In nature it is competition that drives the process of evolution. As species compete for limited resources they evolve over time to become better adapted to the needs of their environment. The same evolutionary process operates in the world of digital cameras. Manufacturers compete for the resource of your spending money, and the evolutionary result is ever more sophisticated cameras, with better performance, better image quality and more advanced features. There are few better examples of this than the long-running rivalry between Canon and Panasonic in the specialised environment of advanced enthusiast's compact cameras.
Last year saw the re-launch of Canon's advanced PowerShot S-series in the shape of the S90, an advanced compact featuring the same 10-megapixel sensor as Canon's flagship at the time, the PowerShot G11. The S90 was Canon's response to the success of Panasonic's superb Lumix LX3, itself a successor to 2006's LX1, which had been introduced to compete with the S90's predecessor, Canon's PowerShot S80, launched in 2005. These competitions can get complicated.
Panasonic has recently launched the latest in the LX line, the excellent Lumix LX5, so it will come as little surprise that Canon has also launched its latest competitor, the PowerShot S95. Like Panasonic, Canon has only made small changes and upgrades to the S90 to produce the new camera, but the cumulative effect is a significant improvement over the older model.
Although the S95 and the LX5 look very different they are actually very similar cameras in many respects. Both have 10-megapixel sensors of a larger size than those found in most current compacts (1/1.7-in for the S95 and 1/1.63-in for the LX5). Both have high-quality 3.8x zoom lenses with fast f/2 maximum aperture, both have 7.5cm (3.0-in) LCD monitors with 460k resolution. Both offer a full range of manual exposure options, both shoot 720p HD video (although the S95 does so with stereo audio) and both have pop-up flash units. Even more importantly both cameras are currently have a high street price of £399.