Canon PowerShot SD990 IS Review

The PowerShot SD990 IS digital camera from Canon has taken the position of the company’s previous flagship model, the PowerShot SD950 IS, in the company’s Digital ELPH product line. The Canon SD990 keeps the same 1/1.7-inch CCD image sensor size as its predecessor, but it packs in more pixels, increasing the camera’s resolution from 12.1 to 14.7 megapixels. Additionally, the camera’s processor has been upgraded from a DIGIC III type to a DIGIC 4 type, which enables servo-AF tracking.

Principal Attributes

  • 15 Megapixels, CCD Sensor Size of 1/1.7 Inches
  • ISO 80 – 1600
  • 36-133 mm F2.8-5.8 Zoom Lens
  • Optical Image Stabilization
  • 2.50 “Screening of the Fixed Type
  • Optical (tunnel) viewfinder
  • a constant one frame per second at 1.0 fps
  • 205g. 98 x 62 x 28 mm
  • Additionally recognized as the Digital IXUS 980 IS
  • PROs Image Stabilization
  • Integrated Optical Viewfinder Within the Camera
  • Putting a Focus on Face Detection
  • 205 grams for a Light Body
  • Timelapse Recording
  • A Fast 2.80mm Lens Used Wide Please report any errors.

The Canon SD990 maintains the 3.7x optical zoom, which provides an equivalent focal length range of 36mm to 133mm. Across the whole zoom range, the maximum aperture ranges from f/2.8 to a relatively dark f/5.8. The focusing mechanism of the Canon SD990 now has better face identification capabilities. Additionally, the camera is equipped with a Face Detection self-timer that snaps a picture automatically two seconds after an extra face enters the frame. The LCD display of the Canon PowerShot SD990 IS has a resolution of 230,000 dots, measures 2.5 inches diagonally, and has a better contrast ratio than previous models.

The ISO sensitivity may be adjusted anywhere from 100 to 1,600, and there is also a high sensitivity scene mode that enables the sensitivity to be increased all the way up to 3,200. There is no change to the shutter speeds, which now range from 1/1,600 to 15 seconds. Evaluative, center-weighted, and spot metering are the several modes available. A program mode is available on the Canon SD990, in addition to a completely manual mode in which the aperture and shutter speed may be adjusted manually. In addition to its sixteen scene settings, the Canon SD990 features a brand-new Intelligent Contrast Correction mode.

The Canon SD990 captures movies using H.264 MOV compression, which is a more recent technology that allows for reduced file sizes while maintaining a similar level of video quality. The Canon PowerShot SD990 uses Secure Digital cards to store still photographs and videos, and it comes with a 32MB card already installed (very small). Additionally, the Canon SD990 has computer access through USB 2.0 High Speed as well as video output in both NTSC and PAL formats. The power comes from an NB-5L lithium-ion rechargeable battery that is unique to the device.

Look and Feel

The outside casing of the Canon SD990 was modified from the SD950, which it so closely resembles, with an eye toward curves that should nearly be termed hips. This was done in order to differentiate the two models.

If you don’t consider the special edition red model that was developed to mark the production of the 100 millionth PowerShot, the only colors that are available are black and silver. And much like the SD950, the Canon SD990 is somewhat cumbersome for a device that is being to as an ELPH. It is not what you would refer to as an ultra-compact device.

The Canon SD990, on the other hand, is a pocketable camera due to its little size. When you go around with it in your hand, it feels about as awkward as holding a bar of soap. The slick surface of the Canon SD990 is not kind to sweaty grips, but the device comes with a wrist strap that is really useful.

On the back panel of the Canon SD990, there is no room for your thumb, but the buttons are fairly rigid so that you won’t accidentally press them when you hold the camera.

The camera fell to the ground when I tried to prop it up on its side, just like I’ve done with every other ELPH camera I’ve ever used. On the other hand, this one is far less stable in that regard, even more so than the SD950. There are four teeny-tiny pegs that may be used to stand the Canon SD990 on, however, the curved bottom and sides make it a bit difficult to locate the flat location, and the weight is not at that end of the device.

The Canon SD990 has some weight to it, which is something I look for in a compact camera. It helps steady the body when you hit the shutter button, so there is no cause for complaint there; nevertheless, it does detract from what has been one of the key attractions of the ELPH: a design that is super compact and lightweight.

The SD990 continues to have Canon’s traditional optical viewfinder. It is really necessary for the Quick Shot mode, which prevents the LCD from displaying the scene being captured. More about that is provided below.

The LCD of the Canon SD990, which measures just 2.5 inches, looks to be on the tiny side for a flagship camera. I’m becoming spoilt by all of those gorgeous 3-inch LCDs that seem to have become normal this year. This year seems to have been the year that they became commonplace. However, the LCD display has a total of 230,000 pixels.


The placement of the Zoom control ringing the large Shutter button on the Canon SD990 is one that I personally appreciate and find to be quite appealing. It is not necessary to search for the shutter button, and as soon as your finger lands on it, you are aware of the precise location of the zoom control on the Canon SD990. This enables you to arrange your photographs more easily.

Because it was so difficult to push, the Power button on the Canon SD990 wasn’t one of my favorite features. My fingers are just not the right size for this. When I press down, the majority of my force is applied to the panel on top rather than the button in the middle. I had to resort to using a fingernail in order to zero in on the tiny jerk.

The Playback button on the Canon SD990 may be used to turn the camera on as well as turn it off. When you switch on the camera by pressing the Playback button instead of the power button, the lens will not expand. This allows you to look at your images without having to worry about whether or not the lens is in the correct position.

The Mode dial can be navigated with relative ease because of the presence of icons that make up the settings for Auto, P/M, Quick Shot, Scene, and Movie. Because it is so rigid, there is no chance that you will accidentally switch modes.

Both the custom Share button (which I made up for EV because Canon didn’t devote a button to EV) and the Playback button under the Mode dial are stiff. I set up the custom Share button for EV because Canon didn’t designate a button for EV. Because of this, your thumb will be able to grip the Canon SD990 there, which is a fortunate development. The Display and Menu buttons, which are located under the primary control pad, are likewise inflexible and perform the same function they have always performed on a Canon camera, namely, they let you to adjust the LCD display options and go to the Main Menu settings.

The standard Function/Set button, located in the center of the primary control pad, allows users to access the shooting menu options and confirm their menu pick. As is customary, the arrow positions have been given their respective duties. Accessing the Canon SD990’s ISO settings (and rotating in Playback) is done by pressing the Up button while accessing the Flash modes is done by pressing the Right button, accessing the Release modes like the Self-Timer is done by pressing the Down button, and accessing the Focus modes is done by pressing the Left button.

However, just around the circumference of the navigator on the Canon SD990 is a chrome ring that takes the place of the Touch control dial on the SD950. As a means of navigating, I find that I have less and less fondness for these. They can be controlled with less effort than hitting the arrow keys, but their speed makes them difficult to use. And in some cases, they are employed, while in other others they are crippled.

In this instance, I did not get along with the rotary dial on the Canon SD990, but it proved to be useful when I switched to the new Manual mode. This presumably explains why Canon decided to go from the Touch control dial to the rotary dial.


It seems that the optical zoom lens with a range of 36 to 133 millimeters and a maximum aperture of 5.8 to 3.7 on the Canon SD990 is the same one found in the SD950.

When using a wide-angle lens, the image’s four corners seem blurry, but when using a telephoto lens, they maintain roughly the same level of sharpness as the image’s center. With only a 3.7x zoom range, the barrel distortion at 36mm is only somewhat noticeable, while at 133mm it is almost undetectable.

When shooting with a wide-angle lens, chromatic aberration is very noticeable, however with a telephoto lens, it is far less noticeable.

In addition, the Canon SD990 has optical image stabilization built-in, which makes it easier to take photographs in natural light and improves the camera’s overall performance while using the 4x digital zoom.


My long-standing complaint regarding ELPH cameras, namely that its Manual mode is essentially just Auto with some minor adjustments, is officially retracted in regard to the Canon SD990. The Canon SD990 features a genuine manual mode that gives you control over the aperture as well as the shutter speed when taking pictures. There are just two different f-stops available for use, which are f/2.8 and f/8.0, but quite a number of different shutter speeds.

Adjust the Mode dial so that it is in the P/M position, then turn the outer ring of the control dial until a large letter M appears on the screen. This will put the camera in Manual mode. Select EV from the Function menu to have access to the settings for the camera’s aperture and shutter speed (or do what I did and define the Share key as EV and press that).

Use the outer ring of the control dial to really set the shutter speed of the camera. A scale will show up above the value that is now shown (sadly, we were unable to catch it in the screenshot). Make adjustments to the aperture by using the left or right arrow key on the Canon SD990.

Manual Mode

It is possible to adjust both the shutter speed (Tv) and the aperture (Av)

Unfortunately, the Canon SD990 does not include an Aperture Priority mode or a Shutter Priority option. This leaves the Manual mode feeling somewhat alone. For them, you will still need to look at Canon cameras from the G-Series or the SX-Series.

What more features does the Canon SD990 offer?

The conventional Auto mode, the constrained Program mode with its accompanying Manual, as well as the brand-new Quick Shot, Special Scene, and Movie shooting modes. Portrait, Foliage, Snow, Beach, Sunset, Fireworks, Aquarium, Underwater, ISO 3,200 @ 1600 x 1200 pixels only, Indoor, Kids & Pets, Night Snapshot, Color Accent, Color Swap, Digital Macro, and Stitch Assist are some of the scene modes that are available on this camera.

Auto places limitations on the ways in which picture quality (JPEG compression) and image size can be modified. ISO can be set to either Auto or Auto either. Hello, the Flash setting may be set to Auto or Off, and the Focus setting can be either Macro or Normal. And if you choose Auto, I have a sneaking suspicion that you don’t bother adjusting any of those settings.

It appears that the Canon SD990’s shutter speed and aperture cannot be changed when in Programmed AE mode, but you can alter everything else. The ISO settings have been expanded to include fixed values ranging from 80 to 1,600, the fill flash function can now be activated manually (in conjunction with flash correction), and the focus options have been expanded to include both infinity and manual. On the Function menu, you’ll also find options for EV, white balance, My Colors, Flash Compensation, Metering, Image Quality, and Image Size.

You may also go from Programmed AE mode on the Canon SD990 directly into Manual mode to make adjustments to the shutter speed and aperture.

Mode for Quick Shots. The only thing that is displayed on the LCD is the camera settings. In order to compose your photo, you need to use the optical viewfinder

Because the LCD isn’t updated while in Quick Shot mode, the Canon SD990 keeps the same optical viewfinder as the SD950. This makes sense. The LCD shows the EV, ISO, and Flash mode settings, followed by a row of other options (white balance, My Colors, Shutter release mode, image quality, image size, flash compensation, and then a final row with a live histogram, status icons and warnings). Because the lens autofocuses continuously when using the Quick Shot mode, you do not need to hold down the shutter button halfway to prevent shutter lag when taking pictures.

The goal of this mode is to achieve the quickest capture possible, making it ideal for use during sporting events or other situations involving live-action. Surprisingly, the LCD shows each image that has been recorded so that it may be seen. Would you look at the photo you just took without looking through the viewfinder, taking your attention away from the topic you are photographing? Consider yourself warned since Canon estimates that you will only be able to take 180 pictures when using this setting. This does a significant amount of damage to the battery.

Additionally, the Canon SD990 features a total of twelve different Special Scene settings. These modes are Portrait, Foliage, Snow, Beach, Sunset, Fireworks, Aquarium, Underwater, ISO 3200, Indoor, Kids & Pets, and Night Snapshot. The SD950 didn’t include the episode Sunset. You also gain access to Movie mode, Color Accent, Color Swap, Digital Macro, and Stitch Assist in addition to the aforementioned features.

In movie mode, the video may be recorded in H.264 format and saved as MOV files in either 640 x 480 or 320 x 480 picture formats, both at 30 frames per second for a maximum of 4 GB or 60 minutes per clip. Mono sound can also be recorded in movie mode. There is no capability for optical zoom, however, digital zoom is available.

Regrettably, not even the flagship ELPH can record video in high definition. When filming the video, it appears far more natural to shoot it at 16:9 than 4:3, which is what is required for 640 x 480 resolution. Also, when the time comes for you to upgrade to a widescreen TV, that 4:3 video will appear archaic on such a display.


Once you become familiar with how the game is played, the Canon controls and menu system are simple and straightforward to use (which seems to change a little on each model). Simply press the Function button after selecting a Record mode to view the available shooting modes and settings. To access the general camera settings options at any time, use the Menu button.

Storage & Battery

Images may be saved to an SD card or an SDHC card using the Canon SD990. Additionally, it is able to read MMC, MMC Plus, and HC MMC Plus memory cards. A 2GB card can store about 306 JPEGs of excellent quality, or it may contain 23 minutes and 49 seconds of video of broadcast quality.

According to Canon, a full charge of the rechargeable lithium-ion battery found in the Canon SD990 enables the user to take around 280 photographs (unless you use Quick Shot mode, which cuts it to 180). That number increases up to 700 if you turn off the LCD, which is a possibility given that the camera also has an optical viewfinder. Therefore, if the battery power is going low, turn off the LCD to increase the amount of time that may be spent shooting. According to Canon, playback can last for up to six hours. That is far more than what I need for a day’s worth of shooting.

There is an AC adaptor that may be purchased separately if desired. If you take a lot of pictures with a tripod, the AC Adapter Kit ACK-DC30 can come in handy for you


A number of my longer walks were documented with the Canon SD990. It fit into the pocket of my coat without any difficulty and was ready to fire in an instant. It would have been ready in a split second if I had greater control over the Power button.

The majority of the time, I worked in the Programmed AE mode; but, I couldn’t help but experiment with the new Manual option. The doll pictures that you’ll find in the Gallery part were captured using the Canon SD990’s ISO 3,200 Scene mode. This mode compacts the image’s pixels into a smaller 1,600 by 1,200 resolution, which you’ll see in the Gallery section.

The 14.7-megapixel sensor of the Canon SD990 produces some pretty huge JPEGs, with the exception of the images of the dolls. To obtain the greatest size image, I used the Superfine image quality (minimum JPEG compression) and the 4:3 aspect ratio. The resulting image size ranged from 3.1 megabytes to 8.1 megabytes throughout the gallery photographs. As a direct consequence of this, the full-resolution photos load fairly slowly.

Although the reds and blues are slightly oversaturated, I found the Canon SD990 to have colors that were more realistic and lacked the normal heightened saturation seen in other cameras. However, due to the lack of bright sunlight during the photography sessions, you won’t be able to notice much of that in the gallery images.

Many times, I switched the focus mode, going from Normal to Macro and then back to Normal again. I also changed the value of the EV button, which, because it wasn’t present on the control dial, I assigned to the Share button in order to make it accessible. I did not adjust the ISO setting at all; rather, I left it on Auto, which resulted in a range of settings from ISO 75 to ISO 200.

And, of course, I was continually zooming in and out in order to get the right composition for the shot. The Canon SD990 has a zoom control that is very smooth and does not skip from one step to the next. That makes composing a joy, even if it has to be done somewhat quickly. It does not respond to light pressure by zooming more slowly as the SX200 IS does, which zooms from one focal length to the next when the user presses the zoom button. The Canon SD990’s zoom is either zooming or not zooming.

Throughout the entirety of my time behind the camera, the Canon SD990 proved to be a dependable and trustworthy partner. I loved what I saw on the LCD, but I wasn’t delighted by the fact that the scene was obscured by symbols representing the settings until I hit the Shutter button halfway.

Evaluating the photos, on the other hand, was a whole other experience

I was quite aback when I saw how much lens flare had penetrated the image. You may possibly anticipate a little fringing in the corners when viewed at a broad angle, but how are you supposed to explain the wheel covers on the red car? Although I was unhappy to see fringing on the borders of the orange rose, I did like how the -0.7 EV maintained the color without causing the stone border below it to disappear.

The photo through the elaborate window was perhaps the nicest one. Not only did the Canon SD990 do an excellent job of preserving the highlights, but the resolution provided by its 14.7-megapixel sensor was sufficient to catch a crane fly that was perched on the right-hand side of the window frame. That is very amazing to think about.

However, when viewed at its native quality, the picture of the bolt in the brick, which is one of my favorites among the gallery’s compositions, is rendered unrecognizable. In macro mode, the camera’s shutter speed of 1/143 of a second is quick enough to freeze any camera shake, thus the blur that is seen in the corners is entirely the result of the lens. The image does not appear to be quite as crisp at the full resolution as the thumbnails make it appear to be.

In fact, this was more of the norm than it was the exception. Visit the park and look for the sculpture of the large cat carved out of stone. Blooming can be seen coming from the cat’s snout, and the speckling of brightness noise in the metal and the stone, as well as the unsettling flora, are all there.

It occurred to me that perhaps I had been viewing an excessive amount of dSLR photographs as of late. Therefore, I looked through the gallery photographs on my Canon PowerShot SX110 IS. Despite the fact that those photographs shared many of the same flaws as the others, I found that I preferred them.

When you print the photographs, you will see that many of these issues—call let’s them technical defects—disappear. And even reducing their size by a little amount helps a great deal as well. Because the Canon SD990 resizes the photographs to 1,600 by 1,200 pixels, the doll images taken at an ISO setting of 3,200 do not exhibit any signs of the aforementioned optical faults.

And although while these flaws are genuine, the issue lies more with the viewing of photographs with a high resolution than it does with the Canon SD990 itself. When viewing photographs of 10 megapixels or more on your screen, as we said in the Dogpatch section of our article, “You are causing the window at the candy store to fog up by pressing your face up against the glass. They recommended seeing photographs with a resolution of 10 megapixels or higher on your screen at a scale of 50 percent rather than 100 percent in order to make an accurate assessment.”

Image Quality


The Canon PowerShot SD990 IS, like other Canon PowerShots, generates vivid colors that are attractive to the eye, but with a touch of oversaturation in the reds and blues (often more appealing to consumers). In terms of color, there are some shifts seen in the cyans and yellows, and some of the reds are pushed toward orange. The darker skin tones have a somewhat higher saturation level, whereas the lighter skin tones are rather true.


Noise and Detail

At an ISO of 80, there is already a slight loss of detail, although the chroma noise (color noise) is under control until somewhere near ISO 1,600. The details begin to get fairly fuzzy as early as ISO 200, with very low detail definition occurring at ISO 400 and above. The Canon SD990 IS has a maximum setting of ISO 3,200, which lowers the maximum resolution to 1,600 by 1,200 pixels, however, the resulting images are rather grainy (though luminance noise appears less obtrusive).


The flash on the Canon SD990 works effectively at an ISO setting of 100 at wide-angle out to around 11 feet before it starts to fade, and even beyond that, the reduction in brightness is just modest. Unfortunately, it is already rather dark at six feet, and it becomes worse as you get into a telephoto.


The shutter latency is acceptable, coming in at about 0.50 seconds at wide-angle and 0.60 seconds at maximum telephoto when the autofocus is fully engaged. The prefocus shutter latency is 0.085, which is not lightning fast but is still rather fast overall. Although testing the Quick Shot option was tough since we were unable to alter the shutter speed, we were able to get a much faster time of 0.22 seconds. This mode is recommended for action shots.

The length of one cycle

The cycle time is a little on the sluggish side, taking a picture once every 2.0 seconds while in single-shot mode and once every 0.73 seconds when shooting at 1.37 frames per second burst mode.

Recycle Flash Lights

After a full-power discharge, the flash on the Canon PowerShot SD990 IS takes 8 seconds to recycle. This is a rather slow recycling time.


Body typeUltracompact
Max resolution4416 x 3312
Other resolutions3648 x 2736, 3072 x 2304, 2560 x 1920, 2048 x 1536, 1600 x 1200, 640 x 480, 4416 x 2480
Image ratio w:h4:3, 3:2, 16:9
Effective pixels15 megapixels
Sensor size1/1.7″ (7.44 x 5.58 mm)
Sensor typeCCD
ISOAuto, 80 ,100, 200, 400, 800, 1600
White balance presets5
Custom white balanceYes
Image stabilizationOptical
Uncompressed formatNo
JPEG quality levelsSuper-Fine, Fine, Normal
Focal length (equiv.)36–133 mm
Optical zoom3.7×
Maximum apertureF2.8–5.8
AutofocusContrast Detect (sensor)Multi-areaSingleFace DetectionLive View
Digital zoomYes (4 x)
Manual focusNo
Normal focus range50 cm (19.69″)
Macro focus range5 cm (1.97″)
Articulated LCDFixed
Screen size2.5″
Screen dots230,000
Touch screenNo
Live viewNo
Viewfinder typeOptical (tunnel)
Minimum shutter speed15 sec
Maximum shutter speed1/1600 sec
Aperture priorityNo
Shutter priorityNo
Manual exposure modeNo
Subject / scene modesYes
Built-in flashYes
Flash range4.60 m
External flashNo
Flash modesAuto, On, Off, Slow, Manual (Red Eye On/Off)
Continuous drive1.3 fps
Self-timerYes (2 or 10 sec)
Metering modesMultiCenter-weightedSpot
Exposure compensation±2 (at 1/3 EV steps)
Resolutions640 x 480 (30 fps), 320 x 240 (30 fps), 160 x 120 (15 fps)
FormatMotion JPEG
Storage typesSD/SDHC/MMC card
Storage included32 MB SD card
USBUSB 2.0 (480 Mbit/sec)
Remote controlNo
Environmentally sealedNo
BatteryBattery Pack
Battery descriptionLithium-Ion NB-5L battery & charger
Weight (inc. batteries)205 g (0.45 lb / 7.23 oz)
Dimensions98 x 62 x 28 mm (3.86 x 2.44 x 1.1″)
Orientation sensorYes
Timelapse recordingYes


Despite some of our concerns regarding the image quality produced by its 14.7-megapixel sensor, the Canon PowerShot SD990 IS is, all things considered, a digital camera of high quality. The corners are blurry and there is a chromatic aberration when the lens is set to its widest angle, but this is to be anticipated with cameras of this size. When using a lens with a medium or telephoto focal length, image quality is improved. When shooting wide-angle, barrel distortion is rather noticeable, but when shooting telephoto, it is virtually undetectable.

Bright and brilliant color is produced with the Canon PowerShot SD990 IS. There is some small oversaturation in some reds, but overall, the color is still acceptable. Even at low ISOs, there is some noticeable luminance noise, and there is a noticeable loss of clarity starting at ISO 80. The cycle times are a little bit slow, which is not surprising given the quantity of data pouring off the sensor, but the shutter latency is good. A new issue that we do not typically see with Canon cameras is, lens flare causes bright things to shine a little more than we would want to see.

The printed results put a large number of those objections to rest. When printed at higher sizes, the lens flare is more obvious, although it is less evident when printed at an 8×10-inch size. Because of the 14.7-megapixel sensor, luminance noise at lower ISOs is not discernible at print sizes as large as 13 by 19 inches.

In terms of its capabilities, the Canon SD990 is an excellent companion that deviates from the standard for ELPH cameras by including a Manual mode. This mode gives users the ability to select the shutter speed and aperture independently of one another. Both the Servo AF tracking of moving targets and the enhanced face identification are examples of refinements that bring about tangible benefits. Even though the 14.7-megapixel sensor may have certain flaws, it is still capable of revealing details that you would not have been able to notice with the naked eye.

Pros & Cons

Good For
  • Putting a Focus on Face Detection
  • Integrated Optical Viewfinder Within the Camera
  • 205 grams for a Light Body
  • Timelapse Recording
Need Improvement
  • There is not an external flash shoe.
  • No Full HD Video
  • Lack of a Screen That Articulates
  • No wireless connection was established.

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