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TOP 500 REVIEWERon August 29, 2009
Early Impressions

I was delighted to have finally received my Powershot S90, and without further adieu, let me say that this is one heck of a camera. It's not perfect -- you can take truly terrible pictures with it just like you can take terrible pictures with a D700 -- but when used properly, the camera turns out remarkable shots that make us find it hard to accept the images are coming from a camera that fits in your pants pocket.

What struck me first upon using it? First, it's size. This thing is small, and it's light, too. It's a bit smaller than my Panasonic TZ3 and TZ5, and it's lighter, too. (The camera uses a front and back metal construction with plastic on the top and bottom, but the Panasonic's, while also using metal, use a thicker gauge steel which adds a feel of sturdiness but also adds some weight, as well). The camera also has a high-quality feel to it. The buttons click and depress well (although the rear wheel is a bit too easy to turn, in my opinion). It has a rounded shape, so it feels comfortable in the hands, and when you stick it in your pocket, it will slide right in and out without snagging. The screen on this thing is simply gorgeous: why can't every camera have a screen like this? It's large, bright, and pretty high in resolution (461,000 pixels). You can't help but admire the camera's design once you get looking at it and using it.

Next, the camera seems to perform well in terms of speed and overall operational use. The screen has the typical lag when taking shots, but you can adjust this somewhat in the menu system to speed things up, and quite frankly, every small camera I've ever owned exhibits this behavior. It is easy to use most of the camera's functions, and you may have heard about the programmable control ring around the lens on the front of the camera. It's operation is easy, solid (the ring "clicks" with detents at different positions), and, to boot, there is the standard programmable "S" button that the Powershots "S" cameras have typically had.

But of course, I'm interested in high ISO operation, and so I immediately took it into the livingroom where it was quite dark, and just started shooting. I was quite surprised at the results. You are not going to necessarily submit these to win any contests, but for the most part, the camera took nice shots even in that bad shooting environment, and the vast majority of the photos came out quite well (I will post a few with this review). The camera is the first (along with the Powershot G11) to deploy Sony's new ICX685CQZ sensor, a 9.31mm diagonal sensor with high performance specifications. With a little post processing, many of them look quite good. As the ISO crept into the very high ranges (800 and above) some sensor noise became apparent, but this is certainly the best low-light performance I've seen in a non-DSLR so far. (See my explanations, below, to see why this is possible). Surprisingly, some shots as high as 1600 ISO seemed to be acceptable as long as you are not a "pixel peeper." I was quite surprised when I discovered that a few of the shots had been taken at this high ISO 1600 level -- I've never had this experience before with a point and shoot camera.

Outdoor operation is fantastic. My outdoor shots for the most part have come out very well, with rich color, great detail, and little sensor noise. Like most Canon portables, these images seem to respond well to post-processing (you can sharpen them quite easily, and Canon now uses a standard meta-data tagging format that is readable by virtually all photo editor programs.) I even turned the EV down -2/3 while outside, and the sensitivity of the camera is so good that, even with this reduction in EV, my shots came out sharp and clear. Again, I will post a few shots with this review.

The camera TRULY excels at macro photography. The macro shots I've taken thus far are clear, sharp, and have great depth of field. In a word, they are superb: this camera is a macro shooter's delight. (A nice touch, too, is that in AUTO mode the camera automatically shifts into macro mode, without having to press any buttons!) The functionality just begs us to keep shooting macros over and over again. I've been able to take macro shots that I only dreamed of before, and the camera makes it easy to do so.

And although this is not an objective measure, the camera is just plain fun to use. It works smoothly, is light, has a beautiful screen, and seems to keep cranking out one nice shot after another. Wow.

Early Pro's and Cons

-- PROS --
1. Exceptionally small and lightweight (100 x 58 x 31 mm and 175 g)
2. Increased sensor size for a portable with a lower megapixel count (Sony's new ICX685CQZ sensor, 9.31mm diagonal)
3. Reasonably large zoom factor (28-105mm, approximately 3.8X zoom)
4. Wide end is very wide for landscape shots, vistas, group photos (28mm)
5. Fast f/2 lens permits high levels of light passage in low light situations
6. f/2 lens makes shallow depth of field shots incredibly effective - this camera is a macro shooter's delight
7. Two types of highly effective shake reduction technologies
8. Design makes lens cap unnecessary
9. Extremely high image quality for a pocket sized camera
10. HUGE 3 inch LCD screen with 461,000 pixel resolution and 100% coverage of the shot you wish to take
11. RAW mode allows for highest image quality and post processing
12. Virtually every camera setting is user adjustable (ISO, shutter speed, aperture, EV, white balance, etc.)
13. Ring-based control implementation one of the best on ANY current camera
14. Reasonable cost for a camera of this ability (but watch the prices climb as the camera stays in and out of stock)
16. Metadata being properly written to the file so they can be read by photo editing software (a problem with earlier Canons and some other brands)
17. SDHC flash card is highly standardized, and is coming in larger and faster formats (necessary if you are taking many RAW shots)
18. Extremely attractive physical design
19. High quality construction apparent on first use
20. Reasonably good battery life - most people are reporting about 300 shots (without flash) between charges

-- CONS --
1. Zoom ends at 108mm (3.8X zoom), which may be a deal breaker for some
2. Does not take HD videos (but does shoot 640 x 480 at full 30fps)
3. LCD screen not at the highest current resolution as seen in some DSLR's (but is great, anyway)
4. Proprietary battery is an expensive proposition, as two or three are needed for daylong trips
5. Camera case not included, and is expensive to purchase afterword
6. No prices below retail due to the high demand of the device
7. May be difficult to initially acquire due to high demand
8. Still no "universal standard" RAW mode file format - the camera manufacturers need to address this soon!
9. Mechanical noise when setting focus and moving between bright and dimply lit areas - this is the aperture being adjusted, but it can be annoying

Some Other Things I Can Tell You about this Camera (and the Powershot Line in general)

Canon's reinstatement of the venerable "S" series within the Powershot line is a welcome move to thousands of photographic enthusiasts. Although the S90 announcement a few months ago caught the photographic community by surprise, the announcement was greeted with overwhelmingly positive reactions. As a person who had been greatly impressed by my older Powershot S80, a phenomenal camera for its time and a pleasure to use, I was one of them.

Read the online posts of virtually any photography forum, and you'll quickly see there is no shortage of individuals, many of them longtime professional photographers, who have tired of carrying around anywhere from four to ten pounds of photographic equipment simply to get a few shots while out on a trip. (I think it may have been Scott Kelby who said, and I paraphrase, "The best shot is the one you take," and if the weight and size of your equipment makes it so that you end up not bringing your camera with you, you won't take any photos at all! This is a corollary to one famous photographer`s statement that there is an inverse relationship between the amount of photos you take and the amount of equipment you bring.) The problem has generally been, however, that the smaller you make the camera, the worse the image quality of the photos the device can produce. This has set up a tradeoff between image quality and camera size, and, more specially, image quality and sensor size, which for years has forced photographers to take a stand with one side of the equation or the other, and then defend to the community why they made such a choice.

Without going into too much detail here, the problem in manufacturing a compact camera that takes excellent images under a wide range of environments essentially boils down to the sensor, the electronic device that takes the place of film in older cameras. The larger the sensor, the more surface area for light to fall, and the higher the density of the sensor (in megapixels) the higher the sensor's resolution. Camera manufacturers have excelled at developing ever higher densities in sensors of the same physical dimensions -- many 12 and 14 mexapixel cameras are using sensors sized no larger than those on previous cameras possessing only 3 or 4 mexapixels -- but where they have fallen flat on their faces is in the development of sensors that have good resolution AND low noise. And the most direct impact of increasing mexapixel count on a sensor that remains static in size is the increase of electronic "noise" (also known as the "signal to noise ratio," a term used for describing all electrical circuits, whether photographic in nature, or not), resulting in photos that have a grain like appearance with miniscule spots of white and color spread throughout the entire image, spoiling the photo's clarity and diminishing its overall appearance.

The problem is that when more reactive pixels are crammed into a sensor of a fixed size, the size of the pixels themselves must be decreased to accommodate more of them within the same sensor size. But as pixels are made smaller, they also tend to emit more unwanted electrical emissions (called "noise") along with the desired output (called "signal"). As consumers have somehow mistakenly equated megapixels with quality (and the camera manufacturers have done little, if anything, to dispel this misunderstanding), camera manufacturers have released successive waves of new cameras with higher and higher resolution, but with essentially the same sized sensors. These "upgrades" have driven noise levels higher, and have resulted in more cameras capable to taking "good" photos only in full sunlight where the signal from the sensor easily overpowers its noise. (This phenomenon is best seen when taking a picture in a low light setting, say inside a building, and the photo, if it comes out blur free at all, is laden with noise spots, making the photo generally unappealing in appearance and lacking in detail and clarity.)

The approach to this problem has typically been to apply "noise reduction" processing algorithms to the image before it is written to the flash card, similar to techniques used by computer software image editing programs. And although this "after the fact" noise reduction approach can help, the truth is that, for most situations, there simply is no way to repair a photo so laden with noise: you can remove the noise, but the cost is a loss of detail, making such photos appear slightly soft and blurry, with little detail. Some cameras produce so much noise that noise reduction algorithms appear in all photos, not just low light shots, where even full sunlight shots present noise reduction artifacts in the resulting picture.

That preamble may have been a bit longer than was expected, but it is an important background to the Powershot S90, a camera that attempts to tackle the problem of low light image quality in a manner few manufacturers have generally attempted:

1. increasing the physical size of the sensor to a size larger than most point and shoot cameras
2. reducing the noise generation inherent in the hardware sensor pixels
3. increasing pixel size by reducing the number of pixels on the sensor
4. using a "fast, bright" lens with a very wide aperture (f/2 at its widest zoom level) that allows a great deal of light to pass through to the sensor

When these four approaches are employed, the result can be a portable camera that, under some conditions, can rival the performance of most entry level DSLRS, and do so in format that fits in your shirt pocket.

The Powershot S90 has just now been released, and most all initial reviews seem to be extremely positive, including my own here. Functionality on the camera is praised, particularly with Canon's implementation of a very old, but generally discarded control mechanism: a ring around the diameter of the lens element serves as a selector for variety of user-defined functions in conjunction with a small function button on the top of the camera. The unit itself is diminutive in size and weight (100 x 58 x 31 mm and 175 g , respectively) and makes use of a matte black finish with smooth curved edges that maintains the generally rectangular shape.

What is the price we pay for such performance? The primary one (and this may be a deal breaker for many) is that the camera zooms only from 28 105mm, making it effectively a 3.8x zoom, too little to be able to compare with compacts such as Panasonic's DMC-TZ5, which starts at this same wide end but (incredibly) zooms to 10x. But if we understand what the S90 is designed to do, which is to take high quality images even in less than desirable lighting conditions (at dusk, inside a cathedral, in museums, etc.), we can see Canon's strategy: don't worry about a lens that zooms across the football field and concentrate on developing a fast lens that transmits lots of light and excels at the wide end. In fact, the S90 is marketed as a camera that is particularly well suited to depth of field shots, where only one item in the frame is in focus, and the rest blurred, and in macro shots where the subject is less than 2 inches away. In this sense, we can say the camera's zoom is not a deficit in the design, but a strategy that helps the camera achieve its goals.

My Canon Powershot S80, a camera I purchased many years ago, took pictures of startling clarity and quality. While possessing similar lens characteristics to the new S90, the S80 had no anti-shake technology, could hold only up to a 2Gb SD card, and had an optical viewfinder that wasn't too accurate. But none of that mattered: the photos that came out of the camera were some of the best I took in those years, and, to boot, the camera was constructed in a quality manner that distinguished itself from all other portables at the time, and was simply a pleasure to use. Early reviewers of the S90 are reporting these very same qualities, but now with a camera that is designed to push the boundaries of portable cameras into a new standard.

COMPARE
Canon Powershot S80 8MP Digital Camera with 3.6x Wide Angle Optical Zoom

Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ5K 9MP Digital Camera with 10x Wide Angle MEGA Optical Image Stabilized Zoom (Black)
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4242 comments449 of 467 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on December 1, 2009
Be warned, I am a self professed camera geek. I believe cameras are like surfboards; you need a quiver of surfboards/cameras for the right wave/job.

The Canon S90 is - by far - my new "go to" pocket camera and the one I will always carry with me in my flight bag. I have been using it for just about a month now and after a couple thousand shots, only now am I getting comfortable with its functionality. This is NOT the camera to buy your mother-in-law for Christmas. She will never speak to you again.

My other cameras are:

Canon 7D - with 'L' series lenses.
Pentax W60 (waterproof) - for surfing, sailing, biking, hiking, skiing and handing to the kids to beat each other with over the head.
Canon SD980 - which was my *quality* pocket camera but will now be relegated purely to U/W scuba photography (since I own the U/W case anyway and would live in fear that my S90 meets the same fate as my S80 and gets flooded shark diving in Tahiti).

Here's the deal with the new Canon S90: If you are willing to delve into the sub menus and experiment it will become a very, very powerful camera in your arsenal. It can do anything the G11 can do but because of the size you might have to work a little harder initially to figure out the functionality curve. It's like flying. Once your familiar with the controls (which takes awhile) the interface becomes transparent and you can make it do just about anything you want. But it will take a lot of tinkering. No lie.

I'll leave the critique on picture quality for the professional sites but will just offer this: the results are very good for the size of the camera. The low light performance is best in class, period; and I've tried them all including the LX3 (which is also darn good but noisier - love that 24mm lens though).

Bottom line, if you want SLR quality go buy an SLR. You're not going to get the same results with the S90. Duh. If you don't like small cameras or have large fingers then maybe you should look at something like the G11. The S90 is *too small* for all of its functionality but that's the dichotomy, isn't it? The functionality is all there but by design is forced into a sometimes frustratingly cramped interface. That said, this camera is very good at what it is: a pocket camera with a wide fast lens that can shoot in RAW.

Let's talk about size. I'll agree that the build quality initially seems *cheaper* than what you would expect. That said, the case, dials, and shutter are all solid in real life day to day use. Especially the shutter. To be honest, it's a bit strange but you can't deny the light weight and I love that it's smooth and flat and easily fits into your jeans. It's as small as any compact with the exception of the lens ring/bulge and while I wish the bulge weren't there, it is what it is and the functionality of that ring is surprisingly awesome. It's definitely more pocketable than the LX3. The screen is gorgeous and I don't miss the viewfinder at all.

The power up/down flash is irritating and I pray it doesn't break but I got to admit there is less red-eye than most cameras (which is supposedly why they went with the design). As long as the motor doesn't give out because I'm inadvertently holding the flash down when it tries to pop up I'll live with it and tip my hat to Canon's engineers.

The control ring functionality is awesome and the Ring Function button is very, very functional and remains customized for each "mode" you select. In this way you can set up your camera for high speed Av photography different than for say Tv photography. Nice.

On that functionality, making this camera do what you want really boils down to getting to know the camera. After a month, I can finally adjust aperture, shutter speed, and the four directional manual white balance without thinking about it. ISO, exposure bracketing, flash intensity, metering, and continuous shooting are just a button/spin/button/spin away. Once you've memorized the function layout, exposure adjustments are fairly quick and painless. And of course you've got the outer control ring and function ring give you instant access to two of your major settings wether that be ISO, exposure metering, manual focus, white balance, zoom, aperture, or shutter speed. You're really wasting the power of this camera if you just leave it in Av so you can shoot "fast".

Whew. Exhausted yet? If you are then maybe this camera isn't for you. ;) No, seriously.

However, if you are willing to commit yourself Canon has given you the tools to get the shot you want. Or I suppose you could just leave it in AUTO.

I'll see if I can figure out how to upload some sample shots but here are some real life experiences I've had. Day shots of the NYC skyline are beautiful. A little soft compared to a Canon 7D with an 'L' series lens, but like I said before, duh. The same shot at night can be accomplished without a tripod at about 1/60 of a second. No blur. At an English Beat concert the other night I was snapping away at f2.0 (wide) and 1/100 of a second. Not always fast enough but about five times what I could do with my SD980. Stepping it down from ISO100 to 800 sped it up and while a little noisier, fit the concert like feel. Ice skating at night at Rockefeller Center (well lit) I was taking photos without the flash as if it were daytime. In summary, this camera rocks.

UPDATE: Low light photos uploaded to Amazon. Look for NYC skyline and adjacent concert pics. Unfortunately Amazon resolution is limited but you'll get the idea of what you can get away with.

The one thing I don't get is the 640X480 movie mode. I ask why, why, why knowing full well that there is an engineering answer that hasn't found its way on to the Interwebs yet. Somewhere in the software/hardware mix there must be an answer because not including HD video is inexplicable to me. On the other hand, most video I take with this kind of camera just gets uploaded to YouTube anyway so 640X480 is fine. That's what I've got a dedicated HD camcorder for. One thing I will add, the sound quality is noticeably better than any other mono point and shoot I've used. I'm not sure what's up with that but it's noticeably clearer with deeper base. Kind of a nice surprise, really.

At the end of the day this is a great camera and a very worthy successor to my beloved (and flooded) Canon S80. If you want the smallest *quality* camera you can currently buy the S90 is it. There are a few issues but that beautiful fast lens makes them bearable. If you want an SLR like interface and are willing to sacrifice the size, then you should take a serious look at the G11 (or similar). This camera is too small for that kind of interface and while the top level functions are intuitive (aperture, shutter speed, ISO) you'll have to commit yourself a little to go any deeper. The beauty is, you can!

Bottom line: If I lost this camera today I'd buy another tomorrow. From a camera geek that travels the world, that says a lot.
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11 comment127 of 130 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on October 22, 2009
Canon S90 IS is one of Canon high-end / advanced Canon Powershot compact camera. Its unique characteristics are slim, low profile body with great noise control in high ISO plus 28-105mm f/2-f/4.9 bright zoom lens. The other advantage is the camera is very pocket able. It fits in your jeans' pocket.

IMAGE QUALITY AND ISO

Canon S90 IS has 1/1.7' sensor size which is slighty smaller compare to its main competitor, Panasonic LX3 (1/1.63"). From my test, S90 IS image quality is very good across focal length but dynamic range (the difference between the brightest and darkest parts of an image) is limited . This is also a problem most of digital camera out there, but S90 is slightly worse compared to competitors.

However, regarding noise control and handling, S90 IS is excellent. The new algorithm works very well to reduce or erase most (if not all) chroma-noises which degrade image quality significantly. Image shot at ISO 1600 is very usable for regular print and web.

BODY & HANDLING

Canon S90 IS has a slim, low profile look, so it is very good for street photography. It does not attract attention like digital SLR camera.

For control, it has two main dials, both of them are round. One is located in the lens, and the back of the camera. The back dials also function as four way buttons. This design is similar to Samsung WB1000 design.

Front ring dial can be customized for several options: adjust aperture/shutter speed, ISO, exposure compensation, manual focus, white balance or zoom. The front dial is not like zoom barrel in the lens, it is not smooth, instead, it has several stops point. There will be a "click" sound to let you know if you hit the stop.

I usually use the lens dial to zoom. There are five stops in the dial: 28mm, 35mm, 50mm, 85mm and 105mm. All of them are popular focal lengths. I found this is much better way to zoom rather than traditional way (pull a lever on the shutter). It is faster, less noise and accurate. It is great for learning how focal length affect perspective and distortion too.

Mode dial is harder to change because they have put some resistant to it. It is to prevent accidental switch.

There is also a shortcut dial which you can customized to many function such as AF servo, intelligent contrast, face detection and many more.

Canon S90 has 3' 4:3 ratio LCD screen with 460k resolution. It is similar to Panasonic LX3, but better than typical compact camera. It is worse than Samsung WB1000 which has AMOLED screen (over 1 million resolution).

However, build quality is not up to par with leading advanced cameras such as Canon G11 and Panasonic LX3. It made by metal but it feels plasticky. I have a sweaty hand and it registers my fingerprint! Also because of its flat design, there is no place to secure your grip. But overall ergonomic is not bad.

OPERATION & AUTO FOCUS

Start up and turn off time is fast. It only takes around 1.5 seconds for each. Compare to LX3: around 1.75 seconds, Ricoh GRD3 : 2 seconds respectively. Auto focus is typical compact., around .75 second, will take more time if you point to low contrast subject. Camera operation is very fast and very responsive upon instruction.

COMPETITORS

Panasonic DMC-LX3K 10.1MP Digital Camera with 2.5x Wide Angle MEGA Optical Image Stabilized Zoom (Black)
Panasonic LX3 is an arch-rival of Canon S90 IS. It shares same concept of bright and wide zoom lens. However, there are many differences between the two such as the focal length, build quality, image quality and handling, please read Panasonic LX3 vs Canon S90 IS for complete comparison.

Samsung TL320 12MP Digital Camera with 5x Schneider Wide Angle Dual Image Stabilized Zoom and 3.0 inch OLED Screen (Black)
Samsung best advanced camera is similar with S90 in one way, they are both compact and has great handling. Samsung WB1000 has AMOLED LCD screen which is a lot clearer, Samsung also has wider and longer zoom. However, Canon S90 IS is better in low light condition.

Canon PowerShot G11 10MP Digital Camera with 5x Wide Angle Optical Stabilized Zoom and 2.8-inch articulating LCD
G11 is a big brother to Canon S90 IS, it has superior control and body handling, but it is much bigger in size.

CONCLUSION

Canon S90 IS is a great choice for photographer who like a lightweight, pocket able compact but doesn't want to skim on image quality and control. It has very good operational speed and have some great customizable options. I especially like the zoom ring dial on the lens, which has Digital SLR like control. S90 IS is also superior in low light situation. However, Canon S90 Is also has a downside, such as below average build quality (relative to competitors) and limited dynamic range.

Subjective rating compared to other advanced compacts in 2009

* Image quality 4/5
* Body handling 4/5
* Performance 5/5
* Features 3/5
* Value 5/5

Please check my website for image sample, ISO comparison and more reviews.
33 comments168 of 176 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on November 29, 2009
Canon S90 vs. Canon G11: A Matter of Personal Preference (I'm posting a very similar review under both the S90 and the G11.)

I've been trying to find a 'carry everywhere' camera to always keep on my person so that I don't miss the amazing things that make up the events of everyday life (like tomorrow when I actually get to get off the R train at Cortland Street in Manhattan, something I haven't been able to do for years due to construction). I wanted something that was (1) Small and (2) Had the ability for full manual controls for shutter speed and aperture. The two cameras that fit this bill very well were Canon's S90 and G11 - Canon's top of the line point and shoots in their respective series (S and G). But which one?

The two major things that the cameras have in common (in addition to the above mentioned manual controls) are:

1. The same image sensor (same size, etc)
2. The same image processor

Anyone who's written a comparison of the cameras will point this out quickly - because normally 'which camera' would come down to these one of these two issues. In addition to these things, there are dozens of other features that both cameras share: this makes it very difficult to decide "which camera?" Having owned both of them (but ultimately deciding to go with the G11 and returning the S90) I would like to make a short list of positive/negatives which I think could be deciding factors when trying to choose between these two excellent cameras. Instead of listing both positive and negative points by each camera, I'll simply point out the positives of each that the other model does not share - I hope that this is helpful in your decision!

S90: Advantages

- Very compact: quite a bit smaller than the G11, it would easily fit in pockets and cases that the G11 never could. If you're into Pelican cases like I am, you can fit the S90 in the Pelican Micro Case 1010 with room to spare.

- More efficient controls: the ring around the lens is amazing and an excellent idea. Especially when in manual mode, this makes setting aperture and shutter speed a snap (it's more awkward on the G11 - you have to use the small back dial and then toggle between aperture and shutter speed with a separate button which can get to be messy when you're trying to shoot quickly).

- The f2.0 lens: a full stop faster than the G11's 2.8 lens. This is a LOT of light, and especially important when you want to take photos in low-light situations (note though that the lens on the S90 doesn't zoom in far as the G11 if that's important to you - both lenses are the same focal length when zoomed out).

G11: Advantages

- Hot shoe: but on a compact? Some people will say "it's pointless to use an external flash on a compact camera - the whole point is to be compact!" That's a valid critique, but at the same time there are times when it's nice to be able to throw a flash on a compact if you really need one. I own the 430EX and the 580EX II (both compatible) but I picked up the newish 270EX with the G11 and it works fantastically with the camera without adding a lot of weight. Both the camera and the flash fit perfectly into the Pelican 1060 case side by side but with enough room to stay padded with the foam insert. And hey - if I want to throw the nearly-twice-as-big-as-the-camera-itself 580EX II on the G11 I can do it! Yet I can also do without it - the camera is versatile this way in a way that the S90 is not.

- Vari-Angle LCD: which at first I found annoying. The screen adds just enough bulk to the camera that it does not fit in smaller cases which it otherwise would. When I first got the camera I was really rather annoyed by it in fact - not only because of the bulk but because it is actually smaller than the LCD on the S90. I had to read another review to realize that it was a much better thing than I realized - because it allows you to hold the camera at all sorts of different levels and angles while still allowing you to see what you're shooting. I really enjoy doing photography with the camera low to the ground (I have an angled viewfinder for my DSLR) and so this works perfectly for what I need. As others have pointed out, the Vari-Angledness of the LCD allows you to flip it while in storage so that it's even more protected.

- Remote Shutter Release: you can use one! I love doing night photography and that the G11 allows me to use a cable release really seals the deal on the S90 vs. G11 for me personally (granted on the S90 you can always use the 2 second self-timer). Good news too if you use a Canon Rebel DSLR - it's the same cable release.

Both the S90 and the G11 are beautiful, well made cameras that will serve any photographer well when you're looking for something that's not DSLR sized.
0Comment37 of 37 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on February 17, 2010
I've agonized about which compact camera to buy, the G11 or the S90 for a couple of weeks. In the end I bought the S90 and some of the reviews really helped me, so here's my contribution to the people making that decision today:

Do you own a DSLR? Definitely go with the S90.

Are you looking for a camera to take in your pocket? No doubt about it, go with the S90. I've used the G10 and G11 and, believe me, there's NO WAY you are taking them in your pocket!

The big differences between the two, which I'm fairly sure you all know by now are:

- The focal length (105mm for the S90 and 140mm for the G11)
- The manual controls
- The size
- The hot-shoe (only the G's have them)
- The flash

Well, let me start by addressing one of the main complaints I've been reading about, the fact that the rear wheel is "loose"and that you can change your definitions without noticing it. It was a concern when I bought the camera and, to my surprise, it has NEVER been an issue while shooting. I don't have small hands and I don't know how other people hold a compact camera, but for it works like clockwork, no problem whatsoever. I even dare to say that if it was a bit harder to move it, it might take from the easiness of changing your controls before shooting the picture.

The difference in focal length doesn't bother me. Would it be nice to have more on the S90? Yeah, sure. But is it a concern? No, not for me. I'm strictly against using the digital zoom, but on the few times I tried just to see the result, I confess I was a bit surprised (on the good side) by it.

The manual controls are exceptional, the combination of frontal ring, back ring and shortcut button make it easy to change configurations and control the camera. And for those of you wondering about the speed in doing it, I can say that I've been taking pictures to make a book about the life guard service here and it's all about speed. Sometimes I take the S90 to the beach instead of the big DSLR's because people won't even notice me taking pictures with it, and the DSLR's always cause a fuss, specially when people are being rescued and are ashamed to be seen in that light...

As for the size, I bought it to have a everyday camera always with me and this is the perfect one for this. A couple of friends decided to buy one after seeing mine (one of them is abandoning his G10 for it). And I was very, very pleasantly surprised by the image quality and camera quality I got with the S90, I never regretted choosing it and now, after having handled a G10 and a G11, I think I would be mad with me if I had chosen the G11 instead of the S90.

Some reviewers have questioned the built quality of the S90, but I don't have any complaints about it, and it has been living in my pocket for over a month now, receiving some fairly rough treatment sometimes. As for the shutter release on the S90, yes, it is in a bit awkward position to be sure, but after one or two days with the camera you'll adjust to it. Is it a serious problem? Not even close!

Regarding the hot-shoe and flash: well, I own two DSLR's, so if I want to put a big flash on top of the camera, I'll take the big one. It might be different for people who are buying this as their only camera. I hate flash and avoid using it always, even bumping the ISO to the moon, but, on the occasion I used the in-camera flash I was amazed by it's power.

When I'm shooting "professionally" I tend to go with the RAW + JPEG mode, but sometimes I prefer to use the strict JPEG mode and it has a very interesting color control that helps eliminate the need for working the files later on. Anyway, you can change that configuration in about 2 to 3 seconds if you need to (the RAW/JPEG, because the colors are even faster).

A lot of reviewers and photographers talk about the S90 exceptional AutoWhite Balance, but I don't really like it, I tend to prefer choosing presets all the time (I don't like the auto WB in my NIkon's DSLR's either), but that is also very easy and fast to do in this camera.

Well, that's about it. I'm sure there are other reviews discussing the technical details more deeply, but I've been a VERY HAPPY S90 owner for the past month or so and I'm sure glad that I chose the S90 instead of the G11. To tell you the truth, I don't see much reason in buying the G11, as it is not a compact camera, it is not a DSLR, it is not lightweight, so it's a middle everything. But the S90, and I've been hearing the same opinion from others for the past weeks, seems like the queen of compacts for now (I hope the manufacturers start a "fully manual compact" cameras war now).

I believe that, for most buyers, the S90 will always be the smart choice!
0Comment36 of 36 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
VINE VOICEon December 5, 2009
I'm a very amateur camera user. I understand the basic terms and settings (ISO, aperture, shutter speed, image stabilization, exposure) but I am impatient and like to get things set and just use the camera.

I bought this camera because I wanted the ability to use the camera indoors in low light without a flash. Due to the relatively high price, my expectations were high.

My cam was delivered just last week, and having used it at an event in a local bar the best word I can use to describe this camera is "magic". This camera takes in so much light it really seems like magic.

The event I was documenting was in a very dimly lit room. The only lighting sources in the room were incandescent chandeliers dimmed as low as they would go.

I set my iso to 1000 in aperture priority mode, f2.0 (this level is only available in the widest zoom), adjusted white balance for incandescent, and took some shots. Most of the shots used 1/6-second shutter speed, which was just fine due to the image stabilized lens. The IS performance is improved over my last Canon compact. I don't have steady hands, and I like to take quick sloppy shots. If the IS in this cam can handle my hands, a very-careful steady shooter could probably get away with 1/4 second. The resulting images were so bright and had such great color everyone that saw them was in awe. The resulting images appeared more bright and colorful than with a naked eye. Shooting with such high ISOs is like having night vision built into the camera. Noise levels were low enough and color was so good that I can easily print very nice 5x7s from this night.

I took a few candid shots of people in motion at the bar, so I had to bump the ISO to 1600 to get a faster shutter speed (at ISO 1600 I got about 1/30sec in the dimly lit bar). At ISO 1600, color is still acceptable and very nice 4x6 prints, web postings, and email will be no problem. ISO 1600 on this cam is comparable to what most compact cams produce at ISO 400. I've never seen a compact cam take such great shots using high-ish ISO settings.

I am just as happy with the results as when using my EOS 20D digital SLR. A critical professional may argue that this cam isn't as great as an SLR, but for normal-sized prints and digital sharing, this camera makes images that are as good as a consumer SLR.

My last compact was a Canon SD800is. I love that camera, but images are mostly unusable above ISO400, due to muted color, and grain. The S90 goes two full ISO stops beyond what can be done with a typical $300 compact camera. Combine high-ISO performance with the f2.0 option and you can take great shots in 1/3 of the light required for most $300 compact cams.

Adjusting camera settings is a dream. I am just as in control as I am with my EOS 20D SLR. I've used friends' canon rebel SLRs, and the controls on this compact are even better than them. Between the front ring, rear dial, and shortcut button, you have instant control of three camera functions without even really looking. All of the controls are customizable. If you've ever used other canon cameras in the past, you won't really even need to use the excellent printed manual (yes! a printed manual!).

I've not taken enough shots with it to test whether the battery can actually deliver 200 from a charge, but 200 isn't really great battery performance and I bought a backup battery from an Amazon marketplace seller for longer outings (under $30 shipped).

I also highly recommend the Canon compact leather case. This camera easily fits in any pocket, but I'm pretty sure that pocket lint and dust is what did in my last compact camera. The Canon compact leather case for the S90 mounts on your belt and offers light protection away from keys and pocket lint.

The body is comparable in size to Canon elphs. My SD800 elph is 1/2in shorter, but the height and thickness is identical (not counting the lens ring, which makes the overall thickness of the S90 slightly thicker). I posted comparison pics between the SD800 and the S90 in the gallery.

The rear display is really sharp and is viewable outdoors. I haven't bought a new camera in over three years and the display blew me away compared to my other cameras. I really can't compare the display to newer cams.

Simply judging by the way it feels in the hand, the build quality is just average.

The only real performance weakness is continuous shooting. Continuous shooting is really really slow.

If you want a compact and think you'll ever want to photograph dimly lit subjects without a flash, this is THE camera to own. The price is 40% higher, but it takes in 300% more light. Unless you're shooting a lot of action, this cam is probably a better choice for people considering consumer-level SLRs like the Canon rebel line.

I can't imagine anyone regretting buying this camera. It beats other compact pocket sized cameras by a wide margin.
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on November 16, 2009
The Canon S90 is so handy that my WIFE loves it--With image quality so good that a SERIOUS photographer loves it too.

The Canon S90 "just works." It's so small, light, and easy to use, that I always have it with me and always get great image quality. (You don't get great pictures if the camera's too bothersome to bring along.)

Panasonic's LX3 is the one other compact that matches S90 image quality--But the LX3's a little too big for my pockets and its low light images are noisier. What the LX3 DOES offer are much wider angle images (24mm--18mm with adapter lens, vs. the S90's 28mm). For wide and ultra-wide angle shooting, I use the LX3--For everything else (convenience, and low light) I use the S90. Both cameras are excellent.

The S90 (and LX3) are the ONLY compacts with image quality good enough to blend into my Nikon D700 "slide shows."

Finally, a HUGE plus, the S90 (and LX3) shoot in RAW, not just JPEG. Their RAW format lets me do AMAZING things with their images in digital editors like Adobe Camera Raw/Photoshop, Nikon Capture NX2, and DxO Optics Pro.
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on October 25, 2009
I decided to purchase a new pocket camera to take on a trip to Disney World. I needed low light capabilities for indoor and nighttime pictures without a flash and a wide angle lens. I purchased two cameras and compared them for several days prior to the trip. The two cameras were the Sony WX1/B and the Canon S90. Each has its advantages and disadvantages. The Sony is smaller, has better battery life, and does HD video. It has some unique and interesting modes including the rapid 10 shot and slick panoramic modes. The Canon has faster glass (f/2.0), full manual controls, a unique flexible control ring/dial, RAW capability, great build quality/feel and very low noise levels for a pocket camera. Its battery charger requires only two hours. The downsides of the Sony include a slow included battery charger (6 hours but you can buy a faster charger for $50), cheaper build quality/feel, and really poor auto white balance requiring constant manual tweaking. The contrast and exposure levels on the Sony images were also inconsistent and almost always worse than those on the Canon requiring a trip to Photoshop for corrections. The Sony also had higher noise levels at all ISO values than the Canon. Lastly, the Sony engineers messed up placement of the flash. At the widest lens angle, the lens actually blocks the flash from illuminating the lower left corner of the image. The downsides of the Canon are it's larger size (but still pocketable), the lack of HD video, worse battery life (buy a second battery) and its narrower zoom range (28-105 mm equivalent vs. the Sony's 25-120 mm). The bottom line was that I was getting a camera mainly for pictures and while I will miss the HD video and some of the Sony's special modes, the picture quality of the Canon was superior to the Sony. Its low light capabilities were also greater with the faster lens, its own lower resolution high sensitivity mode, and lower noise levels. I sent the Sony back and kept the Canon. I took about 700 pictures and shot about 50 videos with the Canon on my trip and feel that I clearly made the right choice. While the Sony was good, the Canon was the winner for me. Even in auto mode, the Canon took consistently good pictures. This was important when handing the camera to someone to shoot a picture of me. For me, it was all about the picture quality.
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on January 3, 2010
I love this camera! I realized that most of the pictures I take are indoors, and using the flash makes the pictures look horrible, so I set out on a quest to find a good compact camera that could handle low light. I looked at the micro 4/3 cameras but they were a little too big. My last camera was the Canon G9, it was better in low light than my previous Lumix but not great. I am not a Pro, Semi-Pro, or even an Amateur Enthusiast photographer. I don't care about the manual controls. I want to put my camera in full auto and have it take nice looking pictures. Boy does this camera deliver. The indoor no-flash shots are AMAZING. Compared to the G9 it focuses in low light situations very quickly and the results are clear and beautiful. It can take photos usable in 3X5 size in candle light! As you should expect from any camera daylight shots are also great. I have never experienced anything even remotely close to the performance of this camera in the pocketable variety.

If you are an average consumer who just wants a pocketable camera that takes really great pictures in both low light and full light stop fretting and press the add to cart button. This camera is well worth the extra $100 over other point and shoots as it makes your camera usable for the other half of the day when the sun has gone down and other point and shoots totally fail. It seems most of the reviews that disparage this camera are comparing it to DSLR performance. And yes, a honkin' huge DSLR will take better pictures, but only if you actually bothered to lug it out with you. I was very hesitant to spend so much on a camera, but since I first took this bad boy out of its packaging I have been nothing but impressed, and am so glad I didn't cheap out. You don't need to be at all serious about photography to buy this camera, you just need to want to take vastly superior photos when you push the "take photo" button. BUY IT!

Time owned: 2 months
Photos taken: Hundreds
Profile: Full auto, total amateur, no aspirations to be anything else
Satisfaction Level: I have never been so satisfied with a camera's performance!
Recommendation: Look past the price and buy it!
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on May 23, 2010
I'm a professional photographer (who shoots Nikon for digital and 35mm) and was looking for a quality camera to have with me for personal use. I certainly don't feel like dragging around my Linhof large format or even my Nikon D3 with the huge body, lenses etc. for general photo taking. Unfortunately Nikon doesn't make a high quality point and shoot with a fast lens (which is the opposite for pro DSLRs... Nikon is a step ahead of Canon these days).

I was looking into buying the new Canon SD4000 which was just announced because it is so compact, but after looking into all the features, this S90 is still a far superior camera if photo quality, features and manual operation are what you're after, and they are basically the same price. This S90 is also barely larger than the SD4000. They both have the f/2.0 lens which is virtually unheard of on a pocket camera and the ISO performance is very good considering the size of these things, and the amount of technology that needs to be squeezed into this tiny body. The SD4000 has these features, but the customizable rings on this S90 alone make this a much better choice for anyone looking for a real camera. Also, the sensor on this camera is larger and the backlit sensor on the SD4000 can make some good low-light photos but will create lower-quality photos for general picture taking.

With the ability to control aperture, iso, exposure compensation etc. on the S90 with the rings, and with the small size, high-end sensor and fast lens, this is the best point and shoot you can get. This has the same innards as the more expensive, large, unwieldy G11 but with A FASTER LENSE (better low-light photos etc.). The only drawback to this camera is that it's aimed at people who want great photos, not a bunch of gimmicks or conflicting features... so there's no HD video, only standard (and great looking) video capture. I bought the S90 because I'm a photographer and I want to take great photos with something that fits in my pocket, and for that there is no better camera on the market as of late May 2010. The S90 doesn't have the low-light performance or give me the bokeh of my D3, but that thing (without lenses) cost me $5,000 and is like carrying a toaster around.
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