Canon PowerShot SD990 IS Review

Canon PowerShot SD990 IS Review

The Canon 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 DIGIC III to DIGIC 4, enabling servo-AF tracking. The Canon SD990 maintains a 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 has a Face Detection self-timer that automatically snaps a picture two seconds after an extra face enters the frame. Furthermore, the Canon PowerShot SD990 IS LCD has a resolution of 230,000 dots, measures 2.5 inches diagonally, and has a better contrast ratio than previous models.

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The ISO sensitivity may be adjusted anywhere from 100 to 1,600, and a high-sensitivity scene mode increases the sensitivity 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. Furthermore, a program mode is available on the Canon SD990, in addition to a completely manual way in which the aperture and shutter speed may be adjusted manually. Finally, 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, 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). The Canon SD990 has computer access through USB 2.0 High Speed and video output in NTSC and PAL formats. The power comes from an NB-5L lithium-ion rechargeable battery that is unique to the device.

Canon PowerShot SD990 IS Build Quality

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 to differentiate the two models.

If you don’t consider the special edition red model developed to mark the production of the 100 millionth PowerShot, the only available colors 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 small size. However, it feels about as awkward as holding a soap bar when you go around with it in your hand. The slick surface of the Canon SD990 is not kind to sweaty grips, but the device comes with a practical wrist strap.

Canon PowerShot SD990 IS Storage & Battery

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

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 to 700 if you turn off the LCD, which is possible given that the camera also has an optical viewfinder. Therefore, if the battery power is low, turn off the LCD to increase shooting time. According to Canon, playback can last for up to six hours. That is far more than I need for a day’s shooting.

Canon PowerShot SD990 IS 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). Regarding color, some shifts are seen in the cyans and yellows, and some reds are pushed toward orange. The darker skin tones have a somewhat higher saturation level, whereas the lighter skin tones are slightly accurate.

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. After that, the pieces get pretty fuzzy as early as ISO 200, with shallow detail definition occurring at ISO 400 and above. The Canon SD990 IS has a maximum setting of ISO 3,200, which lowers the full resolution to 1,600 by 1,200 pixels. However, the resulting images are 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 somewhat dark at six feet and worsens as you get into a telephoto.

Canon PowerShot SD990 IS Performance

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 relatively fast overall. Although testing the Quick Shot option was challenging since we could not alter the shutter speed, we could get a much quicker time of 0.22 seconds. Therefore, this mode is recommended for action shots.

Canon PowerShot SD990 IS Specifications

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, 80,00, 200, 400, 800, 1600
White balance presets5
Custom white balanceYes
Image stabilizationOptical
Uncompressed formatNo
JPEG quality levelsSuper-Fine, Fine, Normal
Focal length (equip36–133 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
SuSubject/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-weighted spot
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

Canon PowerShot SD990 IS Conclusion

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Canon Powershot SD990IS 14.7MP Digital Camera with 3.7x Optical Image Stabilized Zoom...

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Despite some of our concerns regarding the image quality produced by its 14.7-megapixel sensor, the Canon PowerShot SD990 IS is 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. Image quality is improved when using a medium or telephoto focal length lens. Barrel distortion is somewhat noticeable when shooting wide-angle, but it is virtually undetectable when shooting telephoto.

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 a noticeable loss of clarity starting at ISO 80. The cycle times are a bit slow, which is not surprising given the quantity of data pouring off the sensor, but the shutter latency is good. A new issue we do not typically see with Canon cameras is that lens flare causes bright things to shine more than we would want.

Canon PowerShot SD990 IS FAQs

Is a Canon PowerShot SD990 IS a professional camera?

The Canon PowerShot SD990 IS a civilian point-and-shoot rather than a professional camera. It does, however, offer manual control choices for more advanced photography.

Is Canon PowerShot SD990 IS better than a DSLR?

Whether or not the Canon PowerShot SD990 IS is superior to a DSLR camera depends entirely on the individual’s requirements. Compared to point-and-shoot cameras like the SD990 IS, digital single-lens reflex cameras (DSLRs) tend to be heavier and more expensive.

However, they offer more sophisticated features and lenses that can be swapped out. On the other hand, in point-and-shoot cameras, the SD990 IS excels in flexibility, simplicity of operation, and sophisticated feature sets.

Why is the Canon PowerShot SD990 IS camera so expensive?

Because it was a high-end model when it was introduced, the Canon PowerShot SD990 IS has more sophisticated features and capabilities compared to other point-and-shoot cameras that were available at the time. As a result, it may be more expensive than some other point-and-shoot cameras.

Is Canon PowerShot SD990 IS suitable for wildlife photography?

Compared to a DSLR or mirrorless camera, the Canon PowerShot SD990 IS has a more limited zoom range and fewer lens choices, which means that while it can take excellent pictures, it may not be the best choice for wildlife photography.



Paul is a highly experienced journalist and the editor of DSLRCameraSearch. With a background in the photographic industry since 2017, he has worked with notable clients such as . Paul's expertise lies in camera and lens reviews, photo and lighting tutorials, and industry news. His work has been featured in renowned publications including . He is also a respected workshop host, speaker Photography Shows. Paul's passion for photography extends to his love for Sony, Canon, Olympus cameras.

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