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Canon S95 Digital Camera Review

canon20110110a.jpgDigital Camera Review by: Simon Vrantsis


Just like a first impression of someone walking down the street in a business suit, it’s very easy to overlook and underestimate the depths of the Canon PowerShot S95 at a brief glance. The unassuming advanced compact from Canon opts for substance well over style, even though some may indeed prefer the classy business-like approach to its design over the alternative anyway. Overall, what we have here is a top 3 compact-camera of 2010; if not the best.

Fitted with an intelligently chosen 10-megapixel CCD sensor, the S95 delivers very good image quality in most shooting situations and the gamut of lighting conditions, with its performance truly impressive at lower ISO settings. An important addition that will, no doubt, please the enthusiast photographers, is that of a RAW capture mode. Not only does this open up a number of post-production options like exposure adjustment and white balance selection, it also allows for the highest-level of image quality retention which is most commonly found in the DSLR market. Another area in which RAW capture is beneficial is when using the S95 at a higher ISO. In general, performance is good up to ISO 800 but sensitivity can be pushed even further during use in RAW. It should also be noted that Canon has given users ISO increments of 1/3 of a stop which allows for much more flexibility than is normally seen at this end of the market.

Another headline feature of the S95 is its bright, 3.8x optical zoom lens that has a minimum aperture of f:2, and delivers a 35mm equivalent of 28-105mm focal length. At its initial focal length, the S95 allows use at faster shutter speeds even in low-light conditions, though the minimum aperture is variable and increases to f:4.9 when the lens is extended fully. If we are to be picky, this does reduce the overall benefit of the lens but still allows for great creative abilities, especially at 28mm, such as shallow depth of field.

The design of the S95 hasn’t change a great deal from its predecessor and remains of the highest quality. It feels solid in hand and the matte finish to the body results in a good amount of grip when in use. When compared to its closest rivals, the S95 is by far the most pocketable and streamline, and fits perfectly into the theory of ‘the best camera is the one that you’re with’. For those wanting to branch out to the manual side of photography, Canon have delivered effective manual controls to the design with the control ring on the lens being a standout. The ring function button found at the top of the camera allows for customisation regarding what effect the control has. The options range from adjustments to settings such as aperture, shutter speed, exposure compensation, white balance and ISO, through to capture modifications like manual focusing and alternate zooming. Once customised to suit your personal tastes, changes during shooting are extremely seamless. Although the design by Canon is truly intuitive and the functionality that has been packed into the S95 is stunning, the feel of the camera is use may not be to everyone’s liking, especially those coming from the DSLR world, and single-handed use isn’t perfect. But this will come down to personal preference, and having some much ability in such a small design should win most users over.

Dominating much of the cameras back is the 3.0”, 420k-resolution LCD that delivers vibrant and high-contrast images. Apart from the standard display information found in many compact cameras, the inclusion of an accurate virtual histogram and exposure preview during composition means that correct exposure, even in the cameras manual mode, is very simple.

One of the main improvements that Canon has introduced into the S95 from it predecessor is a HD movie mode. With a resolution of 720p, 1280x720, at 24fps, the performance is good though a drawback for many will be the inability to optically zoom or autofocus during recording. It’s still nice to see the inclusion of a high quality movie mode to pair with the S95’s great still image quality.

In general, the S95’s performance is fast and responsive with minimal lag time when needing to shoot urgently. Its autofocus is accurate and efficient with special mentions going to face detection and AF tracking. Following people and subjects in general is a true pleasure. Continuous shooting is at a modest 1.9fps but it must be said that the S95’s buffering is quite impressive with the ability to fill up a memory card when shooting at 0.8fps.

medal-platinum-r.jpgConsidering there really isn’t a lot to complain about with the S95, we may as well scrap the bottom of the barrel a little. Images tend to underexposure a little when there was a large highlight source in the composition such as the sky. Regarding battery life, performance isn’t fantastic at about 150-200 shots per charge, but isn’t hugely below average either. For the most part, the main issue is the accuracy of the battery gauge when things get low. You could be close to full or close to empty and you wouldn’t be the wiser. An extra battery would be highly recommended.


Overall, it’s near impossible to not strongly recommend the S95 for those wanting high-quality image performance or just a high level of manual control over a pocketable camera. There are a couple of larger alternatives that come close to rivalling the S95 but for a camera comparable to Canon’s IXUS range of cameras in its size, there really isn’t a comparison available to this tuxedo wearing shooting.

Appearance rating 4.5 stars
Functionality rating 4.5 stars
Image quality
4.5 stars
Lens quality
4 stars
View finder / LCD screen 4.5 stars
Value for money 4.5 stars
RRP (AUD) $599
Effective Pixels Approx. 10.0 MP CCD (high sensitivity CCD)
Image Sizes 6 Sizes
Lens - zoom wide [mm] 28mm (35mm equivalent )
Lens -zoom tele [mm] 105mm (35mm equivalent )
Lens - Optical Zoom Yes, 3.8x
Resolution Settings From 640 x 360 to 3648 x 2736
Shooting Modes Intelligent Auto (with Scene Detection, P (Program), Tv (Shutter Priority), Av (Aperture Priority), M (Manual), C (Custom), Low Light, Special Scene (Portrait, Landscape, Kids & Pets, Smart Shutter, Super Vivid, Poster Effect, Colour Accent, Colour Swap, High Dynamic Range, Nostalgic, Fisheye Effect, Miniature Effect, Beach, Underwater, Foliage, Snow, Firework, Stitch Assist), Movie
Face Detection Yes
Manual Focus No
Auto Focus Yes
Focus Range [cm] Normal: 5cm - infinity (W), 30cm - infinity (T), Macro: (W) 5cm - 50cm , (T) 30cm - 50cm
Aperture Range f/2.0 - 8.0 (W), f/4.9 - 8.0 (T)
Aperture Priority Yes
Macro Yes
Macro Range [cm] 5cm - 50cm
Shutter Speeds 1 - 1/1600 sec.
Shutter Priority Yes
ISO Auto, ISO 80/ 100/ 125/ 160/ 200/ 250/ 320/4 00/ 500/ 640/ 800/ 1000/ 1250/ 1600/ 2000/ 2500/ 3200
LCD Monitor 3.0 inch colour LCD monitor with wide viewing angle (approx 461,000 dots), Aspect ratio 4:3
Viewfinder No
Flash Auto, on, off, Slow Synchro
Hot Shoe No
White balance Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Tungsten, Fluorescent, Fluorescent H, Flash, Underwater, Custom
Self Timer Approx. 10 sec or 2 sec delay, custom, Face Self-Timer
Movie Options Yes. Limited only by memory card size.
Video Out Yes
Storage Type SD Memory Card, SDHC Memory Card, SDXC Memory Card, MultiMediaCard, MMCplus card, HC MMCplus card
Storage Included [Mb] -
Image / Audio Formats JPEG Compression (EXIF 2.3 Compliant), RAW (CR2 (Canon Original)) Ausio - Stereo
Connectivity USB 2.0 Hi-Speed (mini-B compatible), HDMI mini connector
Power Source ACK-DC40 (Compact Power Adaptor CA-DC10, DC Coupler DR-40, Power Cord)
Battery Options Rechargeable Lithium-ion Battery NB-6L
Dimensions 99.8 x 58.4 x 29.5 mm
Weight Approx. 170g






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