The S95 has the fewest external controls of the three cameras in this group, and as a consequence it is the most menu-intensive in terms of its operation. That said, all of the main bases are covered by external controls, and once the two customizable control points (the Control Ring and the 'S' button) have been assigned we don't find ourselves diving into the S95's menus all that often.
Almost all of the key shooting settings which aren't covered by a dedicated control point are ranged within the S95's 'Fn' menu. This menu goes back to the earliest days of Canon's compact digital cameras, and this is where you'll find options like image quality, bracketing and continuous shooting, as well as ISO, aspect ratio and white balance. This leaves the S95's main menu system to take care of the rest of the camera's functionality, including customization options, AF modes and 'nuts and bolts' options like LCD screen brightness, date and time, and the like.
Menu navigation is made easier by the addition of a 'My Menu' tab which displays a maximum of 5 options. You can either let the S95 populate this list with the last 5 settings that you accessed, or after you've had some time to use the camera you can permanently assign the 5 menu settings that you most frequently adjust.
When shooting with the camera, you can toggle between of two display modes - basic shooting info, or basic shooting info plus rule of thirds gridlines and a live histogram. In manual focus mode, with 'MF spot zoom' activated in the shooting menu, the central portion of the live view screen is magnified for more accurate manual focus. This helps a little, but the resolution of the magnified area is too low to be of much use when focusing critically. The same goes for both the P7000 and LX5 - realistically, none are particularly well suited to manual focus operation.
Live View screens
The standard shooting screen shows exposure information plus the status of key settings like flash and ISO.
Gridlines and a live histogram can be overlaid to aid composition and exposure.
When manual focus is selected, a distance scale appears beside it to aid accuracy. It is also possible to magnify the center of the screen but the magnified area is of insufficient resolution for critical focus accuracy.
When movie shooting is selected the screen is cropped to 16:9 and the screen shows the amount of footage which can be captured on the inserted card. When shooting commences, this is replaced by a timer which counts upwards.
The basic screen in image review mode shows file information and date and time of capture.
Pressing 'Disp' again shows more detailed information, including a luminance histogram and a detailed breakdown of key shooting settings.
If you'd prefer a cleaner view, pressing Disp again gets rid of all the clutter.
When 'focus check' is selected against 'Review Info' in the menu, the area of the focusing point is shown in enlarged section, which aids to quickly check critical focus between similar shots. If more than one focus point was used, pressing 'FUNC/SET' toggles the enlarged area.
There are ten levels of magnification possible in review mode - the most extreme gives a view roughly approximate to 100% (actual pixels).
'Zooming out' using the zoom rocker switch gives a thumbnail view showing 4 images...
...then 9 images...
...and finally the maximum 105 per screen. Disappointingly though, the S95 has no equivalent to the P7000 and LX5's calendar view, and cannot display images by date taken.
The FUNC SET menu is the quickest way to access key shooting settings such as aspect ratio, image quality and metering mode, as well as Picture Styles and bracketing.
The S95's triple-tabbed menu system is clear and concise, and comprises a shooting section, a setup tab, and a 'my menu' where the last-used functions are automatically placed.
Inside the shooting menu you will find all the settings which pertain to everyday operation of the camera. Everything from AF options to display settings can be found in here.
And everything else can be found in the S95's setup menu. This is where you'll find the various customization options, as well as 'nuts and bolts' settings like date and time, etc.
The 'S' button can (thankfully) be assigned to more than just direct printing. We think that the most useful setting to assign (certainly if you're a PASM shooter) is ISO. Interestingly, your ISO selection is remembered in the P, Av and Tv modes, but quite separate in M. So if you set ISO 400 in P, this will stay set in Av and Tv only.
The Control Ring can be customised to adjust a range of different functions, from ISO to aspect ratio. We like to use it to adjust aperture (in AV mode) or exposure compensation.
The S95's self-timer is unusually versatile, and you can set it to take multiple images after a preset delay (which is incredibly useful for family groupshots)