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Canon PowerShot S90 Review

by The Review CrewJuly 3, 2010

The arrival of the ‘affordable’ digital SLR saw most manufacturers slowly withdrawing from the high end compact camera market, but recently models like the Canon G9/G10/G11 and Panasonic’s LX3 have shown that there is still demand for pocketable cameras with real photographic controls. And it is the Panasonic LX3 that Canon has in its sights with the latest in what was, for a long time, presumed to be a dead line of cameras that goes back to almost a decade. The S90 may not look much like the S80, S70 and all its earlier predecessors, but it has been conceived in much the same spirit; a smaller, more stylish alternative to the G series, offering key enthusiast features (such as raw capture and manual controls) in a compact body.

It was way back in August 2005 that Canon launched the last in the line of its S-Series compact photographers’ cameras, the S80. And though you can see traces of the S60/S70/S80’s DNA in the S90 it is a very different beast to those cameras; the S90 is smaller, sleeker – and in many ways more sophisticated, but it’s lost the optical viewfinder and the lack of anything to really get hold of will undoubtedly impact on handling.

Perhaps the most impressive aspect of the new design is the new Control Ring built around the lens, which can be set to control exposure (i.e. aperture or shutter speed), AE compensation, step zoom, manual focus and a selection of other functions. Finding a way of offering usable manual controls has proved surprisingly difficult for the normally ingenious designers of ultra compact cameras (although we’ve suggested a traditional ‘aperture ring’ like this on many occasions); this seemingly simple addition has a transformative effect on the utility of the S90’s extensive manual controls.

As with the Panasonic LX3, Canon has chosen to incorporate a relatively large (1/1.7″, 0.43 cm²) CCD sensor which has been designed with high sensitivity, rather than just higher megapixel count in mind, to make the most of the bright lens. This 10 megapixel sensor is then mated with Canon’s latest Digic 4 processor to offer what the company describes as a dual anti-noise system.

Canon S90 Key Features
•Lens Control Ring
•10 million pixels sensor
•RAW shooting
•Fast f/2.0-4.9 maximum aperture range
•Lens covering the classic 28-105mm range
•Dual Anti-Noise System (high sensitivity sensor and Digic 4 noise reduction)
•3.0 inch PureColor II LCD
•Optical Image Stabilization
•Smarter Scene Detection
•Low Light mode
•DIGIC 4 image processor
•HD output

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The Review Crew
The Review Crew is a group of beat editors, writers, and consultants that have been working together for years. They know just about everything about everything collectively and have published their collective work under the Review Crew brand moniker for almost 20 years.