Canon S90 – Review

by matt on March 7, 2010

Recently I decided that I needed to get a small point and shoot camera.  I needed something that I could slip into my pocket and be able to use quickly.  Sometimes carrying around a big dSLR is just not practical.  My first thought was the Canon G11.  I spent a week looking at the specs online and reading all the reviews.  It’s a great camera, no doubt about that. 

Finally I went down to the local camera store and took a first-hand look at it.  I liked the manual controls, the hot-shoe and that it shot RAW.  The thing I didn’t like was that it was bigger than I wanted.  It wasn’t going to be a comfortable fit in my pocket.  While I was there contemplating my purchase the salesman showed me the Canon S90.  It’s got the same sensor, a much smaller footprint, an f/2.0 lens and a really cool adjustable ring around the lens for adjusting the aperture etc..  I liked what I saw so I bought it over the G11.  These are my initial thoughts after a month of ownership.

This is what you will get in the box:

– 1 Canon S90 camera

– Battery Pack NB-6L (it doesn’t take AA or AAA batteries)

– Battery Charger CB-2LY

– Interface Cable IFC-400PCU– Mini USB to USB

– AV Cable AVC-DC400

– Wrist Strap WS-DC9

– Camera User Guide

– Solution Disk (Canon Utilities)

The dimensions of the camera are perfect for slipping into your pocket at 100 X 58 X 31 mm.  It’s got a nice 3” LCD screen.  There is no viewfinder so you are stuck using the screen which to me isn’t a big deal. I thought that there might be issues when shooting in bright light but I’ve been impressed so far.  There is limited glare when the screen is lit up from the back and I have not had any issues so far with not being able to clearly see the screen.

The screen is a TFT PureColor LCD II with 461,000 pixels and displays nicely.  On the right side of the camera is an HDMI port and an A/V output that uses a standard mini USB cable.  The ports are concealed by plastic covers that are easy to lift up and snap back into place.  The battery and memory card are located on the bottom.

Here are the things that I liked right off the bat:

  • Small compact size – at 100 X 58 X 31mm it is perfect for keeping in your pocket without leaving you with an uncomfortable feeling or unsightly bulge that people stare at
  • The control ring around the lens – This ring allows you to make various adjustments from multiple menu modes.  In manual mode you can use the control ring to adjust the aperture while using the wheel on the back to adjust the shutter speed
  • The 3” screen – There is no viewfinder so you have to rely on the screen.  This hasn’t posed a big problem for me yet as the screen seems to perform well in bright sunlight.  The screen is a PureColor LCD II (TFT).  The color rendition is fantastic.
  • 10 megapixel sensor – this is the same sensor that is in the Canon G11.  It’s a 1/1.7” type CCD.
  • An F/2.0 lens – I really like that this lens is a 2.0 versus the 2.8 of the G11.  It is basically a 28-105mm (35mm equivalent).  It has decent reach and the wide angle isn’t bad.  There is also a macro setting allowing you to get in really tight on your subject and yet still maintain accurate focus.
  • RAW – yes you can shoot RAW+JPEG and still utilize your normal RAW workflow.  RAW only works in the P, Tv, Av and M modes.  It is not available in Auto mode.
  • Menu system – I like that the menus are clean, easy to use and follow and that there are multiple modes for displaying information on the screen.
  • Image preview – I also like that you can preview images without powering the camera all the way on.  What I mean by this is that you can power the camera up via a button on the back to allow viewing of images without the lens popping out.  You can also rotate the camera and the image will rotate as well automagically.

Things I disliked:

  • Flash – the flash pops up on the top left side of the camera.  This is typically right where I have my hand.  I have to remember to keep my fingers back from the front of the camera otherwise the flash comes up right where my fingers are.  I’ve started just turning the flash off since it seemed to pop-up at times when I didn’t think it should.
  • No HD Video – I would have thought that for a newer model it would have at least 720p.  Instead it has 640 X 480 @ 30fps.  Don’t get me wrong, it takes really nice video and for me it’s not a big deal as I don’t shoot much video and if I need to I will use my 5DII.  But still, there are many newer models out there that sport 720p.
  • The camera uses its own battery pack so you can’t swap in AA or AAA batteries when it runs low.  I know this is the same for the dSLR’s but for a P&S camera I often like being able to use standard batteries.  The battery pack does seem to charge fairly quickly but unless I purchases an additional battery pack it doesn’t do me much good in the field.
  • No that great at high ISO.  I think ISO 800 is about the highest I would go with this camera.  In my limited experience with it so far it gets quite noisy even at 800.  I am still testing high ISO and will update this if my initial opinion should change.

Overall after a month of ownership I really like this camera.  It’s the perfect size to carry with you everywhere; it takes great photos with its 10 megapixel sensor and performs well in low light with an F/2.0 lens.  Obviously there is much more that could be written about this camera but I wanted to just stress the things I like and dislike. 

I carry this camera with me everywhere I go now, even when I have my dSLR with me.  I’ve been really pleased with it.  If you think this sounds like the camera for you I would encourage you to head down to your local camera store and handle one.  As always, personal experiences will vary.  Nothing can substitute for trying it in person. 

If you have this camera as well I would be interested in knowing your thoughts and experience.  Feel free to leave your comments below.

Images on my Flickr taken with Canon S90:

Magnolia
BINGO!!
Spring is here
Triple Sauce

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