Canon Powershot S90: Power in your Shirt Pocket


Canon Powershot S90 Camera

I have been using the Powershot S90 for the last two months and I have to tell you that I have not been so thrilled by a compact camera since my Canon Powershot G1 which was my very first digital camera years ago. For DSLR users like myself, compact cameras just don’t deliver images that are up to par, especially one that is compact enough to fit into your shirt pocket. But when I shot my first few photos with the S90, that all changed. The photos from my S90 had a certain quality about them that looks as if it could have come from a DSLR!

I have been playing with the new Powershot S90 camera for a few weeks now and based on my own experience as well as those of my kakis who have also bought the S90, I have to say that the S90 is the best “Shirt Pocket Size” camera that I have come across. Having the Powershot S90 meant that I could now have a camera in my pocket that can take photos of a quality that I would be proud to post on this site.

Slideshow 1: Key Features of the Powershot S90

There are lots of things going for this little camera but I will highlight a few which I have been very impressed with. The following slideshow will demonstrate some of the key features which I feel make this camera stand out from the rest. The first is the front ring which can be used for a number of features like being able to use it to zoom in on your subject. I will also show how easy it is to get excellent shots at night and some interesting shooting modes that you can use to create very interesting photos.

Slideshow 2: Low Light Shots (photos have not been edited except to resize for slideshow)

This camera is specially designed to take excellent night shots. It does this by combining a relatively large 1/1.63 inch, 10 megapixel CCD sensor with a bright f/2.0 lens and Canon’s Digic 4 software. The heart of the camera is this newly developed sensor (the digital film) which is designed to bring out the colours and dynamic range while keeping image noise to a minimum. I was very pleasantly surprised at just how good the camera was at taking low light shots. Of course, it can’t compare with my EOS 5D Mk II especially if you need to enlarge the photo for print, but it does deliver very competent photos for web publishing.

The camera comes with many creative settings that make for some very interesting photos. It is a very fun camera to use because you can simply point and shoot and out comes this photo with a “Wow” factor!

Slideshow 3: Nostalgia mode (photos have not been edited except to resize for slideshow)

One of the settings that I have been having lots of fun with is the “Nostalgia” function. I use this function a lot as it gives my pictures an edgy, newspaper print type feel. It is excellent for capturing candid photos of people, geometrical shapes and has proven to be very useful on those cloudy days when the colours are really dull. The Nostalgia function is not just about turning the photo to black and white. The camera also adds other elements to give the photos an aged look, like desaturating the colours, increasing the contrast and adding grain. As you can see from the slideshow, the effect makes for some pretty fascinating pictures.

Slideshow 4: Food photos (photos have not been edited except to resize for slideshow

Of course, we have to talk about this camera’s ability to take food photos. When I first got hold of the camera, the very first set of photos I took was of food. As you would expect, the capability of the camera to capture food photos is of paramount importance to me. The first few shots convinced me that this really is a compact camera that I can confidently bring around with me on days where I am too lazy to bring my EOS 5D MkII along. I think the pictures speak for themselves.

The real test is, however, how the compact and the DSLR images compare side by side. In the photos below, you can see how my two cameras performed. Considering the fact that the DSLR set up is almost 10 times the price of the Powershot as well as more than 10 times the weight, I think that the quality of the photo produced by the Powershot S90 is quite acceptable. The images of the EOS 5D Mk II is of course still superior especially if you enlarge the photos. But if you are taking pictures to post on the web, the quality of the image is an acceptable trade off for the convenience of not lugging a big camera around.

OK, let me tell you what I don’t like about the camera.

Firstly, Canon could have made the camera look a little more expensive by adding chrome bits and leather looking bits. Secondly, the battery life is not very long. I have used the camera continuously for about one to two hours before running out of battery power. It is a real pain but it is necessarily so because the camera uses a CCD sensor which consumes more power than the CMOS sensor that most compacts use. The result is a better image at the expense of a shorter battery life. Another thing I don’t like is that the various shooting modes under the SCN function is too easily changed with the dial behind the camera such that you find yourself shooting in another mode because you inadvertantly touched the dial.

Despite these things, the Powershot S90 delivers images which make people look twice, which at the end of the day, is what counts. Best of all, the camera can be put into your jeans pocket without people noticing that it’s there!

Slideshow 5: Gallery of my favourite shots (Some photos have been edited by an image editor)

This final slideshow is a showcase of some of my favourite photos taken over the last few weeks using the various creative modes of the camera. Some of them have been touched up with imaging software so that you can see the full potential of what this camera is capable of. As you can see, I use the “Colour Accent” and “Sunset” modes quite a bit.

Group Buy being organized

I have already organize the first group buy for 10 of our makan kakis and so far all of them have been very happy with the camera. I am currently organizing another group buy, so if you wish to get one before Christmas please write to me. Our group buy price is $670 (RRP $749) and it comes with a 8GB SD card, a tripod and a carrying case. I will also be arranging a free S90 workshop for our group where we will have a professional photographer conduct a workshop on how to get the most out of your new Powershot S90.

If you are interesting in the group buy, please write to [email protected] and in the title write “Powershot S90“. I will give you details on how to collect your cameras. Closing date: 20 Dec 2009. You should be able to get it before Christmas!

You can read more reviews of the Canon Powershot S90 here
Explore the Powershot S90 at their official site here


Except for Slideshow 5, all the other slideshow photos are taken directly from the camera and simply resized to be uploaded onto the web. The Sushi photo for the S90 has been cropped slightly. The photos have been resized to 800×600 pixels and you can have a closer look by clicking the “View all images” button at the bottom of the slideshow.

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