S90 & G11 – my final conclusions & suggestions

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

There have been a lot of people with an S90 or with a G11 posting very thoughtful and accurate reports about those two cameras, and I won’t bother repeating what they’re doing.

However, since I have been using both cameras for a few days now, I think I should evaluate the similarities & differences between them, and make some suggestions for people who know they want one of these but aren’t sure which one.

Of course, everyone is different and some people really care about things that don’t matter to me at all like whether or not a camera has a hot shoe. Additionally, there are factors that would powerfully influence someone’s choice that have nothing to do with the intrinsic quality of these two cameras, such as what other cameras you already own.

But I have been thinking about this quite a bit, and so this post will try to cover

  • How the cameras are the same & different

  • What I like better about one camera than the other

  • What I dislike more about one camera than the other

  • What kind of person would like each camera

  • Easy mistakes to make in choosing between these two cameras

How the cameras are the same

In my opinion the following qualities are essentially the same between the two cameras and should probably be irrelevant to choosing between them.

  • AF speed and accuracy

  • Startup time, shutter lag, and general responsiveness

  • Screen quality

  • Image quality is 99% identical

How the cameras are almost the same

  • I have noticed no practical difference between having f2 on the S90 and f2.8 on the G11

  • The IS may be slightly better on the G11, but I’m not sure and difference is minimal in the most extreme conditions and completely irrelevant 95% of the time

  • The Auto White Balance may be slightly better on the G11 in the most extremely artificial light conditions, but the differences are small, possibly imaginary, and completely irrelevant 99% of the time

  • While you can get in closer with the G11 macro than the S90 macro, the greater capability of the G11 macro comes with so much distortion and puts you so close to the subject that no living thing would let you get that close, no flower stays still enough to let you photograph it from that distance, and at that distance the G11’s lens is sure to either cast a shadow on or collide with the subject, so there is no practical benefit. If maximum macro capability is your must have there are better cameras than either of these.

  • The 140mm range of the G11 is sometimes welcome, but there is in fact little practical difference between the 140mm and 105mm. If you’re “putting up with” the greater size, weight, complexity and cost of the G11 mainly in order to get the longer reach you’re barking up the wrong tree. Why? Because in 90% of the situations where you’d rather have 140mm instead of 105mm

  1. you can take one step forward

  2. you can crop the photo a tiny bit when you get home

  3. The 105mm picture is actually better than the 140mm picture you wish you’d gotten.

For example I first took this 140mm with the G11.

Then switched to the S90 and noticed that 105mm wasn’t long enough. Took two steps forward and took this picture which I think is better.

  • The flip out screen really is nice, especially for me because I have bad knees and don’t like to crouch. A flip out screen is great for taking pictures of kids because you can get the camera at their height and take undistorted straight-on shots. I also think it’s great for street photography because you can keep the camera down at your waist and it doesn’t really look like you’re taking pictures. And sometimes you want to get the camera up high like for this shot where I needed to hold the camera very high to get the horizon out of the image.

The equivalent S90 picture has the horizon in it because of no flip out screen.

However, the flip out screen is just a convenience, not a must-have because you can still see the picture on the S90 screen even if its down low or up high.

  • The Optical Viewfinder

In my opinion the optical viewfinder is too small and inaccurate to be of much use, and is terrible for people with glasses (like me) or with big noses (like me). In my opinion, If you really care about having a viewfinder, don’t buy a G11 instead of an S90 – get an entry level DSLR or a Panasonic G1 for an extra $130 and have a really amazing viewfinder.

How the cameras really are different

I won’t cover the spec sheet differences here. Rather owning and using the two cameras are very different experiences, which I will try to explain here.

Class and stealth vs. Look at me

The S90 is a tiny, light, stealthy little jewel. It is almost all black, square, flat, and has no eye catching bits. This is a camera you won’t feel self-conscious pulling out anywhere anytime. People will continue to act naturally when you point this camera at them. Security guards won’t give you the evil eye, and pets won’t walk right up to you and try to lick the lens.

The G11 says “I’m a photographer with a serious camera and look at me I’m taking pictures” almost as much as a DSLR does. It does this not because it’s the same size as a DSLR but because it has so many shiny and eye catching bits (chrome ring around the lens, exposed flash, viewfinder window, hot shoe contact points) and because it has so many bits poking out this way and that. Flip out the screen if you really want some attention. There’s nothing wrong with this per se. After all, many of us use DSLRs and have no problem with the attention they attract. If however, for example, you already own a DSLR and want to buy a point and shoot because you’re too shy to use the DSLR at your child’s school, or at a party etc. then don’t buy this camera.

 ebrandon's gear list:ebrandon's gear list
Ricoh GR Fujifilm FinePix X100 Canon EOS 6D Nikon D600 Sony Alpha DSLR-A900 +2 more
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
Ricoh GR Fujifilm FinePix X100 Canon EOS 6D Nikon D600 Sony Alpha DSLR-A900 +2 more
Frostfrog Senior Member • Posts: 1,641
You have greatly confused me...

...I had decided that I was going to buy the G11.

Now I'm not sure. The s90 sounds better than I believed it would be.

Thanks for your detailed and thoughtful post.

http://wasillaalaskaby300.squarespace.com/

ncsakany
ncsakany Senior Member • Posts: 2,419
Re: S90 & G11 – my final conclusions & suggestions part 2

Phenomenal. Thanks for all your work these days. I've been going back an forth between these 2 cameras, and eventually I ended up with the S90.

Yes, the G11 was mighty tempting, but I had to constantly remind myself that I already have a 5DII and a 7D for more serious shooting, and so I ended up with the S90. The only thing bothering me is the lack of HD video. Bu then again, I have the 7D with it's dreamy 24p full HD.

Once again, thanks to you and Tom Hoots for all of your thorough work.

For what it's worth, I am moving to the S90 from a Leica dlux 4 and I've also had an LX3

Cheers,
Nick

theranman Veteran Member • Posts: 4,228
Re: You have greatly confused me...

ebrandon and Tom Hoots really oughta be congratulated for all the hard work, time, and effort they've put into these little reviews. It's been so incredibly helpful for me. Many many thanks again. I'm sure I'll be purchasing an S11 within a few weeks.

ps-just noticed that this post crossed with Nick's. We're on the same appreciation page, I see.

mikegoat Regular Member • Posts: 404
Re: S90 & G11 – my final conclusions & suggestions part 2

Yup. Tough choice driven by NEEDs. How nice to have the choice though! It has been a while since Canon offered a tough one to the market! IQ is the same. Portability, screen size and "feel" made the difference for me. If it was to be my only camera, I would take the G11. But as backup, quick grab and go, stealth, use it anywhere, nothing I have seen tops the S90 which is why I returned my G11 and bought the S90 as outlined here: http://forums.dpreview.com/forums/read.asp?forum=1010&message=33320486

 mikegoat's gear list:mikegoat's gear list
Sony RX1 Sony RX100 II Fujifilm X20 Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX10 Fujifilm X100S +6 more
jimr Forum Pro • Posts: 11,405
A Huge Thank You...One Question About Sample Variations...

Do you think the AWB variation between the G11 and S90 and the IQ variation between the two is small enough so that typical sample to sample variations might reverse the order of which camera is better in both regards, or is it greater than that?

ANAYV Forum Pro • Posts: 21,107
Re: Thanks to ebrandon and Tom Hoots

theranman wrote:

ebrandon and Tom Hoots really oughta be congratulated for all the hard work, time, and effort they've put into these little reviews.

Well said,and true,indeed!

I just bought a S80,so will hold off,buying the S90,for a while.

Funny,the back control dial,on the S80 ,is also a bit too easy to turn.

Takes Canon a few times,to change/improve things,sometimes

The Multi controller,on the S30/40/45/50 was a bad design,and wasn't until the S60,that Canon re designed,and improved did away with that.

James Bligh Senior Member • Posts: 2,381
Thank you for your magnificent endeavor

You said what I wanted to say but have not I am afraid succeeded in describing the peculiar behavior of ring & dial due to whatever inadequacies I have. Thank you for your magnificent endeavor and I say you succeeded in it. I agree with most of the points you made in your reviews and I think that peculiar behavior of ring & dial is a design mistake.

http://forums.dpreview.com/forums/read.asp?forum=1010&message=33316179

ebrandon wrote:

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.”

-- hide signature --

In Manchester in the 1840s, men and women were treated like animals. Why then should we be surprised that the utopian dreams of early communists were so appealing, or be so certain that they never will be again? -- Michael Elliott

theranman Veteran Member • Posts: 4,228
Re: Thanks to ebrandon and Tom Hoots

I'm assuming that the dial spin was intentional by Canon. Whether or not it was meant as a reason to upgrade to the next model, I have no idea, but I have no doubt that they know it's annoying. They've been in the business too long.

David Chin Forum Pro • Posts: 11,670
Magnificent post - thanks! (nt)
-- hide signature --

Regards, David Chin
Digital photography notes and stuff:
http://www.dpnotes.com/

rkhndjr Forum Pro • Posts: 13,082
Re: Thank you for your magnificent endeavor

James Bligh wrote:

You said what I wanted to say but have not I am afraid succeeded in describing the peculiar behavior of ring & dial due to whatever inadequacies I have. Thank you for your magnificent endeavor and I say you succeeded in it. I agree with most of the points you made in your reviews and I think that peculiar behavior of ring & dial is a design mistake.

Do you think the G10 and LX3 would be the better choice to stay with rather then buying the G11 and S90?

http://forums.dpreview.com/forums/read.asp?forum=1010&message=33316179

ebrandon wrote:

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.”

-- hide signature --

In Manchester in the 1840s, men and women were treated like animals. Why then should we be surprised that the utopian dreams of early communists were so appealing, or be so certain that they never will be again? -- Michael Elliott

-- hide signature --

James Bligh Senior Member • Posts: 2,381
Re: Thank you for your magnificent endeavor

rkhndjr wrote:

James Bligh wrote:

You said what I wanted to say but have not I am afraid succeeded in describing the peculiar behavior of ring & dial due to whatever inadequacies I have. Thank you for your magnificent endeavor and I say you succeeded in it. I agree with most of the points you made in your reviews and I think that peculiar behavior of ring & dial is a design mistake.

Do you think the G10 and LX3 would be the better choice to stay with rather then buying the G11 and S90?

If you shoot mostly low ISO shots yes I think G10 and LX3 may be better choices.

http://forums.dpreview.com/forums/read.asp?forum=1010&message=33316179

ebrandon wrote:

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.”

-- hide signature --

In Manchester in the 1840s, men and women were treated like animals. Why then should we be surprised that the utopian dreams of early communists were so appealing, or be so certain that they never will be again? -- Michael Elliott

-- hide signature --

-- hide signature --

In Manchester in the 1840s, men and women were treated like animals. Why then should we be surprised that the utopian dreams of early communists were so appealing, or be so certain that they never will be again? -- Michael Elliott

MeHaMa New Member • Posts: 22
I'm getting the ....

S90

I love the idea of having a stealthy - small - high quality photo tool. The Nostalgia mode is so cool! I really like the idea of people feeling more comfortable when their picture is being taken - a very important point that you brought up.

This will definitely pair nicely with my 5D.

Thank you so much for helping my decision.

Gary S Veteran Member • Posts: 6,230
Bought both also

That's a nice write-up and will be useful to a number of people.

The two cameras are quite different from each other in operation but very similar in image quality as mentioned. With cleaner ISO performance now I think it increases the usefulness of these new pocket cams.

For me, the S90 will be the camera to take when I need to travel extra, extra light. It can handle lower lighting reasonably well if needed, so it's fairly versatile. But I find using the G11 much more enjoyable. Love the dials for quick access and the flip out screen for setting up shots when it's more difficult to get behind the camera. And the bigger size is more comfortable to use.

I also like the built-in ND filter of the G's, sometimes you want that creative motion blur of an extra slow shutter speed (waterfalls, vehicles, etc).

I think they'll make a pretty good combo. Or maybe the SX20 might be a better companion for the S90. Big zoom for lots of reach when needed and a nice EVF which comes in handy at times.

If I had to absolutely choose only one, I'd take the G11. It's still small compared to a DSLR, easy to carry and I think it's a joy to operate.

 Gary S's gear list:Gary S's gear list
Canon EOS 7D Mark II Canon EF 100-400mm F4.5-5.6L IS II Canon EF 300mm f/2.8L IS USM Canon EF-S 15-85mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM
Desh Wasi Regular Member • Posts: 135
Re: S90 & G11 – my final conclusions & suggestions

ebrandon, your posts have been simply awesome - so well written and useful for anyone and everyone interested in these cameras. even though i had an S90 on pre-order, i am sure your posts have helped a lot of us make a better decision on which one to buy/keep (or at least be in a more-informed state-of-confusion). ebrandon for mayor !!! now thats what i call carrying out your "civic duites" towards the whole wide world thanks a lot for that.

Charlesn Regular Member • Posts: 467
These points make me question the whole review...

I have to express appreciation to anyone who goes through the time and effort to post such a lengthly and detailed review. But to say that a full f stop of lens speed offers no practical difference, or that there is "little practical difference" in one lens offering 30% more reach than the other, calls all conclusions of this review into serious question, since there are countless real-world situations in which these differences would certainly make a significant difference.

DoctorJerry Regular Member • Posts: 420
Re: S90 & G11 – my final conclusions & suggestions

Wonderful comparison and thanks for your accuracy and comments. They match my take on it almost 100% and I only own the S90 and handled the G11 for about 10 minutes but in that time I came to the conclusion that as much as i like the look of the G11 saying, "hey look, I am a pro" while the S90 said "hey look at this guy with that little camera, looks interesting", but the extra weight I was already carrying in my Nikon D90 demanded that I buy the S90..

Jerry
--
Someone has to tell the emperor that he has no clothes

 DoctorJerry's gear list:DoctorJerry's gear list
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W620 Fujifilm FinePix SL1000 Panasonic Lumix DMC-LF1 Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ200 Panasonic FZ1000 +3 more
MarcosV Veteran Member • Posts: 6,359
Re: S90 & G11 – my final conclusions & suggestions part 2

ebrandon wrote:

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.

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.

You just summarized why I like the G11. I bought the G11 because I wanted something to replace my S5 IS. I didn't want a GF-1 because I'm trying to avoid the temptation of spending lots of cash and the G11 is about as big as I want to get right now (The profile of the GF-1 with lens attached is too big for my purposes). Attaching a wrist strap the G11 and I'm all set.

I figure I'll replace my subcompact P&S (currently a SD800 with waterproof enclosure) next year.

 MarcosV's gear list:MarcosV's gear list
Sony RX100 IV Canon EOS 5D Mark III Fujifilm X-H1 Canon EF 24-70mm F2.8L II USM Fujifilm XF 56mm F1.2 R +62 more
GaryJP
GaryJP Veteran Member • Posts: 6,604
Re: I want manual controls.

To take more than snapshots, I want to be able to control as many aspects of ther shot as possible, even if I don't do so all the time.

That's always been my rationale behind going for the G series cameras. And i ionfd the extrenal controls superb.

I don't agree though that the G11 really draws more attention than simpler P&S cameras. I catch a lot of people using the G series, but only if I really look out for it. And if you use the swivel viewfinder to shoot at waist level, it's even less consicuous. In most situations, it's actually much less conspicuous than a shiny silver Ixus.

Gary

-- hide signature --

“There is only you and your camera. The limitations in your photography are in yourself, for what we see is what we are.” Ernst Haas

http://garyp.zenfolio.com/p518883873/

 GaryJP's gear list:GaryJP's gear list
Sony RX100 II Canon G1 X II Fujifilm X10 Canon PowerShot G5 X Canon G7 X II +16 more
Keyboard shortcuts:
FForum MMy threads