The original IXY / IXUS Digital, 10 years later
I was Julia’s fourth birthday a little way back and I had been thinking of what to buy her, when I remembered that she’s always fiddling with my iPhone and taking pictures with it.
So I decided to get her a secondhand camera. The problem with that is that most shops only stock decent and recent models at fairly hefty (for a four year old) price.
Thus, when I found that my favorite junk shop, Shop Inverse in Akihabara had a little box of old cameras in one corner all going for 1000 yen, I started digging though.
The majority were around 3MP, early fujifilms a couple of old casios of unknown sub megapixel vintage and some cameras so worn out as to be unrecognizable. There were a few newer cameras among them, too, but nothing could see my daughter using.
Then I found a little black, almost cube-like case. Curious, I opened it and found an IXY Digital in pristine condition, complete with a lithium ion battery and battery cover. A quick search online reveals spare lithium-ion batteries and a charger for less than 1000 yen! Bargain.
I had had the good fortune of using a first generation IXY when Sam came to visit in 2000 and remember it survived serious drunken droppage, down stairs and on to concrete. Perfect for Julia.
IXY / IXUS Digial Overview
The Bad News
If one is to compare with today’s cameras, one might say the following:
- Low resolution
- Tiny, noisy image sensor
- Chunky build
- Heavy for its size
- Tiny view finder
- Tiny display
- Slow to start up
- Long recycling delay between shots
- Wimpy flash
- Eats batteries at a rather astonishing rate – so much so that the camera could be used as a hand warmer in the winter.
The Good News
So, what’s to actually like about it? Quite a lot actually.
- It’s solid, all-stainless-steel construction is an eye-opener in today’s world of the plastic fantastic. The build quality is truly something to behold.
- It is heavy and tough and should be able to take a battering.
- It is small but chunky… Ideal for wee little hands.
- It takes Compact Flash cards, which are also solid and chunky.
- The screen is small but relatively clear.
- It is simple, with few functions, again perfect for a first camera.
- The flash won’t burn your retinas out if released in front of your face.
- It is shiny and cute. Julia loves it.
- Accessories like batteries are dirt cheap.
IXUS / IXY Main Features
- UXGA 1600 × 1200 image size (1.92MP)
- 2.11MP, 0.37″ image sensor with CYGM filter.
- 2 × optical zoom (35mm ~ 70mm equiv)
- Bright lens, F2.8~F4
- ISO 100
- 1~1/1500 shutter
- Macro feature with an impressive 10cm minimum focus range.
- Fill flash
- Centre weighted metering
- ±2EV exposure adjustment
- Compact Flash Type I slot
Since I bought the camera, I have taken a few photos, mostly just to test it, but also a few family snaps.
One of the interesting things about this camera is the rare CYGM filter which has a significantly different gamut to the standard RGBG Bayer filter used on practically every modern digital camera except for Simga’s Foveon.
Due to the more serious colour conversion required to shift between CYGM and RGB, the IXY Digital has a distinctive, almost cyan cast to overexposed highlights.
Colour balance is definitely a little “off” but it’s actually quite a pleasingly smooth colour balance.
The other issue is that the CYGM sensor has a wider dynamic range than standard, thus there is a distinctive HDR feeling to the photos. i.e. a little flat and low contrast.
The pic below shows both the bluish tinge and the slightly off cast to the colours.
However, the high dynamic range means lower noise in the darker areas and a smoother overall image. This makes the IXY photos remarkably amenable to Photoshopping.
Although it’s minuscule size and both tiny finder and rear screen make this an occasionally squint inducing affair and both the autofocus and zoom are lethargic, pictures taken with it remain sharp and crisp. There is the added benefit of wide dynamic range and lack of JPEG artificing means that despite its age, the IXY is more than adequate for the occasional snap.
More importantly, the sheer Premium-Canon quality, stainless-steel build and overall toughness make you feel that this is a camera you can really rely on. It’s weight also makes it feel stable and solid, even in larger hands and makes both taking slower exposures and using higher zooms a little more straight forward.
Finally, compatible batteries and compact flash cards are two a penny, which means this camera can continue to be used for the foreseeable future.
I would put the picture quality generally on par with the iPhone, but it pushes ahead with the 2 x zoom and semi-decent flash. Of course, it is a Canon digital camera based on a “real” Canon film camera and not a computer peripheral.