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Canon PowerShot S90 review

Ben Pitt
16 Dec 2009
Canon PowerShot S90
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
345
inc VAT

An exceptional compact camera for demanding enthusiasts and affluent point-and-clickers, but it doesn't surpass Panasonic's LX3.

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Specifications

1/1.7in 10.0-megapixel sensor, 3.8x zoom (28-105mm equivalent), 175g

For years we've longed for a compact digital camera with image quality to rival that of SLRs.

Suddenly it seems we're spoiled for choice. Some models cram an SLR sensor into a small body, but Canon's S90 takes a less radical approach, with a wide-aperture lens to capture lots of light.

At 175g, it's no heavier or bulkier than a typical compact camera. The sleek design looks great, and we love the way the motorised flash glides up and down like pop-up headlights. However, the camera's featureless front provides nothing to grip, and we were nervous of dropping it. We strongly recommend using the supplied wrist strap.

The lens is the obvious highlight of this camera, with its f/2 aperture capturing twice as much light as f/2.8 lenses. However, credit also goes to the 1/1.7in, 10-megapixel sensor, which is designed for low noise rather than a headline-grabbing megapixel rating.

The 3in screen has a 460,000-dot resolution - double that of most cameras' displays. There are two dials for adjusting settings quickly, one of which encircles the navigation pad while the other surrounds the lens. The navigation pad is pretty cramped, though, and we struggled to press the centre button accurately.

It has the full complement of manual exposure controls, plus SLR-style colour presets for tweaking contrast, saturation and a range of other options. Exposure and focus bracketing are included, and you can even fine-tune white balance presets.

The camera's RAW mode and bundled software allow users to play with image settings after downloading the photos on their PCs. The HDMI socket allows for high-definition slideshows on a suitably equipped TV, but the lack of HD video capture is a big letdown. Video quality is excellent but the resolution is limited to 640x480 pixels.

Anyone who's used to an SLR is likely to be disappointed by the S90's performance. Speeds of 2.9 seconds between shots and 0.9fps continuous shooting are below average compared with entry-level models, and not what we expect at this price. Battery life is poor at 220 shots, but that's the price you pay for a slim camera with a 3in screen.