Canon Powershot S90 Review
The Canon Powershot S90 is an impressive compact point & shoot, and there's not a lot that's wrong with it. It has a great lens, image quality, and many different shooting modes to choose from. There are a few minor flaws such as average performance but other than it's a camera that should satisfy everyone from the beginner to the enthusiast.
Let's talk about the design. It's a fairly ordinary looking camera. The body is flat, and there's nothing flashy about it. It's minimalist, to say the least. It's compact and you can easily fit it into any jeans pocket.
On the top panel, we have the shutter release button, and a ring around it for zoom control. There's a ring function button to the left of this that controls this ring. We did find the zoom ring had trouble responding at times. When we flicked the zoom toggle in a single direction, then to the opposite, the S90 just stopped responding, giving us an error. We had to remove the battery, and restart everything. Very annoying, and we think it's a problem most shooters will face when handling this camera. The power button is to the right of the ring function button, an unusual location.
There's the mode dial, to the right of the shutter release, and it includes a bunch of manual and semi-manual exposure modes. Around the mode dial, there's the auto mode, a high ISO sensitivity mode, scene, movie mode, and your own custom mode.
The rear of the S90 is also quite minimalist. The 3 inch LCD screen is a beauty to look, and colors look very bright and crisp. There's a set of standard buttons to the right for playback, and accessing the menu, as well as a dial (which we will get into later). Nothing out of the ordinary here.
If there's one flaw with the design, it's with the grip. There is no rubber grip in the S90, which is something that you will need to get used to. Under the mode dial is a raise section that's designed to be a thumb grip. It's definitely not the most comfortable grip.
The lens is a good lens. At wide angle, it showed almost no barrel distortion, though there was some chromatic aberration. In telephoto, we noticed chromatic aberration in the center and in the corners.
There's a new control ring around the lens, which you can assign to control adjustments to aperture, shutter speed, focus, white balance, ISO sensitivity, or exposure compensation. It's easy to handle. We usually set the control ring to control the ISO.
The rear dial in the back on the other hand is very frustrating. This rear dial, together with the control ring helps you adjust settings quickly. It controls exposure compensation by default in most of the shooting modes. But the problem is it moves way too loosely, and you can accidentally change settings. We constantly had to check our settings before shooting to ensure nothing changed.
There's a lot of shooting modes in the S90 - up to 25 of them. Most of them are specialty scene modes, and you can find most of them in most Powershot cameras. There's an auto mode if you want the S90 to adjust the appropriate settings. There's also a low light mode that makes shooting in low light a breeze. Lastly, there's a movie mode, but you can't record in HD, just VGA. You also can't use the zoom as you're video recording, so video fans will be disappointed.
Of course if you want to be in total control, the S90 has the standard shooting modes: Program AE, Shutter Priority, Aperture Priority, Manual and Custom. For custom mode, you can choose a set of options/settings, and save it to the C position of the mode dial. There are a couple of more advanced options for the ambitious enthusiast as well, namely exposure bracketing, focus bracketing, manual white balance correction, and raw capture. You can fine-tune the shutter speeds (there are 45 different speeds), and aperture (14 different values). Overall, the S90 offers a bunch of flexibility to enthusiasts too.
Let's get into performance a little bit. If there's one weakness with the Canon Powershot S90, it's the speed. It's fairly average to be fair though. From power on to first shot takes 1.78 seconds, and shot to shot takes 1.8 seconds for JPEGs, and 3.4 seconds for RAW. Continuous shooting speed measures at 1 frame per second. The shutter lag is average as well: taking .51 seconds to focus and capture, and .6 seconds in dim light. Overall, the performance is fairly average for a point and shoot, though the S90 is far from an average point and shoot (given the price).
The image quality, though is top-rate for a point & shoot. Color quality was great, as was exposure and white balance. Colors are vivid, crisp and intense. Indoors, or outdoors, we rarely had to use the flash. As with most cameras, if you're unhappy with the saturation or white balance, you can tweak the settings.
Like most point and shoots, you're going to see some softness and noise appear when you hit ISO 400. But the S90 does have great high ISO performance compared to other cameras. Even when we hit an ISO of 3200, all of our images had little noise, and some details are retained. Colors remain consistent all the way until to ISO 1600. The S90 is among the top of the class when it comes to low light performance.
You can manage to get good prints no matter which ISO you use. At ISO 200 and below, you can get sharp prints at 13 X 19. At 400, we'd recommend decreasing the print size to 11 X 14. At ISO 800, 11 X 14 prints look a tad soft, but still good. At ISO 1600, 8 X 10 prints are okay, and at ISO 3200, you want to go down to 5 X 7.
The S90 does allow you to record videos but not in HD format. There's 2 resolutions: 640 X 480, and 320 X 200, and the frame rate is 30 fps. Movie quality has good color, and passes our eye test. It would've been a nice feature to add HD video though.
- 10 megapixels
- 3.8x zoom
- 4X digital zoom
- 3.0 inch LCD display
- Built-in Flash
- Compact and pocketable
- Very good LCD with vibrant colors
- Has optical image stabilization
- Good print quality across all ISO's
- Excellent low light performance
- Rear control dial is awkward to handle
- Power button is in weird position
- Doesn't support HD video recording
- Lack of optical viewfinder
- Sub-par battery
The Canon Powershot S90 is a sleek, compact camera that is designed for everyday use. It's especially great for families, and offers a bunch of shooting modes for both the beginner and enthusiast. Its low light performance is top-rate, and impressive for a camera of this class.
There are a few flaws, design-wise, particularly the rear dial that can frustrate you at times. But overall, there are no glaring flaws. Though the image quality didn't meet our expectations, it's what you'd expect from an average point & shoot. All in all, it's a fun, compact camera that earns high marks from us.
Rating: 4.6 out of 5
Rating: 4.8 out of 5
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Prices last updated on: Sun, 23 Apr 2017 16:37:33 PDT