The Canon S95 is manual control compact with plenty of impressive features. Our Canon PowerShot S95 review tests the camera...
The Canon PowerShot S95 is full of impressive extras for the discerning photographer, yet resembles a standard compact camera. Under the unassuming black frame lie full manual DSLR-style controls, a HD movie mode and optical image stabilization. There are plenty of eye-catching extras on the surface too, including a motorized pop-up flash and control ring, which can be used for altering the likes of shutter speed and focus.
Canon Powershot S95 Review – Features
As is inevitable plenty of comparisons will be drawn between the Canon PowerShot S95 and it’s predecessor, the S90. There are plenty of similarities from both a physical and features point of view, with only the HD movie mode and flash slow sync being altered on the Canon S95. Even the bodies are similar, as but a few grams of weight and a couple of mm in size are lost. In spite of this the features on offer, whether new or old, are impressive to behold.
Full manual control via an EOS DSLR-style dial which will be more than familiar to most serious photographers, and a 720p HD movie mode with stereo sound. Neither are massively unexpected from a £400 compact, but the lens ring will undoubtedly cause a larger amount of interest. By pressing a button on top of the body the functionality can shift from controlling shutter speed to aperture, ISO or even zoom.
Unlike a DSLR dial the motion isn’t a single, smooth rotation, instead offering stepped movement when turned. The zoom is 3.8x optical, starting at a reasonably wide 28mm, which is optically stabilized. Focusing is performed via a 9-point system that allows for either Face Detection, subject Tracking or purely the centre point to be used and the ISO range is 80-3200 at full resolution throughout. The motorized pop-up flash reacts well when needed, but in order to retract needs to be deactivated through the flash options.
Being that the Canon PowerShot S95 looks to combine full manual control with a compact body Canon has truly outdone themselves, producing an impressively slight body without ruining the handling. Buttons are split around the top and rear panels, with the 3″ LCD screen dominating the back of the camera.
There’s a D-Pad/dial with a function menu/set button in the centre and the mode dial on the top panel, with the zoom control surrounding the shutter release. The lens ring is large enough to find and turn easily without readjusting grip, although the minimal resistance makes it far faster to spin than the camera can react, especially when the zoom is being used. It is a far better method than the rear dial, which is significantly more lightweight and tricky to use comfortably. The zoom rocker tempers the magnification well, reacting quickly enough to the users’ touch.
Canon Powershot S95 Review – Perfomance
Autofocus is relatively rapid, utilizing the 9-point system to an impressive level. At the wide angle there’s a longer delay when locating the focus point, making it a touch sluggish, but at the top end of the zoom the reaction is far quicker. There’s very little in the way of delay between the shutter being depressed and the image being taken which is fortunate, as the 1.9 fps burst rate would be a huge amount of use otherwise.
The fact that there’s the choice of Single, Continuous and Tracking AF modes, although in the burst mode there’s either a focus-adjust or non focus-adjust option. The buffer didn’t get filled up particularly rapidly, heading well into the double figures before slowing down even slightly. The HD movie mode is limited to 720p, and the zoom is only active prior to recording or in digital form during. The quality was reasonably decent though, with the white balance and exposure managing a relatively smooth transition between various lighting conditions.
The sound was reasonable, catching all the background as well as the operator, but this is to be expected from a cardiod-style mic. The LCD screen, although bright, is set at 461k dots which is lower than the 920k offered by the likes of the Nikon P7000. This puts the Canon S95 at something of a disadvantage, especially as the screen emphasizes the colour cast to the point where saturation can be added when not required. The function menu, which operates around the edges of the preview, is simple enough to navigate quickly and the main menu screen colourful enough for even beginner’s to locate the required option.
Canon Powershot S95 Review – Value
At £400 RRP the Canon PowerShot S95 isn’t aimed at the occasional snapper, as the price range is similar to that of a beginner DSLR. The intended audience is those more likely to be those who know how to use the manual functions, but wouldn’t need the bulk of a removable lens camera. As a result the Canon S95 is placed amongst similar models, the Panasonic LX5 being a prime example, that best combines those attributes without being as bulky as the likes of the Canon G12 or Nikon P7000. Canon has knocked £80 off of the S90 RRP, and the street price is around the £300 mark, making is about right for the feature set on offer and intended audience.
Canon Powershot S95 Review – Image Quality
The Canon PowerShot S95 has an impressive tonal range that keeps a relatively subdued, but still eye-catching, level of control of the more troublesome and headline-grabbing shades such as red and green. Exposure favours the midtones as a result, but doesn’t miss out on the highlights or shadowed areas to any noticeable degree. The auto white balance was a touch blue on occasion, forcing saturation to be added via another profile or altered in post production.
Sharpness was excellent, and the lens impressively quick at the top end of the magnification. Up to 1600 ISO is virtually indistinguishable, with an amount of processing visible at 100% magnification, and only the 3200 setting showed serious signs of noise. Switching to Raw removes evidence of the majority of the processing, producing a much cleaner end result.
Canon G12 manual
Canon S95 manual – pdf
The Canon S95 is available to download from the Canon website
Buy a printed copy of the Canon S95 manual
Get a printed manual, or printed tests for the Canon S95 manual from the What Digital Camera camera manuals site
For general help and advice in using a DSLR, see our techniques section
The expense may be a stumbling block for some, but the Canon Powershot S95 takes some absolutely stunning images, and the full manual control lens ring is especially useful. For those who’ll use it to its full capacity the Canon S95 will impress.