. The camera has a long exposure mode called Long Shutter which allows you to choose a shutter speed between 1 to 15 seconds.
The SD1200 IS Digital ELPH has a nice macro mode which allows you to get as close as 3 cm to a subject at wide-angle and 30 cm at telephoto. If you select the Digital Macro scene mode, the camera locks the zoom at wide-angle and you are able to use the camera’s 4X digital zoom to go even closer.
The Canon PowerShot SD1200 IS Digital ELPH features Canon’s regular VGA movie mode which records VGA videos (640 x 480) at 30 FPS with sound. There are two other options: VGA Long Play which increases file size compression and QVGA (320 x 240). Movies are recorded in AVI MJPEG format so a 2 GB card will hold 16 minutes of video at the highest settings.
There’s the usual 4 GB or 60 minutes per clip limit, whichever comes first. You can use both optical image stabilization and 4X digital zoom while recording movies; but optical zoom is disabled. You are able to use the color accent and color swap features I mentioned above as well as change most of the settings in the function menu before recording a movie. Movie quality from the Canon SD1200 was good.
All performance testing of the Canon PowerShot SD1200 IS Digital ELPH was performed using a high-speed 4 GB SanDisk Ultra II SDHC (90X) card.
Like other Digital ELPHs, the SD1200 is one that starts up quickly – taking just one second to boot up. Focusing speeds were quick as well; with times ranging from 0.2 to 0.4 second up till a second, depending on lighting conditions. The camera managed to lock focus in low-light thanks to its autofocus assist lamp.
- Shot-to-shot speed – 1 shot every 1.4 seconds, above average
- Flash recharge time using a fully charged battery – 4 seconds on average
The SD1200 IS Digital ELPH has a pleasant continuous shooting mode which snaps at 1.4 frames per second until the memory card fills up (which is better than the higher-end SD780 which does 0.9 FPS).
The camera moves its lens from wide-angle to telephoto in literally one second as well (with very few steps in between) and shuts down in 2 seconds with its lens at telephoto. Overall I was impressed with the performance of the Canon PowerShot SD1200 IS Digital ELPH, with speedy operation in just about all areas. Surprisingly, its performance is better than that of its higher end sibling, the SD780, which seems to be bogged down by megapixels.
Let’s find out about the SD1200 Digital ELPH’s performance in the image quality department:
At lower ISO settings; ISO 80, ISO 100 and ISO 200, the Canon PowerShot SD1200 IS Digital ELPH aka Digital IXUS 95 produces clean, very good image quality. There’s an increase in noise at ISO 400 but picture quality at this point is still good. ISO 800 would be the most you’d want to go; it softens fine details but if you can still use images here for small photo displays and prints. ISO 1600 destroys too much detail to be considered useful.
Lens distortion was moderate while vignetting was not an issue. Watch out for some edge softness and color fringing (chromatic aberration) which can occur at low to mild levels though; depending on shooting conditions. Redeye isn’t a problem as the camera’s built-in removal method is very effective – there’s even a redeye removal tool in playback just in case, so you don’t have to worry.
Overall, the Canon PowerShot SD1200 Digital ELPH produces generally good image quality and usable photos up till ISO 800. The camera is suitable for taking people pictures with flash, especially indoors or in clubs, with the combination of its above average flash power and effective redeye removal. Just be warned that the camera is susceptible to color fringing and edge softness though, you’ll probably notice if you take many scenery photos. The color fringing can be removed via photo editing software while the softness may not be obvious unless you’re viewing your shots at the edges, blown up to 100% size all the time.
Take a look at full-sized photos taken by the Canon PowerShot SD1200 IS Digital ELPH aka Digital IXUS 95 IS in the photo gallery.
The Canon PowerShot SD1200 IS Digital ELPH has the same playback mode as most of Canon’s other cameras, where you can view your photos (complete with transition effects as you browse through them) and play videos with sound. All the basic playback functions such as print marking, slideshows, voice clip attachment, image protection, resizing and rotation are all here. You can magnify still photos by 10X and pan around using the 5 way navigation pad.
You can view the pictures you’ve taken as individual photos or in sets of nine thumbnails. A JUMP feature (press the UP button on the D-pad) allows you to skip through several photos at a time or to ‘jump’ right to a specific shooting date… which isn’t as organized as the calendar view but it works.
Image Inspection mode is activated when you press the DISPlay button; which magnifies the focus point(s) in your photos so you can check if the picture is in focus. You can also apply iContrast brightening to photos as well as manually remove red-eye in playback.
In playback, the Canon PowerShot SD1200 IS Digital ELPH is able to tell you shooting details, mode, exposure information (with shutter speed and aperture value) and display a histogram. There’s also an overexposure alert feature which “blinks” overexposed areas of your photos to warn you about them.
The Canon PowerShot SD1200 IS Digital ELPH aka Digital IXUS 95 is a small, stylish digital camera that offers a nice feature set for not a lot of money. Like the preceding SD1100 of last year, 2009’s SD1200 Digital ELPH has a 3X optical zoom lens with image stabilization, a 2.5 inch LCD, VGA movie mode and a similar ultra-compact design. The LCD is nicely viewable both in low and bright light and there’s even an optical viewfinder at your disposal too.
The Canon SD1200 IS Digital ELPH is more evolutionary an update, rather than revolutionary – the megapixel count has been upped to 10 megapixels, battery life and flash power have been increased, there are little extras such as Face Self-timer and iContrast for brightening images; and I even noticed a very slight improvement in terms of performance. Not too shabby eh? The camera now comes in six different colors for you to choose from, as well.
Of course, the Canon SD1200 Digital ELPH isn’t flawless – it does come up short in two or three areas (thankfully, nothing major), namely lack of manual controls, some edge softness and fringing as well as the flimsy battery/memory compartment door. Some may complain of the lack of a HD movie mode, but hey, for $230, what more are you expecting? For that (HD movie recording), you may want to turn to the SD1200’s more expensive sibling, the SD780 Digital ELPH.
To sum it all up, the Canon PowerShot SD1200 IS Digital ELPH is a great little point-and-shoot camera which has good image quality, above average battery life, fast performance and the price you’re paying this all-rounder camera isn’t high ($230 retail price, expect street prices to be lower).
- Ultra-compact design; comes in your choice of six colors
- Good battery life; very good using viewfinder
- Above average flash power
- Speedy camera performance
- Good LCD visibility in variety of conditions; there’s an optical viewfinder too
- Very good image quality in general; effective redeye removal tool
- Lacks manual controls and a live histogram
- Flimsy memory/battery door
- Edge softness with a little color fringing
2 GB or 4 GB high-speed SD/SDHC memory card