One Month, One Camera – January 2019 (I)

I recently introduced the one month, one camera project I’m trying this year.

In short, the plan is to use only one camera each month, to become (even) more familiar with it, and hopefully to eek the best out of it.

Whilst this isn’t necessarily the plan for every month, for January I’m going with something new to me.

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To give it its full name, the Canon Digital IXUS 870 IS, released in 2008 (mine came boxed with the original receipt from 2009).

This camera I think will set the general criteria for any new ones I might acquire this year for the one month one camera challenge.

These are –

1. Maximum of 10MP

I’ve found this is all I need, and even 4MP is enough for great photographs, so some 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8MP cameras might turn up for future months.

2. CCD sensor

Somehow they seem to render more appealing images, with more realistic and saturated colours than the more sterile and clinical and almost too digital CMOS sensors of later cameras.

3. Compact

I’m done with DSLRs, and even my Lumix GF1 micro four thirds seems a bit bulky and heavy at times. Compact is the future, for me, but not at the expense of decent handling.

4. SD card compatible

To fit in with my existing simple workflow for extracting the images from a camera and processing, and so I can use cards I already have plenty of.

5. Under £20

I just like the challenge of making photographs with super cheap stuff that are as good as those made with kit costing 10, 20, even 50 times more.

Back to January’s choice, the Canon.

Sullying the luxury champagne finish of the metal body, you’ll note the black sparkly grip tape I’ve added. Combined with a smaller piece for one’s thumb to grip at the rear, this has transformed the handling.

As with many digital compacts, they’re designed as slim smooth shiny blocks, with apparently little design thought given to ergonomics or grip. So they typically handle like a bar of soap, ready to wriggle from your grasp, hurtle to the floor and smash at any moment.

Since my experiments with my Lumix LX3 and finding that a little grip tape and foam tape turned using that camera from frustrating to delightful, I’m no longer shy about making similar mods to other cameras, if they lack the superb straight out of the box handling standard set by the Ricoh GRD series.

Initial thoughts on the IXUS are very positive. 

It’s small, but (with grip tape) handles well, the controls large enough to use easily.

A large screen is not essential for me (the Sony DSC-L1’s is tiny, but perfectly adequate) but the Canon does have a really good 3″ screen that takes up almost the entire rear panel, save for the buttons on the right. There is just enough space left for my thumb, aided greatly by the tape.

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I figured out 90% of the functions within a couple of minutes. It’s always pleasing not to have to wade through a manual to figure out controls, because they’re either named obscurely, or buried illogically in menus, so kudos to Canon for being sensible here.

I’ve set up the IXUS to reflect how I use other compacts.

With a little experimentation, I’ve settled on one set up for colour photographs, and another for black and white. 

For colour, there’s a Custom Colour mode, which has further -2 through to +2 options to adjust contrast, sharpness, saturation, red, green and blue channels, and skin tone. I’ve upped the contrast to +2, saturation at +1 and left everything else at zero.

This, from initial shots, seems to give very pleasing colours straight out of camera.

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Part of this no doubt is down to the CCD sensor and my previous observations mentioned above.

I’m very excited about this, as only one of my other six digital cameras does this for colour photographs, the much larger Lumix GF1.

For colour I’m going with Auto ISO, and have noticed the camera favours the native ISO80 wherever possible, and large apertures, often defaulting to the maximum f/2.8. Colours just seems to sing a little more at this native ISO, with minimum grain.

For b/w photos, all I’m changing is the ISO from Auto to 400 (the camera has a dedicated button for ISO, further brownie points to Canon) to add more texture/noise/grain (I don’t like really “clean” b/w images), and switching the colour profile to b/w.

There doesn’t appear to be any further customisation in this mode as with the Custom Colour, and so whilst it takes b/w images, I’m then likely to be giving them a little enhancement in Snapseed, as I do with my Ricohs and Sony DSC-L1. No hardship as it takes about 13 seconds per photo.

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Aside from setting the above for colour or b/w, I’m just shooting the camera on Program mode.

I have noticed it blows out highlights quite easily (as many small sensor cameras do, so it’s something I was anticipating) so I’ve set the exposure compensation to -0.3. Again this is easy to do via the main function menu, and in fact I’ve set the customisable “printer” button to adjust this to make it even more direct.

There’s also a focus button to cycle between normal, infinity and macro.

I’ve left it on macro as this seems to work for “normal” distance too. The infinity setting has been handy a couple of times when I want the focus distant, but the camera is trying to lock on to something closer.

That’s pretty much it, now I just point and shoot.

It seems I’ve been able to set up the Canon as an “invisible” camera pretty quickly, so the rest of the month I can just focus on composition and getting the best I can from it.

I’ll post again with some further shots later in the month.

Oh and just finally, it cost me £15 plus postage and came boxed with all cables, a case, and a 2GB Panasonic SD card which even on the highest quality takes over 400 images, way more than I’ll ever shoot in one photowalk. So that will be staying in it.

Have you ever owned a Canon IXUS Digital? What were your impressions?

Please let us know in the comments below.

Thanks for looking. Please share this post with others you feel will enjoy it too. If you’re interested, this is what I’m into right now.

13 thoughts on “One Month, One Camera – January 2019 (I)”

  1. Thank you for the insight to your thinking process. I switched to micro four thirds (from Nikon SLR) for its unique combination of small size and great image quality. I’m very happy at that size of camera. I always carry a messenger bag anyway, so the Olympus OMD 10 leaves plenty room for all of the other stuff I carry.

    But I still have a fondness for small digital cameras. I was looking at my camera stats in ACDsee earlier today and I was surprised to see that the Panasonic DSC-FS62 is one of the most frequently used cameras in my collection. Great camera … Wonder what happened to it?

    1. Hi Alex, thanks for your comments.

      Yeh I use my Lumix mostly for shooting my old M42 lenses,as it’s much smaller than a DSLR.

      I rarely use it with a native lens though because my Lumix LX3 (and others) are as good for my needs and significantly smaller and lighter. Think I’ve just got used to compacts so anything bigger now seems unnecessarily bulky.

      Just looked up your Lumix compact, looks just the sort of camera that would be a candidate for my one month one camera challenge…

  2. Well-chosen!

    In this segment – the popular pocketable P&S – Canon has lead for a very long time after breaking away in the early Aughts. In 2003, among 177 user-reviewers leaving comments in DPreview about the 5mp Canon S50, 156 rated it 4 stars or higher (though DPR itself was not especially complimentary).

    It’s a bit difficult to understand why these little marvels are not more widely recognized. I would not be without my own, bought-from-new, does-it-all 2008 8mp SD1100is/IXUS80is. It is silent and discrete; now covered entirely in gaffer’s tape against slippage, holds and shoots from one hand when necessary, and the super-fine jpegs enlarge like a dream.

    Canon’s image stabilizer function absolutely slays camera shake. The colors are crisp and accurate; if one cared to install the CHDK open-source suite, it would output RAW files (and enable still more features), but I see no need. It has literally never let me down, even when holding a bit of white card beneath the flash for a bounce effect. When I want a bit of tweaking, I save images as TIFFs and tune them in PS Elements.

    They may be had very, very cheaply (this evening, at $6.80 – 20.00 USD on eBay), an astounding bargain for what they can do, and I cannot leave off without mentioning that the battery seems to last forever.

    This should be a fun month for you, Dan. We look forward to seeing what it will do for you and how it compliments your vision.

    1. Thanks William.

      I was browsing the Canon Camera Museum last night, can’t believe how many Powershot and IXUS models they’ve made in the last 20 years.

      I had no idea about CHDK, I had to Google. How clever! But like you say, the cameras seem to do all you need out of the box so any extra functionality isn’t really necessary.

      I am really pleased with this IXUS. Very little needs doing once it’s set up, the only thing that’s a bit annoying is the focus resets if you change any other settings. So If I have it on macro AF, then switch from custom colour to b/w, the AF resets back to normal. I try to focus on something very close and it won’t until I switch back to macro. But it’s a one button press, and usually I stay in with one set up for a whole photowalk.

      The cost of all used digital cameras is crazy, like any electronics these days. Six months after they’re new, the new model arrives and they’re seen by most people as worthless. A sad sign of the times, and our disposable society.

      1. Yes, the reset of functions after powering off- and back on is annoying. I think the quasi-firmware CHDK fixes that as well) …. I always forget to turn the autoflash off.

        I once ran across an abbreviated IXUS “family tree” out there someplace; Canon’s nomenclature has been inconsistent and contradictory, and defeats semi-intuitive assumptions. One would think that the SD1400is improves upon and extends thee SD1100is but no – different softer-images branch of the clan, not nearly as pleasing, and does not handle low light well.

      2. With this IXUS 870 IS, it’s only the AF I’ve noticed defaults to normal. Everything else seems to be remembered – ISO, flash, exposure comp, colour mode, etc – which is brilliant.

        Strange to me is that the scene modes are on a different switch – the main switch can be on movie, scene or photo. I haven’t done anything with scenes, and don’t like them generally, but ones called Digital Macro, Colour Accent and Colour Swap sound potentially interesting for experimenting with.

        I know what you mean about the numbering. I was looking at something that was I think a 90, then their was a 95, but it had a lower MP lens than the 90 and was a kind of dumbed down version of the 80, or something.

        There is some logic to some, like the top end DSLRs have a single digit, like EOS 5D, and then lesser models are 50, and budget ones 500 etc. But it’s certainly not uniform so you have to check each model’s spec individually before buying.

        I don’t want to give anything away now, but let’s say there might be another Canon appearing in this project a few months down the line…

  3. Yeah – you’ve got to be wary of model name re-use. As I recall the very early (’02, 03?), cruder S95s were something like 3mp, and not much to brag about.

    You know, these sorts of postings are a valuable service: it is not through the online ‘review’ venues that we really come to know about the lesser-known and inexpensive high performers, but through the personal experience of users who are focused on the potential quality of image, rather than the sheer feature set. Then cost-effectiveness becomes the thing … weak-willed as I am, I have just now “won” your same IXUS on eBay, and that follows close on the two marvellous S95s and S100 that Mr Grey spoke so well of. I can afford to indulge and am not (yet) ruined; I remain on the trail of a reasonable LX 5 (or- maybe- a 7)…

    1. Are you trying to recreate the Canon Camera Museum? : )

      Did you get the champagne version of the IXUS 807?

      Good luck with the Lumix LXs, they tend to go for way more. I waited for quite a while to get my LX3 for about £75, they’re more often over £100 and the 5 and 7 even more.

      1. Mmmm, it looks silver-ish in the auction photos – guess I’ll find out Monday, but in any event, it’ll soon be gaffer’s-tape Black!

        The camera binge – a shared thing, sharing them with a friend, a fellow escapee from the SLR gulag, in search of maximum results from the smallest package.

        The LXs do need patience, but I’ve come very close recently – the goal is get a decent specimen 5 for under 80USD (one oiit there now at $88 ‘buy-it-now’). The real challenge is getting the accessory LVF1 finder at a reasonable price.

        One odd thing I’ve noticed – in wading through eBay listings, I frequently see that a particular camera will have a range of listings for more-or-less equivalent condition items between, say, $50 to $95. Then there often seems to be a few outliers of the same type and condition where the buyer starts his listing at or even beyond the original MSRP. What is that about? Some sort of money-laundering ploy?

  4. I am tempted to do a similar “one camera, one month” thing this year now, as I tend to stick to my Nikon FM, but really want to use my Yashica as much as possible over the next couple of months to learn all its quirks (like I have done with the FM!). My poor GX7 gets no love these days, I haven’t taken it out in a long time! Maybe when the flowers start blooming again… I do love the GX7+Helios combo 🙂

    1. Hi Mel, yeh it’s great to use a lens like the old Helios on a digital body and experiment and have that immediate feedback.

      I’ll be interested to see if you decide to do one month, one camera in the near future.

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