Canon PowerShot S95 review: Canon PowerShot S95

I have to admit: the S95 just has a body that feels nice. It's well built, with a slightly more textured finish than the S90. It's the smallest and lightest among its class, but as a tradeoff it's also the only model that lacks a hot shoe and the option for a viewfinder. Though it was nice to review a camera that fit comfortably in my front pocket for a change, it might feel a bit too small for some photographers. You should definitely try before you buy to ensure you don't need to move up to a slightly larger model like the G12, LX5, or TL500. Small can be great on ultracompacts where you're not trying to change the settings too often, but there's no point buying the S95 to run in complete auto.

The front ring can be set to control shutter speed, ISO sensitivity, exposure compensation, manual focus, white balance, stepped zoom, i-Contrast, or aspect ratio. The functions can be set independently of shooting mode, so that, for example, it can control focus in Manual mode or shutter speed while in aperture-priority mode. Am I the only one who wishes the ring controlled metering instead of i-Contrast or aspect ratio? It's a nice design, and because of it I ended up holding the camera more like a dSLR than a compact. You can quickly access the ring control assignments via a dedicated button on the top of the camera.

On top of the camera is a mode dial for access to the typical manual controls and scene modes . Plus there's the ability to save a group of custom settings for quick mode-dial access. I find the placement of the shutter button a little too far toward the middle--I feel like I have to reach--but that's just a personal preference.

The back controls remain basically unchanged from the S90, although the dial, which you use for adjusting contextual settings, operates better and isn't quite as free-spinning as the previous model. I do have the same problem as Josh, who reviewed the S90, with the review button: I kept hitting it accidentally. Otherwise, the camera follows Canon's typical PowerShot conventions. The Func/Set button pulls up adjustable shooting parameters, including ISO, white balance, color, bracketing (exposure or focus), drive mode (single, continuous, continuous with autofocus), metering, aspect ratio, quality, and dynamic range correction.

One not-so-pleasant holdover from the S90 is the inconvenient flash placement. Although it makes sense from a red-eye prevention perspective, most people hold their fingers right where the flash pops up.

  Canon PowerShot G12 Canon PowerShot S90 Canon PowerShot S95 Samsung TL500 Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX5
Sensor (effective resolution) 10-megapixel CCD 10-megapixel CCD 10-megapixel CCD 10-megapixel CCD 10-megapixel CCD
1/1.7-inch 1/1.7-inch 1/1.7-inch 1/1.7-inch 1/1.63-inch
Sensitivity range ISO 80 - ISO 3,200 ISO 80 - ISO 3,200 ISO 80 - ISO 3,200 ISO 80 - ISO 3,200 ISO 80 - ISO 3,200
Lens 28-140mm
f2.8-4.5
5x
28-105mm f2-4.9
3.8x
28-105mm f2-4.9
3.8x
24-72mm
f1.8-2.4
3x
24-90mm
f2-3.3
3.8x
Closest focus (inches) 0.4 2.0 2.0 2.0 0.4
Continuous shooting 1.1fps
frames n/a
0.9fps
frames n/a
1.9fps
frames n/a
1.1fps
n/a
2.5fps
JPEG/n/a raw
Viewfinder Optical None None Optical Optional OVF or EVF
Autofocus n/a
Contrast AF
n/a
Contrast AF
n/a
Contrast AF
n/a
Contrast AF
23-area
Contrast AF
Metering n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a
Shutter 15-1/4,000 sec 15-1/1,600 sec 15-1/1,600 sec 16-1/5,000 sec 60-1/4,000 sec
Flash Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Hot shoe Yes No No Yes Yes
LCD 2.8-inch articulated
461,000 dots
3-inch fixed
461,000 dots
3-inch fixed
461,000 dots
3-inch fixed AMOLED
920,000 dots
3-inch fixed
460,000 dots
Image stabilization Optical Optical Optical Optical Optical
Video (best quality) 720/24p
H.264 QuickTime MOV
H.264 QuickTime MOV
Monaural
720/24p
H.264 QuickTime MOV
Stereo
30fps VGA H.264 MP4
Monaural
720/30p AVCHD Lite
Mono
Manual iris and shutter in video No No No No Yes
Optical zoom while recording Yes No No Yes n/a
Mic input No No No No No
Battery life (CIPA rating) 390 shots 220 shots 220 shots 350 shots 400 shots
Dimensions (WHD, inches) 4.4 x 3.0 x 2.0 3.9 x 2.3 x 1.2 3.9 x 2.3 x 1.2 4.5 x 2.5 x 1.2 4.3 x 2.6 x 1.7
Weight (ounces) 14.5 (est) 7 7 (est) 14 (est) 9.8 (est)
Mfr. price $499.99 $399.99 $399.99 $449.99 $440
Availability September 2010 August 2009 August 2010 July 2010 August 2010

Though the camera isn't big on whizzy features, it does incorporate a now-common HDR mode, which automatically brackets and combines three exposures. For more details on the scene modes and special effects, read the review of the S90 or download the PDF of the S95's manual.

You'll still have to schlep your dSLR to photograph kids, pets, wildlife, and anything else that moves quickly or randomly, but the Canon PowerShot S95 is probably the best--if expensive--alternative that an advanced shooter will find in such a small package.

Shooting speed (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Time to first shot  
Raw shot-to-shot time  
Typical shot-to-shot time  
Shutter lag (dim)  
Shutter lag (typical)  
Canon PowerShot G11
2 
2.5 
2.5 
0.7 
0.4 
Canon PowerShot S95
2 
2.6 
2.3 
0.7 
0.4 
Canon PowerShot S90
1.8 
3.4 
1.8 
0.6 
0.5 

Typical continuous-shooting speed (in fps)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Canon PowerShot S95
1.9 

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Canon PowerShot S95

Part Number: 4343B001 Released: Aug 31, 2010
MSRP: $399.99 Low Price: $444.99 See all prices

Quick Specifications See All

  • Release date Aug 31, 2010
  • Digital camera type Ultracompact
  • Optical Zoom 3.8 x
  • Optical Sensor Type CCD
  • Sensor Resolution 10.0 Megapixel
  • Image Stabilizer optical
  • Optical Sensor Size 1/1.7"