Compared to...

The other 'top end' camera in Canon's PowerShot range is the G11 (we could just as easily have chosen the 14MP G10, but we're more interested in how well the S90 compares to the other model Canon claims is designed for better high sensitivity performance - more of which later). Let's see how they compare at base ISO in our standard studio test...

Studio scene comparison (@ ISO 80)

  • Canon PowerShot S90: Aperture Priority mode, ISO 80, Default Image Parameters,
    Manual white balance, zoom position 15mm (approx 70mm equiv).

  • Canon PowerShot G11: Manual mode, ISO 80, Default Image Parameters,
    Manual white balance, +0.33 EV compensation, zoom position 18mm (approx 83mm equiv).
  • Lighting: Daylight simulation, >98% CRI
Canon PowerShot S90
Canon PowerShot G11
ISO 80, 1/30 sec, F5
ISO 80, 1/60 sec, F4
2.8 MB JPEG (3648 x 2736)
2.5 MB JPEG (3648 x 2736)

We're presuming the S90 and G11 sport the same new 'high sensitivity' 10MP sensor and use the same DIGIC 4 processor, so it's no surprise that they produce very similar output in our studio comparison. The main difference between the cameras (photographically) is the lens, and - from the evidence of these examples at least - the S90's little 28-105mm (equiv.) lens easily matches the larger 28-140mm equiv. on the G11.

It's possible that a considerable number of potential S90 purchasers also have the larger, heavier, pricier G11 on their shortlist. If you have, and you're concerns that plumping for the S90 represents a compromise in image quality, the results here show that your worries are unfounded - yes the G11 has fractionally more resolving power, but you need to be looking very close indeed to see the difference.