Image quality from the 960 IS is very impressive and clean at lower ISOs. Colours are accurate and well saturated, and exposures tend to be accurate, even in some tough situations.
For example, the camera did a good job of balancing the built-in flash with the ambient light from the lamp in our test scene, though it wasn't quite powerful enough to pull significant detail out of the dark fur of the plush ape in the scene.
Canon does an excellent job of keeping ISO noise under control through ISO 200. At ISO 400, noise becomes noticeable on monitors, but shouldn't cause problems with prints and doesn't cause any noticeable loss of shadow or fine detail. At ISO 800, noise becomes much more noticeable and some, though not all, shadow detail is lost while most fine detail remains. That said, you should still be able to get decent prints, especially at smaller sizes.
At ISO 1,600, noise becomes very heavy and most shadow and fine detail, such as text and the markings on the measuring tape in our scene, is lost. We suggest staying below ISO 1,600 when shooting with the 960 IS and staying below ISO 800 whenever possible.
For a 12-megapixel compact camera, the Digital IXUS 960 IS fares well. But, if you don't feel you need so many pixels, and unless you plan to print 17x11-inch images regularly, then you can probably get faster performance by choosing a camera with fewer megapixels, such as Canon's 8-megapixel Digital IXUS 860 IS -- but you will have to give up the optical viewfinder if you do.
Additional editing by Shannon Doubleday