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Canon autumn product launch: The compacts

Have a gander at the compact cameras Canon announced this week -- the IXUS 960 IS, IXUS 860 IS, PowerShot G9, PowerShot SX100 IS, PowerShot A650 IS and PowerShot A720 IS

Canon showed off 30 photography, video and printing products at a white-draped warehouse on London's Brick Lane. Yesterday we highlighted the consumer EOS 40D and the 21-megapixel EOS-1Ds Mark III, and today we bring you the best of the rest: the IXUS 960 IS, IXUS 860 IS, PowerShot G9, PowerShot SX100 IS, PowerShot A650 IS and PowerShot A720 IS.

As you may have guessed by the names, all these cameras pack optical image stabilisation (including the G9, despite not having the tell-tale IS on the end). Another thing the new cameras have in common is the DIGIC III image processors to do their brain-work. The EOS-1Ds Mark III, meanwhile, has two.

Let's kick things off with the 960 IS, Canon's new flagship IXUS model. According to Canon, the titanium shell encasing this camera is stronger than steel, but fortunately it's lighter -- apparently it's styled on bubblewrap. The 960 IS has 3.7x optical zoom and a 64mm (2.5-inch) PureColor LCD screen. It packs 12.1 megapixels of detail into your pictures and there's 18 different shooting modes, plus auto ISO Shift and high ISO 1600 for low-light shooting.

A new resizing function cuts out the image-editing middleman by downsizing full-resolution images to 1,600x1,200-pixel, 640x480-pixel and 320x240-pixel sizes. It would be good if this also dropped the resolution to Web-friendly 72dpi.

With the Digital IXUS 960 IS, users can shoot video -- with sound, fancy -- at an extra large XGA (1,024x768-pixel) resolution. Although this is the highest movie resolution in the IXUS range, it does come at 15fps. Alternatively, VGA and QVGA quality movies can be shot at 30fps. There's also a time lapse movie function, capturing 1 frame of footage per 1 or 2 seconds for up to 2 hours, if you have the patience, and replays them as a VGA movie at 15fps.

The 960 IS also harks back to the days of bunging in a tape to record late-night films with a long play mode that offers VGA movie capture at 30fps. This somehow produces movies at half the file size with no loss in resolution or frame rate.

The 960 IS will be available in September for £369.

Behold the Digital IXUS 860 IS, which boasts 8 megapixels and a large 76 mm (3-inch) PureColor LCD screen. The wide-angle lens on the front of the camera has a focal length of 28-105mm (35mm equivalent). There's a 3.8x optical zoom with optical image stabiliser on the inside, and a customisable shortcut button on the outside. It comes in a smart two-tone silver and black body that reminds us of Jack Bauer's two-tone pistol.

Movie options include VGA 30fps, long play and time lapse movie modes. The 860 IS will retail at £299 and be on sale from September.

The PowerShot A720 IS combines an 8-megapixel CCD with a 6x optical zoom lens. The replacement for the PowerShot A710 IS has a 64mm (2.5-inch) LCD with real-image optical viewfinder (rather than electronic, thankfully). You also get 19 shooting modes including full manual control and long play VGA movies. The thinking is handled by a DIGIC III processor with face detection and red-eye correction in playback.

In a coup for the beleaguered high-street photography retailer, the PowerShot A720 IS will be available exclusively at Jessops. Pick one up from the end of August for £229.

The 8-megapixel PowerShot SX100 IS sidles into the superzoom category with a 10x optical zoom lens. That's a 35mm film equivalent focal length of 36-360mm, capable of impressive 10mm macro snapping. There's a 64mm (2.5-inch) LCD screen on the back. Canon's total anti-blur solution with optical image stabiliser does the hard work of avoiding camera shake, while auto ISO shift tries to keep blur down and hopefully doesn't bring in too much noise in the process.

A dedicated face selector button activates Canon's face select and track function, which does what it says on the tin: enables you to select a face and track it across the image. Impressively, face detection will pick out up to 35 faces detected in frame.

The SX100 IS is priced at £299 and will be available in September.

The PowerShot A650 IS packs a whacking great 12.1-megapixel CCD and 6x optical zoom lens into its satisfyingly chunky frame. What's really unusual about this camera is that the 64mm (2.5-inch) LCD screen swivels out from the back like a camcorder screen. There's also an optical viewfinder for looking like a proper photographer.

The A650 IS is the successor to the PowerShot A640, and includes 21 shooting modes, including full manual control, and long play VGA movies.

The PowerShot A650 IS will set you back £329, available from September.

Finally, the unashamedly retro PowerShot G9 takes its design cue from classic rangefinder cameras. They've even based the shutter sounds on those of the original Canon cameras. There's nothing retro about the 76mm (3-inch) high-resolution LCD screen, optical image stabiliser lens or the 12.1 megapixels under the hood. The fast f/2.8(W)-f/4.8(T) lens has a 35mm equivalent focal length of 35-210mm.

The G9 provides handy external controls that include a dedicated ISO dial, a multi-control dial and a customisable shortcut button with two custom settings. A specialised lens coating borrowed from Canon's professional XL camcorder range reduces flare, ghosting and purple fringing, and there's a hot-shoe up top for Canon Speedlite flashes and optional lens accessories. You can also capture raw footage.

You'll find 25 shooting modes, safety MF mode (wasn't that a Prince song...?) to aid manual focusing, and safety FE to reduce the risk of blown highlights. If that isn't safe enough for you, the mega megapixel count enables the safety zoom function to kick in digital zoom without interpolation. Canon claims images can be captured at up to 15x zoom with enough resolution for lab-quality postcard (100x150mm) prints.

The G9 is yours to have and hold from September for £429. -Rich Trenholm