If there was ever a reason for the five-star review, the Canon PowerShot S95 point and shoot is it. At around 6 ounces and about the size of a smart phone, this amazing little gem of a camera delivers gorgeous images and stunning HD video (in stereo sound no less!) without the burden of lugging around a much heavier and more cumbersome DSLR. What that means is that you’ll have all the power and versatility of Canon’s fancier digital models at about half the price. Better still, the incredibly tiny S95 is so unassuming that few will notice that you’ve just smuggled it inside the stadium for those coveted concert shots. And with its powerful 4.0X optical zoom lens, you’ll even get great photos from the risers. We love that we can make a quick switch to 28mm wide angle shots with an easy turn of the outer lens ring dial that also changes the exposure on a separate setting.
As with any camera this small, quality design is key and Canon delivers in spades. The S95 is as user-friendly as any PowerShot model that preceded it and then some. Despite the fact that the S95 has a variety of mode settings, playback features, and an awesome LCD viewing screen for reviewing your shots and shooting real-time video, there are few buttons to mange and most perform double duty, according to your settings. For instance, users can review images by tapping the circular wheel to go forward or reverse or by spinning it in a way that makes them seem as though they were “advancing”, as if on a continuous roll of film; how clever. The outer control ring may be utilized for a variety of functions depending on the over-riding mode, a feature that is both unique and intuitive.
In terms of quality, the PowerShot S95 packs a powerful punch. Not only are you getting a wide variety of lens choices (with a lovely and efficient retraction feature that collapses everything and closes with a cap for protection) but Canon’s 10.0 megapixel sensor combined with a DIGIC 4 processor. That combination assures effective, on-the-fly image making that has both great detail and color accuracy, even in low light.
Seriously, this camera is small but mighty and has an ISO equivalent of 100 to 3200. We got great shots in darkened rooms with incandescent light, outdoors with beautifully dappled sunlight, and just about everywhere in between. The S95 also delivers terrific portraits with full-bodied skin tones and luxurious blurry backgrounds. Best of all, you can easily travel around with it in your pocket, so it’s convenient to take it almost anywhere, and in any situation.
Despite its point-and-shoot status, Canon’s PowerShot S95 has some remarkable features that are seen only in the top-of-the-line DSLRs, such as its ability to shoot continuous RAW and JPEG files, the chance to bracket images up and down two stops in one-third stop increments, and even flash exposure compensation, so no more pictures of mom with closed eyelids. Advancements in in-camera editing, including the addition of post-production treatments like colored filters (boosted, dynamic colors as well as sepia tones and color swap) and tilt-shift, fish-eye, poster edges and color-swap effects for both stills and video, is also a welcomed addition in a standard consumer model. There are even less-often-seen effects like “underwater”, “fireworks”, and “snow” that we didn’t even get a chance to experiment.
Making the switch to video is simple and done with a turn of the top mode dial to the “movie camera” icon, which turns your large, 3-inch LCD to a live viewing screen. With just a 4-GB memory card (8-GB and 16-GB are also possibilities), users can easily shoot at least an hour of quality video while “changing” the lens from wide-angle to close-up with little effort. In-camera editing is just as simple, with easy-to-understand editing features that enable you to quickly remove unwanted scenes, add effects to others, and then stitch is all together again. Basically, nobody will ever believe that you were able to shoot a video with such production values from a tiny point-and-shoot. The only thing that you can’t do with the S95 is add titles and end credits.
We were especially impressed with S95’s delivery of low-noise images, especially in low light and even when using the zoom lens. Combined with its image-stabilizing lens features, you’re almost always guaranteed a great shot, even when cropping later. We also tried shooting with it “from the hip”, which delivered fantastic and consistent quality nearly 100 percent of the time in a variety of conditions, including outdoors in the snow and rain. And with battery power that affords about 200 shots (or five hours), you’ll be more than pleased with the vast opportunities the S95 yields.
Our only complaint relates to the meager wristband that comes with the camera. Designed only with one molded hole for any carrying strap, the S95 would benefit from a traditional strap design, even with its small size, especially for those of us with too few pockets and more than one gadget to tote around.
Overall, you’d be hard-pressed to come up with a more versatile or easier to use point-and-shoot for the money. The S95 is a highly recommended model for first-time users, amateur beginners, and even DSLR owners looking for amazing picture quality in the smallest possible packages. We dare you to find fault with the remarkable camera!