Canon S90 IS is one of Canon high-end / advanced Canon Powershot compact camera. Its unique characteristics are slim, low profile body with great noise control in high ISO plus 28-105mm f/2-f/4.9 bright zoom lens. The other advantage is the camera is very pocket able. It fits in your jeans’ pocket.
Image quality and ISO
Canon S90 IS has 1/1.7″ sensor size which is a bit smaller compare to its main competitor, Panasonic LX3 (1/1.63″). From my test, S90 IS image quality is very good across focal length but dynamic range (the difference between the brightest and darkest parts of an image) is limited . This is also a problem most of digital camera out there, but S90 is slightly worse compared to competitors.
However, regarding noise control and handling, S90 IS is excellent. The new algorithm works very well to reduce or erase most (if not all) chroma-noises which degrade image quality significantly. Image shot at ISO 1600 is very usable for regular print and web. For ISO comparison images, please visit my Canon S90 IS gallery.
Canon S90 IS has a slim, low profile look, so it is very good for street photography. It does not attract attention like digital SLR camera.
For control, it has two main dials, both of them are round. One is located in the lens, and the back of the camera. The back dials also function as four way buttons. This design is similar to Samsung WB1000 design.
Front ring dial can be customized for several options: adjust aperture/shutter speed, ISO, exposure compensation, manual focus, white balance or zoom. The front dial is not like zoom barrel in the lens, it is not smooth, instead, it has several stops point. There will be a “click” sound to let you know if you hit the stop.
I usually use the lens dial to zoom. There are five stops in the dial: 28mm, 35mm, 50mm, 85mm and 105mm. All of them are popular focal lengths. I found this is much better way to zoom rather than traditional way (pull a lever on the shutter). It is faster, less noise and accurate. It is great for learning how focal length affects perspective and distortion.
Mode dial is harder to change because they have put some resistant to it. It is to prevent accidental switch.
There is also a shortcut button which you can customized to many function such as AF servo, intelligent contrast, face detection and many more.
Canon S90 has 3″ 4:3 ratio LCD screen with 460k resolution. It is similar to Panasonic LX3, but better than typical compact camera. It is worse than Samsung WB1000 which has AMOLED screen (over 1 million resolution).
However, build quality is not up to par with leading advanced cameras such as Canon G11 and Panasonic LX3. It is made by plastic casing (correction: it made by metal) but it feels plasticky. I have a sweaty hand and it registers my fingerprint! Also because of its flat design, there is no place to secure your grip. But overall ergonomic is not bad.