Canon PowerShot S90 review

Started Dec 4, 2009 | User reviews thread
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gilo Junior Member • Posts: 30
Canon PowerShot S90 review

I have had it for about 3 weeks now. While the camera overall is nicely built and has a number of features, I think that if dpreview had posted a review in time indicating its shortcomings, most probably I would not have bought it. But unfortunately the only review available was at that time the one of photographyblog and that was glowing...

This is certainly a good camera for snaps, but it doesn't go much beyond that.
The focus is reasonably fast and the overall ease of use is also ok, but there are some issues.
First of all, you can't get away from the fact that it has a small sensor, although marginally bigger than usual. Noise is quite visible when lighting is not ideal, even at low ISO; what I noticed is also an overall inconsistent reaction of the camera to similar situations.
What is disappointing is that shooting RAW does not help much. As a matter of fact, JPG files are better than RAW. Of course JPGs have less detail, but the detail contained in the RAW files is mainly noise...
Secondly, the distortion at 28mm when you shoot RAW is just horrendous and it makes this focal length almost unusable. Unless one is prepared to spend some time to correct it in Photoshop.
Pity also that the glorified f2 of the lens works only at 28! As soon as you reach 35 or 50 mm your maximum aperture is at 3.5 and above. The IS compensates reasonably well though for the (de facto) slowness of the lens.
The pop up flash is a real nuissance, as many already said. The camera is so small that you are bound to place your finger on the lid of the flash, so when it pops up in automatic you risk dropping the camera because you inevitably get scared (this also makes you look silly to whoever happens to be watching you snap).
The dial at the back turns almost on its own so you are bound to have at least 30 per cent of your shots under or over exposed because you have turned accidentally the dial. So between the pop up flash and the dial you don't know where to place your fingers to hold the camera.
Finally, it is not cheap. And although it is nicely packaged and with nice features, you really end up being able to use it only in JPG and well lit conditions. For the money, I was expecting more.
I guess dpreview and the other sites should warn the public that these small cameras are far from being able to compete with DSLRs, no matter whether they have RAW etc. There are limitations which have not been overcome yet by technology and people should be made aware of it.
If you really want a portable high quality digital camera I guess the only option may be the upcoming Leica X1.. at more than 2000 dollars though. And with no zoom. But again, if you want quality you can't expect a zoom in small compacts.
In the meantime, all these little compacts on the market are good just for social snaps. No big improvement from the Panasonic LX1 which I had bought a few years ago and sold 3 months later because of similar problems..
If you want both quality and a small size all in one package you will just have to keep using the old Yashica T4 or a Contax T2 or .. a good old Leica M6 or MP. Yes, film! Unfortunately, no matter how marketing wizards manage to put it, digital is still far behind, unless you are ready to carry around (and spend for) a Canon 1Ds Mark III, or a medium format digital camera.

Canon PowerShot S90
10 megapixels • 3 screen • 28 – 105 mm (3.8×)
Announced: Aug 19, 2009
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