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.
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.
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.