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Monday, 04 October 2010

Comments

I got the Sony TX-5 for similar reasons. After a couple of months of use, I find it could be a bit more responsive and it could have more buttons (touchscreen), but here's the kicker: it's waterproof. Something to consider in a carry-everywhere camera.

I've taken it to the pool and snapped pics and dunked in the water. I've taken it to festivals and gotten it sticky (beer!) and just washed it off, without it skipping a beat.

You know, it's not fair. It shouldn't be that good.

I'm so sorry that production runs for p&s cameras seem to be so short these days. By the time my old one broke and I decided to buy a Fuji f31, it was nearly sold out and it hadn't been out a year yet at that point. Finding one 2nd-hand was (is) not easy. By the time I might need another p&s, the S90 and S95 will be out of production and probably similarly unavailable 2nd-hand since people will have snapped them up.

They don't make it easy for cheapskates like me who like to buy used. It's not that the camera isn't worth what it's selling for, it's just that it's not worth it to me, who may only need a p&s for 50-100 pics a year. They should build a zillion of them for 2-3 years, drop the new selling price by $100 and they'd own that market. Then I'd have lots of 2nd-hand ones to pick from in 2 years.

It was easier finding used Rollei 35s. The market just isn't mature enough, I guess.

Also apropos some of the comments in the article: http://www.redferret.net/?p=23466

Nice essay, Ed. My S90 has been my trusted pocket camera for nearly a year for all the reasons you cite regarding the new model. It's a sturdily-constructed little hand cam.


New York Salon, 2009

I find that the camera often does the best when I let it mostly stretch its well-engineered legs. I most often set the lens nearly wide-open in AV mode but let the camera choose its ISO. I even let it record in (GASP!) JPG and find that that's where the camera often shines best. I shouldn't be surprised as most of the r&d investment certainly went toward the JPG engine.

Just last week I trusted it to capture a one-chance-in-a-lifetime casual portrait in a setting where any larger camera would have been inappropriate. Mission accomplished...It performed admirably! (You'll have to take my word, since I am unable to display the image here at least at this time.)

So if you're looking for what must be the best pocket-able camera look no further than the Canon S90/S95.

These issues are the main reason I never replaced my Panasonic LX-3 with a GF-1.

I haven't used a camera without a viewfinder for at least 4 years. Unfortunately, last Tuesday I got robbed (at gunpoint, terrifying) and my camera is now in a police evidence room after being recovered. I don't know when I will get it back.

I've had to start using my wife's little, ancient (relatively) Canon SD630 for my 365 project. I find that it is making me look at things differently, plus it is less intimidating when I want to take some street portraits. The overall image quality is poorer, but the images are stronger.

I value the viewfinder for separating me from the scene around me and forcing me to isolate what I want to photograph. But it appears that I also have to value the lack of a viewfinder for including me in the scene and making the photograph a little about me also.

The point is, image quality is important, but as you point out, the content of the photo might just (if you think hard and ignore certain forums) be kinda important too :)

This cam is now definitely on my short list of future photography purchases.

Very nicely done. I especially enjoyed the "interview" section. Nice to see something presented using a different literary "formula".

(I own the S90 and the LX5... The LX5 "fits" into a pocket but does not "slip" into a pocket the way the S90 and S95 do. The real difference is that you really don't know the S90 is there; while the LX5 makes itself known.)

The pelican looks OOF, and what kind of a "professional" camera doesn't have an optical viewfinder?

Nice review. A lot of good points. What's interesting to me is that the accomplished photographer you talked with actually seems to have lower requirements than many dedicated amateurs. The pro wants art (something that is 'serviceable') whereas amateurs often are trying to snapshot memories (so things like overall IQ and detail are often very important).

Despite being disappointed with the Panasonic LX3, I've been giving looking at LX5 samples a lot lately...

Excellent review. I too, found this camera struggles a bit with low light, but its ISO 800 was very good. This is still not the camera fro capturing running children in indoor lighting without flash, but with its controls and flash plus very good ISO control, it can "get the shot" and that's what's important. Small size also helps portability which assists the "get the shot" mantra. In good light it is excellent. the only weakness in video is the 24fps. 30fps as an alternative would have been better IMO.Thanks for the review.

I was this -><- close to getting an S90 and even went to BestBuy to pick one up (the only place around that had one in stock at the time). The kid there turned me off so much that I left in disgust and went to a camera shop and ended up with a Fuji F80EXR instead. I would much rather have the S90 but for nothing else other than principal I will not go back to that place. Worst service EVER!

The kid was popping his gum, totally not interested in serving me in any way shape or form and I almost threw his iPhone at the wall to get him to stop texting whomever he was texting.

In my quest for a small size camera I purchased an S90 and liked it very much. It's stealth low light capabilities are astounding...better than most others. I know that my DSLR will produce better quality images in most situations but frankly in all but a few of those situations the DSLR wouldn't get used at all. As an example I took images of my family the other day while they were wearing 3-D glasses in the very dark movie theater. Quality? Sucks of course. But I have the images.

What I don't have is the camera. My daughter "Borrowed" it before her trip to Barcelona. "Wow this is a great camera dad. It fits right into my pocket and takes pictures in the dark." Well her birthday is coming up.

Thanks for the review and rationale of the S9x. I have an S90, a GF1, 20D and my usage and experience is pretty much the same as Ed's. I shoot 90% raw and process in Lightroom. Printing S90 images on 13x19 paper with a 1-1.5 inch border makes satisfactory prints. The only thing missing in the S90 is an eyelevel viewfinder.
bd

I also like a small camera with a big sensor so when the S90 came out I bought one for my wife. Unfortunately we had to send it back because the images it took were so heavily processed that they didn't look like the scenes I was photographing. The worst was a head shot lit from below -- the camera changed it into a head shot with no apparent light source. Also the movie mode had severe moire which mean any movie with grass in it was unwatchable. Does the S95 have either of these problems?

My brother and I both have the G11 (as well as DSLRs), and we both agree with everything said here re image quality. Unless you print larger than 11x14 it's hard to tell the difference from DSLR images.

My brother recently did an experiment, taking nearly identical highly detailed landscape pics with his G11 and his 550D, using a tripod, then making 8x10 color prints, from both RAW and jpeg. Looking at the prints he couldn't see any advantage to the DSLR. On screen at 100% he could see the DSLR's higher resolution.

I did a similar test with my Pentax K20d using the super sharp 43mm Ltd lens. In 11x14 prints I could see only a slight difference if I looked very closely. With 8x10-ish prints no advantage could be seen for the K20. In addition, I do B&W printing (11x14 max) and have found the G11 images much easier to convert to BW than the Pentax images, plus the G11 sensor does a better job with subtle changes in color shadings in foliage. Over all, I'm getting better results with the G11 and the images require less time and fussing in the workup stage.

Both my brother and I have found that we use our DSLRs far less often since getting the G11. Canon has done an amazing job with these small sensors (the G11, G12, S90 and S95 I think all use the same or very similar sensor).

Clayton

Hi Edward -thanks for the comprehensive hands-on review. I was struck though by this sentence.

"But it is fairly responsive. It handles well and doesn’t have too much shutter lag. The big wheel around the lens and the other controls make adjustments rather speedy."

Damned by faint praise? I'm afraid excellence in these characteristics is pretty much everything I want in a camera that has to be with you and ready to shoot. Image quality is nuthin really....

No professional video camera I'm familiar with has an optical viewfinder. Seeing the actual image being captured, via EVF, is a much better deal for the videographer.

The same is true for digital still cameras -- seeing what's actually being captured is a big win. The boost in dark situations is also appreciated.

I sold my S90. There is nothing wrong with it, I just never felt quite comfortable with it, ergonomically.

The LX5 I bought to replace it handles much better, but I haven't yet figured out how to get acceptable image quality from it. Of late, I find myself carrying around my DSLR (!).

Bill -

I assure you that with the exception of some motion blur in the feet and wing tips, the pelican is sharp. That photo did not tolerate downsizing as well as it might have. It was included to demonstrate responsiveness anyway.

I understand that you would like a viewfinder, but in response to your statement suggesting that a 'professional' camera must have a viewfinder - that is simply arbitrary. I could say a professional camera must have at least 30 megapixels and be medium format, but that would be just as silly. I am sure 35mm film cameras were not considered professional until professionals started using them. Digital cameras certainly weren't considered professional until newspapers and magazines started publishing digital photos. Whether a camera is professional or not is just a silly concept. A viewfinder would add to the size and therefore diminish this camera. There is a learning curve, but I am now pretty comfortable using cameras without viewfinders. As videographers can tell you, viewfinders can actually be quit limiting. You can only see with your eye touching the camera, which limits the angles you can get. I personally don't like lying in a field to get a low angle photo, but I can frame a shot on an LCD with my face 3 feet away. I think learning to use an LCD for framimg a photo is really important these days.

Look at Ken Tanaka's photo above, and tell me this camera cannot produce professional results.

BTW Ken, I love that photo!

Ed

I have been really impressed with the face detection on my S90, another great feature.

Another nice capability of the S90/95 is triggering off-camera flash. The S90/95 set to manual mode and manual flash, with flash output turned to minimum, can be used to trigger an SB-800 in the SU-4 mode.

"To be honest, even carrying a Micro 4/3 camera or a large point and shoot like a G11 is cumbersome."

I certainly agree about µ4/3 and its other similar small, mirrorless, interchangeable lens competitors. The small bodies are seductive in size, especially those with only an LCD. Add any lens other than, perhaps, a fixed focal length pancake and they become no more pocketable than a small DSLR. The form factor is simply impossible for carrying in a way that is unobtrusive to both the photographer and others.

On the other hand, I opted for the G11, rather than the S90. 11 months and 1800+ images later, I still believe I made the right choice.

The articulated screen is a huge advantage for me. I previously chose an A650 over the G9 primarily for that reason. I enjoy and regularly use the ability to achieve shooting angles impossible or extremely difficult with DSLR or fixed LCD P&S styles. Not insignificantly, it also makes it possible to find a usable angle in bright sun that would make a fixed screen impossible to see clearly. It simply makes the camera a more flexible tool. When I am carrying the 5D, I generally carry the G11 as well, for those shots for which the 5D is awkward or impossible.

Size and pocket-ability is a highly personal issue. I've carried smallish digital cameras for over nine years. The first few, Canon S110, Fuji F10 & F30, are smaller than the S90/95. Yet I almost never carried them in my pockets. I suppose a factor is how I dress, seldom with suitable pockets for that size. More important, I think, is responsiveness. In a pocket, access is always at least somewhat awkward and slow.

I ended up carrying them in belt pouches. They are relatively unobtrusive and provide very quick access that, importantly, is consistent, no matter what I am wearing. The horizontal carry 'holster' for the Fujis is a particularly great design for a combination of security and instant access.

Since I had already settled on belt carry for cameras a bit smaller than the S90/95, the somewhat larger size of the G11 wasn't such an issue for me. The articulated screen, longer zoom range and other factors weighed more heavily for me.

The real issue turned out to be finding a suitable belt carrier. Canon sold a nice little leather belt pouch in Canada for the S110, but have made kludgy belt pouches for their small cameras I've had since. Mesh pockets and strap loops? They catch on things. Storage for batteries and cards? They make it too big and clumsy.

What I want is the smallest package possible, with a smooth exterior and horizontal form factor. I found the almost perfect case in a clearance bin at a local photo shop. I says Nikon on the flap, and the catch is velcro, instead of the magnetic catch of the Fujis, but it's the perfect size, with horizontal form and cut-out for hand strap at the back, so the camera slips in and out easily at the right angle to be instantly in shooting hold in my hand and with instant access to the strap.

As to the rest of the review, I generally agree. Image quality isn't up to any DSLRs or the larger sensor µ4/3 and it's ilk. But, it's better than any other small sensor camera I've used and more than good enough for many uses.

Although I try to use IS before ISO, quite good images are available up to 400, if you don't pixel peep too hard. 800 isn't bad and even at ISO 3200, the images are quite usable for many purposes. Using RAW, good noise reduction software and selective masking of more than one NR setting, much better images than you might imagine may be made in situations where there is no other way to capture the image.

The old saw says any camera in hand is better than the best one on the shelf. The images I capture with the G11 are better than ones not captured at all. (I had fun at that party and saved the fun and memories for everyone.)

Moose

My relationship to my cameras and photography has changed as a result of buying the S90 when it came out last year. Here are a few extra intangibles that make the S90/95 such a winner, and how it has redefined my DSLR:

For years my Panny LX1 was my compact of choice; it handled like a camera that was designed for photographic thinking (and shooting). Quickly autofocusing and switching to manual focus via the dedicated switch made for reasonable shot-to-shot speed. Something you can do with the S90/95 as well, although not quite as efficiently given the location of that control switch. I miss the handling of my LX1 (and the color palette) but for me the S90 is the right tool for the job. I'm sure the LX5 handles beautifully but it appears to me that the high ISO Achilles Heel is still present.

The second handling advantage required a mental shift as the reviewer pointed out. When I got my S90, I discovered a camera that really didn't want me to think too much. "Really, you want to do all that work? C'mon-allow me and just have fun," is what it kept telling me for two months before I finally got it: Put the camera in P (program) mode, use exposure compensation (and RAW if you like as I do) and fire away. Auto ISO most of the time and you're there. Beware the occasional overexposure if you compensate more than +/- 1/3 but otherwise with RAW you're almost always golden.

Finally, as one who likes to shoot into the sun and other light sources, the S90/95 has very good highlight and midtone gradation, particularly for a compact Canon camera. Gone (mostly) is the grey midtone patina and white highlight blobs that characterize so much digital photography. Shooting RAW, exposing to the right, and using all the tools in Lightroom to spread the histogram and contrast yields images that really sing in the highlights.

Sure, the S90/95 is not DSLR quality but it's plenty good enough. I find myself rethinking the DSLR paradigm for personal shooting: It's a great platform for dedicated, deliberate photography time, which for me now means *manual* focus and exposure. (Hello, MF lenses!) Ah, the irony...

My little Panasonic ZS7 has an incredible telephoto zoom ratio and weighs next to nothing. It is my always with me camera. Takes nice pics too. I am sure the guy with the 8x10 got a nice shot as well.


Photobucket

I'm liking my S95. But, (1) I wish it was programmable instead of just menu-driven, but that's a beef about all current cameras. (2) I find the control wheel around the lens is in the wrong place for this camera, however natural it may be on larger cameras. For me, the natural position of the left hand is to hold the left side of the camera, with the camera held out to see the display, so it's a stretch to reach around to the wheel. I almost don't use it. An extra thumb wheel on the right of the camera back would be quicker to use. The button on top of the camera for changing the choice of what the wheel controls is also in an awkward place.
(3) It's a shame the widest aperture when zoomed in reduces so much, to 4.9. (4) Not as big a deal, but the HDR mode is crippled because it's buried as a Scene Mode so one loses all control. It could have been an option whenever exposure bracketing is chosen.

I'm still hung up on:
Me: Then what is the real problem with small cameras?

He: The real problem is responsiveness. Far more photographers care about responsiveness or shutter lag. Very few point and shoots react quickly when the shutter is pressed.

In a nutshell, this is why I bought a DSLR to begin with. If I had been able to buy a small camera that fired as quickly as my film cameras, I never would have shackled myself to that mass of metal and plastic. It is possible that if burst mode hadn't been hobbled, I wouldn't have switched at all.*

I remain baffled that small cameras don't put the lens at the hyper-focal distance for a given zoom setting. (Which should be pretty doable at distances greater than 1 meter) Continuously calculating exposure that is at least "almost right" shouldn't be that difficult either, at least outdoors. (It's not as though there's much to choose from for aperture!) I have heard that the problem is the time it takes to close and re-open the shutter in order to blank the sensor to take an image. Surely the electronic rangefinders of the late 35mm point-and-shoot era didn't cease to exist? Would it really have been so hard to park an electronic sensor in an Olympus XA, or an Mju? Or design a two-sensor, TLR-like camera that has a separate taking and viewing lens? (I wonder if any of the new 3d cameras take advantage of this.) Le sigh, le grump

In any case, I've discovered pixel peeping, and beautiful, detail saturated 8x10s. So, clearly I'm stuck on the large sensor treadmill for a while - though I'll be keeping a close eye on shutter responsiveness in compact cameras. And on the price of the E-PL1, which dropped to US $510 this afternoon.


*it returns to single-shot mode when restarted.

Small camera with big sensor? - Rollei 35!

I too pre-ordered the S95 the day I read of its release on TOP. It's great for street work because people pay it no mind—unlike my DSLRs. In principle I hated the lack of a viewfinder, but in practice I can concentrate on the back display with nearly the same intensity/focus I always use on a DSLR viewfinder.

And a BIG difference from 4/3 cameras is the S95 costs much less. I'll use it for a couple of years, but which time a 4/3 camera will cost half what it does now. In the meantime, I'll have captured a lof of life's details as I go about my business.

No doubt Walker Evans would appreciate it as a useful tool. No doubt too that will provoke some readers. ;-)

Having given my grown sons my Sony A100 & A700, it was with some consternation I watched them grab my NEX 5 (16mm lens) or my wife's HX 5 (yes, I admit I'm a Sony fanboy) whenever they wanted to document family occasions on a recent visit. Younger eyes don't need an OVF. Because the cameras were set to RAW & JPEG, I got to process everything at a later date in Aperture 3. I am amazed at the IQ.Obviously, the size allowed for more grab and shoot. But it's all about content. The best camera still is the one in you hand.

Can someone please tell me, when did 1/1.7" CCD become a "big sensor"? Thanks !

Um.

I'm slightly torn in my reaction to reading this. Part of me says "Yes! finally a P&S worth considering!" Another, larger, frankly slightly sceptical part of me says "you have just read an advertisement", albeit one titled "Canon S95 Review". Some of that is the reference to unnamed museum curators and pro photographers who apparently have gone out to buy S95s. There's not enough market comparison within the article to make me think this is an objective review, so subjective it must be. That's not a bad thing, so long as I remember that IMO it's subjective.

A. Non,

Were you using the "iContrast" feature? If that's turned on, the S90 will brighten the shadow areas and the results are... inconsistent (mostly bad). Best IQ from the S90 comes from RAW, but if you tweak the color and contrast settings for JPEG's you can get some very nice results.

"I understand that you would like a viewfinder, but in response to your statement suggesting that a 'professional' camera must have a viewfinder - that is simply arbitrary. I could say a professional camera must have at least 30 megapixels and be medium format, but that would be just as silly. I am sure 35mm film cameras were not considered professional until professionals started using them. Digital cameras certainly weren't considered professional until newspapers and magazines started publishing digital photos."

Very true. I remember being confused by some references in the literature to "miniature" format cameras...applied to 2 1/4 rollfilm Rolleis!! It seems that among a certain crowd, at a certain time, "real" pros used press cameras (with 4x5 negs, in case anyone doesn't know what a press camera is--think Weegee), and I had uncovered one such guy scorning "little" medium-format cameras....

And so it goes.

Mike

It's nice to see I'm not alone in loving the merits of small compact cameras, for my sins I adore ricoh, I've owned the GX100 and was bowled over by the quality it produced both raw and jpeg files were beautiful, and it was so unobtrusive.
When ricoh launched the new GR Digital 3 I decided to sell the GX and buy one. I love the view the 28mm lens gives, it just sits well with me, ever since I started taking pictures I have loved the 28mm so for me it was a no brainer. It goes everywhere with me, I have been astounded by the improvement in sensor quality ricoh have made.
I have also purchased the wide attachment a cracking piece of glass.

I also like the fact it does not intimidate folk you may take pictures of, they assume I guess that you are just another tourist, so tend to just ignore you.
The macro setting is fantastic and when used on this setting can give you beautiful bokeh.

Do I miss the GX and its zoom? no, I love the GRD 3, lastly but by no means least the build quality is granite like, I have unfortunately dropped it a few times onto a variety of surfaces when I used the wrist lanyard, it's bounced and bears one of two scars but performs as faultlessly as it did when I unwrapped it fresh from the box.

I have since purchased the camera strap ricoh make and wished I had done so when I originally bought it, it would have saved the drops onto flooring.

As Mike and his friends says don't get anal about sensor size and all that usual garbage, try it you will wish you had done it sooner. It is wonderfully liberating experience to have just a camera of this type and go walkabout taking pictures. I chuckle when I see overburdened photographers carrying enough kit to sink a battleship and invariably missing the shot because of it, so give yourself a buzz and dip your toe in the world of the quality compact.

Have a look at potential rival Samsung EX1 (TL500 in the U.S. and Canada): Zoom lens going from 24mm to 72mm with f/1.8 at 24 (!) and - as if that wasn't enough:: f/2.4 at 72mm!

And it's video options are lousy too...

The high-end compacts are getting more and more interesting.

I bought my wife an S95 for her birthday. Saturday I took the camera out to a local airport for a small event. I shot side by side photos with the S95 and my Nikon D90. Back at home I put images up on the monitor at 100% and then asked her which she felt looked the best, not letting her know which photo came from which camera. As a watercolor artist she has a fine eye for color but no real knowledge of photography. In comparing the pictures side by side at 100% she gave a very slight edge to the D90. With a more normal view on the monitor she perceived no real difference between the images from the two cameras. Yes, I could see things that will keep me shooting my D90 for most stuff but for real world shooting by non-photographers, the S95 is a remarkable camera and gives remarkable results, far better than I'd expected. I'm sure the hands of a competent photographer the S95 could really shine. I'll being trying to sneak the camera away from her periodically so I can explore further.

I went through a similar conversation with my daughter regarding camera options for a trip to Hong Kong a few months ago and came to the conclusion that what she'd get best use of would be an iPhone 4. The iPhone 4 wasn't out here and somewhat expensive. Instead I bought a Samsung EX1 [TL500] for her to "borrow". I spent a week evaluating it, set it up for her and the results she came back with were excellent. Adobe has subsequently added RAW support with lens correction. The EX1 has made me reassess what I want from a digital camera.

One note on responsiveness - with infinite DoF comes the possibility of manual focus / using hyperfocal distance. On my S90 - I have the custom mode set on manual + prefocused at the hyperfocal for 28mm. It greatly improves responsiveness for street shots (except for when the camera goes into sleep mode - i.e. screen goes black without turning the camera off).

I love my Lx3! It is a little larger than the s90 (or 95), but still fits nicely in my pocket. The images at low ISO settings, in sharp focus are stunning, and the lens is certainly sharp.

My main problems with the camera are the limited telephoto and the responsiveness. Based on the early reviews, both of these have been solved in the Lx5. It has a 24mm-90mm lens and AF speed is supposed to be similar to that of the GF1 (panasonic claims 0.3 seconds).

If only I had the money to buy one *sigh*, still my Lx3 still takes beautiful photos :)

Am I the only one who misses the optical viewfinder that has disappeared from all (as far as I can see) new point and shoots?

I am a Pentax shooter but the last P&S I purchased was a Canon because it still had an optical viewfinder.

Terry

Responsiveness IS photography. It's far more important than image quality.

It's what makes the difference between Pennie Smith's grainy photo of Paul Simonon on the cover of "London Calling" and one of the hundreds of grainless, excurciatingly dull photos of forgettable musicians you see on any of of several big image sharing sites.

The "decisive moment" even counts when it comes to landscape photography.

It's what distingishes "Moonrise, Herndandez, New Mexico" (which would have been worthless had it been taken 30 seconds before or after it was actually taken) from any one of tens (perhaps hundreds) of thousands of even more excruciatingly dull landscape photos taken with 5000 dollar DSLRs and run through Photoshop.

That's why my Panasonic LX3 will never replace my D200 and why I won't need to upgrade the D200 until it breaks. A D3X wouldn't be much more responsive, only allow me to make bigger prints. And since I don't make prints bigger than 13 x 19 anyway, that's not a decisive factor.

The only thing more responsive would be a prefocused Leica M rangefinder by someone who knows how to use film.

On the other hand, if all you want to do is take photos for Facebook, the S95 is far better than a DSLR.

Bill Mitchell wonders what kind of "professional" camera doesn't have an optical viewfinder. Time was, pros were wondering what kind of "professional" camera makes you look through a squinty little peephole. REAL pros, after all, composed directly on a ground-glass.

Times change.

My wife has an Lx3, so I can't quite find a good reason to buy an S95, but I'd like one. Maybe I'll accidentally step on my daughter's pink Elph. : )

Thanks for the enjoyable, informative review.

James -

You can consider this an advertisement for Canon if you wish, but I assure you that I have no connection to Canon and have no financial incentive of any kind for praising their products. I only write about cameras that I find appealing. My last three reviews were about Sigma and Panasonic cameras and were also generally positive. No review is 100% objective, but I think this one gives an honest appraisal of the camera, points out its strengths and weaknesses, and contains a good deal of factual material.

Ed

Oh, I forgot before. As much as I like the LX-3, the last couple of months I've actually taken more "point and shoot" shots with my iPhone 4.

The camera is pretty close to excellent, and the fact that you can do single button HDR composites and stitching *in the phone* is awesome. Sure it's a bit slow and clunky, but very usable.

Interesting commentary, interesting.

Suspect ANY camera will do the job.
Thing is, what might considered "professional" results may in fact have been taken with a so-called non-professional camera.

Who cares? The results for you are what count and how that is acheived really doesn't matter. Be it from something the size of a Minox up to the biggest photographic device out there.

The little known rival of the s95 is the Samsung TL350 (or WB2000), which, very likely, uses the exact same sensor, seems to have similar lens and image quality and size and weight, but has more advanced video and high speed shooting modes (with pre-capture - great for snapping toddlers). Needless to say that it is also more affordable - it does not look quite as good as the S95, though.

Great analyse, I definitely agree...

IMHO: two sorts of cameras:Those that can fit in your pocket, and those that can't...
For those that can fit in the pocket, two sorts: those where you can fix a decent optical viewfinder, and those you can't.
(Because I want to SEE and concentrate on both my subject expression, and the composition of the picture!!!
Which is, maybe because of my 50+ eyes more and more difficult without optical viewfinder)
That's why over the Canon S95 (which is a great camera) I prefer the LX5 with its step zoom associated to the small but great 28/35 Voigtlander optical finder who gives a good approximation of the frames for 24/28/35...
And if I need to carry a camera in a bag or on my shoulder, I definitely choose a full frame...
Wanting to try the "one lens, one camera experience",I bought the lovely Leica X1 with the wonderful optic viewfinder and grip...
Sadly, it's the one I use the less: Don't fit in pockets and not practical with shoulder strap because to light...
Plus, I find APS-C and M4/3 sizes are too much "in between" You don't have the qualities and control of full frame, nor the practicabilities and deep of field of small sensors...

Concerning the bokeh...
It's funny,I like it but it's a relatively new "effect"...
Times they're changin'...
Back in the eighties, everybody wanted maximum depth of field... Shooting 8x10 or even 4x5, for portrait or close still life, most of the time it was f/64 and a lot of light...
And I carefully used Scheimpflug to ad more DoF...never to accentuate bokeh...
too bad!!!
By the way, I think, I never heard the word a few years ago...
The first bokeh that impressed me...I think it was in Chuck Close portraits...Paintings!!!

I have a G11. At the time of purchase, I would have preferred the smaller S90 because of the size, but I wanted a camera that would work with an external flash. Perhaps there is not sufficient room to mount a flash on a camera the size of the S95 but there could at least be a pc flash terminal (I had one on my early Olympus digital cameras that worked well with a Vivitar flash and flash bracket.) The Canon 270EX with the flip up head is a wonder worker on my G11.

Bryan,

I used all default settings. Is iContrast turned on by default? Also if you can take some panning videos of grass please let me know if how bad the moire is vs. the S90.

Thanks

Terry, I'm still using a Canon A610 ... a 5MP 1/1.8" sensor that does a nice job, and a 35-140 equiv that's f/2.8-4.1 ... basically a "baby" G series. These days, it's a little dated. Its high ISO is lousy despite the larger sensor (than currently in use) and it lacks IS. And it's a bit of a clunker ! I like the grip, but it's way beyond pocket size. Anyway, it has an inaccurate-but-better-than-nothing peephole viewfinder that I thought I really wanted, but turns out I rarely use, except on the sunniest days. (Newer LCDs are also better in sun). But the killer feature is the articulating LCD. I use it to shoot at angles (like sticking my hand out the gap in a hotel window in Times Square) but more frequently, to simply shoot with my elbows locked at my side, looking down at the camera. That's my favorite way to hold a camera when composing w/LCD. I've been visiting Best Buy to check out the S95 and the Sony NEX-3. After 3-4 visits and a little practice with the camera, I'm finding that the NEX' UI goes from terrible to tolerable, and the firmware update ought to make it fairly pleasant. The tilting LCD and having a lens to hold w/left hand make it intuitive to hold, much like the Sony F717. The S95 OTOH is very nicely designed for such a small camera, but not so nice to hold. I'm sure the requisite 3rd party grip helps, but it's the lack of a tilting LCD (or eye level VF of some sort) that bugs me most about it. The G11 is nice; the Samsung TL500 is probably nicer still, but those are beyond pocketable (like my A610) and once I get to that point, I'd rather something with a bigger sensor. The S95 would definitely be my compact of choice right now if I were to buy one. Someone else mentioned "processed" images. The appeal of these cameras, aside from the not-so-puny-as-most sensor, is that they will record raw. I think it's the combination of tiny sensor, high photosite density & noise-reducing jpeg engine that makes pictures from digicams look like crud. The S90/95 images look fine to me, maybe in comparison to smaller digicams; the G11 looks quite good (sharper lens I think); the TL500 good as well, but the Panasonic LX3 (and 5 even more so) benefit even more from DIY raw conversion. That's my assessment of reviews I've read; not practical experience.

Luc,

The TL350 does not use the same sensor as the S95; it uses the smaller backlit 10MP Sony sensor used in a handful of other 'premium' compacts like the Sony HX5V and Canon SD4000. The bigger sensor used in the TL500/S90/G11 only recorded VGA video and the newer model (S95 & G12) does 720p. The little TL350 looks like a serious gadget, with full 10MP still capture during 1080p video recording, crazy frame rates, and even raw (I think the TL350 and possibly a Casio model or two are the only cameras with such small sensors that capture raw).

I own an LX3.

It's got a fatal flaw,the lens cap.

With a GF1, you can put a filter on the 20mm lens and always be ready to shoot. With the S95, you just turn it on and watch the lens pop out.

With the LX3 you have to do both, take the lens cap off, and then boot it up and wait for the lens to extend.

I've had an S90 for a few months now and I'm trying like hell to hate it but no dice. Just when I'm sure I need a "real" camera it comes through for me again and again. If this is all I really need what the heck will I talk about on forums?

"It's what distingishes "Moonrise, Herndandez, New Mexico" (which would have been worthless had it been taken 30 seconds before or after it was actually taken) from any one of tens (perhaps hundreds) of thousands of even more excruciatingly dull landscape photos taken with 5000 dollar DSLRs and run through Photoshop."

While that's possibly true, there's no reason that photo couldn't have been taken with a decent point and shoot. They may have lag, but it's less than a second or so. And it's likely Adams would have loved to be able to work on a file digitally. AND that image doesn't require boat-loads of detail to be successful. Really, other than maybe exposure latitude, there's nothing about that image that couldn't be done on just about any modern P&S.

I just returned from a 9 day vacation in Italy. I brought two cameras: an Olympus e620 with a 14-54 f/2.8-3.5 lens, and a newly purchased S95. I started the trip shooting exclusively with the e620, which is a light and very capable DSLR system that is great for travel. By the end of the trip I was leaving the Oly in the hotel safe and happily walking around with the S95 in my pocket everywhere I went. The image quality is quite good. The ergonomics, especially the function ring and assignable buttons, are also quite good. I will be happy when they add the S95 to Camera RAW, but, the JPEGS weren't too shabby either. The LCD is bright enough to use in bright sunlight, and since the camera is small it is unobtrusive. I still prefer viewing the world through an optical viewfinder and find the holding the camera out in front of me thing to be not as effective ergonomically. But, honestly. this camera is a lot of fun and records nice photographs. It's now always available in my pocket, something that I could never say about my SLR. By adding the LensMate adapter you can even use filters with this thing. I am surprised by how much I enjoy using this camera.

I enjoyed the essay - Thanks!

When I bought my first small digicam - a Canon S100 Elph (2.1 MP) - I was amazed! A very, very compact point & shoot that I would take everywhere, get great snapshots and see the results immediately. On top of that, I could just erase the "duds" at no real cost to me. I loved it!

That little Elph got me thinking (hoping) that, before long, I would have three very compact, specialized digicams that would replace my bulky SLR system: one for macro; one with an ultra-wide to standard zoom; and one super-telephoto. These three, of course, would all fit together into one very small fanny pack, weigh next to nothing and make amazing images.

I am now on my 3rd digicam (I also now own a DSLR) and my dream of a compact, comprehensive, unobtrusive, SLR Slamming "three-digicam kit" is long gone.

This 3rd digicam, a Panasonic ZS3, is very good at what it was designed to do. It was inexpensive. So compact that I always have it with me (even when I am humping my DSLR kit) and it gets a lot of use.

With it, I can often get good macro images from spaces that are not much larger than the volume occupied by my DSLR body + lens. The zoom includes a decent, useful wide angle. It does a great job with landscapes. It's pretty good at stitching images into panoramas. It's a great complement to all of my decades-old film cameras. It excels as a visual diary (including a useful video mode)...and it is nearly always a barrel of fun to use.

However, it has the same limitations as all the other digicams (even the very expensive ones). For dynamic scenes and/or situations where there is more than just a little subject movement, it just can't reliably do what I want it to do. It is not designed for that purpose.

For that reason, I will never spend much money on a compact digicam...but, I will always carry one.

;~)

Cheers! Jay

I just bought an S95 and used it for the first time this weekend. So far - it's fantastic; reminds me the beloved Olympus 35 RC I owned in the 70's.

I have my "C" (custom) mode set to 28 mm, f2.8, 5 ft. hyperfocal, ISO 800, so it's ready to go as soon as I turn it on.

The "clicky wheel" on the lens is a great feature. I have it set to "step zoom". My shots are better when I choose a focal length and them move to compose instead of standing like a post and zooming lazily in and out.

Another feature I like: you can select 1:1 (square) shots. People will read this and whine about "cropped sensors", but a) "cropping" is what you do after you shoot, and b) you're better off composing when you shoot, so being able to previsualize the square composition beats cropping later.

Regarding the lack of an optical viewfinder. The screen is usable in bright light and it shows you 100% of what you'll get in the shot. The approximate (to be generous) nature of most compacts' optical finders renders them useless and as to DSLRs, why we need a big flopping mechanical mirror on an electronic device I'll never understand.

I agree about the viewfinder, or lack there of, not so much for professional use but for any use. Maybe having been nurtured with film cameras I'm now like a Constitutionalist at an Obama tea party, but I simply just can't see the dang screen in bright sunlight, which doesn't make for accurate composition, or confirmation of settings, for me, at all. I might as well be looking for constellations on a cloudy evening.

>'I won’t say any more about it, but HD video is a must on any modern point-and-shoot.'

Why? Why the knee-jerk 'must'?

See Thom Hogan's commentary, Oct. 4, 'The Train Has Left the Station':
"So I think the train is on the wrong track. While I've come to appreciate having a video capability in my still camera, ... there are still hundreds of still camera capabilities, functions, and features that elude us users."

If I had a nickel for every post in recent years about people being surprised that photography is about photography, I'd be a rich man.

I have been shooting with a LX3 for close to 2 years now and i have thought of upgrading to a better camera many times. I in fact bought a used 40D from a friend because the price was great ($400) but its just lying there without a lens as I continue to click away with my LX3. Tell me, where can you get a great 24mm lens at F2, which is image stablised, and has a native 16:9 format and a terrific black and white mode and all this at such a great price and such a small form-factor. No single M4/3 or DSLR set up can match it.

I think S95 should be a great camera for the similar reasons.

I work on a personnal project since a year and a half with a Canon A590 (http://www.egocyte.net/category/photoblog/). This cured me from pixel peeping and now I am no longer worried with noise. I find that the pictures made with compacts have a special look that I realy love (they look like paints). Since then I tried to find this look and ease of use with my DSLR but I failed, ironically the images are too sharp, too technically perfect, they look too real. This S95 might be my next purchase when the A590 dies.

I mostly agree with the reasoning behind this review; but then again, I wonder: what's the advantage of buying a Canon S95 over a Fujifilm Finepix F30, which I purchased years ago on exactly the same grounds?

When I want to go around to focus on other things (non photography) but I suspect there will be good opportunities for photography, then I always bring my F30. It takes great shots, and I find no limitations with its specs. I have seen no current camera in that category which prompts me to replace my good old F30.

In other words: I think that Canon is not exactly inventing the wheel with the S95.

For the times I plan to actually focus on photography, then my choice is a Pentax K10D (and mind you, I am not planning to replace it either).

I think that we could go deeper in the S-95/LX5 analysis:

LENS- They are not both "fast f2.0 lenses". The LX-5 is a f2.0-3.3, evenly distributed over the zoom range. The S-95 is a 2.0-4.9, distributed in a more steeply rising curve. This makes a HUGE difference in the field. There is, in the vast majority of the zoom range, about 1 full point gain. That's a LOT! As a bonus, the LX-5 focuses in macro at 1cm, vs. S-95's 5cm.

HOT SHOE - We can easily use a Voigtlander OPTICAL viewfinder. The 35mm and the smallish 28/35mm viewfinder looks good to me. For me, it's a necessity.

HOT SHOE,II The mission - A decent flash is important in some situations, for some of us, specially considering the fact that the S95 is red eye-prone.

GRIP - Even adapting third party grips, the S-95 is much less firm to grab and shoot than the LX-5, straight from the box.

BATTERIES - S95 200 shots vs LX5 400 shots (factory claims)... In average temperatures.
I live in Brazil, but planning a 60 days, starting next january 20,trip to the America southwest,(including Colorado up to Boulder).The cost difference practically disappears just in the batteries, specially for me or anyone who shoots a lot in cold climates.

Both fit perfectly in a jacket pocket. With all due respect, I wouldn't trade all the aspects above for "feeling it" in the pocket or not.

From a 7D user, G1/20mm 1.7 in the closet (it is smashed by the Canon 7D/35mm1.4 in any possible aspect except portability, but the G1 is not portable enough, so I choose to buy the LX-5.
Oh, yes, the Canon 7D/35mm1.4 is going to good old USA, plus a Zeiss ZE 50mm 1.4. And the LX-5. And a Olympus OM2, 24mm 2.8.
And yes, of course, I'm completely crazy.
And yes, of course, even completely crazy, I won't carry along everything everytime)

Eudoro
Rio, Brazil

"I wonder: what's the advantage of buying a Canon S95 over a Fujifilm Finepix F30?"

Well, nothing, except you can't get an F30 new any more. And they're actually pretty scarce used.

Mike

Talking about Fuji F30...i own one and i think its an extremely underestimated camera. Those of you who own it will agree with me...no camera can match it in image quality department. It really captures an astonishing level of detail, and files are clean from ISO 100 to 400 to the extent that you can hardly tell ISO 100 from ISO 400...i think that's a unique feet because in compacts, the lowest ISO is what you shoot if you want some kind of image quality. Even the handling champion like LX3 fails miserably before F30 when it comes to the quality of files. Though i don't shoot with F30 that often now.

I think if someone is cool with 35mm focal length at the wide end (i'm not) and a little slower mechanisms (i'm okay with this), there is absolutely no reason why a Canon S95 should be better than a Fuji F30.

"I wonder: what's the advantage of buying a Canon S95 over a Fujifilm Finepix F30?"

Well I own both and there are many differences. Here are just a few:

1. S95 shoots RAW files, F30 does not
2. S95 has a wider end of its zoom at 28 mm equivalent FOV, I believe the F30 is only 36 mm
3. S95 has a much better tonal curve than F30 which has a significant problem with clipping highlights due to a steep curve.
4. S95 has a live histogram, F30 does not. In fact, as I recall the F30 doesn't display a histogram at all

Thanks for a very good review.

I bought the S90 some months ago and love it. One huge advantage of a camera like this is the ability to have people around you dismiss you as not being a threat, not being serious about your taking photos since the camera doesn't *look* professional. ;-)

It's very quiet, very "palmable" and with just about every sort of override and control you could want. The killer feature for me was RAW in a very small camera, which I carry nearly always with me in a tiny belt pouch.

Since Lightroom 3 and the latest Adobe Camera RAW have the lens profiling feature, at least for the S90 (probably the S95 later if not already) it's a one click adjustment to eliminate any lens distortion or chromatic aberration (and to create a preset for it as well in Lightroom).

Few cameras this size have a f2 lens on them which with IS is a terrific pairing of features likely only improved in the S95 over the S90.

Though I'm a pro photographer, I find it a big advantage to have the Auto ISO feature, auto white balance (which is rarely off by much) making it easy to do a "quick draw" for candids with the camera out of my belt pouch.

I'm astounded at how accurate the metering is even in very tricky lighting (including backlight from large windows in the frame).

"I wonder: what's the advantage of buying a Canon S95 over a Fujifilm Finepix F30?"

S95 adds the wide angle, but F30 has an incredible dynamic range (if you underexpose and post-process).
BTW, the best modern compact is, IMHO, not S95, but Panasonic Lumix ZS7/TZ10 - at least as good image quality and much more powerful (25-300mm equiv.) zoom.

More than "nothing" for an S95 over an F30, I would think; the control ring and other physical controls on the S95 give you more direct control of things than I remember on the F30. Wider lens at the wide end. Faster lens at the wide end.

And hope of running CHDK some day (the S90 has beta versions available).

For those of you who took the time to read all these comments till the end, I thought I would include this little blurb as an “added” feature (the way they do on DVDs).

What does each photo in this article illustrate?

The photo taken in Barcelona is a very detailed image that shows that the S95 is capable of recording even the tiniest details. Those dots are people!

The image of the pelican shows that the camera is responsive enough to capture a bird in flight. (I had just scared him off of the post behind him).

The image of the seagulls demonstrates that seagulls will wait in the street indefinitely if they are led to believe that they might get a leftover McDonalds French fry for their efforts. This photo was taken just before I insisted that they all look into the lens. (I liked this photo better than the one where they all looked into the lens). I did throw them a French fry, but they all just started fighting over it. They demanded another, but I knew that wouldn’t be enough. I might have been trapped were it not for a passing tractor trailer which allowed for a quick escape.

The photo of the dog was included because dogs are cool. This one was actually very light on his feet, and I grabbed this shot just as he levitated to avoid getting his feet wet. You can see that none of his feet are touching the ground. If you look at the positioning of his tail, you can see that shortly after this shot was taken, he began to “walk like an Egyptian.”

Thanks for reading my review.

Ed

I got a "Leica" D Lux 3 (should have saved £100 and got a Panasonic) because it's small and does raws. However, the lack of viewfinder is a real problem for me, as I really need to change specs to look at the screen. Also the screen is illegible in strong light. The lag is a nuisance as well.

Looked at the Pentax K-x; nice, but too big. The Leica X1 I thought biggish, expensive and no zoom. The new Fuji X100 might be good?

I too have been seduced. Went to Calumet to buy some flash CC filters and walked out with an S95. It's now with me always, whether in a jacket pocket or belt pouch. I'm currently shooting raw + large fine jpeg while waiting for Apple, Adobe, et al to add it to their raw support. I just can't deal with DPP.

Why Canon removed the Superfine jpeg option from their digicams is puzzling but the Fine setting seems decent enough. I put some in camera jpegs up at smugmug, the original size is available for viewing:

http://bannorphoto.smugmug.com/Other/Canon-S95-Gallery/14073181_Zy2PA

They look pretty good but I'll bet raws will look better.

Ed, I just noticed this problem with my day-old S95- I've got the file numbering set to "sequential" but if I change the SD card the file numbering starts from 0001 again. Have you noticed that with yours?

Two years ago i read "The Future Meets the Past" on T.O.P. and for a few mounths i bought not the DP1 but the DP2, because 41mm is about my favorite focal lenght. Now, because my old Ricoh Caplio GX with 5 MP was fallen into the river, i am thinking about to buy a camera for carrying with me all days. The Sigma is outstanding but to special, for "Day and Night Photography". Maybe it will be the S95. One question please: Do you have the DP1 still?

All best, titus

Mark-

Change file numbering to continuous.

Titus-

Yes I have a DP1. It is a unique camera that makes very good images but is painfully slow. I had to give up using it as a carry-around camera.

Ed

I'm sure the S95 is a fine little camera, but I don't need one as I still have and use my Fuji F31fd, a camera of no small cult status. I take it with me everywhere, and use it almost daily. It takes amazingly good photos and is deservedly legendary for it's low light performance. That Fuji SuperCCD desgin really worked.

This photo was taken handheld available light inside a mall at ISO800.

http://photos.imageevent.com/puma_cat/fujif31andf20photos/large/BulgariAd.jpg

Thank you for a thorough review and an enjoyable read!

Apparently Edward Taylor isn't the only one smitten:

http://finance.yahoo.com/news/A-Love-Letter-to-a-nytimes-365722288.html?x=0

The fall lineup of Japanese camera maker Canon is very advanced and the Canon PowerShot S95 is the best example of this. This device has amazing advanced controls and its image quality is similar to the Canon PowerShot G12. Canon has introduced four primary upgrades to the S95—720p HD video, RAW shooting, HDR (High Dynamic Range Shooting mode) and Hybrid Image Stabilization. The design or imaging system of the device is the same but it is expected that the next year's version of the Canon PowerShot S95 will come with a new design.

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