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Point and shoot, but watch the ISO setting on the PowerShot SD900.
As a point-and-shoot camera, the PowerShot SD900 very much fits the bill - it doesn't offer a lot of manual adjustment options, but it offers several automatic shooting modes for, well, pointing and shooting. But we found that the 10-megapixel sensor used by the SD900 can produce decent pictures only at low ISO settings.
The PowerShot SD900 has three photography modes. In auto mode, the camera sets all the parameters for your shot. The manual mode lets you adjust a limited number of settings (exposure, ISO, white balance). In the Special Scene mode, you can choose from 11 shooting scenarios, such as Portrait, Night Snapshot, and Fireworks. The camera also has a video mode that lets you shoot videos as large as 1,024-by-768-pixel resolution (15 frames per second), or at 640 by 480 pixels, 320 by 240 pixels, or 160 by 120 pixels.
Images are saved as JPEGs, and you have 18 image-quality and JPEG-compression levels to choose from. These are all adjusted through functions available on the camera's 2.5-inch LCD display, not through any menu selection. The camera has a 3x optical zoom lens - there's also a 4x digital zoom feature, but in general, discussing (or using) digital zoom is pointless because of the way it degrades image quality.
Cramming 10 million pixels into a sensor this small lends itself to some nasty-looking images if you set the camera's ISO to anything above its lowest setting of ISO 80. With the camera set to ISO 1600, images are so splotchy and discolored that they're rendered worthless (granted, shooting at ISO 1600 on any camera compromises image quality, but it's more so on the PowerShot SD900). At the nominal setting of 80, the PowerShot SD900 creates good images with good color fidelity, but you'll still have to do some noise cleanup in your image-editing application of choice - we like Adobe Photoshop Elements 4.0 ($79.99) or GIMP (free). Shoot at high ISO settings only when absolutely necessary.
The bottom line. When you just want a camera you can whip out and snap-snap-snap, you'll be happy with the PowerShot SD900. If you're nitpicky about image quality, consider a 5- or 6-megapixel point-and-shoot. You'll save a few bucks and be less likely to encounter problems with visual noise.
REQUIREMENTS: Mac OS 10.2 or later, USB
Compact and lightweight. Easy to use.
Disappointing image quality when using ISO settings above ISO 80.