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991 of 1,012 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent image quality, full controls and pocketable
If you're looking for a pocketable camera that has reasonably high quality images, lets you control aperture, speed and focus and shoot in RAW format, this is it. I bought mine as an upgrade from a previous small but versatile camera, a Canon Powershot S70.

The Powershot S95 was introduced in August 2010 as a slight upgrade to the S90, which was widely praised...
Published on September 9, 2010 by Michael Sandman

versus
824 of 870 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A lot more to be wanted
This is my 5th Canon (G2, S30, A530, XSi) and is supposedly Canon's best ever P&S. I bought this for its compactness, low light performance, and image quality. In these regards I would say it is excellent! But for its price I would expect something that is top of the line on most aspect which I found out not true.

What I don't like and wish the Canon Guy...
Published on October 20, 2010 by GS


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991 of 1,012 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent image quality, full controls and pocketable, September 9, 2010
By 
Michael Sandman (Brookline, MA United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Canon PowerShot S95 10 MP Digital Camera with 3.8x Wide Angle Optical Image Stabilized Zoom and 3.0-Inch LCD (Camera)
If you're looking for a pocketable camera that has reasonably high quality images, lets you control aperture, speed and focus and shoot in RAW format, this is it. I bought mine as an upgrade from a previous small but versatile camera, a Canon Powershot S70.

The Powershot S95 was introduced in August 2010 as a slight upgrade to the S90, which was widely praised for its image quality and excellent interface but criticized for being hard to hold ("like a bar of soap in the shower") and for having a control dial that turned too easily. The S95 fixes both problems and adds a couple of other features in a package that fits in the pocket of your jeans (if they're not super tight). The case is metal, and although there are no finger grips on the body, it's not slippery at all. It feels like it's covered with super-fine sandpaper (like 1000 or 1500 grit, for those you who know what that feels like).

The second major complaint about the S-90 was that the function selection ring on the rear moved too easily. The ring on the S-95 has a slight click when you move it, and it doesn't move unless you want it to.

There are a couple of other cameras of this type, including the Panasonic LX-3 and LX-5 and the Samsung TL500. They all have let you control camera functions, and like the S95 they have 10 MP sensors that are almost twice as large as a typical pocket camera, so the pixels on the sensor are larger. That lets them gather light more efficiently, which reduces digital "noise" when you shoot in dim light. Image quality is noticeably better than photos from typical pocket cameras. You can make an 8 x 10 or perhaps 11x14 enlargement, although a digital SLR will be significantly better for larger prints. They also have f/2.0 lenses at their widest angle, although the aperture closes down as you zoom in.

The Canon has two advantages over the Panasonic LX-3 & LX-5. First, you really can put it in your pocket or in a belt case no bigger than the one you use for a mobile phone. Second, the interface is a brilliant re-thinking of how a very small camera with a full set of controls should work. There's not much room for buttons on the small surface, but you don't have to get into a multi-level menu on the LCD, and yet changing settings is fast and intuitive.
For example, there's a ring around the lens that you can grip easily to control zoom, or, shutter speed, or aperture, change ISO, or manually focus. You select what you want it to do by pressing a button on the top, and when you look at the LCD screen you can see what it's programmed for. There's a selection wheel on the back for other functions, and when you move it, a clear set of choices appears on the screen. The selections are context-appropriate, so they change depending on whether you've set the camera for aperture control, "Program" control, etc.

The two Panasonics have the same sensor as their Canon equivalents, but they offer a slightly wider lens (24mm vs. 28 for the S95). The LX-3 has a much shorter telephoto - only 60 mm. The LX-5, which was introduced a couple of weeks before the S95, has a 90mm telephoto, and you can buy an add-on optical viewfinder. It also has a flash shoe in addition to the pop-up flash, although you can buy a dedicated add-on flash for the S-95 to supplement its pop-up flash The LX-5 is about 25% more expensive than the Canon S95 (and 60% more with the optional viewfinder) and while it would fit in a coat pocket, you can't stuff it into a trouser pocket.

If you want a truly pocketable camera that gives you good image quality and full control over your photography, the S95 is an excellent choice.
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479 of 493 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great camera and upgrade to superb S90, September 5, 2010
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Canon PowerShot S95 10 MP Digital Camera with 3.8x Wide Angle Optical Image Stabilized Zoom and 3.0-Inch LCD (Camera)
I own both the S90 and S95 (G10 and G11 also, as well as F-1 and numerous Nikons including the D90).
Hands down, I took more photos on a daily basis with the S90 since I took it EVERYWHERE.
As they say, the absolute best camera is the one you have when you need to take a photograph.
The picture quality of the S90 is superb and the S95 is at least as good.
Often the biggest limiter to picture quality is the skill of the photographer.
Time spent mastering a particular camera is well spent and paper specs often can mislead.
Discussing subtle nuances over comparable cameras is often more academic than practical.
The S95 gives the serious photographer tremendous flexibility from full auto to full manual and superb features that are packaged in a truly pocketable high performing camera that is arguably best in class.

So what has improved:

Body finish...more tactile and grippy
Selection wheel on back has click stops....hurray!
On/off button is where it should be.
720p movie mode added (24 fps vs 30 for lx5) with stereo recording.
More scenes including High Dynamic Range (very cool)
Numerous technical innovations that result in more stable, sharper pictures.
Button feel on back is more positive.
Ring on front has more friction and feels more positive.
Body even smaller and more pocketable.
Menu system updated but if you can drive a S90, G10 or G11 you will be off and running.
Improved hand lanyard placement.
Improved shutter release.
Slightly rounded corners...looks feels better.

What stayed the same:

Battery door and card slot.
Same cables and connectors.
Lack of grip....no denying it would add weight but...
Build quality...as good as it will get.

What got worse:
This part is highly subjective because different people see the same change differently (I see the size reduction as good, while others have said it's bad....so be wary and know if you agree with peoples reasons).
Thumb rest no longer there...I missed it.

So there you have my first impressions and if I had to choose between the S90 and S95, the S95 is the clear winner!
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577 of 599 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wow! What an improvement!, August 31, 2010
By 
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Canon PowerShot S95 10 MP Digital Camera with 3.8x Wide Angle Optical Image Stabilized Zoom and 3.0-Inch LCD (Camera)
I spent two or three months doing tons of research to replace my old Canon SD870. Finally a month ago I decided to buy the S90 despite the fact that it didn't have 720 HD video, it was a one-year old model, and many reviewers disliked the looseness of the control dial. My S90 arrived in the middle of August and over the course of many days I learned how to use all the functions and was very pleased with the results.

And then on August 19 Canon announced the upcoming release of the Canon S95. I immediately returned my S90 and anxiously awaited the arrival of its successor. Earlier today it was delivered and I've been using it all day.

I must say that I wanted to love the S90, but the smoothness of the body annoyed me. I figured I'd just have to get used to the slipperiness. But now that I have the S95 in my hands, I can't believe what a difference the matte finish makes regarding secure handling. There's no way you can appreciate the difference if you haven't handled both models yourself. Honestly, that feature alone is worth the slightly higher price.

Control dial issues? No longer! Subtle click-stops have solved that problem.

Finger missing the shutter button on the S90? Well, the geniuses at Canon took care of that, also. You won't mistake the shutter button on the S95 for any other button due to the distinct and secure feel.

I'm in love with this camera. I won't go into details about picture quality because it's as good as its predecessor; there are examples all over the Internet. And of course the S95's 720 HD video is a big improvement over the standard video of the S90.

Only one "con" I can think of: The new, smooth, elegant display on the back is no longer recessed therefore you'll have to be careful if you place the camera face up on a flat surface. In that position it appears the screen will come in direct contact with the table's surface.
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824 of 870 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A lot more to be wanted, October 20, 2010
This review is from: Canon PowerShot S95 10 MP Digital Camera with 3.8x Wide Angle Optical Image Stabilized Zoom and 3.0-Inch LCD (Camera)
This is my 5th Canon (G2, S30, A530, XSi) and is supposedly Canon's best ever P&S. I bought this for its compactness, low light performance, and image quality. In these regards I would say it is excellent! But for its price I would expect something that is top of the line on most aspect which I found out not true.

What I don't like and wish the Canon Guy take note (most serious come first):

1. Most people complained about the flash design which is true and very very annoying. I have gone through 2 trips and 3000 photos. I still get surprised whenever the flash turns active and push my left index finger out. The camera has safeguard measure so that whenever it detects that the flash movement is blocked it will stop and issue a warning signal. The only way to reset it is to switch the camera OFF and then ON again. I have gone through this procedure around 10 times a day during my trips. Because of this I expect the first thing to fail for my S95 would be the flash. And I would not expect it to last as long as my G2 (9 years and still going strong). CANON GUY, PLEASE MAKE THE CAMERA A LITTLE TALLER AND PUT THE FLASH FIXED IN YOUR NEXT VERSION !!!

2. The internal micro-processor is too slow and the firmware design cannot handle real time event. In layman terms, S95 responded too slow in every aspect. One example is after I finished a shot and then quickly turn the front wheel to change exposure compensation and prepare taking another shot, I found out the camera did not respond to my front wheel adjustment at all. It had to wait until it finished rounding up the previous job (and it took a while to finish!) before it has time to register any change on the wheels and buttons. So if you acted too soon it will totally disregard it. The killing part is the processing usually take long. So beware user: don't think you can shoot like a professional fast and quick between photos, you have to pace yourself and make sure u don't press buttons and adjust wheels too fast. CANON FIRMWARE GUYS: PLEASE SET UP AN EVENT QUEUE AND USE INTERRUPT TRIGGER TO RECORD ALL USER'S INPUT, SO THAT THEY CAN BE PROCESSED LATER, MY PANASONIC ELECTRONIC RICE COOKER DO A BETTER JOB THAN S95 IN THIS REGARD!!!

3. This one is the deal breaker. It cannot auto focus during video recording! This make the video feature seriously handicapped. Althought S95 has small lens and a deep depth of field, you still find the video constantly out of focus when your kids are running around you while u r shooting them. I thought I would have spent $400 and get something that can at least do good photos and video. Well, it can only do half of it and I guess I have to wait for something better in the near future. Just for reference my $100 Samsung can autofocus during video recording!!!

4. WB and some other adjustments not allowed to work in most SCN modes, which make the SCN shooting modes seriously handicapped.

5. My favorite Stitch Assist Mode (for taking panoramic-view picture) works only in landscape, not portrait mode.

6. The rear dial is much improved over the S90 (not as loose) but still easy to turn by mistake. I have many occasions of changing the ISO from AUTO to 3200 by mistake. When I find out it is already too late and I got a dozen grainy photos!

7. Battery last only 100-150 photos in practical use and so need at least 2 batteries for a day's photo. If you are doing video, expect to bring half a dozen !!!

8. The image stabilization (IS) is not very effective. I closely examined the LCD screen images when IS is both engaged and not engaged. The difference is very subtle and nothing compared with Rebel XSi (SLR) in which the image motion is obviously smooth out and slowed down. The salesperson told me don't expect any serious IS capability from P&S' I wonder if that's true.

9. The lens is fast (F2.0) at wide end only. But at zoom end it is very slow (F4.9). My G2 has F2-F2.5 throughout the whole zoom range. I can understand it's a limitation imposed by the size of the lens, not Canon's fault. Coupled with an ineffective IS, I got a lot of blurry pictures at max zoom under cloudy sky outdoor. I have very steady hands and I hold my breath when I press shutter, and my wife could do much worse. I wish Canon would put a better but little bigger lens in the next version. F2.0-3.5 would be a good compromize.

In summary, you would think the S95 is wonderful when you play with it shortly at Best Buy. The picture quality and LCD's display quality are superb too. But when you bought it home and put it to use in real life, you will find out a lot more to be wanted and that it's too far from being perfect at all. Some shortcomings like the video focusing are in my opinion a design fault, others are inconvenience and annoyance. The Canon Guys should have done much more than just a touch-up of S90. I waited a long time and paid $400 for a camera like S95 and thought this would be the ultimate pocket P&S that will last me a long long time. Well definitely it is not simply for reason like the half-cooked video recording capability. FORTUNATELY OR UNFORTUNATELY, ALTHOUGH WITH ALL THOSE SHORTCOMINGS, IT IS STILL THE BEST POCKET P&S ON MARKET, NO OTHER BETTER CHOICE YET.

In my opinion Canon still makes the best digital P&S and I might stay a Canon buyer in the future. But my advise to Canon is to stop abusing loyalty of fans like me. And make products that really live up to its name. For those who already got a decent P&S, I would recommend hold your purchase until S99, S100 or whatever which at least solve the flash and video fault.

=====================================================================
Update 8/1/2011
After 10 months and 5800 shoots, the lens stuck midway while power on. Manufacturer replaced the optical module. This is my first Canon that needed service within 1st year of purchase. A little disappointed and worried.
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100 of 102 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars a little realism, November 13, 2010
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Canon PowerShot S95 10 MP Digital Camera with 3.8x Wide Angle Optical Image Stabilized Zoom and 3.0-Inch LCD (Camera)
Let me begin by saying that I think many of the "negative" reviews here are from people with unrealistic expectations. I have had the s95 for a couple of months now (and I see it has come down in price) and think it is a great little camera. Some people may think it is supposed to be a "wonder camera" that will turn you into an amazing photographer that produces professional quality DSLR images and will still fit in your pocket! Well, it's not that.

It is a camera that is just a little too big to fit comfortably into the pocket of my jeans, but that is alright because I would rather keep it in a case that I can clip to my belt or that my wife can easily throw into her purse. It does fit very easily into a loose shirt pocket of a side pocket of some cargo pants.

It is a camera that is capable of producing uncompressed RAW images (not too many choices in this size that can do that), and/or compressed JPEGs. For most people the JPEGs are fine, for some the RAW is a major draw to the s95. Even in JPEG mode the images are great. I am coming from a several year old point and shoot and this thing is better by far. Some people argue that this or that camera/phone takes images of equal quality when shooting JPEGs... this might be true (phone cameras have come a long way) but can your phone shoot in RAW? No? okay then quit your whining.

Does the s95 make me a GREAT photographer? NO. I am still as good (or bad) as ever, but the s95 does give me several tools to use that go a long way to help me become a better photographer.

Movies: good quality. Far better than I expected and stereo sound.

Part of the reason I got this camera is to take pictures of my daughter as she grows. Right now she is 9 months old. If you set it on "kids/pets" it is nice and fast but you give up creative control for the shot. If you are using some of the great and plentiful manual features there is sufficient lag to be a little frustrating if you are trying to catch a fleeting smile. Not anything that would make me want to return the camera, and certainly due to my abilities as a photographer... like choosing a faster ISO, or a wider aperture setting, or using the flash.

Battery life is fine. I actually thought it is quite good. I guess I am not one of those people who has to check every shot and watch ever little movie over and over again while it is still in the camera. I am more of a "sort it all out later" kind of a guy. I give a quick check to see if I got a decent shot or not, and my wife will look at the pictures we took at the end of the day (the s95s display is awesome for this), but that's it. The battery lasted a couple of days for us with fairly heavy use. We did buy a second battery, and I am glad that we did but only because it is really convenient and pretty cheap (if you buy an off brand). Certainly the battery life shouldn't be an issue for anyone.

I gave serious consideration to the Panasonic/Lumix for this purchase but thought that if I was going to spend that much I should be getting into the micro 4/3rds realm. That will probably be my next camera purchase once the tech evolves a bit more, and prices are a little lower.

Bottom line for the Cannon s95:
Great (semi)small point and shoot camera!
Not a miracle worker, not a revelation, just a solid performer with a lot of manual controls not found on most other point and shoots.

Value: Pretty good
I don't feel cheated having paid $399, now with the price at $366 you can get a spare battery, a SD card and a case and still get out the door for under $400! Not bad.

Cheers
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54 of 55 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Simply Amazing, September 8, 2010
By 
Surfseventy8 (Nantucket, MA United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Canon PowerShot S95 10 MP Digital Camera with 3.8x Wide Angle Optical Image Stabilized Zoom and 3.0-Inch LCD (Camera)
When I first saw the S90, I was quite intrigued by the amazing low light performance. As a dSLR shooter, I've become quite used to shooting at ISO 800 and above with virtually no noise. I hate the look of photos taken with tiny, on-camera flashes. They are very unflattering so I try to shoot with natural light as much as possible. I've had a few older, basic point and shoots and eventually moved up to the G9 but they all had the same issue: tons of noise on any photo shot above ISO 200. With the larger sensor size faster f/2.0 lens and advanced in-camera noise reduction processing, this seems to do just fine at ISO 1250 and 1600.

This camera definitely rocks. The small size means that it's easy to keep in my pocket at all times. My other camera is a Nikon D700 with a huge, heavy lens that I hate to take out just because of its size. The S95 is giving my pro camera a run for its money. The picture quality is great and the in-camera scenes give you so many options as well as full manual mode. Shutter lag is virtually non-existent. The LCD screen is bright and fairly accurate as far as colors. My last Canon, the G9, had a purplish tint to the LCD and didn't display colors properly. The S95's screen is polarized which makes it much easier to see in bright sunlight. The downside to this is that if you wear polarized sunglasses, the screen goes black when turned horizontally.

The ergonomics of this camera leave a little to be desired. It's not easy to turn on or off with one hand and i'm always struggling with how to hold it while shooting. I find that I press buttons accidentally. I suppose that's to be expected on a camera that's this small. I'm also less than impressed with the HD video. The picture quality was great considering it's a p&s but it is a little jumpy since it only records 24 fps. Battery life is a little short, 1/2 a day of shooting (about 150 photos, a few >1 minute videos and some playback). If you plan to take this camera on vacation, do yourself a huge favor and get a spare battery.
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67 of 70 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Simply Superb, September 19, 2010
By 
RonAnnArbor (Ann Arbor, MI United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Canon PowerShot S95 10 MP Digital Camera with 3.8x Wide Angle Optical Image Stabilized Zoom and 3.0-Inch LCD (Camera)
I've become quite the compact camera expert of late, buying for myself as a backup to a dSLR, but also for colleagues and employees.

Simply, the new Canon s95 is the best quality compact I have used. It's out of stock in a lot of places, but shop around -- even the Big Boxes seem to have them right now (don't pay the overinflated prices some marketplace vendors are asking).

Having recently used the Panasonic Lumix LX5 for a week in Paris, I wish I had the s95 instead. The Lumix was returned the day I returned. It quite simply is not a compact camera, and stayed in the backpack more than any other compact camera would have.

The S95 by contrast, has identical IQ, fits into a pants pocket, is small, and easy to use. The settings are quickly changed either through the menu, the mode dial, or the front ring. The small tweeks between the S90 and the S95 actually make a world of difference -- and it's a fine fine high IQ compact camera.

Compared to a standard pocket camera, though, you might might find the zoom range quite limiting. It's better than the Lumix, but only just. It certainly is not capable of superzoom -- the optical zoom works to 3.8x -- but with digital zoom you can get to 15x. Those photos are unusable. The digital zoom is fine in a pinch for a "must have" shot, but they are all pixilated and blurry one you get into the digital zoom range. If you are looking for a superzoom, this camera is NOT IT.

But with the 10 mp size of photos, you can easily crop down, and the IQ is so fine that it will still look clear and sharp at normal printing size up to 10 x 8 for super cropped shots.

I've been very happy with the S95 and have used it all weekend for several hundred shots. I am consistently surprised at the excellent IQ in almost all shooting situations. (There does seem to be some flare when shooting into sunlit situations). I see no chromatic aberation, no vignetting, and simply clear shots. The IQ is fine across all scene modes. Some of the creative modes are fun. The bokeh in depth of field shots looks great.

IF you are contemplating between the older s90 and the s95, there is no comparison -- you will NOT be happy with the s90 once you see what the s95 will do.

Quite simply, this and the Lumix LX5 are the best compact cameras on the market as far as high-end IQ and features. Either camera will do a great job with low-light shots up to 3200 (note that noise is still quite visible with both cameras, heavy at any ISO above 800 but also noticable in anything over 400 ISO with either camera).

Still, for the money, the features, and the sheer compactness, there is no other current camera that matches the S95. Highly recommended.

Pros: Great low-light shots; up to 3200 ISO; great IQ across most shooting situations; very compact and small; easy to use dials and menus. Good ISO.
Cons: Limited focal-range up to 3.8x only (up to focal distance 105). Anything shot in digital zoom is unusable. No grip on body. No dedicated video recording button.
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123 of 135 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Manufacturing or design flaw????????, April 6, 2011
This review is from: Canon PowerShot S95 10 MP Digital Camera with 3.8x Wide Angle Optical Image Stabilized Zoom and 3.0-Inch LCD (Camera)
I've had several small "pocket" size Canon cameras and have enjoyed them as something quick and convenient as an alternate to my DSLRs. I was very interested in the fact that the Canon s95 had the ability to produce "raw" files and shoot in low light with a relatively fast lens. The day I purchased the s95, I was able to test it in some very low light conditions, shooting both stills and video with stereo sound. The results were very very impressive. The second day that I had the camera, I lucked out with a combination of dramatic weather and lighting to further test out the image quality. Once again I was very impressed. The third day, seeing a spontaneous photo opportunity, I pulled out the s95 and pushed the "on" button. I was immediately rewarded with a "lens error restart" message, making the camera unusable. Searching through the manual and the internet for solutions proved fruitless. I took the camera back to the nearby BestBuy, where they have a fourteen day return policy. Leaving the store with another new Canon s95 I was able to try a few more test shots, again getting great results. A couple days later I shot about six photos and a two or three short video clips. Later in the day, encountering another interesting photo situation, I pulled the camera out and had another "lens error restart" message. As the camera was non working and not user correctible, I returned this camera to BestBuy, turned down the offer of still another Canon s95 and opted for a refund. I was extremely frustrated by this as when the camera worked, I absolutely loved it's handling and image quality. Since I had two cameras quickly break down, with very little use, I have to suspect that Canon has a severe manufacturing or design flaw in this camera. When I Googled "Canon s95 lens error restart", i found out that a number of other people have had the exact same problem. Luckily for me, it happened within the 14 day return period. I absolutely cringe thinking about being on a dream trip somewhere and pulling out the camera only to find that for no good reason, it doesn't work.
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81 of 87 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not everything we wanted but close., August 31, 2010
By 
JCC "Tech Maven" (New York, NY United States) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: Canon PowerShot S95 10 MP Digital Camera with 3.8x Wide Angle Optical Image Stabilized Zoom and 3.0-Inch LCD (Camera)
Here are some preliminary impressions of this successor to the S90. I'm sure we'll all have additional comments once we've had some more time playing with it.

* The body is slightly slimmer. However, the body finish is much grippier than the S90. A much welcomed improvement.
* The front ring feels similar to the S90. Not much changed there.
* As we all already know, the swapped Ring Function and On/off button placement is a long asked for change.
* The thumb placement removal from the back makes the entire back look much more pleasing but I'm not sure it will please everyone as some people actually like the extra thumb rest. Personally I like this new look and with the grippy surface, it doesn't detract from handling.
* The shutter button is a bit redesigned and feels better when using without looking.
* The buttons on the back feels tighter with more precise finish.
* The rear dial, which received the most complaints from users of the S90, has received a welcome improvement as it will no longer move from just you breathing on it. It's tight.
* The flash movement seems better than the S90. Less hazardous. More rounded edges help reduce the pinch.
* There are now stereo mics in the front below the lens.
* Too bad the camera will not focus nor will it optically zoom when filming like the Panasonic LX5.
* The 720P is only 24fps which is another disappointment as panning as well as fast moving subjects will be jerky.
* There are also a whole host of additional functions such as HDR, Hybrid IS for close up as well as distance IS, focus tracking, tilt lens, face timer/smile shot/smile shot, simulated fisheye etc. Not sure if I'll use all of these.
* Finally and the most important point, the images don't look all that better than the S90 so if you don't mind the handling problems or slight video enhancements you may want to save a few bucks and just get the S90.

Perhaps the S100 will be a better time to upgrade from the S90 for those who already own one.
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128 of 141 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Great pocket low light performer, with some problems and lagging behind in some areas., October 6, 2010
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This review is from: Canon PowerShot S95 10 MP Digital Camera with 3.8x Wide Angle Optical Image Stabilized Zoom and 3.0-Inch LCD (Camera)
Length:: 0:18 Mins

SUMMARY:
A star of pocket-sized, high image quality camera, S95 does have its problems. The software is a bit buggy as it crashes, lags, and even macro button not doing what it is supposed to do. The menu system is also extremely convoluted as it is an overgrowth of the same old powershot menu since 10 years ago--the structure should have been completely revised rather than layered with hidden tag-ons.

It also has flash control problems (pretty serious slow sync failures), pretty inept AF (hunts and misses a lot especially in low light), dead sensor pixels, subpar video quality, and the jpeg compression that generates a lot of artifacts (including low ISO's), something my older LX3 can easily trounce. The quality control as some mentioned here and elsewhere is also problematic, as there were dusts in the paints and scratch on the lens barrel trims on mine, not to mention hot/dead sensor pixels in both video and photo--hardly what you should expect for the money. Buyers should beware: despite the great name Canon has made for itself, they really have been taking advantage of this rather than building on it.

That said, there's probably no smaller camera with this size sensor (1/1.7"), not to mention it's also a Sony EXMOR backlit CMOS, which gave it such great low light capability (and probably also artifacts). However, any decent low end DSLR should easily beat its image quality, just out of physical property of the sensor size alone (this is still about 1/5 the size of a micro 4/3 chip, or about 1/9 the size of a APS-C as found in most DSLR or some newer EVIL cameras like the Sony NEX-5). It's not quite a DSLR replacement, but rather a pocket camera for sticklers who can't suffer loss of image quality along with weight and size. The perfomance to size ratio is unique to S95, even with all the aforementioned drawbacks.

FULL REVIEW:
Canon isn't my favorite brand these days because it appears to me that they've been lazying around for a while now just because they are Canon; i.e. they have loyal fans who are often blind to their faults, so they weren't even trying. To me S90/S95 was something of an exception, in that they sensed (or rather, forced to recognize) the desperate need for a low light, high image quality, yet still compact performer (which is surprisingly absent in today's saturated digital camera market), and responded with a semi-sincere effort. Like many others, Canon decided to employ a larger than average sensor for better light capture(average point and shoot sensor size is 1/2.5", S95 is at 1/1.7" which is almost 50% bigger area than average, and similar to LX3/LX5's 1/1.65"; still way smaller than APS-C or micro 4/3s but the latter would require much larger bodies. For an excellent reference and visual comparison of these sizes, search "image sensor format" in Wikipedia). Additionally, they seemed to have borrowed the excellent and innovative backlit CMOS sensor from SONY for even better low light capability. While these features aren't unique to S95, what made it stand out is how Canon managed to squeeze that with a fast f/2.0 wide angle barrel lens into a body that's barely larger than a standard point and shoot. (for size comparison, the upcoming and much larger G12 supposedly uses the same sensor found in S95).

I purchased a s95 because my outgoing LX3 was still too bulky (almost the size of a micro 4/3 camera with much less image quality to justify it), but otherwise I liked it a lot. I felt that Panasonic is so progressive and on point with their consumer camera line that Canon's by comparison is looking tired and confused. In fact Canon S90 was their answer to Panasonic LX3's phenomenal success in some ways, but screwed up big time when they didn't include HD video and had some serious ergonomic issues. Even S95's video looks a little contrived and noisy, which is one of my gripes. The lack of ultra wide like 23mm is also a glaring omission (though it probably preserves better optical consistency since it's so thin).

However, Canon's still has among the best colors (that other makes like panasonic just can't quite match yet, in general), and on S95 they threw in some nice exposure features like contrast enhancement that really worked in correcting tricky lighting situations by artificially extending the dynamic range. The auto pop up flash looks like the ones on Panny LX series, but it goes up by itself, controlled electronically via the menus rather than a mechanical toggle switch. I thought it was cool until it started pushing my fingers around, since it's located in a convenient place where one tend to hold the camera, and often so abruptly and forcibly it almost ejected the camera out of my hands.

There are some quibbles I--being somewhat anal retentive--have about this camera's quality control, something that seems to have been a constant nag with Canon's Powershots. Details like the paint isn't perfect on mine, with bubbles and hair/dust trappings in both of the two S95 I received (which is in stark contrast to Panasonic's impeccable finishes across their lines--and I've owned two LX3 and other lower end Lumix's), scratches on the lens barrel's metallic trims, and the CMOS showing some dead/hot pixels in RAW files (not the LCD display but the image sensor) uncorrected and unmapped (Canon admitted it's faulty and sent a service ticket). I had hoped being "Made in Japan" and a higher end pocket-able would mean extra attention to build quality from Canon. Alas, that evidently just isn't the case.

The AF performance is also remarkably poor, often missing the foreground subjects or faces even with bright light, or completely misfocuses in low light even with assist lamp. Despite that Canon's pocket cameras had suffered from this issue before, this is still surprising, not to mention frustrating, for a camera of this class (by contrast Panny LX series's AF certainly does noticeably better). Nevertheless, despite the less-than-tact-sharp lens and miserable jpg compression (that maybe circumnavigated by shooting RAW and post process in computer with software), the camera excels in high ISO performance, color saturation/accuracy, and exposure control.

The above referenced "miserable" JPEG compression is probably worth special mentioning because it really saps excessive amount of quality away from the original image as seen from the RAW files. Canon only had two JPEG compression modes (fine and normal), and both are equally horrible. I think it behooves you to try processing the RAW files (which isn't that easy as many popular imaging softwares still don't recognize the RAW output from S95 as of October 2010) and you will see how much detail is lost. This loss is expected in JPEG files, but in the S95 it's especially remarkable. I feel that they should have had at least a better compression mode or algorithm as the "fine" setting produced results that didn't do the camera justice--it can do much better, and it shouldn't require laborious RAW post processing to achieve.

The control rings are really a draw for me as I yearn for the traditional and straight forward camera controls. They do work, though not nearly as straight forward, since their functions often change depending on which level of menu or function you were at. You simply cannot take your eyes off the screen to figure out what is going on. It's still the same Canon interface that's been around since the first digital Elphs a decade ago, and frankly I'm thinking that should really be drastically updated or completely revised to fully take advantage of these two rings, which by themselves a great concept in the right direction. As for now, with the convoluted menu (there's main menu, and then there's a function menu, not to mention all the function keys with their own sub menu--like flash button--and in it more subset of control keys and wheel assignments: you get the idea) the control rings are really little more than (rather laggy and confusing) fast toggle key selectors, most of the time. That isn't bad, and with ample customization options it is arguably better than directional buttons, but it can really be so much more.

Battery life felt short out of the box, but it definitely improved after only a few charging cycles, typical behavior of fresh lithiums. It still felt short to me, as I often couldn't complete a day of shooting without the battery running out. However, I haven't been fair, as in the most recent excursion, it again ran out of power on me before I liked; yet this time I paid attention to the number of shots taken: I squeezed 458 photos out of it, many with daylight flash fill (high power drain bright flashes), slow sync indoor flashes, probably 20% with RAW(RAW copies not counted), 30% with exposure bracketing (3 consecutive shots), and almost a dozen short HD videos (highest power drain). I think even if it's not amazing, that's still pretty good and respectable for a camera of this size. Numbers are more convincing than my subjective feelings in this case.

I (and many others) thought it was a big flaw when it didn't have at least 720HD video on S90, when AVCHD is already making its way onto consumer cameras and many competitors already have very good 1080p (e.g. Sony's TX), ideally merging a dedicated HD camcorder and high quality photo camera. It's an improvement on the S95 that now it supports H.264 720p 24fps video in stereo, but for the price segment it was almost not enough. As a point and shoot S95 is probably an overkill (although the incredibly well engineered AUTO mode is nearly foolproof, or the very mission and purpose of AUTO modes); but if you want to play with creative manual controls, RAW capability, one of the best color processing, true pocketability, and don't mind the so-so HD video, it is truly one of the best pocket cameras on the market in absolute image quality and low light performance.

Update: 10/22

A few things that's worthy of a firmware upgrade, or at least users should probably demand for one:

- Besides the convoluted menu controls which really slows things down at times--exposure bracketing as another example, would require you to exit all menus (the button to exit can be menu key or set key or a combination of keys, depending on where you are, often leave you fidgeting just trying to clear the screen), click the exposure compensation key, and then click the display key for bracketing, and then rotate the wheel for bracketing range; after shooting, repeat to cancel--not exactly the easiest or fastest for a pretty important function, even with those wheels. It really feels like the dated menu of other powershot cameras, or the kind that threatens you with missing the "decisive moment" if you are ever presented with one. The response of the flywheels or the menu button also isn't very direct. There's a significant lag between the wheel or button click action and software response. It's like "rowing" through a menu list rather than wheeling through them, which kind of defeats the wheels' potential. In other words, the software is a bit slow (or euphemistically, "not fast enough") for a high(er) end camera. The pretty menu transition effects (yes it's minor but it's there) also gets in the ways of speedy response and should have had an option to remove (as on some other powershot models).

- Manual mode, in combination with live exposure preview, has become my favorite as the two wheels finally gets more dedicated functions as in classical camera setups, and allows this design innovation to truly shine--I can scarcely think of other similar sized cameras with better simultaneous shutter/aperture control. However, it crashed several times within the 3 weeks that I've owned it. The screen would just go black with the lens still extended, and I have to wake it up using the power button.

- The slow sync flash is extremely inconsistent. Sometimes using fill flash in low light background situations get better results which is very strange (as the shutter should be so fast that backgrounds should be darkened). I haven't figured out what rhyme this slow sync goes by, but it often wouldn't brighten foreground subject enough, or at all (it would look as if the flash was off, and I was certain the subject was within the flash's range), and other times washes out the foreground subject with overexposure. I have tried first or second curtain sync, adjusting flash power (which kind of worked but not always predictably), neither really worked. It should be much less painful than this.

- Ever since Digic 4, or probably even before that (but with DIGIC-IV processing being rather obvious), Canon's post processing tend to generate a smooth, glowing skin tone. I think this is one of those "innovations" several manufacturers (Fuji had one too, to the rave of Japanese/Asian beauty magazines) were able to pander to the public as a favorite feature of particularly (fashion conscious) females. It sometimes can miss, however, and make the skin tone look rather unnatural (or, without offense to those who like this feature, as if the subject's got dipped face down into a bucket of makeup). This is present on S95 as well. Even if it's not always as terrible, I sure hoped the post processing would lean towards verisimilitude where possible, particularly since it's a higher end model.

- Preview exposures on screen which is a very useful Canon feature that helps tremendously when you are trying to manually set exposure controls (by contrast LX3 didn't have this). However, exposure preview (via darkening or brightening the screen) would simply go away with any of the flash modes switched on. It's okay and makes sense since it's hard to predict the outcome of the flash without firing a test burst. However, in slow sync mode, and especially manual mode, it would probably be a good idea to give an option for preview since the background would depend on exposure settings rather than flash exposure. I can't find options in the menu to change this behavior. You are left with the meter which is still okay, I suppose, but it's just another one of those UI inconsistencies that you have to think on your feet to work around (e.g. when you got used to exposure preview, you may think because you can see the results on screen that it'll appear on flash photos, which is often untrue particularly for slow syncs).

- Wind noise filter in video mode doesn't seem to make any difference after some tests (and no I didn't always just blow straight into the mic to test it, but real life situations where it's often just a gentle breeze). As the mics are in the front, it's very easy to get wind noise in this camera. (11/7 addendum: tests reveal the wind filter is just a simple frequency equalizer, in that it reduces the mid-low bass frequencies typically present in wind noises; i.e. you still hear wind noise, but it has reduced bass frequencies.) That, and video compression can use some quality options, because while the results aren't horrible per se, they don't look as good as a 720p with autofocus should, even at 24fps. (also why can't they give us AF or zoom during video? I'm sure they CAN do that--CHDK was able to do it on basic Canon Elphs--and I wouldn't mind the AF/zoom noise as long as I can get the subjects in focus/frame.)

- The audio pickup from the two microphones are less than underwhelming. Despite being "stereo", the sound it picks up is completely devoid of bass, making everything sound tinny. I have tested it on full frequency range speakers, so I'm pretty sure it's not the speakers but the way the sound was recorded. I don't know how Canon managed that, as it's pretty hard to imagine what happened. **11/7 addendum: tests reveal that it's the wind filter, which seems to be just a equalizer that attenuates the mid-low bass frequency range that is present in wind noises (but you can still hear the wind noise, just not as bass heavy). For fuller audio range response, the wind noise filter needs to be switched off.

- a strange thing that I've discovered is that the macro button doesn't seem to do anything to the focusing range (in all modes; in AUTO it's supposed to auto detect a macro shot). In other words, I could focus down to the 5cm minimal distance with or without the macro mode on. It doesn't bother me, as it's more convenient than having to jump through hoops (of that dreaded menu) and take my eyes off the subject to get a macro shot. However, it can also be the probable cause of why AF hunts so much and misses so often. It also makes me wonder if the software is as finished as it should be. (the slow sync problem is also highly suspect)

Another few s95 differences/improvements from S90 off the top of my head:
the body is a nice matt/rough finish to help with grip (the same finish used to be on S90's top plate, now it's reversed with smooth finish on top of the S95 and rough around the body). it's like the Ricoh GR finish which I like.
the lcd adds glass panel for duability and dust proofing
the zoom toggle and shutter button is now specially shaped to avoid confusion
the rear control dial now has a clicky feeling to prevent accidental adjustments (which was the most complained problem in S90)
720HD H.264 video with stereo sound
hybrid image stabilization (2 axis instead of 1)
support of SDXC cards?
some claim a new sensor? but i doubt it. It's the same larger than average Sony EXMOR backlit CMOS sensor employed in several other brands' high end consumer models, credited for the superb low light performance.
The new HDR mode isn't really that useful, in that it really REQUIRES a tripod, as the processing cannot line-up the image thus any movement would render the results useless. Better off with just exposure bracketing and post process in the computer.

Some worthy competitors considered:
FUJI F300EXR - Also features a break-through sensor technology with phenomenal low light/high ISO performance, excellent wide angle optics, and manual controls. The innovative sensor is slightly smaller at 1/2".
SONY TX/HX series - Compact yet also with the EXMOR sensor technology employed in Canon (but smaller at 1/2.4"). Limited manual controls on some, TX's folding lens suffers in optical quality and no RAW capbility, but much better (incredible in fact) video and loaded with software shooting features.
Panasonic LX3/5 - Extremely well rounded high end "compact" camera that's quite popular and already a classic. Uses Panny's own inhouse sensor at 1/1.63" with excellent results. However it is significantly more bulky that it's not truly "pocket-able" except for likes of cargo shorts pockets; and with its popularity, significantly pricier.

Update: 12/16
Adobe Camera RAW 6.3 and Lightroom 3.3 updates are released. These updates support the S95's RAW format. This is important if you have been waiting to process all those RAW .cr2 images. It also resulted in a few things that I can observe:
- The proper crop information is supplied, resulting in raw files with cropped borders (seems to crop quite a bit, or the same crop percentage as the jpeg results; also distortion correction is applied, contrary to RAW files produced in some other cameras, like the LX), removing the large left black edge area which was previously present and showed some bright pixels.
- Proper color information is now readable, making post-processing much easier. Canon has one of the more accurate color information from RAW files, and relatively easy to process in my opinion.

As it is serving as my full time go-anywhere camera, this review maybe updated continually.
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