These days the IXUS range is synonymous with style, arguably at the expense of features. Still, we can't argue with Canon performance, even if it does come wrapped in such a quirky, old-fashioned package as the Canon Digital IXUS 970 IS. The 970 is available online for £255, which may be a premium for anyone unconvinced by its looks. We decided to check beneath its oddball surface.
Our first impression of the 970 is that it's funny looking. The styling harks back to the friendly curves of earlier digital cameras, with a cheerfully toy-like feel to the round buttons and bulging frame. It's not entirely without IXUS style points, though: the curved zoom collar rocker and the liquid-sheened, flush-folding lens ring sparkle with class.
While we have nothing against the bouncy design, the silver finish looks cheaper than we'd expect from an IXUS, and on our model the battery cover made the frame creak excessively. But our biggest complaint is that the bulbous body tapers too much on the right-hand side, which we found made it hard to hold securely. Some kind of grip detail would have been useful where the Canon logo is.
The screen is the average 64mm (2.5-inch) LCD, unusually joined by viewfinder. It's quite small, but you can turn off the live view screen so as not to distract yourself.
It seems that Canon isn't keen on stuffing the IXUS range with features. Face detection and in-camera red eye correction are really the basics these days. It's nice to have 18 scene modes, an orientation sensor, basic editing tools and image tagging option in playback mode, but not that exciting. Tags are generic, like 'people' and 'scenery', while you can only trim and resize images to preset sizes.
What is most interesting is the 970's enormous ace in the hole: a 5x optical zoom. The 35mm equivalent focal length is a fairly average 37mm at the wide end, but the zoom is the largest in the IXUS range. Fortunately, the longer zoom is paired with optical image stabilisation, as zooming further magnifies the small vibrations of shaky hands.