Canon PowerShot SD960 IS review: Canon PowerShot SD960 IS

If you're the type to get impatient waiting between shots, the SD960 might disappoint you with its 2.6-second shot-to-shot time; turning on the flash drags that out to nearly 4 seconds. Also, there's no burst mode on this model, only continuous unlimited shooting capable of just less than 1 frame per second. Start-up time is decent, however, at 1.4 seconds, as is shutter lag: 0.4 second in well-lit conditions and 0.6 in more challenging dim light.

In most cases photo quality from the SD960 is very good thanks to remarkable color, exposure, and white balance. As with most compacts, photos are best at ISO sensitivities below ISO 200. At ISO 400, fine detail starts degrading as shots turn less sharp, more smooth, and fuzzy. For a majority of my testing, the camera remained in Canon's Smart Auto mode, which was really reliable at picking the correct scenes and settings.

Purple fringing is something we've learned to expect from point-and-shoot cameras, but it's generally relegated off the sides where lens distortion is more typically found. The SD960 has above-average amounts of fringing and it can be found throughout the frame. It's what dragged the photo quality for this camera down from excellent to very good. Well, that and the SD960 struggled occasionally with complex scenes resulting in shots that looked a bit overprocessed. Not a lot, but it happened.

The Movie mode is capable of recording at an HD resolution of 720p and the results are very good. (For quickly connecting to an HDTV, there's a mini HDMI output behind a small door on the right side of the body.) But sadly, the 4x optical zoom doesn't function while recording.

It's funny: had Canon decided to upgrade the SD880 IS just by raising the resolution to 12 megapixels and adding the HD movie capture, this review probably would've been stamped with an Editors' Choice award. Instead, the company shrank the screen, took away some features, made a seemingly unnecessary control change (at least to me; I'm sure Canon has its reasons), and then decided to bump the price up $30. As I said above, the Canon PowerShot SD960 IS is a solid option, but if you want more control and a smaller price tag, you should get the SD880 instead.

Shooting speed
(Seconds (smaller is better))
Time to first shot  
Typical shot-to-shot time (flash)  
Typical shot-to-shot time  
Shutter lag (dim)  
Shutter lag (typical)  
Canon PowerShot SD960 IS
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W290
Canon PowerShot SD880 IS
Nikon Coolpix S630
Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ5

Typical continuous-shooting speed
(Frames per second (larger is better))

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Canon PowerShot SD960 IS (Silver)

Part Number: 3576B001 Released: Feb 17, 2009
MSRP: $379.99 Low Price: $248.88 See all prices

Quick Specifications See All

  • Release date Feb 17, 2009
  • Digital camera type Ultracompact
  • Optical Zoom 4 x
  • Optical Sensor Type CCD
  • Sensor Resolution 12.1 Megapixel
  • Image Stabilizer optical
  • Lens 28 - 112mm F/2.8
  • Optical Sensor Size 1/2.3"