17 October 2010

Canon S95 review

For many years I owned only photo cameras bigger then brick. Now I decided and bought a small compact camera. So small that it can wait for magic moments in my pocket. So powerful that I can be pleased with results. And at reasonable price, so my wife will not have any observations.
My first selection was: Canon IXUS 1000HS, Canon S95, Canon G12 and Panasonic LX5.
After reading many reviews I ended with Canon S95 and Panasonic LX5. On paper, LX5’s specifications looks better, but Canon is cheaper, smaller and have very good picture quality. Small size was the most important factor in my decision. After all, if I want bigger camera, I can take one from my wardrobe.
I looked at Ebay and found one nice occasion – Canon S95 with 8 GB memory card and delivery cost for 400 EUR (and some coins). I paid and after three days I can open box.

I was a little surprised how small Canon S95 is. But ok, that is what I want.
Battery (and card) door gives me a good feeling. Battery is small and its charging time is two hours. If we look at specifications, a full battery can take 200 photos. I can’t confirm this, because I was very intensive on using a menus and LCD screen. But as far as I know Canon, this will be true. This isn’t very good result, but I can live with it. At first I was surprised why there is no AA batteries, but when I saw how small Canon S95 is …
Camera doesn’t have a viewfinder. You have to use a big LCD screen. LCD is excellent with enough brightness and vivid colors. Maybe there is slightly different colors on camera’s LCD if I compare them on computer, but difference is really small.

There is no grip on the camera. Did I tell you that Canon S95 is small? I didn’t find this very annoying, but someone did. And they can search for special grip for this camera on the web.
The main problem with small body I find in two things – flash and two buttons on top (ring and on/off). It is annoying when camera lift flash and flash will your left thumb. For sure.
Buttons on top are very small and I use fingernail to press them. It is true that I have 130 kg and my hand are big, but I’m also sure that designers can use bigger buttons.
On front you will find a ring over lens. It is super idea and I really like it. With ring button you select what will ring works for and then you can rotate ring as you like. Super, fast and accurate.
Menus are typically Canon style. Clear and easy to understand.
There are many nice features (focus bracketing, different color on focus, face focus, self timer with wink detection…).
User interface on camera is excellent and camera works fast. I really enjoy using this camera. Maybe Canon can use light in buttons, so photographer can see buttons at night.
I said that camera is fast. But this is true for user interface. The shooting speed isn’t super fast, but it is in standard class. There is just a little shutter lag, so you can take photos when you want. You don’t need to be prepare and shoot before the “magic moment”.

Canon S95 has HDR function. Good idea, good results. But – as I just write, camera is not fast and you should use tripod. Camera takes three pictures and combines them to get better dynamic range. The results can be really good. But only with tripod or steady camera. Don’t expect to handhold the camera and get good HDR results. Canon could align all three photos and then make HDR …
This way is limitation for me. I bought Canon S95 to be light, so it is contradictious to wear tripod with me …
Auto White Balance is like I expect from Canon. Cold in forest on sunny day. I don’t know why, but this is valid for all Canon digital cameras I tried.
Otherwise, focus work good and colors are beautiful and accurate.


Conclusion:
I willful decided for small camera, so this is compromise between some things (for example battery, grip …). But for now, I’m really happy. It isn’t any DSLR replacement. This camera can’t even compete with 5DmkII or 1D in picture quality. But it is light, small and I can take it in places where big DLSRs are forbidden (or at least clumsy).
Pro:
- Hybrid IS with very good image quality
- control ring
- programmable shortcut button
- very good color accuracy
- very good in low light (for such a small camera)
- RAW support
- 720 HD video
- user interface
Cons:
- no optical zoom in video
- battery life
- HDR only usable with tripod
- annoying flash lift

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