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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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