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Canon PowerShot S95 - Performance and Results

By Cliff Smith



  • Recommended by TR
Canon PowerShot S95 front angle


Our Score:


One area which hasn't seen much improvement is the camera's overall performance. It starts up and is ready to shoot in a little under two seconds, while in single-shot JPEG mode its shot-to-shot time is approximately 2.3 seconds, identical to the S90, and quite a bit slower than the LX5. Continuous shooting performance has been considerably improved however, and can now maintain approximately two frames a second.

Canon PowerShot S95 top

The autofocus system seems to be identical to that of the S90, but that's no bad thing since it is one of the fastest and most accurate available, and works very well even in low light conditions. The S95 has a good bright AF assist lamp that has an effective range of around three metres.

The lens-shift image stabilisation system has been improved; it is now called “Hybrid IS”, and corrects for both linear and rotational movement. Canon claims four stops of extra stability, and the camera's performance certainly seems to back this up. It was able to take sharp images at full zoom at shutter speeds as low as 1/8th of a second, which is remarkably good.

Of course the crucial factor for high-spec compacts like the S95 is image quality, and this is where the new camera scores vital points. The image quality is absolutely superb, with a huge amount of fine detail. The S95 can shoot in Raw mode, but the in-camera JPEG quality is so good that you won't need to use it often. Oddly the JPEG images do appear to be very compressed, averaging around 3.1MB, but there is no trace of compression artefacts.

The optical quality of the lens is very good, with incredible centre sharpness and minimal barrel distortion. The was some slight chromatic aberration in the far corners of the frame at wide angle, but it was easily corrected using the supplied Raw conversion software.

Canon PowerShot S95 battery

Colour rendition is superb, and dynamic range is also much better than average, but it is in image noise that the S95 really excels. Shots at up to 400 ISO are effectively noise-free, and it produces printable well-detailed shots at 1600 ISO, with minimal noise. Combined with the fast lens and powerful image stabilisation system it makes the S95 one of the best cameras around for low-light photography.

As for the vital question that is bound to be asked in the comments section, S95 or LX5, I'd have to say that this time, by a narrow margin, I'd pick the Canon.


Although the S95 is only a small improvement over the already excellent S90, the combination of small improvements do add up to a significantly better camera. Overall performance could still use some improvement, but creative versatility and more importantly image quality, especially in low light, are as good as it currently gets.


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.


October 8, 2010, 3:49 am

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


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!


October 8, 2010, 12:04 pm

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


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.


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.


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.


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)


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.


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.


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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