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Canon PowerShot S95 - Design and Features

By Cliff Smith

Reviewed:

Summary

Our Score:

9

Canon has faced much the same problem upgrading the S90 as Panasonic faced with the LX3; when a camera is that good there isn't much you can do to make it better.

The body of the camera is virtually identical in size and shape to the S90 but there are a few subtle changes. It is very solidly made with metal front and back, and the bottom panel is now also metal, with a metal tripod bush in the ideal position below the centre line of the lens. Only the top panel is made of plastic. There are only a few few external differences; the position of the on/off button and the ring function button on the top plate have been swapped, there is now a single larger hatch covering the ports on the right-hand side, and it now has two strap lugs, one on either end. The rear panel also carries a few alterations; the small thumb rest below the mode dial has been reduced to a mere nub, and the monitor screen has lost its raised surround and now sits flush with the body. Despite the plain shape, or perhaps because of it, the S95 is actually very comfortable to handle and the matt surface is easy to grip.

Canon PowerShot S95 back

The monitor screen is the same size and resolution as the previous model, but is slightly improved with better brightness, contrast and colour reproduction. It has a very wide angle of view, and has a toughened glass screen with and anti-glare surface. Most of the S95's other external features are the same as the S90. The rear panel controls are large and well labelled, and thankfully the rotary bezel control around the D-pad has been improved. It is now stiffer and has a distinct “click2 as it turns, making it less likely to be accidentally jogged while shooting.

The S95 retains the unusual control ring around the lens barrel, which can be set to control any one of a number of parameters, including manual focus, zoom control, ISO, white balance, exposure compensation and more. It's a control that takes some getting used to, but the on-screen display when making adjustments makes it clear and easy to control.

Internally as well the S95 shares most of the earlier model's features, but with some improvements. Like the S90 it shares its sensor and processor with the latest G-series model, a 10.0-megapixel 1/1.7-inch CCD sensor and DIGIC 4, however Canon claims that the operation of these has been improved to enhance low-light performance and reduce noise.

Canon PowerShot S95 side

A major addition to the S95's repertoire, and one area in which is scores over the LX5, is 1280 x 720 resolution, 24fps HD video with stereo audio, although optical zoom is not available while recording. Video is recorded in MOV H.264 format, with PCM linear audio. The video quality is good as long as digital zoom isn't used, and the audio quality too is pretty decent, with good stereo separation from two microphones mounted just below the lens.

Other new features include a very effective subject-tracking AF system, and the addition of in-camera HRD recording, useful for high-contrast or back-lit subjects. Dynamic range is also improved by the i-Contrast DR booster, which improves shadow detail without significantly increasing image noise.

halesy

October 8, 2010, 12:10 am

I'm saving my money for one of those! Got a Canon 20D at the moment and while it's a great camera I don't need all the features of an SLR these days. The S95 looks far more compact and I think I'd get a lot more use of it.

Alvin

October 8, 2010, 3:49 am

Great review. On a side note, where have the video reviews been lately for most of the reviews.

Money

October 8, 2010, 10:10 am

Wow, I am impressed.


The images from ISO 80 to 200 are outstanding,and even the ISO 400 looks better than some other brands camera at 100 ISO.


I think Panasonic lx5 got themselves a real contender, and with the dual IS function - I think Canon S95 has the upper-hand.


Good job Canon!

Christian

October 8, 2010, 12:04 pm

Nooooooooo.... my S90 is now obsolete! and it's a spectacular camera!

Wibbly

October 8, 2010, 12:59 pm

I have one of these. I'm love it, and agree with MOST of the review. However there are 2 issues for me:





1. The flash, when raised by the camera, is motorised rather than sprung. The way I (and I suspect many) hold the camera the flash is under your left finger. So it's 'under pressure' (of your finger) when it suddenly pops up. I worry I'll break it one day due to the extra stress it's being put under. It's very difficult to get into a habit of not holing it with a finger on top.





2. Like many PowerShots I believe (though NOT my old G2) when in Continuous AF (or Tracking AF) mode at MAX optical zoom focus 'hunting' is clearly visible whenever the camera detects it needs to refocus. You see it as a 'pumping/pulsing' effect on the LCD. This happens every second or two when hand holding the camera even when focused on a high contrast subject. The camera is quite happy to shoot when hunting focus, and when it does so the shot is out of focus - so these modes are really 'sometimes in focus' modes :-S. I have reproduced this "feature" easily on more than one copy of the camera, and been in touch with Canon tech support who said it was normal behaviour.





So a great camera, but not perfect, and that focus issue doesn't seem to so far have been spotted in any other reviews I've seen. As dSLR owner I don't expect this camera to have dSLR focus performance (!), but was a little disappointed the continuous AF modes are so weak, as the G2 seems to have proved it's not necessary.

Wibbly

October 8, 2010, 1:06 pm

You are correct that zoom isn't available when video recording. I think it's also the case that AF isn't either - you have to pre-focus and then shoot the movie.

R0b1n

October 9, 2010, 12:45 am

Its wide angle is 28mm equiv vs the LX5's 24mm. That may be a clincher for some, regardless of the Canon's other fabulous features. As it's already down to £319 on Amazon, though, it may have to be the S95 for me.

Mary4934

October 9, 2010, 5:49 am

Been trying to decide between the LX5 and S95. Saw this information on another site and it helped me decide the LX5 is the way to go:





IQ is going to be comparable; however there are some key differences:





1. Difference in the f-stop:


LX5: F2.0-3.3 Leica Summicron lens - faster lens


S95: F2.0-4.9 - slower lens





2. S95 is approximately $100 cheaper than the LX-5, but the LX-5 also has the brighter Leica lens and slightly larger sensor.





3. Battery life:


S95 is approximately 200 shots


LX5 is about 400 shots





4. Ergonomically


S95 - is overall flat, some have found this challenging to hold


LX5 - has a grip





5. Focal Length


S95 has slightly more zoom - 28mm-105mm


LX5 has slightly more wide angle - 24mm-90mm





6. Video


LX5 - able to zoom and AF while recording video


S95 - cannot zoom nor AF while recording video





7. Maximum Exposure


LX5 - longer maximum exposure (60 secs)


S95 - shorter maximum exposure (15 secs)





8. Top shutter speed


LX5 - faster - (1/4000)


S95 - slower - (1/1600)

morsch

October 9, 2010, 3:19 pm

While the two cameras are similar in features and target market, they're very different in size. The LX5 is roughly a cm bigger in every dimension, which comes down to almost double the volume.

wes

October 16, 2010, 5:56 pm

Some of the things I noticed that they improved over the S90 (I own an S80 and s90). The biggest advantage of the S9X series cameras is their pocketability. They are so light and compact that I virtually carry it with me all the time. Here are some comments about what I see they might have improved and some of the weakness of the s90. They changed the shape of the on/off button. In a hurry (I did say I carry it ALL the time) I would seem to mistake the ring function button for it as it was so similar. Which was frustrating as the content of your picture disappeared. The area around the rotary control looks like it is raised which would help with less inadvertent actuation. When using the manual focus at night it was tough not to end up pressing the inner ring there by entering a menu which was not desired. The lack of a grip (it can be had aftermarket) is probably the only oversight of these models. The cupped shutter button which might mitigate this problem somewhat. Because your shutter finger also has to partially support the S90 I found a lot of unknown captures or premature termination of video because the shutter button was actuated. One of the big improvements with the S95 is it's ability to shoot HD, which makes you wonder why it was not included in the S90. This resolution is pretty common for quite awhile in these point and shoots. I used the cinching camera strap from my s80 to take these movies with the S90 while hanging of the side of a cable car and using the other hand to shoot on my trip to san francisco. This is where it's compact,light design and abiity to take great images make it a great purchase.. Playlist http://snipurl.com/1b7o3n


This looks like a perfect successor to the previous model and I only wish I could trade up with little money.

apojapo

November 5, 2010, 6:48 pm

Just bought the s95 because I thought it would be a good update over my Canon digital Ixus 90 from some years back. I took 2 exactly the same photo's and campared them in full view and the just was not any differnce! Oke, I'm sure the s95 will do better in low and light and high contrast situations and the HDR and RAW mode are some good features but I expected a lot more.

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