We all appreciate professional-looking photographs, but hate the bulk associated with both digital SLRs and hybrid models. Ideally, we want something that will fit in our pockets. Enter Canon's much-anticipated, 10-megapixel PowerShot S95, updating the well-received . Like its forebear, the £400 S95 is a thing of beauty. This diminutive fixed-lens camera puts the 'power' in PowerShot, promising serious performance at a pocket-friendly size.
Size it up
The new S95 premium compact is slimmer than its predecessor, at 29.5mm deep. It packs a 3.8x optical zoom and purports to offer improved handling and optical image stabilisation, more manual control, plus high-definition movie and raw capture capability. Impressively, the writing speed of shooting raw and JPEG in tandem isn't noticeably longer than that for stand-alone JPEG. Those wanting to maintain both highlight and shadow detail when taking trickier shots will also appreciate the high-dynamic-range shooting option, which combines different exposures into one evenly exposed image. As is the case with any of its rival models, the camera must be held rock-steady while this feature is in use to avoid a distinctly jittery-looking result.
The one immediate bugbear with this PowerShot is the same as that which haunted the S90. The cost of the S95 is around £400, a similar price to what you'd pay for an entry-level dSLR, which feels expensive. At the time of writing, street prices were still almost as high, given its newness.
Power in the palm of your hand
In the pocket-rocket stakes, the S95 goes up against the likes of Panasonic's LX5 and, to an extent, Nikon's . To be fair, Canon's rugged G12 is a closer match for the latter. Keeping matters streamlined, the S95 features a pop-up flash that sinks within the body when inactive. It sits well in the palm, feeling solid yet portably lightweight. It weighs 193g, including the battery and SD/SDHC/SDXC memory card. Support for wireless transfer is also offered, but not guaranteed.
Since there's nothing resembling a handgrip on the camera, the flat surface of the S95 has been given a rougher feel to stop it slipping from your fingers. It's the same coating used on itsdSLR, claims Canon. The top-mounted mode dial juts out slightly at the right-hand edge of the back plate, meaning your thumb automatically presses up against it when shooting. It's quite stiff, each setting slotting into place with a definite click. These design features mean the S95 has a limited degree of support. Something obviously had to be sacrificed in order to bring a serious camera of snapshot proportions to the market and, unfortunately, it was a decent grip.
The shooting mode dial features program, aperture priority, shutter priority, manual and user-definable settings, plus smart auto (reliably comparing the subject against 28 pre-programmed variables), low-light mode, scene modes and movie mode. Video is not quite 1080p resolution, with just 1280x720 pixels at a standard frame rate of 24 frames per second, alongside stereo audio recording. Commendably, Canon has found space for an HDMI output alongside the standard AV port.