Operation and controls

Canon has found a formula for camera operation and control that works well, and the A95 offers no surprises. The control layout is almost identical to the PowerShot A80 it replaces, with the only significant difference being the new Print/Share button, which glows blue when a connection to a printer or computer has been made and allows 'one touch' image transfer or printing. With each generation of the A series of cameras the feature set creeps closer and closer to the more advanced S and G series PowerShots, and the A95 represents the peak of this trend. It may sit at the 'budget' end of Canon's range, but it has a comprehensive range of controls and features that lift it significantly above the norm. Control layout is logical and makes for relatively easy mastery of the A95's extensive capabilities - especially if you've used a PowerShot before.

Rear of camera

The rear view of the A95 will find most Canon users in fairly familiar territory - it's almost identical to the A80, and offers a similar set of controls to the much more advanced G5 and S60. Immediately obvious is the hugely improved LCD screen - the A80's was not only a bit on the small side (1.5-inch), but more importantly was not sufficiently high resolution; the A95's screen has almost double the pixel count of its predecessor. Although I personally would like to see a couple more external controls (for drive mode, AE compensation and image quality), the excellent FUNC menu design means these settings are never more than a couple of button presses away.

Top of camera

From the top you can see that the A95 is by no means a slim camera, but the design fits the hand a lot better than it might appear from the pictures. The prominent shutter release and zoom lever top off the sizeable grip, whilst the main mode dial is easily accessible and has nice positive click stops. Although the weight of the A95 might put you off doing so, you can actually operate it easily with one hand.

Display and menus

Canon's menu and on-screen display system has - despite minor appearance tweaks here and there - remained admirably consistent across camera ranges and generations. There's nothing particularly new here - but then why change a system that works?

Pressing the DISP button cycles between three preview settings; off (use the optical viewfinder), preview image only (no information displayed) and - as shown above - full information. There's plenty of information ranged around the edge of the preview image. Half press the shutter and the camera will set the focus and exposure, indicating the focus point chosen (in AiAF mode), plus the shutter speed and aperture chosen by the AE (auto exposure) system.
In shutter and aperture priority modes the setting is changed using the left and right arrow keys. In manual exposure mode the SET button toggles the setting changed by the left/right arrow keys between the shutter speed and aperture. Half press the shutter and the display shows how far you are from the metered exposure as an EV value.
New to the A95 are several extra subject modes (accessed via the SCN position on the main mode dial). Changing subject mode is again a simple matter of pressing the left and right arrow keys. A manual focus option (activated by pressing the Macro/down arrow twice) has the option - not turned on in this shot - to magnify the central portion of the preview for more accurate focus assessment.
Pressing the FUNC menu brings up the usual array of shooting options, covering everything from AE compensation to white balance, sensitivity, picture effects, drive mode, metering and image size/quality. It's fast, and doesn't clutter up the screen. The record menu is where you find controls you're likely to need much less frequently, including focus mode (AiAF, center focus or FlexiZone), red eye reduction, digital zoom and so on.
Scrolling through images feels a little slow - the A95 doesn't use low res previews, and you have to wait a second or so for each picture to load. The standard display mode gives only minimal information (you can also turn all on-screen displays off and just view the images). Pressing the DISP button allows you to pull up fairly comprehensive shooting information, including a histogram. It is also worth noting that the A95 has an orientation sensor, so can automatically rotate vertical images in playback mode.
Pushing the zoom lever to the left (wide) displays nine thumbnail images. A further push of the zoom lever to the left allows you to 'jump' from one page of thumbnails to the next.
You can zoom into (enlarge) saved images by repeatedly pushing the zoom lever to the right. The maximum enlargement is 10x. Incidentally, if you enable the instant review function and press SET whilst the image is displayed after shooting, you can magnify the picture just taken without going into playback mode. The play menu offers the usual range of options, including protecting, rotating and deleting images, plus slideshow's and print ordering (DPOF).
The setup menu - accessible in both record and playback modes - offers control over various camera-related parameters, including audio, file numbering, date and time and card formatting. As is now standard on Canon PowerShots the My Camera menu lets you customize startup image, and camera sounds.