Comparing the 980 to other models in Canon's IXUS line-up, one thing is clear — the normally diminutive camera has put on a bit of weight. It's not actually that much heavier than the other models in the series, but it certainly looks it, all bulging corners and figure-eight profile curves.
Surprisingly, the curves actually make it easier to hold the camera with one hand, as the gentle recessed mid section provides a perfect space to put your finger. Turning the camera around, the back shows no real differences from the Canon configuration, except that there are a few more buttons and toggles to get used to.
At the top right sits the mode dial which can easily be flicked from automatic, through to program/manual, quick shot, movie and scene settings. The power button is, unfortunately, recessed too far into the top of the body which makes it quite difficult to press, killing any spontaneity of the moment.
One boon is the optical viewfinder. Though this means Canon has sacrificed some real estate of the screen (it's still only 2.5-inches), we like being able to have the choice in how we frame and compose our shots.
Just like its predecessor, the 960 IS, the 980 features program and manual modes. These are a great addition on a compact camera for those photographers willing to go beyond the simple automatic point-and-shoot settings.
The scroll wheel, which was implemented more successfully on some of the earlier models from the new Canon range, seems a little fiddly here — it frequently skips options you try to select, even with the lightest touch.
Also, as exciting as the manual mode is, we were very disappointed to see that there were only two aperture settings available depending on the extension of the lens. Speaking of the lens length, we were also disheartened to see that there was only a measly 3.7x optical zoom in the package. While we are of the Robert Capa school of thought that believes "if your pictures aren't good enough, you're not close enough", we would still have liked to see Canon include a little more length for consumers.