The Digital IXUS 95 may be pretty, and it may be a Canon, but if you've got around £180 to spend and all you ask is a 10-megapixel sensor and a 3x zoom, it'd take you a week just to read through the list of candidates. So should the IXUS 95 be anywhere near the top?
You can't argue with the looks. Canon's designers are near the top of their game with this one. It's not flashy, necessarily, but it does look beautiful, whichever colour you choose. It feels good too, and round the back there's a conventional set of directional controllers rather than the spinning dial used on more upmarket models. It's one bit of cost-cutting that's more than welcome, since the controls are much easier to use as a result.
And look, there's even an optical viewfinder. Admittedly, it's tiny and slightly distorted, but it's worth having on days so bright you can't see the LCD properly, and it's a useful feature to have on a camera that might be used by digital first-timers. Let's face it, this is not a camera for photo experts. It's a classy little compact for people who want to grab snaps of all the important little moments in their lives without having to swallow a dictionary.
It talks the part, too, with better-than-ever face-detection, a face self-timer which waits for you to get in the shot and then takes the picture, and automatic scene-mode detection, which works out what the camera's pointed at and adjusts the settings automatically.
But while all this tech-talk might convince buyers to ditch last year's camera in favour of this one, it doesn't necessarily stand up to close examination. Sure, Canon's face detection can now pick out as many as 35 different people in a scene, according to the blurb, and they can be further away, in profile, not looking at the camera and so on.
Okay, so it can 'see' 35 people, but it's still got to pick one to set the focus and exposure, and who's to say it's the one you want? There doesn't seem to be any way to change it. It's not the IXUS 95's fault, it's face-detection in general.
We're supposed to buy into this stuff because it sounds clever (hell, it is clever), without any clear sense of how the camera applies it, how to override it or whether it even makes any difference. The sort of difference that, say, a better lens might make.
Because this camera needs one. It's only a 3x zoom, it's not rocket science. It's not a wideangle, it's not a 20x superzoom, it's not a crunched-up 'folded' lens that doesn't extend from the body. It's got no excuse for the mushy edges and barrel distortion we got in our test shots. It's all right, for a snapper, but at this price you might reasonably be expecting something better.
The IXUS 95 IS would be a great camera for someone who didn't have to pay for it and had little to compare it to. It's pretty, smart and easy to use, and produces decent quality pictures that few casual users could find fault with. But the froth of new tech can't hide the desperately ordinary camera underneath.
Edited by Nick Hide