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Canon PowerShot SD790 IS

>> Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Canon seems to be experimenting a lot with the design of its point and shoot cameras. That seems to have worked out a little better in the case of the SD790 IS than with its higher end sibling, the SD890 IS. Though I can't say I'm gaga over the new angular look and incised buttons, at least the camera remains stylish and functional.

Not quite small enough to feel like an ultra compact, at 6.3 ounces and 2.2 by 3.6 by 0.8 inches, the SD790 will still fit in a jeans pocket, and it feels surprisingly well made and sturdy. The camera has a typical control layout. On or off and zoom switches sit on top, while the display, menu, PictBridge, review buttons, along with a four way nav plus OK combo dial and movie, camera, program mode switch on the back.

The new buttons sit flush with the body and don't move much, similar to the style that has become popular on cell phones.

In the SD790's case, there are rubber guides to provide delineation between the buttons, plus the buttons are fairly large, both of which make a huge difference in usability.

You navigate via a combo control wheel or four way switch that is differently designed but functionally equivalent to the one on the SD890 IS. The wheel scrolls through some of the modes that you used to pull up via the function (Func) button, such as Stitch Assist, Color Swap, Color Accent, and Digital Macro, as well as the scene modes. The Func button sits in the middle and calls up exposure compensation or long shutter, white balance, My Colors, metering (evaluative, spot and center), compression quality, and image size.

Within this menu and within the menu system in general you can use either the nav switch or scroll wheel. A mode switch toggles among automatic or manual still photo, program exposure (scene), and movie capture modes. The scroll wheel doesn't behave quite as free wheeling as the one on the SD890 IS, which makes a big difference. There are a couple of other minor quirks with the design, however.

The thumb rest, designated by two rows of raised bumps on the back of the camera, isn't where your thumb falls naturally that occurs on the PictBridge and Review buttons. Unless you've got a crushing grip it's not critical, since your thumb actually rests on the rubber divider between the buttons.

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