Expert Review of Canon PowerShot S95 Point & Shoot Digital Camera
Canon PowerShot S95 in all senses is pretty much a gem, which is offered to all the enthusiasts who are looking for classy compact cameras yet do not want to sacrifice on the features. The new player in the PowerShot S series from Canon has made a number of important upgrades over Canon PowerShot S90 which includes 720p HD video with stereo sound, in-camera HDR, Hybrid Image Stabilisation, Dynamic Range correction, Tracking AF, new special effects, a choice of aspect ratios and an improved finish. These all build-upon the core capabilities of a pocket camera with a 28-105mm zoom, full manual control over exposures, RAW recording, a large and detailed screen, dual customisable control wheels and a welcome approach to low-light performance with a sensible 10 Megapixel resolution and a bright f2.0-4.9 lens. As what has been said multiple times before PowerShot S95 has a great deal with PowerShot G models. Both share the same sensor, the same movie capabilities, and a similar degree of manual control. Where they differ is in form factor with the S95 featuring a considerably smaller and lighter body, not to mention a brighter lens which gathers twice as much light when both cameras are zoomed-out to 28mm.
Design and Build Quality
Main body of this camera measures a decent 100mm x 58mm x 22mm or 30mm with the lens housing. When you look closely at the device you can spot out the minor differences between it and its predecessor in styling and controls which otherwise are invisible. On the top surface, the power and ring function buttons have swapped positions and changed shape. The shutter release button is now narrower than before, but sitting within the dipped well of the rotary zoom rocker, it's easy to get your finger on. The recessed mode dial offers the same settings, but now has a slightly different surface around its edge. The arrangement and function of the rear controls is identical, but with one big physical improvement: the thumb wheel which turned without feedback on the earlier S90 now features stepped clicks, which makes it considerably easier to operate thanks for that Canon. As before, the Shortcut button can be customised, but now with one of 20 options rather than the 12 of the S90. Canon PowerShot S95's Shortcut button can now be set to offer direct access to Face Select, i-Contrast, Sensitivity, White Balance, Custom White Balance, My Colours, Bracketing, Drive mode, Metering, Aspect Ratio, RAW or JPEG, Compression, Movie quality, Servo AF, Red-eye Correction, AF Lock, AE Lock, Digital Teleconverter or Display Off; or you can choose not to assign the Shortcut button at all.
Focus and Face Detection
Canon PowerShot S95 offers three auto-focusing modes: it inherits Center and Face AiAF from the earlier S90, but now adds the third option of Tracking AF. This is clearly in reaction to the tracking facilities of Panasonic's compacts. PowerShot S95 offers three auto-focusing modes: it inherits Center and Face AiAF from the earlier S90, but now adds the third option of Tracking AF. This is clearly in reaction to the tracking facilities of Panasonic's compacts. The Face AiAF mode automatically employs face detection if a person is in the frame, or switches to a traditional nine-area system in the absence of a suitable face. In our tests this worked quickly and seamlessly, and like other recent Canon compacts, Canon PowerShot S95 tracked human faces with great success. If you'd like to check the focus before taking the shot, Canon PowerShot S95 now offers AF-Point Zoom, which enlarges either the selected AF area or the primary face when you half-press the shutter. Alternatively you can set the camera to display an enlarged view of the focusing area after taking the photo.
Lens and Image Stabilization
There really isn’t any special reason for Canon to upgrade the lenses so CanonPowerShot S95 features the same 3.8x optical zoom as its predecessor, with an equivalent range of 28-105mm and a focal ratio of f2.0-4.9; the actual focal length is 6-22.5mm and we counted ten discrete steps when zooming from wide-angle to telephoto using the main zoom control. The S95 alternatively allows you configure the control ring around the lens to adjust the zoom, this time in five broader steps equivalent to 28, 35, 50, 85 and 105mm. The closest focusing distance in Macro mode with the lens zoomed-out is a fairly modest 5cm from the front of the first lens element. The PowerShot S95 employs optical Image Stabilisation to counteract camera-shake. Canon offers three modes: Continuous where the system operates all the time, Shoot Only which only applies stabilisation as you take the photo, and Panning which only stabilises in the vertical axis for when you’re moving the camera horizontally as you take the photo.
Screen and Menus
Canon PowerShot S95's rear surface is dominated by a 3in / 460k screen, that's the same specification as its predecessor the only updgrade being Canon PowerShot S95 employing a newer PureColour II G panel with a tempered glass outer layer. Like its predecessor there's no optical or electronic viewfinder, nor the option to fit one as an optional accessory.
Under Canon Power is a combined battery / memory card compartment, and unsurprisingly Canon PowerShot S95 uses the same NB-6L rechargeable Lithium Ion pack as its predecessor. Interestingly the battery life has however dropped from 220 to 200 shots, and at this point it's well worth noting the rival Lumix LX5 is good for around 400 shots per charge, although that camera is larger and almost 50% heavier. Meanwhile Canon PowerShot S95 continues to use SD memory cards and it's no surprise to now find it supporting the latest SDXC models, along with wireless Eye-Fi cards. Canon recommends using Class 4 or quicker cards to support the HD movie mode.
Canon PowerShot S95 offers three video resolutions: 1280 (which shoots at 1280x720 / 720p), 640 (which shoots at 640x480 / VGA) and 320 (which shoots at 320x240 / QVGA). The 320 and 640 modes record at 30fps, while the 1280 mode records at 24fps, although plays back at 30fps.
Canon PowerShot S95 employs a 1 /1.7in CCD sensor with 10 Megapixel resolution; this is the same specification as its predecessor, although the sensor has been upgraded to support HD video.
Pocketable body with great controls and customisation.
3.8x zoom with bright f2.0 aperture at 28mm.
Great quality 3in / 460k screen.
Full manual control, RAW files and 720p HD movies.
Slow continuous shooting at full resolution.
Can't optically zoom while filming.
Panasonic Lumix LX5 better-featured.
Quality beaten by mirror-less 'EVIL' compacts.