White Balance

The A95 has five white balance presets (sunny, cloudy, incandescent, fluorescent, fluorescent H) in addition to the default Auto White balance. There is also a 'custom' white balance setting, which allows you to point the camera at a white or gray object and set the white balance manually. The custom white balance setting is remembered even if you turn the camera off. In normal outdoor shooting the auto white balance works perfectly (as confirmed by our studio tests). Indoors it's a bit more hit and miss, as we've seen with most Canon PowerShots, fluorescent lighting doesn't cause much of a problem, whereas incandescent (tungsten) lighting causes a fairly strong orange color cast. Best to stick to the preset (or one-push custom WB) if you want more neutral colors.

Outdoor - Auto WB
Red: -0.7%, Blue 0.5%

Fluorescent - Auto WB
Red: -1.4%, Blue -0.3%
Incandescent - Auto WB
Red: 8.0%, Blue -11.3%

Flash Performance

The A95's built-in flash has a quoted working range of 0.45m - 4.4m (1.5 - 14 ft) at the wide end of the zoom and 0.45m - 2.5m (1.5 - 8.2 ft) at the tele end. It also works down to about 25cm (10 inches) in macro mode (in all cases assuming the ISO is set to auto). In our real-world tests the flash did a fantastic job, exposing perfectly in a wide range of situations and with virtually no color cast. My only complaint about the flash is that there is a noticeable delay between pressing the shutter and the picture being taken, due in part to the preflash burst used to calculate exposure. This can mean some of your social shots lack spontaneity, as you have to ask your subject to 'hold still for a minute'.

Skin tone
Excellent color, very slight underexposure
Color chart
Virtually no color cast, very slight underexposure

Macro Focus

As is common to most compact digital cameras the A95's macro mode is most effective at the wide end of the zoom, where you can get as close as 5cm. At the long end of the zoom the performance is less impressive - 25cm subject distance - but still pretty useful. There is inevitably some distortion when shooting very close up at the wide end, but it is not too strong, and certainly less so than many of its competitors.

Wide macro - 55 x 41 mm coverage
47 px/mm (1194 px/in)
Distortion: Average
Corner softness: Low
Equiv. focal length: 38 mm
Mid Zoom macro - 85 x 64 mm coverage
30 px/mm (770 px/in)
Distortion: Very low
Corner softness:Very low
Equiv. focal length: 114 mm

Barrel and Pincushion Distortion

Barrel distortion is - at 2% - fairly average for a camera in this class, and certainly doesn't mar real world scenic shots. Surprisingly, there is a tiny (0.1%) amount of measurable barrel distortion at the telephoto end of the zoom too - though it really isn't visible in real world shots.

Barrel distortion - 2.0% at Wide angle
Equiv. focal length: 38 mm
Barrel distortion - 0.1% at Telephoto
Equiv. focal length: 114 mm

Specific image quality issues

It's hard not to be impressed with the results from the A95, which for the most part are sharp, well exposed and show excellent, natural color. They do benefit from a little post-processing (what camera's pictures don't?) - specifically some Unsharp Masking, but for output at up to about 8x10 inches you can quite happily get away with printing them as they come out of the camera. Aside from the occasional missed focus we found very little to complain about save for the purple fringing and blown highlights mentioned below.

Color fringing

Noticeable purple fringing is present to some degree in all shots containing very bright (especially overexposed) areas. It's not enough to mar shots in most circumstances, but wideangle shots on bright days can produce very strong fringes at the boundaries where bright/dark areas meet. It is considerably worse at the edge of the frame.

100% crop 38 mm equiv., F3.5

Burnt out highlights/Dynamic range

As is increasingly common with small sensor, high pixel count cameras, the A95 struggles to capture the full range of brightnesses in scenes with a large dynamic range (high contrast, very bright days), which can result in blown-out highlights, with even bright blue skies turning a whiter shade of pale. In these cases if you meter for the sky - reduce the exposure enough to remove the blown out highlights - you do lose shadow detail, but it is easier to rescue in Photoshop. Basically there is a lack of dynamic range (common to most cameras using this kind of chip), which only becomes obvious in scenes with very high contrast.

When shooting foliage on a very bright day it is possible to end up with white skies and foliage completely surrounded by blue/purple fringes. It is important to note that this is in no way peculiar to this camera, but it is worth mentioning if you take a lot of pictures like the lower example below.

100% crop 35 mm equiv., F3.3
100% crop 38 mm equiv., F5