As a couple of you know, I picked up a Canon S90 a few days ago via Amazon.  I’ve not had much time to spend with the camera, but a couple of things about it are really striking.

Fast f/2.0 lens

My Nikon D80 is equipped with an f/3.5 lens; the S90 with an f/2.0 lens.  The difference is staggering. The f/3.5 lens on the Nikon is about 1/3 as “bright” as the 2.0 lens on the S90.

A scene like the one below – a few items on my desk, illuminated by the light allowed by partly closed horizontal blinds – requires flash with the Nikon, but no flash with the Canon:

Shot with S90, natural light

Macro capability

The other thing that’s really struck me is how easily one can take macro photos with the S90.  No need to switch to the Macro setting (although there is one) – just get as close as ~2½” from your subject, and the camera performs very well:



Replay TV remote

Will test over the holidays…

Another feature that my D80 lacks (and which is included on the D90, of course!) is the ability to record video.  With the D90, it’s HD; that’s not the case with the Canon S90, but the quick test clips I’ve shot thus far have looked very good and the sound quality is more than acceptable.

We’ll give the camera a good test over the holidays, and we’ll report back sometime in January.  In the meantime, if you’re interested in the S90, here are some professional reviews:

Canon S90 Review:  It’ll never leave my pocket (Gizmodo)

Canon PowerShot S90 @ The Luminous Landscape

Canon PowerShot S90 @ PhotographyBlog (long, detailed review)

Canon S90 @ Canon Rumors

The S90 is currently $399 at Amazon.

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8 Comments on A couple of quick reactions to the Canon S90

  1. Berg says:

    Thanks for this, Kevin! I’ve been on the lookout for a high-quality, compact camera. I’ll add this to the list…


  2. Till says:

    The S90 is definitely among the very best of travel cameras, at least at a superficial look. The low light capacity is particularly appealing, actually less for travel but for shooting in a private indoor setting or at concerts. The wide angle is also great for travel but equally beneficial in an indoor setting. What kept me back is that the zoom range is simply not big enough to be usefull for travel. I have used the maximum zoom range on my G9 (210mm) many, many times. I could have needed a wider angle even more times. But 28mm is not wide enough. So, I’d be willing to get a 24-150mm travel camera but 28-105 as the S90 has simply doesn’t cut it.

    I guess there are two sides of the fence. I am really into photography and when I want optimum quality I simply bit the bullet and lug around a huge DSLR with lenses, shoot in raw and post-process those pictures that I want to print. But when I travel on a trip where taking photos is not the aim of the trip and traveling light is more important, than I want a very versatile camera, perhaps one that is rather sturdy (dust and water resistant), optimum image quality, Raw, hot shoe etc are all not so important in that case. But zoom range and pocketability are really important.

    In that sense something like the Olympus Stylus 9000 is ok (28-280) or the Fuji F70EXR (27-270). The Fuji probably has better picture quality but it doesn’t do HD video. I can live without that. Normal video is sufficient. S90 only has normal video.

    But finally, in this category and with very good image quality (probably indistinguishable from the S90 by 95% of users when printed) there are the Panasonic ZR1 (25-200) and the ZS3 (25-300). Even the TS1 improves on the S90 with a range of 28-128 and being waterproof.

    Any of these is in the same size and weight range as the S90, the ZR1 even weighs less and is smaller, especially flatter, despite the double zoom range.

    Did I mention that any of these camera is at least $100 cheaper?

    So the S90 is clearly a premium product but it’s a little bit of a photo snob’s candy and not really a super useful travel photo tool. If I want candy I get a Ricoh, DP2 or even Leica.

    Now, otoh, if they made a G12 with 24-200 and an f2 lens, same sensor, housing and features as G11. I will buy that without even thinking twice. Perhaps integrate the S90’s lens ring into the next G series and I’d even pay 6-700 dollars for it because that would make my DSLR gear almost superfluous. As it is, I am using the G9 in 85% of cases already.


    Kevin Reply:



  3. Till says:


    Was mightily tempted myself but couldn’t justify it as a travel toy or as a serious photographer’s tool, for spec reasons. Finally, for really nice snob candy, I couldn’t justify it, either for financial reason.

    However, I am a bit jealous you got one because I’m sure you’ll have lots of fun with it. And besides that, my arguments may make sense for myself but not for others.




  4. Berg says:

    Hi Kevin,

    I picked up an S90 today to give it a whirl. Based on your personal photos, what I read in the articles you linked to (one of the guys being a pro with numerous cameras), and discussing the camera with various salespeople, I decided it might be a good choice for what I wanted: to replace the Casio P&S I’ve been using as a backup for years, and to try and travel a lot lighter (dragging my SLR along is just sometimes not a great choice depending on the destination). So, I’ll report back on what I think! Thanks again for posting your review.


    Kevin Reply:

    Berg: Congrats – and definitely let us know how you make out with it!


  5. Gary Williams says:

    Digital Camera Resource hammers this camera for poor ergonomics, and other reviews raise similar concerns. The biggest complaint is that it is too easy to accidentally move the non-detented wheel on the back of the camera, thus inadvertently changing an important setting. Other complaints include that the flash pops up right where the left hand ought to be when shooting, and that a control button on the top of the camera is identical to the power button. Also that the camera is not easy to maintain a firm grip on. What have your experiences been with handling this camera?


    Kevin Reply:


    Thanks for commenting! I think these criticisms have some merit. Let me tackle them in order.

    Personally, I don’t think the accidental movement of the dial on the camera back is not an issue. When holding the camera, your right index finger must be near or on the shutter button, and the natural position for your right thumb is beneath the camera, nowhere near the dial in question. Keep in mind also that there’s no viewfinder, so there’s no chance you’d somehow brush that dial with your cheek.

    The flash issue is probably the most valid. You’d naturally tend to put your left index finger in that area. Have it happen once (the flash popping up beneath your finger) and most people will figure out to rest that finger behind the flash or on the left side of the camera.

    The control button / power button is bullshit, frankly. That control button is a seldomly used, and typically, you’ll look at the top surface of the camera when selecting the button to shut the camera off. Honestly, I don’t think it’s an issue at all.

    As to the final point, I think it has some validity. The surface of the camera is smooth, and the camera is small. All I can say are: a) be careful, and b) consider using the lanyard which comes with the S90. In informal, family situations like a party, I’d never use the lanyard. Traveling, I think I’d install it.

    Hope this helps!


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