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Canon PowerShot S90 review

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.


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 640×480 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.

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Basic Specifications

Rating ****
CCD effective megapixels 10.0 megapixels
CCD size 1/1.7in
Viewfinder none
LCD screen size 3.0in
LCD screen resolution 461,000 pixels
Optical zoom 3.8x
Zoom 35mm equivalent 28-105mm
Image stabilisation optical, lens based
Maximum image resolution 3,648×2,736
Maximum movie resolution 640×480
Movie frame rate at max quality 30fps
File formats JPEG, RAW; QuickTime (AVC)


Memory slot SDHC
Mermory supplied none
Battery type 3.7V 1,000mAh Li-ion
Battery Life (tested) 220 shots
Connectivity USB, AV, mini HDMI
Body material aluminium
Accessories USB and AV cables
Weight 175g
Size 58x100x31mm

Buying Information

Price £345

Camera Controls

Exposure modes program, shutter priority, aperture priority, manual
Shutter speed 15 to 1/1,600 seconds
Aperture range f/2-f/8 (wide), f/4.9-f/8 (tele)
ISO range (at full resolution) 80 to 3200
Exposure compensation +/-2 EV
White balance auto, 7 presets with fine tuning, manual
Additional image controls contrast, saturation, sharpness, skin tone, dynamic range
Manual focus Yes
Closest macro focus 5cm
Auto-focus modes multi, centre, face detect
Metering modes multi, centre-weighted, centre, face detect
Flash auto, forced, suppressed, slow synchro, rear curtain, red-eye reduction
Drive modes single, continuous, self-timer, AE bracket, focus bracket