Monday, January 22, 2018

Canon Powershot S95 Review

May 30, 2012 by  

This is the best low light camera I have owned. I have been taking outdoor shots for many years. As a travel companion, I could hardly ask for a more applicable, decent little camera then the Canon S95.

I actually owned a Canon S90 (previous year's model), which turned out to be my favorite camera for a time. For the curious, check out my site -, just to see the kind of pictures I took with it.

The S95 shares everything that made the S90 such a hit, with a few very nice refinements that make it into what I consider to be a close-to-perfect compact camera.

The basics which both of these cameras share are:

1. Excellent image quality. The sensor in this little camera is roughly twice the size in area of sensors found in most compacts of similar size (meaning pocketable). Combined with a bright lens (f2.0, at it's widest - where I often use it), it produces better highlights (clouds, etc) and shadows over a wide margin then what any of my older compacts could achieve or even get close to.

2. Excellent controls. I love canon's approach. The control ring around the lens on the front is likely my favorite feature. Amazingly versitle and simple, it provides fine control over any one setting you choose, such as exposure, white balance, ISO, etc. Selecting the setting is easy, with a ring func button on top, and the control it provides is solid, with smooth operation and nice, audible clicks. A smaller, secondary control ring is placed around the directional pad on the back, which provides further control. A programmable shortcut button on the back simply serves to be assigned whatever function you wish. On the control dial at the top, a custom mode is provided which saves your exact settings to keep you from having to reset everything after turning it off.

3. Nice menus. The quick menu (where most of the commonly accessed settings are) is nice, 2-dimensional simplicity, with clear, distinct options, and a layout you won't get lost in. The main "menu-menu", while more traditional, is also clean, and thankfully not riddled with numerous nested menus.

4. Truly compact. The main competitors from Panasonic and Olympus, while noteworthy and with comparable specs, simply do not quite fall into the 'pocketable' realm, with their lenses and other features protruding out enough to disqualify each, imo. The S95 really is a pocketable camera, no doubt about it, and with credible specs to boot.

Additionally, the S95 improves and adds upon an already excellent package:

1. Improves the rear control dial. The S90's dial was loose and spun freely, whereas the S95 features 'clicks' which prevent accidental movement.
2. The S90 had a slippery metal body; the S95 features a surface which is tackier and easier to hold.
3. The S95 now offers 720p HD video; the S90 did not.
4. The S95 now offers stereo sound with left and right michrophones. Even high end cameras generally lack this.
5. The S90 only offered a single lanyard-link on the side; the S95 offers two, both at the top corners. This allows for a neck lanyard if desired.
6. New modes such as HDR, as well as a greater range of options for the customizable buttons/rings.
7. The S95 is slimmer then the S90 by a notable amount.

With that said, it's not a camera that can 'do everything' - mostly because it is a compact, after all. It doesn't feature the huge sensors of large cameras that allow selective focus several feet away (for portraits, etc), or hot shoe mounts, pivoting screens, etc. None of these really belong on a compact. There are a couple minor nitpicks that I can point out. You can't control what the rear control dial does, for example - it defaults to whatever mode your in. You also loose most manual control when in a scene mode. I don't find these to be glaring or problematic, others may.

As a side note, a company called Lensmate (no affiliation, promise!) provides worthwhile S90 / S95 accessories, such as a tiny 37mm filter holder that can attach to the front (I use a polarizer), as well as a small attachable grip that I think works perfectly, without compromising pocketability.

Considering I would have given the excellent S90 a 5 star rating, the S95 gets this and then some. For someone who likes to travel, hike, and shoot with focus across the frame, this camera is one of those rare items that feels someone must have made just for me.

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