Canon PowerShot S90 review

Review Date : Sun, 13 Dec 2009

Author :

Canon Powershot S90 front
Canon Powershot S90 front Canon Powershot S90 back Canon Powershot S90 top Canon Powershot S90 3/4 profile Canon Powershot S90 front

Four years since the last S-series model, Canon revives the line with the PowerShot S90

Pros: Compact proportions, fast lens, lens control ring, Raw mode, good quality LCD screen, overall image quality, fast start-up
Cons: Operation hampered by a few design issues, flash sometimes raised when not needed, some WB inaccuracies, mode dial stiff and slightly inaccessible

Canon PowerShot S90 review

Introduction

It's been four years since Canon's last S-series compact, the S80, which left many to conclude that Canon had abandoned the line in favour of its successful G-series. So when Canon announced that it was to revive the line with the launch of the S90, it caught the attention of many. 

In line with how technology has moved on, some of the improvements over its predecessor are fairly standard and to be expected, though some are genuinely interesting and potentially quite useful. The S-series was, after all, once viewed as a competent alternative to the G-series - so does the S90 reaffirm that notion?

Canon PowerShot S90 review - Features

The camera captures images on a 1/1.7in CCD sensor, at a maximum 10MP resolution in both Raw and JPEG formats. Canon's DIGIC IV processor is the tech now responsible for processing images, and has been revised to include a Dual-Anti Noise system for the benefit of images shot at higher ISO sensitivities. This is perhaps just as well, as after the camera's nominal sensitivity range of ISO 80-3200, the Low Light mode can shoot at up to ISO 12,800, at a reduced resolution of 2.5MP.

The camera's 28-105mm lens features a bright f/2.0 aperture at its widest setting, and has been optically stabilised to reduce image blur. Turning the camera round reveals a 3in LCD screen, with a 461,000-dot resolution, though there's no viewfinder, nor the provision to mount one given the lack of a hotshoe.

Those used to having a little more control over their shooting will be pleased to know that the full range of PASM exposure controls are included on the S90. This is in addition to a collection of scene presets, and a Custom mode that is similar to that found on many of Canon's recent DSLRs.  

In order to help images retain a maximum level of detail in both highlights and shadows, Canon has included its i-Contrast technology as well as the now-standard Face Detection technology for the benefit of portraits. There's also a mini HDMI output neatly tucked away on one side of the camera, though sadly this hasn't been joined by HD video recording, which is only possible at VGA resolution.

Canon Powershot S90 sample image

View more Canon Powershot S90 sample images

 

More info:

Canon PowerShot S90 - Design

Canon PowerShot S90 - Performance

Canon PowerShot S90 - Image Quality

Canon PowerShot S90 - Verdict

Canon PowerShot S90 - Specifications

Verdict

Ultimately, the appeal of this camera is that it is the smallest on the market to feature Raw capture, and a less pricey alternative to the G11 – which has an identical sensor. The expanded ISO range, fast lens and high-resolution LCD screen only add to its appeal, and though it’s not perfect – and at times frustrating to use – it is capable of superb image quality. Had it been any dearer it would have found itself in the uncomfortable position of competing with other high-end compacts or even Micro Four Thirds system cameras. The fact that it isn’t means it can occupy a more comfortable territory further down, and thus having a broader appeal. I have no doubt that the S90 will be a popular compact camera – for the simple reason that it deserves to be.


Compact Camera Reviews

Price as reviewed

£380.00

Scores

Scores
Design 16/20
Image Quality 19/20
Performance 19/20
Value 18/20
Features 18/20
Overall Score 90%