ted & pamela

Posts Tagged ‘canon s90’

Thoughts on my Canon S90

Saturday, April 17th, 2010

I’ve now had a few weeks to play with my new Canon S90, so I decided to write up some of my thoughts on it.

First of all, this isn’t intended to be a comprehensive review — you can find those at the imaging resourcephotography blog, etc. I’m just going to mentoin a few things I was surprised by, even after reading all of the reviews.


When I first received the camera, the first thing I noticed was that it was significantly smaller than I expected. It’s about the same size as my old Fuji Finepix f31fd, and significantly smaller than Pamela’s Canon SX200. It fits comfortably in the front pockets of my khakis, and snugly (i.e. not comfortably) in my jeans. For some reason, I expected a high-end compact camera to be larger than the typical point-and-shoots I usually see people with.


One of the interesting things about the S90 is that it has a rotating ring around the lens that imitates the zoom/focus rings on an SLR lens. The ring is programable, such that it can be changed to adjust ISO, white balance, aperature, shutter speed, zoom, manual focus, etc. The idea is interesting, but the imitation is imprecise. For example, if you set the ring to adjust optical zoom, each discrete click of the ring changes the zoom distance some predefined amount, e.g. 28-35-50. Also, there’s a significant lag between the time you turn the ring and the time the lens motor actually kicks in to change the zoom distance.

I found the ring much more useful for controls that are inherently discrete and take effect immediately, e.g. ISO, and ended up leaving the ring at it default setting, which is to control something different depending on the camera mode. For example, in aperture priority mode, the ring controls aperture.

A complaint that I read in several reviews of the S90 is that the exposure compensation control ring on the back of the camera is too loose, which makes it too easy to accidentally change the exposure compensation. I found this problem on my own camera as well. However, it never became a major issue – I always check the camera settings before taking a picture, and it was natural for me to adjust the exposure compensation if it wasn’t what I wanted. In the end, this turned out to be a non-issue for me.


One of the S90’s major sellings points is its f/2 IS lens, and here it really delivers. I managed to capture a lot of low light pictures that my Fuji Finepix f31fd would have choked. Note, however, that the widest aperture is only available at wideangle — f/2 at 28mm, f/2.5 at 35mm, and f/3.2 at 50mm. Still, it was wonderful to be able to take available-light pictures with a compact camera.

Final thoughts

The S90 is a wonderful camera, and handily replaces my old Fuji Finepix f31fd. When I went biking across the Golden Gate Bridge a few weeks ago, the S90 would have been perfect because a DSLR would have been too bulky (IMO) for walking and riding around town.

However, despite all of its manual controls, the S90 is not a DSLR replacement. This was most recently obvious at Pamela’s brother’s graduation last week, where my goal was to capture her brother walking across the stage, shaking hands with important-looking people with lots of medals. Here, I needed a wide aperature at both ~40mm (for the whole stage) and at ~70mm (for the closer shots) at a shutter speed fast enough to avoid motion blur. The S90 doesn’t cycle fast enough (it can take maybe one picture every two seconds), and it was also too slow at its telephoto end. However, it still made for a great video camera to complement the pictures from my DSLR.  =)

New camera on its way

Friday, March 19th, 2010

I bought myself a new compact camera, a Canon S90.  It took me a while to decide on this camera, so I thought I’d write a bit about my thought process.

Currently, I have a Canon XTi with a few lenses, my favorites being a Sigma 18-50mm f/2.8 and a Canon 24-70mm f/2.8.  The Sigma is great as a light, flexible walk-around lens, and the Canon has served me well at weddings and dance competitions.  My other camera is a Fuji Finepix F31fd, which I’ve pretty much stopped using regularly because Pamela’s Canon SX200 is so much better in most situations.  I still carry the Fuji when I don’t want to be walking around conspicuously with a DSLR and I can’t use Pamela’s camera for one reason or another, but most of the time it just sits at the bottom of my backpack.

Originally I wasn’t sure whether I wanted to get a new DSLR body or a new compact camera, but I soon decided that I was much happier with my Canon XTi than my Fuji compact, so I decided to look for a new compact camera.

I wanted a camera that had the following:

  • Manual / aperture priority / shutter priority modes
  • Quick startup, fast focus, negligible shutter delay
  • Easy access to controls for exposure compensation, white balance, ISO, etc.
  • Large aperture wide-angle (at least f/2.8)
  • RAW support (nice to have)
  • As little noise as possible at higher ISOs
  • Compact enough to fit in a jacket pocket

I didn’t really care about the following:

  • HD video recording – 640×480 @ 24/30fps is fine with me
  • Scene modes – I  rarely used them on previous cameras
  • Optical viewfinder – great on my DSLR, but not worth the extra space it would take up on a compact
  • External flash / accessory mount – same as above

This naturally led me to the large-sensor and “prosumer” compact cameras, like the Panasonic GF-1, Panasonic LX3, and the Canon S90.  Early on in my research, I was leaning toward the Panasonic GF-1 with its 14-45mm (28-90mm 35mm equivalent) f/3.5-5.6 kit lens.  However, I didn’t really like how bulky this lens was, and I wasn’t happy with the lens’ f/3.5 maximum aperture.  I considered getting both this lens as well as the 20mm (40mm 35mm equivalent) f/1.7 pancake lens, but that would have been even more expensive and wouldn’t be as convenient.  At about that time, I realized that I really just wanted a simple compact camera that could take good pictures in most situations, without the bulk and hassle of an interchangeable lens system.

That realization pushed me toward the Panasonic LX3 and the Canon S90.  Both of these cameras are ~$400, which is still expensive for a compact, but much cheaper than the $800 GF1.  I read several reviews of each camera, and found that the two were well-matched in almost every aspect.  For example, I preferred the LX3’s fast 24-60mm (35mm equivalent) f/2-2.8 lens to the S90’s 28-105mm (35mm equivalent) f/2-4.9 lens, though the S90’s telephoto reach would certainly be more useful in a lot of situations.  The one thing that pushed me over the edge in favor of the Canon S90 was it’s retractable lens cover – once again, this was a just matter of convenience; I didn’t want to deal with the lens cover on the LX3.

I should be getting the camera in a few days.  I’ll report back after I’ve spent some time with it.  =)