S90 & G11 – my final conclusions & suggestions

Started Oct 12, 2009 | Discussions thread
OP ebrandon Regular Member • Posts: 459
S90 & G11 – my final conclusions & suggestions part 2

Pretty good controls vs. Way too many controls for a lot of people and for most situations

The S90 menus and control system are about as good as I’ve seen on a point and shoot for most people and for most casual situations where you might want to change one or two critical settings like ISO or exposure compensation before taking the picture.
It’s not perfect. I have two gripes.

As many others have noted, the dial on the back moves too easily and changes your settings unexpectedly

Also, the front ring and back dial do different things in every mode and this forces you to think about the controls more than you should have to.

For example, In “A” mode the back dial changes your aperture. In “P” mode it changes your ISO and there’s nothing you can do about that. In “Video” mode it changes between several crazy video scene modes and again there’s nothing you can do about that.

I have the ring around the lens set to change exposure compensation in “A” or “P” mode. In video mode it zooms, and there’s nothing you can do to change it. In “Nostalgic” scene mode it change the nostalgic effect settings.

This isn’t a deal breaker, but it does mean you have to run a little checklist in your mind every time you change modes on the camera – “ring does this, dial does that.”

The G11 has a completely different control philosophy. The G11 offers you many more choices than the S90, at the cost of additional complexity.

For example, the S90 gives you the choice of AF frame “Center” or “Face AiAF”. Instead of “Center”, the G11 gives you “Flexizone” which means if you hit the dedicated autofocus button on the back of the camera you enter a mode where both the real dial and the rear buttons move the autofocus point around on the screen, and the “display” button changes the size of the autofocus frame.

It has so many dedicated buttons and dials on it that my hands were often hitting buttons accidentally. It has so many dedicated buttons and dials on it that I couldn’t think of a function to assign to the programmable button.
So what’s the bottom line?

It’s wonderful having ISO and exposure compensation on dedicated dials – always available, always in the same place, always visible at a glance. It’s wonderful that the rear dial only does stuff when it’s supposed to, like changing aperture in “A” mode, and doesn’t do anything when it’s not supposed to like in “P” mode.

On one of the night pictures, of the mannequins surrounded by neon lights, I set exp compensation down 2/3 on the dedicated dial so the neon lights wouldn’t be blown out, changed the metering mode to “spot” using the dedicated metering mode button, locked the spot metered exposure on the mannequin’s face with the dedicated AEL button, focused on the mannequin’s face with a half-shutter press, recomposed and took the picture. I never would have done all this on the S90.

If that paragraph freaked you out, or you usually shoot in “auto” mode you might prefer the S90 to the G11. If you think you might ever fiddle with 5 or 6 settings before taking a picture, you might prefer the G11.

For myself, I like the control, but my hands accidentally hit the buttons 50 times for each time I’ll use the extra features over the S90.

Are you a man or a woman? And if you’re a man, how big are your pockets?

These cameras are barely in the same size & weight class.

I can carry the S90 in any pocket – jeans, shirt, etc. It feels like it weighs next to nothing. It doesn’t make my pockets look funny. I plan to carry it with me all the time when I don’t have bigger cameras with me.

If you always carry a bag, or are a big man with big pockets you might carry the G11 with you all the time. But for me it falls in the same category as the LX3 – small enough to be pocketable which means I’ll bring it with me to a situation where I might be taking pictures like a walk, a farmer’s market, or a party. But I don’t have it with me all the time which means I’ll miss pictures.

Finally, I want to point out what I think is the most likely trap people trying to choose between these cameras may fall into.

In my opinion the S90 is amazing – really good and really small.

Some people would rather have the G11 because they prefer the larger size, it fits their hand better, they really want one of its features like the flip out screen, or hot shoe, they want lots of dedicated controls and tend to optimize settings before taking pictures, or they just like it better. For those people the G11 is a better choice.

But the people I worry about are those who prefer the small size and simplicity of the S90. They don’t like the G11 better, but really crave the viewfinder, the longer lens, or the maybe 1% better image quality of the G11.

I think most of those people would be better off with either an S90, or a different camera altogether – one that gives them a really great viewfinder, the option of really longer lenses, or really better image quality in exchange for putting up with greater size, weight, cost, and complexity.

All that said, this reminds me of the old saying that a man with two watches never knows what time it is. If you only have one of these cameras, you'll probably love it. It's only when you compare the two like I have done that either camera's shortcomings even become apparent.

 ebrandon's gear list:ebrandon's gear list
Fujifilm FinePix X100 Ricoh GR Sony Alpha DSLR-A900 Nikon D600 Canon EOS 6D +2 more
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