Review – Canon S90, Part 2: Using the Camera

by Miserere

  

⇐ Part 1: First Impressions

Since I started writing my initial impressions I’ve continued playing around with settings and even read through the manual (gasp!); I’ve also got more comfortable with the camera, which gives me confidence when shooting. I’m still not at the point where the camera disappears in my hands, but I know that day is rapidly approaching.

Now let me address different aspects of shooting with the Canon S90.

  

LCD Screen

When you have a camera that lacks a viewfinder, a good LCD is important, and in every respect the S90′s screen excels. It is crisp and bright; so much so that I have it set to its lowest brightness and have no problem using it in bright sunlight. The antireflective coating no doubt helps in this mission. I don’t know how resistant it is to scratches (I hope you’ll understand that I don’t take a nail to it to find out), all I know is that there are no marks on it yet after about 1 month of living in my pocket, often with my BlackBerry. For those of you who like to wear polarised sunglasses while shooting, here is the low-down: The LCD screen is horizontally polarised, so brightness is maintained while shooting in landscape format; if you rotate the camera to portrait, however, brightness decreases considerably

Photos displayed on the LCD look great, and you can cycle through them with either the left/right arrows (with each photo popping up immediately) or with the rear wheel (which shows the photo shrinking as the next one flies in). When you press the up arrow in playback mode, you access the playback menu that allows you to look at photos by date, by category (a type of tag you can set in-camera) or jump them by 10 or 100. Also in playback mode, you can press MENU to start a slideshow and access options for that photo (erase, protect, rotate, add category, crop, correct red eye, resize, etc, etc; all for JPEGs except ‘category’).

And speaking of playback, it can be used even when the camera is off. Just keep the play button pressed for 1s and you can browse your photos without the rest of the camera turning on or the lens extending.

And here is what the screen looks like while shooting. It appears cluttered, but for me most of it just goes away when I’m shooting; I only pay attention when I need to consult the histogram or know the value of a setting. Basically, I see through it unless I need to look at it.

Canon S90 LCD screen while shooting

Allow me to decipher the less-obvious features for you: The big M tells me I’m in Manual mode; the MF indicates Manual Focus; on the bottom, the green circle with holes next to the current shutter speed indicates the rear wheel is controlling it; the two green brackets to the right indicate the lens ring is controlling the aperture, currently set to f/2; the two square brackets in the lower-left corner tell me I’m metering in center-weighted average mode; finally, the scale running along the bottom half of the right side is the light meter, which in this case is telling me I’m 1 1/3 stops overexposed. The dark bars along the top and bottom delimit the 2:3 aspect ratio, and the grid is the famous rule of thirds, which I actually use to get straight lines straight. The center square is the area that gets blown up to roughly twice the size to aid in manual focusing. last of all, that little camera icon with the arrowhead on top tells me which way is “up”; turn the camera 90° in either direction and the icon will turn to point up. But if you turn the camera upside down, the arrow will point down.

  

Shooting Modes

Shooting modes available are the standard M, Av, Tv, P and AUTO, plus C (custom mode), low light and SCN (scene mode, with a hefty 17 settings: portrait, landscape, night snapshot, kids & pets, indoor, sunset, night scene, fireworks, beach, underwater, aquarium, foliage, snow, color accent, color swap, nostalgic and stitch assist). Movie recording is accessed as another mode on the dial.

Scene mode names should be self-explanatory. Some of them are quite pleasing, such as the nostalgic scene (which offers 5 different “nostalgic” looks), while others (such as snow, or fireworks) will be superfluous to any experienced shooter who understands camera settings. The real downside is shooting is completely automatic in SCN mode, so the photographer can only control the focal length, thus rendering this mode useless for RAW shooters.

Another interesting mode is Low Light. Again, all you can control is focal length, while ISO varies automatically between 320 and 12,800. That’s not a typo. What the camera does is bin up pixels 2×2, so the output image is only 2.5MP in size (1824×1368 pixels), or 1/4 the native resolution, thus gaining 2 stops in effective ISO range. Needless to say, the resulting image is a JPEG. This “gain” in ISO can also be achieved by downsampling a RAW file in postprocessing, and likely with better results.

As far as I can tell (because the manual doesn’t), the only modes that give you RAW output are Av, Tv, M and P.

Now for the modes I use the most: Av and M, the former for general shooting, the latter for low light shooting.

Av: I seem to have settled on using the lens ring for aperture, the rear wheel for EV comp., the shortcut key for AE-L, and I change ISO through the FUNC. SET key, who’s first item is ISO, thus acting like a shortcut key (see screen grab below).

M: I’m still battling for the best way to set up Manual mode for low light shooting. I am undecided between the method I described in part 1 of this review and the following: Lens ring for aperture, rear wheel for shutter speed, shortcut key for AE-L, and I change ISO as in Av above, through the FUNC. SET key. Neither are perfect, both have their drawbacks. For slow shooting, either works fine and I have no complaints, but for candid shots in low light where brightness changes quickly, I yearn for auto ISO in M mode. A quick way to set the correct exposure in M mode is to half press the shutter, then press the up key; the camera will set aperture and shutter speed to what it considers appropriate.

Canon S90 quick access menu through 'FUNC. SET'

  

Focal Lengths and Maximum Aperture

I complained in part 1 about how slow this lens was towards the long end so I thought it would be useful to list here how the maximum aperture changes with focal length in order to help owners better choose what focal lengths to use if they want to maximise light gathering.

Canon S90 maximum aperture
for each focal length
F.L. (mm-equiv.) Max. Aperture (f/)
28 2
32 2.2
35 2.5
40 2.8
50 3.2
60 3.5
70 4
85 4.5
105 4.9

One thing the LCD display does not tell you is what focal length you’re zoomed to. The zoom lever moves in fixed steps, each of which corresponds to the values in the table above, except there’s an extra step between 40mm and 50mm where the max. aperture does not vary and stays at f/2.8. If you are really fussy about what focal length you’re shooting, you can assign the lens ring to zooming. When doing this, each click of the ring corresponds to 28mm, 35mm, 50mm, 85mm and 105mm; these values show up on the LCD so you know which one you’re choosing.

  

Auto ISO

It would be so nice to have control over the ISO range available in auto ISO, or at least the maximum ISO; major blunder for Canon here. Furthermore, the S90 is rather quirky with respect to what ISO ceiling it chooses in each shooting mode. I’ve produced a table below listing what that ceiling is for every shooting and scene mode. This information is not given in the Canon S90 user manual and is not available anywhere else that I’m aware of.

Canon S90 maximum ISO in Auto ISO mode
for every shooting and scene mode
Scene
Mode
Max. ISO Shooting
Mode
Max. ISO
Portrait 400 AUTO 1600
Landscape 400 P 1600
Night
Snapshot
1600 Tv 800
Kids/Pets 800 Av 800
Indoor 1600 M
Sunset 400 Low Light 12,800*
Sunset 400
Night
Scene
80
Fireworks 80
Beach 400
Underwater 800
Aquarium 1600
Foliage 400
Snow 400
Color
Accent
800
Color
Swap
800
Nostalgic 800
*: Images taken at lower resolution of 2.5MP.

  

White Balance

You can manually select from the typical list of white balance light sources (plus “underwater”, which is a first, for me), or custom set it using any white (or grey) surface in your scene. Each WB setting can then be warmed up or cooled down to taste.

So far I’ve just used auto WB because it just works. Even though I’ve shot in RAW, I’ve only had to reset the WB in postprocessing once when shooting indoors in low light, and with mixed lighting conditions.

  

The Flash

I’m finding the onboard flash quite neat, and given my expectations for it (quite low), I’m happy about it. In Av and Tv you can set it to fire always, never, or slow synchro (Which is Canon-speak for “fill flash”); in P mode you can also choose “Auto Flash”. In all 3 modes you can control the flash EV comp. with a range of ±2 EV, in 1/3 EV steps. When shooting Manual mode, you have the option for flash on, or off; when on, you can to choose between 3 power output settings (even photographing an average room, I just used medium power).

  

Focusing

Autofocus: So far so good; I haven’t used so many P&Ss that I can compare AF speed, so all I can say is it’s slower than my DSLR, but faster than a tortoise, and certainly adequate for my needs. Cool feature: You can set AF to face recognition and it will try to find a face anywhere in the frame in order to focus on it; if it doesn’t find it, it focuses on something else and shows a green square (or more) around that area. I can see this feature appealing to mums and dads trying to get their kids’ faces sharp. Combine this with servo focusing (Canon-speak for continuous focus) and you can at least stand a chance against any 5-year old.

Manual Focus: In part 1 I said I wasn’t happy with manual focusing but would wait to start complaining about it. Good job I waited. Even better job that I read the manual while I was waiting. My main issue with manual focusing was that it appeared to turn off after reviewing an image; turns out you need to press the up arrow in order to make the rear wheel control focus again. Once in manual focus, hit the up arrow again, and the rear wheel reverts to its assigned duty (EV comp. or whatever). Of course, some may like using the lens ring for manual focusing—I tried that but didn’t like it. Here’s a nice trick: When in autofocus, you can focus on your subject, then, if you press the left arrow (which is the shortcut to set focus mode) while keeping the shutter button half pressed, the camera goes directly to manual focus, with the focus distance set to your subject. You can also autofocus, lift your finger off the shutter button, and then press the left arrow to access the focus modes, then scroll through the 3 options (macro, auto and manual) to get to manual. Pressing the left arrow while half-pressing the shutter you bypass this last bit completely. You can choose to have the center portion of the scene magnified to aid with manual focus. Manual focusing is not sticky, so if you turn the camera off, you’ll be in autofocus mode when you turn it back on; same goes for Macro focusing. I’ve happily figured out a workaround for this: Save manual focus to the Custom mode. I’ve configured my Custom mode to Av with Auto ISO and manual focusing. When in Custom mode, turning the camera on and off doesn’t unstick the manual focus setting.

Whatever focus mode you use, you can choose to bracket your focus automatically, whereby the camera will take 3 shots: one at the chosen focus distance, one slightly in front, one slightly behind. You can set 3 different interval sizes for the bracketed shots. This is a cool feature that I’ve heard many people ask for on DSLRs.

Now here comes a focusing gripe: Although the camera does remember what distance it was focused to when you turn it off, then on, it forgets if the LCD turns off automatically due to the powersave feature. Here’s the funny thing, if your camera is set to meters, it will revive focused to 5m; if it’s set to feet, it revives at 5 feet! There is some good news, the focus distance is one of the settings that is registered with the Custom mode, so make sure you focus to some useful distance before saving settings to Custom. I have the Custom focus set at 3m (or at least where I think 3m is) because that’s the hyperfocal for 28mm-equiv. f/2.

Canon S90 LCD in Manual Focus mode
Canon S90 Manual Focus Shooting Screen - Normal Canon S90 Manual Focus Shooting Screen - Macro
Normal distance Macro distance

As I’m interested in street photography, zone focusing is an important part of quick, unobtrusive shooting. A ‘Hyperfocal’ focusing mode would have been extremely useful, and I see its lack as a big hinderance, especially since it’s so easy to implement. Are you listening, Canon? The fact that the camera’s distance scale in MF only has marks at 1m, 2m, 5m and ∞ (10cm, 20cm and 50cm in macro) doesn’t help matters. In order to help all you zone focusing enthusiasts out there, I’ve created the following tables for you; I hope they’re useful. For your convenience, I created a PDF version of these tables, in both meters and feet: Canon S90 Depth of Field and Hyperfocal Tables. These tables will also be useful for any other camera with a 1/1.7″ sensor, such as the Canon G10 or G11; it will be approximately correct for the Panasonic LX3 and Leica D-Lux4.

Canon S90 hyperfocal distance for main
focal length and aperture combinations
  Hyperfocal Distance (m)
F.L. f/2 f/2.8 f/4 f/5.6 f/8
28mm 3.01 2.13 1.51 1.07 0.76
35mm 3.32 2.35 1.66 1.18
40mm 4.37 3.09 2.19 1.55
50mm
4.78 3.38 2.40
85mm 9.78 6.92
105mm 14.9 10.6

  

Canon S90 Depth of Field for wide/normal focal lengths
at standard distances in Manual Focus mode
  Depth of Field (m)
F.L. Dist. f/2 f/2.8 f/4 f/5.6 f/8
28mm 1m 0.75 – 1.50 0.68 – 1.88 0.60 – 2.96 0.52 – 15.9 0.43 – ∞
2m 1.20 – 5.96 1.03 – 33.3 0.86 – ∞ 0.69 – ∞ 0.55 – ∞
5m 1.88 – ∞ 1.49 – ∞ 1.15 – ∞ 0.88 – ∞ 0.65 – ∞
35mm 1m 0.77 – 1.43 0.70 – 1.73 0.63 – 2.49 0.54 – 6.53
2m 1.25 – 5.01 1.08 – 13.3 0.91 – ∞ 0.74 – ∞
5m 2.00 – ∞ 1.60 – ∞ 1.25 – ∞ 0.95 – ∞
40mm 1m 0.81 – 1.30 0.76 – 1.48 0.69 – 1.85 0.61 – 2.84
2m 1.37 – 3.70 1.21 – 5.73 1.04 – 25.1 0.87 – ∞
5m 2.32 – ∞ 1.90 – ∞ 1.51 – ∞ 1.17 – ∞
50mm 1m 0.83 – 1.26 0.77 – 1.41 0.71 – 1.71
2m 1.41 – 3.43 1.26 – 4.86 1.09 – 11.9
5m 2.45 – ∞ 2.02 – ∞ 1.62 – ∞

Now here are a couple of crazy ideas for camera manufacturers: First, give us a hyperfocal focus setting; second, give us a value of what distance the lens is focusing to in manual focusing, because a scale with 1m, 2m, 5m, and ∞ (or 2ft, 5ft, 10ft and ∞) just doesn’t cut it. Instead of a little bar going up and down, just give us the distance as a number, and while you’re at it, you could also give us the near and far focus limits of our DoF for the focal length and aperture we’re using. The maths aren’t difficult, and I’m sure the camera’s little brain can handle it.

  

Shutter Lag

Shutter lag is one of the most important properties for a P&S, because historically we’ve been given P&Ss that allow us to make coffee during the time it takes them to take the shot after pressing the shutter release. Not so with the S90, not even The Flash could get away with making coffee. There is clearly some lag when using autofocus, which is no worse than other P&Ss I have tried (not that many, to be honest) and is due to the focusing action, but when shooting in manual focus there is no perceptible lag.

In order to prove to myself that there really was no lag, I set a stopwatch running and took a photograph of it every 10s for 100s, measuring the delay between me pressing the button as the stopwatch hit 10s, 20s, 30s, and the time shown in each photo. The lag I measured is 160ms, which is in the same league as some DSLRs (high end DSLRs are in the 50ms range, while middle tier models are around 100ms). In real life, 160ms is just as good as instantaneous. Another gold star for Canon.

  

Shooting Speed

I don’t use the camera in servo mode (Canon-speak for continuous shooting), but I performed a quick test to see how quick it would shoot continuously, in both RAW and JPEG (but not RAW+JPEG—sorry, I have a life). I used a Kodak 4GB SDHC Class 2 card. I might redo the test with a 133x card to see if there is a bottleneck (because Class 2 isn’t very fast for an SD card) but I think the results will be the same because the shooting speed remained constant during the 10 consecutive shots I took for each test, meaning the camera’s buffer wasn’t getting filled up, meaning data was being written to the card efficiently. Or…the camera has no buffer and shooting speed depends only on the card speed (until the camera’s maximum processing speed is reached). I have not found any numbers for the buffer size on the internet, so can’t comment right now. What I can say is the JPEG shooting speed I tested is in line with Canon’s 0.9 fps claim.

One thing that hasn’t been stated anywhere is how ISO affects fps. If you shoot RAW, there is no appreciable difference; however, if you shoot JPEGs, you will get faster fps below ISO 800, while shooting at ISO 800 and above the camera slows down by around 40%. I assume this is because of the extra number crunching required to clean up noise at ISO 800 and beyond.

I also tested the time it takes for an image to pop up for review after the shot is taken. I’ve condensed all the results in the tables below.

Canon S90 FPS for various shooting modes
File
Type
Focus
Mode
FPS
ISO < 800 ISO 800+
RAW AF 0.5fps 0.5fps
RAW MF 0.7fps 0.7fps
JPEG AF 0.8fps 0.6fps
JPEG MF 1.0fps 0.6fps

  

Canon S90 delay time between shot and review
File
Type
ISO Delay Time
(s)
JPEG <800 1.5
JPEG 800+ 2.1
RAW all 2.5

  

Taking Photographs

Let’s not lose sight of what this little black box was designed to do: Take photographs. How is this experience? For me, enjoyable. As I figure out how to best set up the camera for my type of shooting I also try to find workarounds for those things I don’t like. The unstickiness of manual focus was circumvented via the Custom mode, but other gripes cannot be avoided, such as not being able to zoom into the image preview that shows up after taking a shot. [UPDATE: Thanks to reader Thorsboe, we now know this isn't quite true. In the setup menu one can choose the length of time the review stays up: never, 2-10s, and 'hold'. 'Hold' basically means "forever", and in this setting you can zoom in all you want. Just hit playback or half-press the shutter button to exit review mode.] [UPDATE 2: An anonymous tip in the comments tells us that pressing the FUNC. SET key during the review will "hold" the image, thus allowing you to zoom in. This seems like a better solution than the previous one.] But all in all, I’m finding it easy to take photographs the way I want to, and in general the camera manages to stay out of the way. It is also very responsive in MF mode, as evidenced by the short shutter lag, which allows you to photograph the decisive moment, not the decisive aftermath.

I could complain about its small size making it awkward to hold at times, but then I wanted a small camera to carry in my pocket always, so I’m still experimenting with different grips. In truth, shooting with one hand is very easy, it’s when I want to shoot at slow shutter speeds and hold the camera steady with two hands that I run into problems placing my left hand.

Can I use this camera to make Art, or will it be relegated to snapshot duties only? The answer to this question depends in part on the camera’s IQ, which I will address in part 3 of this review, but as far as controls and functions are concerned, the S90 is most definitely a camera to take real Photographs with, not just snapshots. Canon have to be commended for having catered to us photographers; while the camera does have plenty of gimmicky, newbie-friendly features, they are neatly hidden in the Scene mode and one never need encounter them unless one looks for them. Ridding menus of cute functions leaves them barren, with only the essential settings remaining. Furthermore, those intricately related to shooting can be controlled with a wheel or dial; yet those that are secondary are still only 1 click away.

Part 3: Image Quality ⇒

  

  

If you are thinking of buying this camera, please consider ordering it through our Amazon link below. You will be helping support EtL at no extra cost to you. Thanks!

Canon PowerShot S90IS 10MP Digital Camera with 3.8x Wide Angle Optical Image Stabilized Zoom and 3-inch LCD

Purchase the Canon S90 from Amazon.co.uk
Purchase the Canon S90 from B&H
Purchase the Canon S90 from Adorama

  

If you enjoyed this article and found it useful, please consider buying us a beverage. Better still, support EtL by making your online purchases through our affiliate stores—it costs you nothing extra and we get a small commission from every item.

  

Note: Links in this article might be to one of our affiliate stores. Purchases made from our affiliates through these links will benefit Enticing the Light at no extra cost to you.

Related posts:

  1. Review – Canon S90, Part 1: First Impressions
  2. Review – Canon S90, Part 3: Image Quality
  3. Review – Olympus Pen E-PL1, Part 2: Using the Camera
  4. Review – Samsung NX10, Part 2: Using the Camera
  5. Review – Panasonic G2, Part 1: Introduction and Using the Camera


Tags: , , , ,

  

54 Comments

  1. Thanks for the review. Sounds like a good, little machine.

    Bron

  2. Great review, looking forward to part 3.

    You can actually zoom into the photo you just took if you set ‘Review’ to ‘Hold’.

    (When in ‘Hold’ you can use ‘Disp’ to cycle through the different view modes and you can delete as well. You cannot cycle to next or previous pics in this mode. A shutter half press gets you back to shooting mode.)

  3. Thanks for sharing. I took a quick look at the high ISO samples from S90 on dpreview and they look promising. Your review is encouraging me to think that you might actually have some sense of control when using this camera–a feeling that is all too absent on many point & shoots.

    A question–how is performance when shooting RAW? Does it still feel snappy? When you review RAW images does it take substantially longer?

    • Yes Andrew, it definitely feels like I camera that you control, not the other way around.

      I don’t find the camera sluggish when shooting RAW, although it is slower than shooting JPEGs. I’ve added a section, Shooting Speed, which should answer all your questions on this matter.

  4. Mis, I wonder if you have also read the LL S90 review? That barrel distortion looks horrendous–I hope that Adobe LR is updated to handle the automatic distortion processing.

  5. Mis, Thank you and especially for the hyperfocal chart. That makes me very happy. I will try it on my G10. I am not sure I will end up getting the S90 anytime soon. With Christmas around the corner and things slowing down a tad, but then again…Who knows ;-)

    As for the hyperfocal chart, my only complain is …What is this meters stuff ? lol.

  6. By the way. Does the S90 have a true infinity mode like the sd780IS does?

  7. I would like to share an annoyance and workaround.

    Annoyance : I am using a waistbelt-clipped pouch to hold my S90. I found it is hard to operate it using my right-hand only to do quick P&S. The ON/OFF switch is too far that my index finger can reach. It would be great if Canon can swap that with the “RING FUNC.” using a firmware upgrade.

    Workaround : from power-off state, press the “Play” button with my thumb to enter review mode and press the shutter release to turn into into shooting mode.

  8. Sorry.. forgot to thank you for this great review. :)

  9. Thanks for the review. I just purchased the s90 and have read the manual to figure out what I am doing. Your info on what modes you use and the settings will help me out a great deal and give me a good base from which to start. (newbie). I did some shooting today and got a few nice pics…so I am slowly figuring out what I need to do. I’m looking forward to your part 3 and the only thing I can think of that you might have missed regarding the viewing photos mode is…next time your looking at a pic, just rotate the s90. The pic will rotate itself to portrait, turn it back 90 degrees…etc.

  10. Do you know the meaning of the little “camera” icon just under the battery meter?

  11. Great review!
    You make no comment about the control ring on the back of the camera being an annoyance, Is it just me? perhaps I’m “ham fisted” but I find it a real pain, I keep moving it accidentally, thus changing the EV setting ( my preferred use for it ) I really would like this ring to have a degree of friction to prevent this. Apart from that, no complaints, and no problems. It’s as good at ISO 1600 as my Olympus E510 DSLR is at ISO 400!

    • A lot of people are complaining about the rear wheel, but I haven’t found it to be such a big problem. I would like it to have subtle, but firm clicks instead of just spinning freely, but I don’t find that I turn it by accident, and my thumbs aren’t small :-)

    • Thanks for taking the time to review the S90.

      I just got mine tonight as a replacement for an A720is , which replaced an SD800is both of which I either lost or got stolen out of my car.

      I too find the little rear wheel an annoyance….and easy to jiggle out of position if placing the camera down on a chair while powered up.

      It’s a nice feature if you want to take the time to take a shot and play with the controls but many a time I’m winging the camera at a seconds notice either out of my pocket ,out of a automobile console..or off a car seat firing away at something interesting as I pass by. Grab shots.

      It appears the only setting that defeats that rear control is AUTO? And in Auto you can’t seem to pick your focus point or ISO? The camera picks what it thinks is best?

      Is there anyway to set the camera to power up with the following settings:
      A) autofocus on center target (not throw green squares everywhere)
      B) with a low ISO of 80 or 100? as opposed to auto ISO of 400-800-3200?
      C) Lock out the rear control?

      I’d like to be able to just grab the camera off my car seat while driving and blindly fire a shot or two or three at a subject or building while I’m either moving or at a traffic light…(sometimes I’ll compose the shot) I fear the rear wheel dealy bob…may get inadvertantly activated (moved) simply by my picking the camera up off the seat while powered up in some P-C setting… but those program modes P,TV,AV, M etc…seem to be the only way to tell the camera…”Hey..focus on the center will ya…NOT that bum trying to squeegy my window, while I’m trying to snap a shot of that guy getting stabbed by the USA today stand off to your right. ”

      Again thanks for your review..

      I’ve ordered the metal grip, since I find this guy as slippery as an eel…and I too seem to naturally want to press the mode control for my shutter… Maybe as suggested elsewhere a couple of dots of friction material here or there may keep me from letting go of the camera while firing away doing 50 MPH sticking it out the car window with my left hand while steering with my right.

      • Mark,

        There is no way to set the range of ISO used in auto ISO. The only way I know of to have the camera power up with specific settings is to add them to the Custom shooting mode, which remembers every single setting.

        But please, don’t shoot and drive! :-D

        • That’s what I thought….Too bad.

          As to driving while shooting , I’ll compromise and use my knees to steer,put my coffee down before firing and ask the guy doing the stabbing to say cheese . lol.

          Happy Holidays ….Good shooting!

  12. I tested your timing with RAW and JPEG and various ISO values. Whether in RAW or not, the response after a shot is slower at ISO 800 and above. So it seems your view that in RAW it makes no difference is a bit off. I didn’t time things but at 800 and above the “Busy” signal shows and it doesn’t below 800. Maybe I am doing something wrong?
    Mel

  13. Just wanted to add my thanks for your efforts. I had a look at one in the flesh today for the first time. Must admit I wondered if it was too small and hard to handle when I saw it.

  14. Thanks for the review! I just read that the C position memorizes manual focus too, so it’s possible to have a “street photography” setting with the camera prefocused! From your chart, 28mm and 5 meters seems to be just the ticket, right?

    A request for part 3: what do you think of the color modes? I need to decide between Vivid and Positive, but haven’t done enough tests too. The Nostalgic mode seems intriguing too…

    • Jorge,

      The C mode seems to memorise everything, which makes it quite powerful.

      I’m not sure I’ll be going into JPEG colour modes for Part 3. This review is already quite long and has taken up a lot of my time; plus, as a RAW shooter, I’m more interested in other aspects of image quality (because colours I can sort out later with the appropriate RAW developing settings).

  15. Ok, i was able to apply the hyperfocal setting to my G10 and must say, they worked very well even if they where in metric. ;-) I posted a few snap shots here.

    http://photo.net/digital-camera-forum/00V1bw

  16. Thanks for the update regarding speed. I wouldn’t normally use continous shooting on a camera like this either, was mostly wondering about any general sluggishness with RAW–like image review, etc. Reading what you’ve already said suggests ‘noticeable but not horrible.’ I was in a Best Buy recently for another purpose, and was hoping they’d have a S90 (they didn’t) but they did have a G11. I was disappointed to find how lousy the handling is–because of the bulky swiveling rear LCD and a bunch of rear-panel buttons & wheel, there’s not really anywhere to put your hand. S90 looks like despite it’s smaller size it might not actually be much worse, there’s a little spot above the ‘S’ button that looks like it can hold a thumb.

    • At your service, Sir Andrew :-P

      You are correct, slower than JPEG, but not horrible. So much so, that until you mentioned it, I hadn’t even thought of quantifying it. You are also correct that there is a little protuberance above the shortcut button that seems to be there for the thumb. Personally, I place my thumb under the camera. Now that I think about it, this might be why some people are complaining about the rear wheel moving so easily; if you place your thumb on that rear ridge, it will cover the wheel and could accidentally move it. I have not had any problems with this because my thumb is not near the wheel when I hold the camera, only when I’m operating the buttons or rear wheel.

  17. Thank you for this detailed and helpful review. I got my S90 a few weeks ago after deciding I left my Nikon D40 DSLR home too often and am still learning to use this great pocket camera properly. You provided many helps not readily apparent (even after reading the sort-of overly-complex manual) which will aid many of us to use this camera more transparently and effectively. Thanks for taking the time to do this for us.

  18. I noticed that when i press the shutter half-way, the brightness changes, it’s getting darker. Is this a problem?

    • When you half-press, the camera figures out the exposure so what you see is what you get. Depending on the ambient light (or what exposure compensation you’ve set) the LCD can get brighter or darker when you half-press the shutter.

  19. Hello thanks for the review. About the hyperfocal distance, Panny has done it long ago on the LX2 and Lx2. Sweet little tool, as you change the apperture you se the DOF bar change in size. You stick the top of it to infinity and there you are… at f8, from 2 feet to infinite. Great thing if you want the camera to disapear in your hand. Also you can pre-focus whil in MF mode with a lill button, sweet if you sit down and wait for unaware subjects to walk by. Honest to god i may go for one of those 4 third as my only camera if they do anything good. If only the X1 could have interchangeable lenses. Sorry for pimping not my style but I decided on the D-lux4 instead of the s90 (always had canon before) for my street photo beacause of those features.

  20. I love this camera too – I would however like to be able to shoot from the hip with the LCD – do you know if this is possible? If so, I would LOVE to hear form you via email.

    thanks!

  21. “…M: I’m still battling for the best way to set up Manual mode for low light shooting. I am undecided between the method I described in part 1 of this review and the following: Lens ring for aperture, rear wheel for shutter speed, shortcut key for AE-L, and I change ISO as in Av above, through the FUNC. SET key…”

    I have an s90; and would like to set up the M function as you have; but, the manual indicates that AE-L is not available in M.
    How do you work around that?

    • John,

      If you think about it, there’s no point in having an AE-L button in M mode…M mode is its own AE-L :-) So, the short-cut button is assigned to AE-L, but I can only use it as such in the other modes. What I am now wishing is that I could assign the short-cut button to different functions for each shooting mode—in M mode I would assign it to ISO.

      • Thanks for your reply. I also appreciate your review, which is really a user guide to try and squeeze the most out of this camera. In the few days I have used the camera indoors, I have to really try hard to get a bad picture.

        Thanks for the review and keep up the great work.

  22. Tried the “snow” setting for the first time this week, normally I avoid the “G Whiz” settings on cameras like the plague! but needed to have the camera out of its case for the minimal time owing to the prevailing weather conditions. Had to disable the flash at each switch on which was a bit of a pain, but I have to say the results were most pleasing. A tad over exposed for my liking, but a tweak of the “levels” on Photoshop produced very good well saturated quality images. A lot easier than lugging round the SLR in the snow!

  23. Richard Franiec at http://www.kleptography.com/rf/#ordering makes an small addon grip for the S90. Machined aluminum and beadblasted/anodized to look like a part of the camera. It attaches with high tech 3M adhesive. Cost: $33.
    I myself have not seen or used it, but it gets rave reviews and mentions on the web.

  24. Miserere,

    Thank you graciously for such a through and helpful review of the S90. I’ve had mine for little more than a week, and have just now begun diving into the realm of possibilities.

    As I’m relatively new to the world of photography, I don’t understand the AE-L feature. Could you explain?

    Also, there seem to be three “custom” modes that save : P, M, and C. Is this correct? I don’t understand the difference between the three, and haven’t been able to find an adequate explanation.

    Thanks again, happy shooting.

    • Hi Isaac,

      I’m glad you found my review helpful.

      The AE-L button, when pressed, fixes the exposure to the value it is currently at. The three parameters that define an exposure are aperture, shutter speed and ISO. Depending on what mode you’re shooting in you may have 1, 2 or all 3 of them varying according the the light in the scene. Press the AE-L button and they’ll stay fixed at whatever value they were at when the button was pressed. Once you take a shot (or press the button again) they’ll start changing as you point your camera in different directions.

      There is only one Custom mode, and that is C. P is Program mode, where you basically let the camera choose the shooting (exposure) parameters it thinks are better. M mode is Manual, and is the opposite of P in that you manually have to set all 3 parameters.

  25. Miserere,
    it’s very useful review bro! before i read it i still comparing beetween panasonic LX3 and canon s90. now i pretty sure to choose s90.
    is S90 has HDR look option like in panasonic LX3?
    thanks alot

  26. I sure would love love love your review on the Canon G11….!!!
    Oh please won’t you consider?? Please…? I like your reviews…easy to follow…
    Thanks..

    • Thank you for your kind words Iris; it’s nice to know someone appreciated the time and work I put into this review. Sadly, I would not be able to put in the same effort into a G11 review, which means I don’t think I’ll be reviewing it. The Canon S90 was a personal purchase, which is part of the reason I went into so much depth with it; I cannot do the same for the G11.

      Have you bought one or are you thinking of buying one? It’s a very good camera with easier access to manual controls than the S90; the reason I chose the S90 over the G11 was size: I needed a camera that could fit in my trouser pockets :)

  27. Hi Miserere,

    thank you very much for this in-depth, and practical review. Would mind sharing why, and, specifically, how, you are using manual mode for low light street photography? Naively, I would have chosen Av mode, set the aperture wide open, set ISO to either open or relatively high, and then shoot. I am not clear why you prefer manual mode in street photography and I would be very curious to understand why. Cheers, tom.

  28. On page two of your review, you say:
    “A quick way to set the correct exposure in M mode is to half press the shutter, then press the up key; the camera will set aperture and shutter speed to what it considers appropriate.”

    I assume you mean the rear dial’s up click, but in full Manual mode, this simply selects either the aperture or the shutter speed, not sure how you have been able to get any other “auto” feedback this way? In full Manual mode, it’s just that, ALL manual. Please clarify if you can? Thanks.

Leave a Response